On September 25, a dark and stormy night, Alafair Burke visited Saint Louis County Library Headquarters for the first time to discuss her novels. Burke, an author of eight suspense novels featuring strong female leads, comes by her talent honestly. Her mother was a school librarian; her father an English teacher and the bestselling novelist, James Lee Burke. Thanks to weekly trips to the library, Burke’s mother inadvertently grew two writers: her husband by allowing him quiet time at home to work and her daughter by fostering her love for reading!
The answer for becoming a writer seems obvious, once Burke shares her literary connections, but the question that still remains is … Why crime? This answer is not quite so evident. When she was eight living in Wichita, her house was in the middle of the neighborhoods hit by the BTK (“Bind, Torture, Kill”) killer. With her real life surrounded by true crime, she also discovered fictional crime through old television shows (i.e, Barney Miller and Columbo) as well as every mystery book she could get her hands on at the library. The fictional crime always ended in answers and peace, which spurred her interest, eventually leading her to a career as a prosecutor and law professor. She learned through experience how the world of crime works, writing many of these experiences into her books. In fact, her first novel Judgment Calls featuring Samantha Kincaid, was inspired by her own experiences working on a case involving the “Happy Face Killer.”
Today, Burke feels more comfortable writing her novels. She uses less procedural detail and has changed her perspective in writing from first to third person. She writes every day, though it is not always fiction, and never skips two days in a row from her fiction writing. Sometimes her writing is minimal, while other times, she sets specific word goals. Ultimately, the one thing that is certain is that with limited time, something has to suffer; where she used to read two to three books a week, she now only reads that much in one month.
Burke’s journey through writing has definitely been an interesting one. I have yet to read any of her novels, but I cannot wait to dive into her creative chaos myself!