Print Friendly, PDF & Email

By Diane Holmes

Mary Burton’s romantic suspense novels have been called terrifying and likely to please fans of Steig Larsson. Her novels are hot and dangerous; her killers, horrific and unstoppable.

Her latest, BEFORE SHE DIES, is her nineteenth novel and a powerful follow to her NEW YORK TIMES and USA TODAY bestsellers BEFORE SHE DIES, MERCILESS SENSELESS, DYING SCREAM, DEAD RINGER and I’M WATCHING YOU.

In BEFORE SHE DIES, Mary’s protagonist defense attorney Charlotte Wellington hunts down a serial killer who holds his victims under water to wash away their sins, then stakes their bodies to the ground, exposing them for what they really are. Witches, sent to tempt and to corrupt.  And now he thinks Charlotte is the guiltiest of all.

Mary recently sat down with ITW to discuss her latest book:

Thriller and mystery writers love to celebrate their genre and also bring unique stories, worlds, and characters to life.  Tell us more about those fresh elements that compelled you to spend months writing this story. 

I’m a big history geek.  A few years back one of my kids had to do a paper on the Salem Witch Trials.  I picked up a few of the history books that were lying around the house and started reading.  Long after my child’s paper was due, I was still reading the books and imagining a story, which was to become BEFORE SHE DIES.

Tell us about the journey in writing this particular story.  Smooth sailing or more like a twisted prison escape?

When I started BEFORE SHE DIES I had a very strong sense of the main characters and that helped a great deal.  I’ve learned over the years if I start with character versus a plot element the writing is easier.  However, while I was writing the rough draft, I kept thinking the characters weren’t telling me the whole story.  Drove me nuts.   I did a lot of pacing and baking while writing this book.   I was well into the third draft before all the pieces fell into place for this book.

Every author brings a little of themselves to every story.  What’s the most unexpected piece of yourself in this latest book?

My characters have a tendency to be stubborn and if you ask anyone that knows me they’ll likely admit that I can be very stubborn.

What aspect of Charlotte is most like you?

She is a survivor.  This gal has tackled with some rough issues in her past and instead of giving up, becoming angry or bitter, she keeps putting one foot in front of the other and moving forward.

Research lover or hater?  What were the aspects that required the most research and how did you bring research to life? 

I do enjoy research.  In fact there are days when it seems easier than writing. I get some of my best research from weekend programs geared to writers who write crime fiction, including a forensics seminar put on by Sisters in Crime and most recently the Writer’s Police Academy.  At these events, I attend as many sessions as I can.  If something catches my interest, I’ve got the expert on hand to ask more questions either then or later.

And what about your villain gives you the most nightmares?

I think the scariest villains are the ones that just don’t get mad.  They don’t yell.  They don’t scream.  They can live what appears to be a normal life on the surface.  They also don’t consider what they do as wrong or evil.  When a villain feels like what he is doing is right or justified, he can be impossible to reach with reason.  That makes them very scary to me.

What’s the easiest way for Readers to find your book?

Visit my website and there are links to Amazon, Books-a-Million, Barnes & Noble and Indie Bound.

Give us the scoop on what you’re writing next.

The next book, THE SEVENTH VICITM, will be out in February 2013.  I’m setting this one in Texas and the hero of the book is a Texas Ranger.  That was great fun to write and I think my readers will really enjoy it.

And finally, if you could have any thriller/mystery author write a story just for you, who would that author be and what would he or she write?

Now that’s a tough question because there are so many greats out there.  I really enjoy reading Lisa Gardner, Carla Neggers and Lisa Jackson.  I’d be honored if any one of those gals wrote a story for me.

Thank you so much! 


New York Times and USA Today bestselling author Mary Burton has written nineteen novels and four novellas, including the romantic suspense titles Before She Dies, Merciless Senseless, Dying Scream, Dead Ringer and I’m Watching You.

A Richmond, Virginia native, she graduated from that state’s Hollins University and began a career in marketing before writing her first novel, a historical romance, published in 2000. She has attended law enforcement, forensic and procedural educational programs and is a graduate of the Richmond FBI Citizen’s Academy.

Mary Burton writes full time. Her next suspense novel is The Seventh Victim, on sale February 2013.

To learn more about Mary, please visit her website.

Diane Holmes
Latest posts by Diane Holmes (see all)