Alafair Burke, author of the recent book, Dead Connection, and the Samantha Kincaid series, appeared at The Poisoned Pen in Scottsdale today. She and Barbara Peters, owner of the bookstore, started out by discussing the fact that they, along with authors Michelle Martinez, Twist Phelan and Tess Gerritsen, all went to Stanford Law School.
Alafair said she worked in the D.A.'s office in Portland, Oregon for five years, which was considered a long time for someone who wanted to teach. She decided since she was an avid reader of mysteries and knew cops, she would try to write a mystery. So, when she moved to New York City and was supposed to be studying for the New York bar, she bought a computer and took golf lessons. She also passed the bar that summer.
She said now that she had written the book, Dead Connection, she can tell people that she met her husband, Sean, online at Match.com.
She said she decided to write a crime novel involving online dating, but it didn't work in the Portland setting of her Samantha Kincaid books because Portland is a small community where everyone knows each other, or knows someone who does. So, she created a new character, Detective Ellie Hatcher, and set Dead Connection in NYC.
She said the internet provides the opportunity for true anonymity, a premise she discusses in the book. She said just as we teach our children to be smart with strangers, people must develop internet smarts. Dead Connection was intended to be a standalone, but when she reached the end, she realized she had the start of a second series. Now, she'll have two series, the Samantha Kincaid one, and the Ellie Hatcher.
In providing more of her background, Alafair said when she was in Portland, she was involved in one of the first known cases of online child abduction. She used some of that in the first Samantha Kincaid book, Judgment Calls.
A girl, thirteen-years-old, met a thirty-five-year old online, and when she went to meet him, he abducted her. She then proceeded to lie to everyone afterward as to how he first contacted her. Although she didn't use the online part, she did use the part about the lies in her first book.
When asked about online dating, Alafair said she had just moved to New York City, and didn't think she was going to meet the kind of person she wanted to meet at the university where she was teaching, Hofstra. When she told her brother she had met someone from West Point, with an MBA, who worked at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, her brother said is was probably all lies. Fortunately, the man who is now her husband had told the truth.
Alafair Burke's father is author James Lee Burke. Barbara Peters said to her that it must be hard to have her father in the family. The audience laughed when Alafair said, "I don't know how not to have him in the family." Barbara said, wasn't it difficult to become a writer knowing his reputation. And, Alafair said, no, because they came at it from different backgrounds. He was a poet, and more literary, and found himself to be successful in the mystery genre. She, on the other hand, said she was a fan of the genre, and believes in plotting much more than he does. She never thought about the fact that she was going into the same genre until the bio for her first book said, "Daughter of James Lee Burke." Then she worried that people would expect her to write like her father. And, she doesn't.
She said her father is proud of her. Now that he is no longer touring, he calls her to ask about her tour and people he knows throughout the country.
When asked about outlining, she said she does outline. She said she was writing her first book, and her father told her to just write it, because he doesn't plot or outline. She said she couldn't figure out how to end it, and she had written 250 pages. She was at a house party, and Michael Connelly said he understood she was writing a book. She said she idolized Michael Connelly, and she was embarrassed to tell him she had 250 pages, but didn't know how to end it. He asked her if she knew who did it, and how they did it. When she said, yes, he said, do you have an outline. And, she said, no, her father told her just to write it. And, Connelly laughed at her and said her father was a famous author with a good number of books, and didn't have to outline. But she was a beginner, and Connelly had only written half the books her father had, and he outlined. Then he called Jonathon King over, and told him the story. "She has 250 pages, knows who did it, knows how they did it, but doesn't have an ending." So, he told her to go back, do an outline, and she'd find her ending somewhere in the story. He told her she was so close. So, she still does a bare outline.
Alafair said one of the nicest surprises was finding out how much the very established writers do for other authors. They take time to mentor them. She said Michael Connelly toured with Jonathon King to introduce him, and last year Lee Child toured with Cornelia Read. She said Connelly and Child are known for mentoring writers and blurbing them. In fact, she mentioned that in Child's latest book, Bad Luck & Trouble, the opening includes Jack Reacher meeting a lawyer named Samantha in a cop bar, and spending two nights with her before leaving for his job.
When her father was mentioned again, she aid that in Dead Connection, Ellie Hatcher has to call New Iberia, LA and talk to a detective named Dave something that she can't pronounce his last name, so it was a way of mentioning her father's character.
She said she's working on another Ellie Hatcher book, and she has a fantasy of Samantha and Ellie together in one. She said Samantha may have to move to New York because Alafair has been gone long enough that she has a hard time writing about Portland anymore. She's turned into a New Yorker, and New York has spoiled her.
Afterward, Alafair signed books, and was gracious in introducing herself to everyone, "I'm Alafair Burke." She thought she'd recognized me, although we'd never met. So, I told her she had written to me on my blog, and had probably seen my picture there. The autograph in my ARC of Dead Connection says, "Lesa, Nice to meet you in person. Alafair Burke."
And, for those of you who enter my contests, next Thursday I'll be offering an autographed paperback of Alafair Burke's first Samantha Kincaid crime novel, Judgment Calls.
Alafair Burke's website is www.alafairburke.com
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