Bonus Author Interview: Anna Celeste Burke
So happy to have Anna Celeste Burke with us today. Anna is the author of the Jessica Huntington Desert Cities Mystery Series, and a real nice gal, too. I know you’ll enjoy meeting her this morning. Please feel free to comment below, and ask any questions of Anna Celeste you might have. She’ll answer, I promise.
Anna Celeste Burke: Thanks for featuring me on your lovely, blog, Marcia! It’s an honor to be interviewed by such a delightful author. I enjoyed reading Wake Robin Ridge and Swamp Ghosts very much.
Bookin’ It: Thank you, Celeste, and I will return the compliment. I enjoyed A Dead Husband, too. It was one of my first cozy mysteries, and a lot of fun to read. Tell us how long you’ve been writing.
ACB: Well I’ve been writing for decades. Nonfiction, though, articles, book chapters, and monographs published in traditional academic outlets. On the side, I started writing fiction about twenty years ago. When I retired, I already had a couple horror novels, a sci fi short story, and even a script or two under my belt. For about five years I attended the Maui Writer’s Conference, and participated in workshops on fiction writing.
Bookin’ It: What is the biggest difference, to you, in writing fiction and writing non-fiction?
ACB: Well I’m still finding my way in the world of fiction writing. The thing I like most is the fact that it is such an unbounded, creative activity. The downside is that the route to getting published is much less clear than it was for my academic work. Although the review process was grueling, and rejection a fairly regular occurrence, once your work was accepted for publication you were pretty much guaranteed to reach your target audience. As a self-published author, in a world where millions of books are published each year, it takes some work to get your book noticed and into the hands of your intended readers.
Bookin’ It: Can you tell us a little bit about the Jessica Huntington Desert Cities Mystery Series?
ACB: Glad to! Jessica Huntington is a young woman who has lived a privileged life. Now in her mid-thirties, she’s hit by a series of unfortunate events: loss of her law career, the deterioration of her marriage, and futile efforts to save it by having a baby. Finally she finds the love of her life in their bed with “Hollywood Barbie”. She’s sort of in shock, but after retreating to the California desert near Palm Springs, she’s hit by another trauma. Her best friend’s husband is murdered. In her effort to help her friend, Jessica is pulled, headlong into murder and mayhem. She comes face-to-face with a side to life in the Palm Springs area she never knew existed. The first book in the series, A Dead Husband, was released in mid-December, 2013. The second book, A Dead Sister, was just released mid-April.
Bookin’ It: What do you hope readers find in your book? What will they take away after reading it?
ACB: I hope they experience the book as a romp, set in a place known for glitz and glam. I’d like readers to enjoy the natural beauty, the history, and the surprising diversity of the community. It’s a spicy gumbo of a place, with roots a couple thousand years old. The native people still play an active role, and the Hispanic heritage is alive and well, co-existing alongside a variety of newcomers that call the Coachella Valley home, including a lot of retirees like me. So setting is ‘another character’ as readers have noted in reviewing A Dead Husband.
My other big hope is that readers come to love Jessica and Bernadette and the other characters at the center of the series. More important to me than the 5 stars for the first review of A Dead Sister, was just that. The reader commented that reading A Dead Sister was like ‘seeing a good friend again—a warm & comfy feeling. ’ Yay!
Bookin’ It: Can you tell us a little bit about the story line in A Dead Sister, without giving away too much?
ACB: Sure. Like A Dead Husband, this second book, A Dead Sister, involves murder close to home. Jessica’s childhood friend, Kelly Fontana, was the victim of a hit-and-run, killed shortly after graduating high school. That was back in 1999. In 2013 some guy picked up for a drug offense says it wasn’t an accident but a murder. Jessica is compelled to find out if that’s true or not. Who could have wanted to kill the nineteen year old auburn-haired beauty, and why?
As there was in A Dead Husband, there’s a lot of humor in this second book. There’s even a bit more romance than there was in the first. Her ex-husband and his Hollywood diva aren’t done yet. There’s quite a scene, courtesy of “Cassie-the-worm-hearted” as Jessica calls her. And, in one of Jessica’s shopping meccas, Rodeo Drive! Did I mention there’s a lot of shopping and good food in both books? Anyway, Jessica dives into the murder investigation. As you might guess, in no time the cold case heats up.
Bookin’ It: Where are you headed next in the series?
ACB: I’m working next on book 3, A Dead Daughter. I’ve written the prologue and my heroine is in a bad way. Now, I have to write the back story to reveal what happened and why. How can Jessica possibly get out of the situation she’s in and will she be okay? Events in the first two books happen pretty close together, during one hot and hellish summer. The third book unfolds later in the year and the trouble comes from another direction. Oh yeah, and in this book there’s mom to deal with. I won’t tell you what’s up because that would spoil one thread in the story. Jessica’s mother, Alexis Baldwin Huntington Cranston something Bortoleto, is in the house! All the old favorites, Bernadette and the other ‘cat pack’ members, will be there at Jessica’s side. Some surprises, too, of course.
Anna Celeste Burke: Life is an extravaganza! Figuring out how to hang tough and make the most of the wild ride is the challenge. On my way to Oahu to join the rock musician and high school drop-out I had married in Tijuana, I was nabbed as a runaway. Eventually the police let me go, but the rock band broke up. Our next stop: Disney World, where we trained to be chefs. More education landed us in academia at The Ohio State University. For decades I researched, wrote, and spoke about a number of gloriously nerdy topics. Retired now, I’m still married to the same sweet guy and live with him near Palm Springs, California. The Jessica Huntington Desert Cities Mystery series is set here in the Sonoran Desert, a spectacular place to ponder life’s mysteries while relishing the delights of the desert resort cities.
Be sure to check out Anna Celeste Burke’s Jessica Huntington Desert Cities Mystery Books. You’ll have a great time reading them.