Mary Burton: Thrills & Suspense That Will Keep You Up at Night!

I first met Mary Burton over lunch at a conference years ago and was extremely impressed at her warmth and kindness toward a magazine publisher she didn’t even know. Since then, anytime our paths have crossed, she has, without exception, gone out of her way to greet me with that same warmth and inclusiveness that shines so brightly. I’ve also had the opportunity to watch as her success as a suspense/thriller author has catapulted into the stratosphere!  Isn’t it wonderful when we can sincerely say, “It couldn’t have happened to a nicer person?” I wondered, however, if that success had changed her. But, after just one afternoon’s conversation, I can gladly say, not one bit!!  She is still the kind, giving, intelligent, fun person to talk to that sat down at my table so many years ago!

InD: Where were you born and raised?
I was born in Richmond, Virginia. We lived in the suburbs, Chesterfield County, which is about 25 minutes outside of the city.
InD: What was it like growing up there?
It was suburbia. I rode bikes around and hung out with your friends.  It was pretty regular.
InD: What were you like as a child?
: I was usually very quiet. I still can be so. As a child, I was always in my head, which hasn’t really changed. I was always playing, "What if?" These were just stories to amuse myself, and I never thought I’d write them down.
InD: It’s interesting, Fantasy authors for instance, always say they create worlds in their head. You are a Suspense writer and you say you have always asked, “What if?”
Yes, not only what good things that can happen, but what is the worst thing that can happen? And, if that happened, what is the next worst thing that can happen?  And when it does, how would my character react? If you keep going with that train of thought, you start to hit on the one that might be a great book or story.
InD: So as a child, you would just think of stories while you were riding your bike?
Yes, or just hanging out. I was not a big reader back then. I read a few Nancy Drew's, but I was more interested in telling my own stories.
InD: Do you have any brothers and sisters?
I have a younger sister.
InD: What were you like in high school?
In high school, again, I kept to myself. I had that one close friend. I tried my hand with the literary magazine in school, but it just didn't fit. Their idea of fiction did not jive with mine because I have always been more interested in genre rather than literary fiction.
InD: When you were in high school, were you interested in writing?
I was interested in stories. I really didn’t get that confidence or drive to pursue writing until my late 20s, early 30s.
InD: What were your interests in high school? Were you a good student?
I was in the French club, and a decent B or B+ student. I went to college in Roanoke, Virginia, and I majored in English. One of my first classes was the craft of writing, and that’s when I really got my first taste of it.
InD: If you weren’t really into reading or writing, why did you choose English as a major?
My dad majored in English and then went on to law school. He said, “With an English major, you’ll be able to communicate, which will support whatever you want to do professionally.”  He was right.  After I graduated, I went into apartment rental sales.  Sales is all about communication.
InD: Did you think real estate was what you wanted to do?
I didn't have a clue, but there were job opportunities in sales.  Actually, those sales skills I picked up during those years still serve me well today.  When I worked in apartment rental, the number one rule was, “Don't show it until it is clean” because if the people see the space dirty, they will always remember it that way rather than seeing how it could be.  I feel the same way about every manuscript now. It has to go to my proofreader and be as clean as I can get it before I can show it to anybody.   If it has too many issues, all people will remember are the imperfections.
InD: Oh, that's an interesting perspective. So you said you were very quiet growing up and yet when you graduated from college, you said you went into sales. How did that change?
I discovered that when it comes to sales or even now speaking in front of groups, that’s easy for me. I know that doesn't make any sense, but I enjoy it. I enjoyed closing sales. The next job I got was an Assistant Communications Director with the Chamber of Commerce in Northern Virginia. I started off selling ads, then I got into editing their local magazine.  Then I did marketing for a theater, and then I was a Marketing Director for an engineering firm.  All these jobs were honing the business skills I think are important in publishing.
In my late 20s, I started to get the writing bug. I was always a Romance reader and I was intrigued by it. I remember being in a Waldenbooks, standing in the Romance section, thinking, “I could do this, I just have to figure out how.”

Read the entire fun and informative interview in the July/August 2021 issue of InD'Tale magazine.

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