To enter for your chance to win a copy of 212 by Alafair Burke, simply email me at [email protected] before 11:59 PM EST on Sunday, June 20, and write GIVEAWAY in the subject line. And don’t forget to subscribe to Hartford Books Examiner—by doing so, you will receive an email notification when each new entry is posted.
Today, Hartford Books Examiner welcomes the thrilling Alafair Burke.
A former deputy district attorney in Portland, Oregon, and a graduate of Stanford Law School, Burke is a criminal law professor (at Hofstra), scholar, and full-time writer. She contributes regularly to the Huffington Post as well as the crime website Murderati, and has been interviewed as a legal expert by media outlets such as CNN, Fox News, the New York Times, and Tru TV. The author of six crime thrillers, Burke is widely acclaimed for both the legal and cultural phenomena she infuses her novels with. She is the daughter of James Lee Burke.
Burke’s latest, 212, was released in March from Harper. The third entry in the Detective Ellie Hatcher series, the book draws on several real-life stories (Eliot Spitzer and Ashley Dupre, John Edwards, and the gossip site Juicy Campus among them), and, ironically, mirrors the case of “the Craig’s List Killer”—a case that broke two weeks after the manuscript was delivered. Publishers Weekly called the book “(a) white-knuckle thriller” and praised Burke for weaving in such elements “without ever sacrificing originality.”
(You can read Hartford Books Examiner’s “bite-sized” review of 212 here.)
From the publisher:
In New York City, Nights Are Dangerous. Days Are Numbered.
When New York University sophomore Megan Gunther finds personal threats posted to a Web site specializing in campus gossip, she’s taken aback by their menacing tone. Someone knows her daily routine down to the minute and is watching her—but thanks to the anonymity provided by the Internet, the police tell her there’s nothing they can do. Her friends are sure it’s someone’s idea of a joke, but when Megan is murdered in a vicious attack, NYPD Detective Ellie Hatcher is convinced that the online threats are more than just empty words.
With smooth, straight-talking partner J. J. Rogan at her side, Ellie tries to identify Megan’s enemies, but she begins to wonder if the coed’s murder was more than just the culmination of a cyber obsession. Phone records reveal a link between Megan and a murdered real estate agent who was living a dangerous double life. The detectives also learn that the dead real estate agent shared a secret connection to a celebrity mogul whose bodyguard was mysteriously killed a few months earlier. And when Megan’s roommate suddenly disappears, they know they have to find her before another young woman dies.
Now, Burke debriefs us on her novel existence…
1) As a former prosecutor, do you ever find that, in addition to fostering authenticity, your experiences and awareness of law enforcement and the judicial system confine you to certain standards when writing (whereas other authors might just be happy to “make it up”)? If so, do you see this as a hardship or a benefit?
There’s no question that my experiences in both the courthouse and police precincts make the rhythm of an investigation almost organic for me. I’m saved the drudgery of research and the insecurities of speculation. On the other hand, you’re absolutely right that I feel a responsibility to keep the procedural aspects of the investigation realistic. I simply can’t bring myself to have a DNA match back from the lab within five minutes or have a judge sign off on an arrest warrant without something resembling probable cause. But just as I know the usual rules of law enforcement, I also know the exceptions and invoke those frequently. I don’t feel a need to bog the reader down with an explanation of WHY the procedures are realistic, as long as I know that there is in fact an explanation.
2) Currently, you teach at Hofstra Law School. Do you ever find that your students blur the line between Professor Burke and Author Burke? If so, how do you resolve that? Also, how does teaching young minds influence your writing?
I’ve learned to accept the fact that my students are far too busy preparing for their own legal careers to care one bit about the off-campus antics of Professor Burke. I get the impression that my students are vaguely aware of my novels, but are at best mildly curious. Teaching does allow me to keep one foot in the youthful waters I tend to occupy in my novels, so I’m thankful for that. My students also remind me on a daily basis that the stories I collected during my district attorney days are actually interesting to people who haven’t had that experience.
3) 212 tackles the issue of anonymity and the Internet. What do you see as the benefits versus the dangers of such technology? Have you had any personal experiences that you’d care to share?
I don’t spend a lot of energy thinking about the costs and benefits of the ways technology had infiltrated our social relationships, because it’s a simple fact of life. We’re not ever going back. I met my husband on Match.com in 2003. At the time, I felt like it was our shameful little secret, but now about one in six new marriages come from online dating. What I’ve been doing in my books is playing with the ways technology can both place people in danger and also help law enforcement.
4) You have two recurring protagonists in your novels–Ellie Hatcher and Samantha Kincaid. How do you decide which character belongs to the story you’re telling? Also, if readers are looking to make comparisons between you and your characters, what might they find?
Ellie and Samantha are very different women, and that’s shaped in part by their surroundings — Hatcher in New York City, Kincaid in Portland, Oregon. The Ellie Hatcher plots are stories that work only in a big city where anonymity means something. The Samantha books, on the other hand, tend to involve plots that make more sense in a smaller city where everyone seems to know everyone. As for any similarities to me, I’m probably more like Samantha at a superficial level — brunette lawyer with a cutey-pie french bulldog and quick sense of snark. Creating Ellie required me to pull more deeply into my imagination.
5) 212 has a number of storylines that run independently throughout the book but intertwine in the end. What do you find to be the key to achieving this balance? Do you prefer to plot before you write or to let the story lead you?
I don’t outline. As much as I would love the luxury of writing with a scene by scene roadmap, I have found that I just can’t make micro-level decisions like that without really knowing the characters, and I get to know them as I write about them. I start with a big picture sense of the characters and their eventual relationship to each other, and then I start writing. I’m always a little surprised when everything actually squares away.
With gratitude to Alafair Burke for sharing her time and thoughts and to Heather Drucker, Associate Director of Publicity at HarperCollins, for providing the giveaway copy of 212…
Don’t forget to email Hartford Books Examiner at [email protected] by 11:59 PM EST on Sunday, June 20, for your chance to win a copy of 212.
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