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  • Writer's pictureLynn Bohart

INTERVIEW WITH COZY MYSTERY AUTHOR SARAH E. BURR

BIOGRAPHY

Sarah E. Burr is the award-winning author of the Glenmyre Whim Mysteries, Trending Topic Mysteries, the Book Blogger Mysteries, and the Court of Mystery series. She is the producer and co-host of It’s Bookish Time TV, a live web series featuring author interviews. Sarah is also a member of the Writers Who Kill blogging team. When she's not spinning up stories, Sarah reads everything from mystery to manga, plays video games, and enjoys walks with her dog, Eevee. Stay connected with Sarah via her newsletter: https://bit.ly/saraheburrbookssignup.


Sarah, you’re the author of several mystery series, including the Trending Topic Mysteries, the Glenmyre Whim Mysteries, the Book Blogger Mysteries, and the Court of Mystery series. What inspired you to write mysteries?


My long, deep-seated desire to be Nancy Drew. Growing up, I wanted to be her so, so badly. As I got older, I began exploring how to become an FBI agent, a forensic profiler, a detective, you name it! While life took me down another path, I eventually realized I could write stories that allowed me to live out those fantasies rather than put myself in danger. Everything I write, from my Court of Mystery series to my Trending Topic Mysteries, is in some way an ode to Nancy Drew and her friends.


With so many popular series, how did you decide on your lead characters?


My leading ladies have big personalities, and they elbowed themselves to the forefront of my mind. They all had something of me that they wanted to share with the world. The first, Duchess Jacqueline, who leads the Court of Mystery series, was an amalgamation of my love of royalty, fantasy settings, and the hope for an ideal world where everyone can live however they choose. Coco Cline, the main character of the Trending Topic Mysteries, wanted to prove that you can use technology and still keep your world cozy and charming. Hazel Wickbury, from the Glenmyre Whim Mysteries, was all about being dedicated to her community and caring for others (she came to life during the COVID lockdowns). Lastly, Winnie Lark from the Book Blogger Mysteries wanted to share that introverts are just as brave, dedicated, and loyal as extroverts… we just want our downtime!


Because my background is in theater, as a director, I began the process by deciding how I wanted the audience to feel when that curtain closed. As a mystery author, what is your goal for the reader? In other words, how do you want them to feel when they hit that last page?


I have a few goals when I’m writing a book. One is to teach my reader something. Whether it’s a new perspective about the world or a new skill, I’d like them to walk away from the story having learned something valuable. For example, in my Trending Topic Mysteries, I try to illustrate how dangerous and predatory the Internet can be and instruct readers—through the lead character’s actions—how they can make things like their Facebook or Instagram accounts more private and secure. I also like to pull back the curtain on mental health and do what I can to erase the stigma that still lingers over it. In #TagMe for Murder and DM Me for Murder, Coco brings the reader along on her mental health journey, as she’s still dealing with the trauma of facing down the killer from book one, #FollowMe for Murder. Beyond teaching readers something, I want them to have fun in my books and to feel better about the state of the world when they finish a story.


As a cozy mystery author, you’re dealing with amateur sleuths. So, how do you decide on the crime itself and then artfully insert your lead characters into the investigations in a way readers will accept?


That’s a great question and one that I’ve had to hone over the 20+ mysteries I’ve written thus far. When it comes to figuring out who’s dead, why, and how, I’m also thinking about how I can reasonably insert my amateur sleuth into the case. In book one, it’s usually a crime committed close to home, in that either my sleuth or a dear friend is suspected of the crime and needs to prove themselves innocent. But as the series grows, I have to get more creative because my characters only have so many friends I can accuse of murder!


I’m actually in the process of trying to plot the crime for my next Book Blogger Mystery. Winnie Lark now has two cases under her belt, so her “expertise” is growing, and she doesn’t necessarily need a super strong reason to stick her nose into police matters, purely because she’s done it successfully twice before. But I don’t want to lose that sense of urgency that comes with clearing someone’s name, so at the moment, most of Copper Bay, MA, where she lives, is under suspicion just because the victim was a pain in everyone’s you-know-what!


Since I assume you’ve never murdered anyone nor been intimately involved in a police investigation, what’s the toughest thing you’ve had to research with regard to writing about a murder?


You know, it’s tough when you don’t even know how to put it into the right words. For a Trending Topic Mystery, I needed to understand how to determine the paternity of a fetus and whether paternal DNA could be gained from a miscarriage. It’s not something that’s explicitly used in the storyline (although mention of the miscarriage is), but I wanted to understand whether law enforcement could do DNA testing to help locate a potential suspect in the case. It led me down a very sad path on the Internet, and it’s a topic that still haunts me.

Another tough thing to research was the side effects of ricin poisoning. I ended up really empathizing with the victim who had to endure it.


Because cozy mysteries hinge on an amateur sleuth, they often run afoul of law enforcement as they stick their nose(s) into investigations. How do your main characters successfully navigate this (or not) with law enforcement?


Often, when I’m reading cozies, I come across an ornery detective who has it out for the main character or really gruff, uncooperative police departments that don’t value the MC’s subject matter expertise or assistance. In an effort to be different but also respectful of law enforcement, I’ve built working relationships between my sleuths and their local police department. In the Trending Topic Mysteries, Coco begins consulting for the Central Shores Police Department to help them manage their social media accounts and, thus, becomes a valued member of their team. In the Glenmyre Whim Mysteries—without giving away too many spoilers—a member of Hazel’s inner circle becomes a prominent figure in law enforcement, and thus, she has their trust when it comes to her sleuthing exploits. The same goes for Winnie Lark in the Book Blogger Mysteries; while she does start off on the wrong foot with the lead detective, they realize they're on the same side and become good friends. So, my approach is akin to the adage: you catch more flies with honey than vinegar.  Kindness counts, even in a murder investigation!


As a mystery author myself, I love figuring out how I’m going to hide and reveal the clues at important moments. What aspect do you enjoy most about writing your stories?


If we’re talking about the literal act of writing, I love writing parties and dinner-table dialogue. Some of my best scenes feature my sleuth and her friends gathered together, chatting about their day, and piecing together what they’ve learned from the mystery. I also have a blast figuring out what they’re eating (because I LOVE food). Since Duchess Jax, in the Court of Mystery series, lives in the Realm of Virtues—a fictional continent made up of several nations—it’s so entertaining dreaming up inventive meals for her and her friends to devour.

Now, if we’re talking about what writing stories allows me to experience, I love that I get to connect with readers and chat with them about my characters. Hearing how someone else has interpreted my writing is a truly magical thing.


BONUS QUESTION:


As a mystery author, the crimes I focus on are often inspired by true crime documentaries I watch. Since cozies are so different in how they play out, where do you get inspiration for your stories?


I’m honestly not sure where these wild ideas come from! They tend to just pop into my head at the most inconvenient times. I will say that my characters are definitely my greatest source of inspiration. They’re very vocal about having fun and getting to a “happily ever after,” so each book is a steppingstone to that ending. Also, I tend to be inspired in the opposite direction—I hear, read, or watch something, and I think to myself, “I’m not going to do that.”

However, I must acknowledge that my law enforcement characters are inspired by all the true crime podcasts I’ve listened to. Over the years, I’ve learned so much about how the police operate. Understanding how much time it takes for detectives to obtain information allows me to dream up how my sleuth can obtain it faster instead. For example, in #TagMe for Murder, because the victim is a government employee, Coco learns it's going to take the police a few days to get a warrant to search his government computer. This prompts Coco to break into the Central Shores Town Hall (with her mom in tow) and search the victim’s computer herself for clues. She’s a step ahead of the police in the investigation because she’s able to move at her own pace rather than constrained by red tape.


Thanks so much, Sarah. You’ve given us an opportunity to walk in your shoes as you create the stories that entertain your fans and the why and how a normal person might get involved in the investigation of a murder.

 

Links to Sarah’s books:

Court of Mystery series: https://bit.ly/4cuhnCr

Glenmyre Whim Mystery series: https://bit.ly/3GGdkVd

Trending Topic Mysteries: https://bit.ly/amznttm

Book Blogger Mysteries: https://bit.ly/3RSTH2H

 

DM ME for Murder: (Sarah’s most recent book)

A social media collab turns deadly.

Influencer Coco Cline has another murder on her hands, and this time, the entire Internet is mad at her. Determined to get justice for the victim, Coco and her Sleuth Squad dive into the glamorous, over-the-top world of influencer-turned-celebrity to catch a killer before Coco gets doxed first.


As one Amazon reader said: “This book wastes no time jumping right into the mystery and I loved it! It had me on the edge o

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