Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Anna Celeste Burke - An Author Interview at the HBS Author's Spotlight

Today our blog puts the Spotlight on Author Anna Celeste Burke. She is author Jessica Huntington Desert Cities Mystery series.

Author Genre: Mystery, Suspense, Humor And Comedy

Website: Desert Cities Mystery
Author's Blog: Desert Cities Mystery
Twitter: @aburke59
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Amazon Author Profile

Author Description:
Life is an extravaganza of unpredictable dimension and proportion: figuring out how to hang tough and make the most of the wild ride is the challenge.

On my way to Oahu, to join the rock musician and high school drop-out I married in Tijuana, I was nabbed by the police as a runaway. When the police let me go and the rock band broke up, my husband and I had to find another way to survive. Our next stop: Disney World where we trained to be chefs, courtesy of the Walt Disney World University. A GED for my husband, and many more years of education landed us in academia at The Ohio State University. Retired now from my role as a professor in social work and behavioral science, I have picked up a long-time interest in writing fiction. I'm still married to the same sweet guy, and live with him in the Palm Springs area. In addition to reading and writing fiction, I enjoy painting, hiking, hanging out with my handsome husband and tending to my Siamese kitties.

I write the Jessica Huntington Desert Cities Mystery series, set here in and around Palm Springs, CA. As Jessica Huntington, amateur sleuth and calamity magnet, will tell you, the Sonoran Desert is a beautiful setting in which to ponder life's mysteries while enjoying the delights of the desert resort communities. A Dead Husband, Book 1, and A Dead Sister, Book 2, out now. Book 3, A DEAD DAUGHTER out soon. Look for Book 4, A DEAD MOTHER, in 2015. ALSO OUT NOW: LOVE, A FOOT ABOVE THE GROUND. This sweet romance is narrated by Jessica Huntington as she shares her friend, Bernadette's, tale of love, loss, and hope…"a real happily ever after story."

SPOTLIGHT Questions and Answers with the Author

Let’s start with what’s next. Rumor has it that you have another book on the horizon called A Dead Mother. Can you tell us the timeline for its release and give us a little tease?

Another rumor going around is that you are starting a new series, The Betsy Stark Mystery Series. Can you tell us something about this new series?

A DEAD MOTHER, book 4 in the Jessica Huntington Desert Cities Mystery Series will be out in 2016.

Here are the opening lines from Chapter 1:

“She’s dead! Mom’s dead! What do I do?” Lesley Windsor was frantic, her voice rising in pitch as she fired that question at me. She was sobbing, too.

“Lesley, what do you mean she’s dead? I just spoke to her yesterday. She seemed fine. I don’t understand,” Jessica responded as her heart skipped a beat. She took a deep breath and leaned back in the leather desk chair she sat in at her office on El Paseo. The swaying palms outside her window danced in an odd counterpoint to the thumping of her heart. Lesley and her mother Beverly were not just clients. They had become friends in the few months she’d worked for them as their attorney.

“I don’t get it, either, Jessica. Mom was working today as a docent at the Living Desert and didn’t come back after her break. A guest turned in her cell phone. It was on the ground not too far from the exit. They went looking for her. Mom’s car was in the parking lot. That’s when they called the police.” Lesley hiccupped and sobbed quietly for a moment before going on.

Like the other mysteries in this series, the book focuses on a dead family member. Not all of them in Jessica Huntington’s family thank goodness, or soon she wouldn’t have any family members left! The titles convey the notion that murder is personal and intimate—not just about a dead body, but a dead person. A person connected in some fundamental way to others; a member of someone’s family.

The books focus a lot on personal relationships and other women’s issues and concerns like romance, marriage, divorce, drug addiction, and mental health problems, as well as murder and mayhem. Jessica’s an unconventional sleuth, and her own personal and family saga unfolds as part of the backdrop to the murder mysteries she solves.

A woman of wealth and privilege, a series of personal setbacks makes it clear that money can’t buy happiness. Not that Jessica doesn’t try to use her black AMEX card buy herself out of heartbreak with plenty of retail therapy. No one enjoys an extravaganza more than Jessica Huntington. Palm Springs, Beverly Hills, Malibu and other glamourous locales serve as the settings for Jessica’s luxury brand of sleuthing.

Jessica has help from the “Cat Pack,” an offbeat group of friends named in an homage to Palm Springs’ better known “Rat Pack.” It’s not too surprising that the culprits Jessica brings to justice are ‘well-heeled heels’ and ‘la crème de la crud,’ as she calls them. In other words, bad guys with lots of money and little conscience.

You have a good following on twitter. How important have your social media relationships been? How did you build your following in your niche? Do you see a carry over to your writing success?

I have met the most interesting group of people on twitter. When I published A DEAD HUSBAND at the end of 2013 I didn’t even have a Twitter account, so it has been rather surprising to be connected more than 20, 000 Twitter pals, tweeps, a couple years later. Many of my pals are writers, bloggers and avid readers. Others are involved with books promoting or publishing. What truly amazing is how diverse a group of people have connected with me from all around the world.

I don’t fully understand the role that Twitter and other social media sites play in book sales. I can say that I have established a number of relationships with new ‘friends’ I’ve made on Twitter, Facebook, Goodreads, Google+ or other sites that are rewarding in whether or not they sell books.

Do you do any book signings, interviews, speaking and personal appearances? If so, when and where is the next place where your readers can see you? Where can they keep up with your personal contacts online?

I have done live web-based radio shows, but haven’t done personal appearances. I have also done a number of Facebook events ‘live.’ I post information about new releases, giveaways, sales, awards—things like that on my website and blog. I use Mail Chimp to email notifications to subscribers about news.

You have great covers. They carry a theme and your brand with them. How does your book cover creation process work? Do you hand over the basic theme or do you have more of a hands-on approach? Do you get your readers involved in its development?

I have done the book covers myself—using stock photos and photo shop. I use the cover creation process as a way to inspire myself as I’m writing a new book. By the time I have a book written I have produced a couple dozen mock ups of the cover. I have involved readers in helping me pick one when I’ve narrowed ideas down to 2 or 3 favorites.

What writer support groups do you belong to? Do they help with the writing, marketing and the publishing process?

I have a number of affiliations with organized writing groups that offer different kinds of services or supports. Sisters-In-Crime is a national organization that provides updates throughout the year about developments in the publishing industry as well as information specific to mystery writing. They provide a wide range of resources for authors including an annual conference. Authors Social Media Support Group, Independent Author Network, Authors Data Base, Rave Reviews Book Club are groups that all provide support to authors in different ways. There are several dozen sites that support author profiles and list my books for readers like Book Bub, Library Thing, Readers Gazette,,, Riffle Books and others.

What has been your experience in giving your books away free? Have you been involved in any other type of giveaways and how did that work out? What was your main goal in doing this? Did you run into any obstacles?

I just started using giveaways to attract readers to my books. I have found the response to be amazing. The main challenge in doing a giveaway is getting the word out about it in a timely fashion. I use Twitter and Facebook as well as my website and blog to invite folks to enter the giveaways. I also like Rafflecopter as a place to ‘host’ giveaways.

Do you maintain a reader list? What are the methods you use to find your readers and create the list and the relationship? Do you use social media, forums, newsletters and/or support groups to build your list?

I do have a list of subscribers to my website and blog. I use that list to send out news about books, giveaways, new blog posts, recipes, etc. I have just begun to focus on building that list and am trying to figure out the best way to do that. Right now I’m focusing on giveaways to draw in new subscribers.

You have a great blog. You do a great job keeping readers informed, marketing your books and providing useful information to other writers. What is your primary goal? And where in the world do you find the time to create great novels, take care of the social media and maintain your blog?

The blog has been a way to talk about issues related to my writing as well as a forum to feature my books, giveaways and announcements about work in progress. My blog posts focus on broader issues like mystery writing or writing, in general. I have also used my blog to feature other authors and their books, current authors as well as masters like Agatha Christie. My poor blog has been neglected lately while I scrambled to deal with A DEAD COMPUTER [there must be a book in there somewhere!].

What is your method of getting reviews for your novels? Do you seek professional reviews, use social media or do you rely on your reading audience to supply them?

Reviews are hard to come by, that’s for sure. Estimates are that less than one percent of readers post reviews. That has been my experience. I haven’t sought reviews from professional outlets, but have received reviews from book promotion and blogger sites. My reviews mostly come from mystery readers.

I like your feature ‘What’s Cooking’. Can you tell us how you come up with the idea? Do many of your readers interact with that area of your website ?

I used to be a chef, so I still have an interest in cooking and that’s one reason food plays a role in my books. I’ve also written a blog post on the fact that cozy mysteries and food just seem to go together. That seems to be true even if you’re not writing culinary cozies, per se.

Jessica Huntington and the Cat Pack seem to love to ponder life’s mysteries while eating. Often that’s a scrumptious dish cooked up by Jessica’s friend and confidant, Bernadette. Officially, Bernadette’s the Huntington household manager. She’s also a surrogate mother, since Jessica’s own mother is rather dysfunctional. Why? Well a lot of that story is revealed in book 3, A DEAD DAUGHTER.

We should all have a Bernadette in our lives. Food is emblematic of the comfort she offers. In her case, her recipes also often include a bit of spice. Since we don’t all have a woman like her in our lives, it’s the least I can do to share her wonderful recipes for the food featured in the Jessica Huntington Desert Cities Mystery series. Frank, the handsome detective who teams up with Jessica, also cooks so he has a recipe or two in the mix.

Food is part of the story in two new cozy mystery series I’ve launched recently. The recipe for Monk’s Bread comes from book 1 in the Corsario Cove Cozy Mystery series, Cowabunga Christmas. The first book in the Georgie Shaw Cozy Mystery series, Murder at Catmmando Mountain will be released on Valentine’s Day as part of an anthology: Happy Homicides 2: 13 Cozy Mysteries (Crimes of the Heart). Readers will get recipes from Georgie Shaw’s first adventure in a free bonus book featuring recipes and crafts from all of the stories included in the collection!

Author's Book List
Cowabunga Christmas - Corsario Cove Cozy Mystery #1
"Are you telling me we have a dead Santa on our hands?"

It’s a Cowabunga Christmas in Corsario Cove for newlyweds, Kim and Brien. Surf’s up at the exclusive resort they’ve chosen as their honeymoon destination. The Sanctuary Resort and Spa at Corsario Cove has everything: a spectacular location with scenic views of the Pacific Ocean, luxurious accommodations, 5-star cuisine, spa services, and a staff that aims to anticipate and meet your every need.

A romantic midnight swim in the Club Level terrace pool changes everything when an unexpected guest drops in wearing a Santa Suit with a couple bullet holes in it! Who killed Santa? Kim and Brien are soon swept up in murder and mayhem trying to unravel the mystery.

Order the Book From:
Barnes and Noble

A Dead Daughter - Jessica Huntington Desert Cities Mystery Book 3
Murder and mayhem take Jessica Huntington to new heights when Libby Van Der Woert wants to meet at the top of the Palm Springs Aerial Tramway. The disturbed daughter of Jessica’s wealthy clients, Libby says she has information about her friend, Shannon Donnelly. Another mixed-up daughter of the rich and famous, no one has heard from Shannon Donnelly in over a week. Trouble begins the moment Jessica greets Libby in the Mt. San Jacinto Wilderness. Wild, manic, and sure she’s being followed, Libby’s got a gun. All hell breaks loose when Libby’s Beverly Hills shrink shows up with a gun of his own.

What’s up with the missing and misguided daughters of wealth and privilege in Dr. Carr’s care? Jessica and her friends go toe-to-toe with more well-heeled heels in A DEAD DAUGHTER. Getting to the bottom of things Jessica-Huntington-style, sets off a whirlwind tour of fashionable enclaves, upscale rehab clinics, shops, restaurants and other haute hangouts. Behind all the glitz and glam: secrets, lies, corporate wheeling and dealing. How can Jessica and her friends outwit and outlive ‘la crème de la crud’ wreaking havoc from Palm Springs to Beverly Hills?

Order the Book From:
Barnes and Noble

Love a Foot Above the Ground
We should all have a Bernadette in our lives... Set in California and Mexico in the 1960s this tale evokes a simpler, more innocent time and place. A story of love, loss, and resilience in the face of a haunting mystery.

Order the Book From:
Barnes and Noble

A Dead Sister - Jessica Huntington Desert Cities Mystery #2
“The worst kind of truth is better than the best lie, Jessica.” Jessica Huntington hopes Bernadette is right as she races headlong into trouble to discover the truth about the death of a high school friend, Kelly Fontana. Found in a Palm Springs hotel parking lot, the auburn-haired beauty with the voice of an angel and a streak of wild, died in a hit-and-run. Ruled an accident, the case soon grew cold.

Now, fourteen years later, Kelly’s handsome cousin, Detective Frank Fontana, has disturbing news. A lowlife meth addict has come forward as an eyewitness and swears, “It weren’t no accident! It was on purpose!” Things soon heat up. Not just the cold case, but the relationship between Jessica and Frank. Sleuthing Jessica Huntington style brings her face-to-face with the rich and famous as she seeks justice for Kelly. High living has its absurd moments as Jessica’s search takes her from Palm Springs to Beverly Hills, Hollywood, haute shops, spas, eateries and a Vault Top 100 LA law firm.

Who killed Kelly Fontana? The answer is buried beneath lies, drugs, sex and secrets that reveal a seamier side of wealth and celebrity. What will it cost Jessica and her friends to confront the worst kind of truth? "

Order the Book From:
Barnes and Noble

A Dead Husband - Jessica Huntington Desert Cities Mystery Book 1
"My first day as a sleuth was more Stephanie Plum than Miss Marple." Jessica Huntington, amateur sleuth with a shopping jones and a black AMEX card, finds out money can’t buy happiness, or save your neck. Her well-planned life in shambles, she’s hiding out near Palm Springs. When her best friend’s husband is murdered, Jessica and her friends are soon stalked by scoundrels in pantyhose, stilettos, Bruno Maglis, and Armani suits. Roger Stone had something that got him killed. What was it and what will they do to get it back?

Even in a desert paradise life is full of surprises, like A DEAD HUSBAND.

Order the Book From:
Barnes and Noble

Author Recommended by: HBSystems Publications
Publisher of ebooks, writing industry blogger and the sponsor of the following blogs:
HBS Author's Spotlight
eBook Author’s Corner
Top Shelf Author Advice
Mystery Reader’s Circle

Check out the index of other Spotlight authors. Spotlight Index.


  1. Thanks so much for getting the word out about my books...I enjoyed doing the interview very much!

  2. Fun and informative interview. Even I learned a few things and I have been married to her for over 45 years!