Saturday, May 19, 2007


BookBitch: You are following in some mighty big footsteps - your father, James Lee
Burke, is one of the most talented authors being published today. Did you find it more challenging or intimidating to venture into his field, and how has he been supportive of your efforts?

Alafair Burke: I didn’t even consider my relationship with my father when I was writing my first book. Then when the book was about to be published, it dawned on me that people would obviously make the connection. I dreaded a deluge of readers demanding their money back because my books weren’t set in the bayou. Fortunately, my work is so different from my father’s that people realize straightaway I’m doing my own thing. Both of my parents are delighted that I’m writing, but my father’s support, like my mother’s, is parental and not specifically as a writer. I’m grateful for that.

BB: Michael Connelly and Robert Crais tend to hide oblique references to one another's books within their own books. Laura Lippman claims she hides references to Robert B. Parker's books within her own. Your new book, Dead Connection, has a thinly veiled reference to the main character that is in most of your father's books, and let's face it, you share your name with one
of his characters. Do you think your father will be referencing your characters in any of his books? Do you see this as an ongoing or one time only thing?

AB: I have tremendous fun with all of the crime fiction cross references. I was so delighted to see that in Lee Child’s new book, Jack Reacher spends two nights with a Portland prosecutor named Samantha, a reference to my earlier series character, Samantha Kincaid.

In past books, I’ve referred to Jack Reacher and Harry Bosch. In Dead Connection, Ellie Hatcher notices a woman reading Laura Lippman’s To the Power of Three. I hadn’t planned on bringing my father’s character, Dave Robicheaux, into Dead Connection. But when Ellie needed to contact a law enforcement officer in New Iberia, it only made sense that it should be Dave. After so many years of reading my father write the fictional Alafair Robicheaux, writing Dave’s voice was a blast.

I have no idea if the cross-over will ever happen again. Can you imagine Dave Robicheaux in New York? What a great story.

BB: Dead Connection focuses on a rather deadly Internet dating service. I understand that you met your husband online and indeed, the dedication reads, "For Sean Simpson, I can't believe I found you on a computer". Do you believe that Internet dating is more of a danger or a great way of making a love connection? What do you think about non-dating sites like MySpace that have been instrumental in getting people together? Is this the way to meet people in 2007?

AB: When I first met Sean, I was mortified when people would ask how we met. Now I just answer the question because I know how common internet dating has become. Meeting people online, whether for dating or for socializing ala MySpace, etc., is no more dangerous than the old-fashioned stuff, as long as people are conscientious. The risks aren’t inherent in the internet; they’re inherent when people let their guards down. A street-smart woman, for example, would never think to wander off to an unknown location with a stranger, but people forget that the charming emails they receive online are from total strangers. It’s just like we tell our kids – don’t get in another person’s car even if they say they know Mommy. Well, the internet makes it easy for people to lie about who they are. Because we’re being optimistic about our chances of finding friendship or love, we adults don’t always follow our own lessons once we’re online. That’s why I had to write about the dangers, even though it all worked out beautifully for me.

BB: I've read that you wrote the Samantha Kincaid series about a District Attorney in Oregon because of that old adage, write about what you know, and you share that same background with her. But your new book doesn't go near a courtroom and your main character is a New York City cop. With three books under your belt, were you feeling more confident about spreading your wings and writing about something outside your frame of reference? Where
did you get your inspiration for this character?

AB: I’m still writing what I know. The internet dating plot in Dead Connection grew directly out of my own experience. I live in New York now and wanted to write something set here. And I know police procedure and cop culture. I worked out of a precinct as a prosecutor for two years and taught search and seizure and use of force law to police. Even though the professional resemblance to Samantha is more obvious, Ellie Hatcher carries more of my personal story. Like me, she was raised in Wichita, Kansas, and a large part of her backstory is her decision to follow in her father’s footsteps and become a police officer.

BB: This is probably not a question you get every day, but as a New Yorker I have to ask. I understand that you live in Manhattan, and teach law at Hofstra University on Long Island. That makes for a most unusual commute; city-to-suburb rather than the more typical suburb-to-city. Do you enjoy your commute or is it work time? Do you ever see yourself leaving the city and moving to the island? Or is the goal to write full time and give up teaching?

AB: I’m that rare author who loves my day job. I have academic freedom, I get to teach, my colleagues are intellectually challenging, and I have time to write both legal scholarship and fiction. My one and only complaint is the dag nab commute, which I call my nemesis. But if a car ride is my only complaint in life, I really don’t have much to complain about, do I? I ease the pain with a mix of satellite radio, audio books, and my iPod. I try to look at it as an excuse to listen to whatever I want for two hours a day, a few days a week. However, if you see a woman with shoulder length brown hair shaking her fist at you on the LIE, it isn’t me.

Reprinted by Permission of Library Journal

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