Wednesday, January 4, 2023

An Interview with V. M. Burns By E. B. Davis


I wasn’t sure which was worse, thinking about going to 

prison or planning a wedding.

V. M. Burns, Bookclubbed to Death, Kindle Loc.1508


When the bookshop she owns becomes a crime scene, mystery writer Samantha Washington discovers there is such a thing as bad publicity . . .
After the local library in North Harbor, Michigan, is flooded in a storm, Sam offers her bookstore as a new venue for the Mystery Mavens Book Club. Unfortunately, she immediately runs afoul of the club leader, Delia Marshall, a book reviewer who can make or break careers—something Sam can ill afford with her debut historical mystery soon to be published.
But the next morning, Sam opens her shop to find the unpleasant woman dead on the floor, bashed with a heavy—apparently lethal—tome: the Complete Works of Agatha Christie. While Sam is busy writing her latest British historical mystery in which the queen mother is suspected in the murder of a London Times correspondent, a pair of ambitious cops suspect Sam of the real-life crime. When she gathers Nana Jo and their friends from the Shady Acres Retirement Village to review the case, they discover every one of the Mavens had a motive. With her novel about to hit the stores, Sam must find out who clubbed Delia before a judge throws the book at her . . .


Bookclubbed to Death is V. M. Burns eighth book in the Mystery Bookshop Mystery series. Check out Amazon to find the first in the series, The Plot is Murder, free with Kindle Unlimited. The second and third books are on sale at .99 cents each. This is an easy way to get a leg up on the series and get some great reads for very little money. Once you start reading about main character Samantha, her grandmother, Nana Jo, her poodles, Oreo and Snickers, and the Shady Acres gang, friends of her grandmother, you be glad there are eight books to read in this series. I’ll be awaiting the next release.


Everyone has secrets, but some secrets are more incriminating than others and lucrative. Delia Marshall is a scam artist and a blackmailer, as Samantha eventually learns. When Sam finds Delia’s body, the police finger her as their as their best suspect, but they don’t trouble themselves by doing their jobs so Sam and the gang have to do it for them.


Please stop in and congratulate WWK blogger V. M. (Valerie) Burns on this release.                                                                                                                                   E. B. Davis

A storm with a tornado watch shakes Sam’s poodles. Nana Jo rubs CBD oil into their muzzles. Does it work? Have you tried CBD oil on your dogs? It doesn’t have to be ingested?

I have used CBD oil for my dogs and found that it works great, especially during the Independence Day fireworks. I have always used a dropper and put the oil under my dog’s tongue. However, it can also be rubbed on the skin. I believe there are also plug-ins, too.


If South Harbor is a thriving community with plenty of tourists, why did Sam open her bookstore in North Harbor?

The two towns are side-by-side and share the same Lake Michigan coastline. However, they are like night and day in other respects. Years ago, North Harbor was an upper-class area with large Victorian homes. South Harbor had small bungalows and was where the working-class citizens lived. After the civil rights riots in the 60s and the manufacturing exodus to the South and abroad, North Harbor became the economically depressed area that it is, today. However, residents haven’t given up on the town and hope to turn it around. Sam and her late husband Leon were part of that crowd. They wanted to see North Harbor’s economy revitalized. That’s why they dreamed of owning a business downtown North Harbor. That is the reason that Sam chose to open her bookstore in North Harbor.


When the library gets flooded by the storm, even after being warned by her sister Jenna, Sam asks if she can help. Librarian Charlotte Simmons pushes Sam to host a bookclub at her store. I got two very different impressions of librarian Charlotte Simmons. This first glimpse has her besting Sam, but later in the book, she allows Sam to read information about the victim—helping the investigation. Did I get the wrong first impression of Charlotte, or is it a case of one hand washing the other?

Charlotte Simmons isn’t trying to “best” Sam. She isn’t deliberately manipulative at all. She is one of those people to whom it is virtually impossible to say NO to (probably because she is so nice). Sam wants to help the library, and hosting a book club seems like a small price to pay. I don’t think anyone would have imagined how things would turn out. After hearing all that Sam went through, Charlotte feels bad because hosting the book club was her idea, and she wants to help.


When Delia Marshall, the victim, demands lunch, cocktails, coffee, and dessert for the book club, not only was I surprised that Sam capitulated, but also that Nana Jo suggested getting Sam’s fiancé Frank to cater it. I thought we’d hear them slam the door on Delia’s behind. Why did they collapse to the pressure?

Delia Marshall is demanding, but as a book reviewer, she wields a lot of power. As Sam’s first book is about to be released, she doesn’t want to antagonize anyone, especially a book reviewer. Frank loves to cook, so agreeing to the food seemed like a small price to pay. After Sam’s book was released, I’m sure Delia Marshall would have been shown the door.


Why doesn’t Nana Jo trust Alexa? Why does she call Alexa, She-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named?

LOL – Nana Jo doesn’t trust Alexa because she fears that she (and others) are listening to her conversations. My sister and I tested this by talking about something unusual (like diapers). The next thing you know, all of the ads we saw on our phone and social media were about diapers. Coincidence? Hmm. I think, not.


What is an Echo Show (sorry, I’m like Nana Jo!)?

An Echo Show is an Amazon device with a screen. It can play music, shop, watch videos, play games, pull up recipes, provide cleaning tips and a host of other things. However, the main attraction for Nana Jo, Sam et. al, is that it allows you to call and video chat with anyone else who has one. So, if Grace and Harold have one in Australia and Sam and Nana Jo have them in North Harbor, they can all see each other and there are no long-distance phone charges.


Do you think our emails, texts, and phone calls are monitored?

YEP! 😊 Don’t you?


Sam goes to church on Sundays. Is her faith important to her? Why do you think church attendance is declining?

Sam does go to church on Sundays. Initially, it was something she did with her mom. I think she finds comfort in her faith and the hope that she feels from belief that there is a wonderful paradise that exists beyond the challenges of day-to-day life.


I’m sure there are hundreds of factors that may contribute to church attendance declines. My best guess for the decline is that people may be disillusioned by institutionalized religion. However, I’ve learned through the pandemic that a lack of attendance at a building doesn’t always equate to a lack of faith.


Why would Martha Cheswick and Evelyn Randolph stay in the bookclub after Delia trashed their book?

Delia Marshall is still an influential book reviewer, so they wouldn’t want to completely close that door. However, I think they may have had an ulterior motive for staying close to Delia.


What is BAFTA all about?

BAFTA is the British Academy of Film and Television Arts. It is a charitable organization that supports and develops the arts of film, television, and video games in the UK. Winning a BAFTA is very prestigious and on the same level as winning an Oscar.


Sam has a problem with her four-years-older sister, Jenna. Jenna is a lawyer with a successful marriage, two wonderful twenty-something sons, and a big old renovated house. What’s not to like?

HA! Do you have an older sister? Just kidding. As a person with a sister (4 years older), I suspect Sam’s issues are related to the fact that sometimes, older sisters can be bossy, and opinionated, and may feel that they know it all. Perhaps, Sam may have spent her entire life in her older (successful, happily married, great mom, wonderful life) sister’s shadow and might be frustrated. Of course, I’m only speculating, but I suspect that might be Sam’s issue. However, despite their occasional challenges, Sam loves her sister.


Even the police operator knew about Delia Marshall, so why didn’t the detectives find out about her?

North Harbor is based on a real town in Southwestern Michigan. So, I used the same setup for the 911 dispatchers. In the county in SW Michigan where my series is based, the people answering the 911 calls are not sworn police officers. They are highly trained, Certified Emergency Medical Dispatchers, Emergency Fire Dispatchers, and Emergency Police Dispatchers. A 911 dispatcher may receive calls involving Delia Marshall that don’t involve the police. The detectives working on a homicide wouldn’t hear about things unrelated to homicide or other crimes that they’re working on.


How did Sam get Detective Pitt to join her sleuths?

Over the course of the series, Sam has had many run-ins with Detective Pitt and yet Sam has prevented him from making mistakes that might have been embarrassing and career-ending. While he isn’t the investigating officer this time around, he knows that Sam gets results. Detective Pitt may also feel frustrated because the other detectives don’t respect him. Helping Sam get the better of them would undoubtedly give him a great deal of satisfaction.


After finding out that an award-winning journalist falsified his reports for which he won the Pulitzer Prize—Sam feels disillusioned. It’s happened a lot in real world news in the past few years. Has Hollywood and ratings taken over journalism? Are “reality” shows muddying what is real?

Sam was a huge fan of an author whom she believed wrote a real account of his life. Learning that the work was fiction felt like a betrayal. Hollywood and “reality” television has a lot to answer for, but sadly they can’t take all of the credit/blame for an author claiming something is real when it’s fiction.


Your facts about Windsor Castle were mind blowing. I had to tell my home-building husband that it was 590,000 square feet, a thousand-years-old, has fifty-two bedrooms without counting servants’ quarters, 380 timepieces, and over 300 chimneys! What do they do with all that space these days?

Much of the castle is open to the public for tours. Plus, between the royal family, servants, guards, etc., there are over 150 people living there. It’s used for ceremonial and state visits. But, the truly magnificent part of the castle includes the Royal Archives, the Royal Photograph Collection, the Print Room, and the Royal Library. It’s an amazing piece of history and a truly remarkable facility.


How was the Rosetta Stone used as a key to unlock ancient symbols?

The Rosetta Stone is basically a large rock that is inscribed with a decree from 196 BC about King Ptolemy V. The stone is important because the decree was written in three languages, Demotic, hieroglyphs, and Ancient Greek. When it was discovered in 1799, no one knew how to read ancient Egyptian hieroglyphs, but because scholars could still read Ancient Greek, the Rosetta Stone made it possible to decipher Egyptian hieroglyphs.


What is the All for One and One for All club?

When Nana Jo and ‘The Girls’ go to the Four Feathers Casino, at the end of the night, they share their winnings. The phrase comes from the novel, The Three Musketeers by Alexander Dumas. “All for one, and one for all” is a way of demonstrating that each member supports the group, and the group supports each member.


What is steganography and how does it work?

Steganography is the art of hiding information within another object which may be in plain sight. Secret messages can be hidden in objects that are seen and used every day without detection. Hidden messages have been added to quilts, knitting, paintings, music, books, and a host of other objects.


What’s next for Sam, Nana Jo, and the poodles?

As most authors know, releasing a book is just the tip of the iceberg. Now that Sam’s book is released, she must start promoting it. The 9th book in the Mystery Bookshop Mystery series, Murder On Tour, will show what happens at one of the stops on her tour. I’ve seen the cover and I think the poodles will approve.



  1. Congratulations on your latest -- and Murder on Tour sounds like it will be "fun" as well.

  2. Anthony Horowitz’s latest, The Twist of a Knife, starts with a theatre crictic being murdered. Sounds like reviewers and critics are in literary trouble these days. You’re on the cutting edge. Good luck with this new book—sounds clever and intriguing.

  3. Best wishes with the new book! xo Shari

  4. Looking forward to reading this. It's one of my favorite series.

    Interesting that you mention steganography. I recently read an article on the BBC site that discussed secreting Morse Code messages into songs in hope that the music would be heard by the military captives of FARC who had been required to learn Morse Code as part of their training. Based on the story it was effective. The BBC story included the song. My husband, who is a HAM operator, listened and instantly picked up the code.

  5. Love VM Burns books! Looking forward to this one. Great interview.

  6. Can't wait to read this, V.M., and thank you for the word steganography.

  7. Congratulations on a most-interesting release! Lots of fun factoids. And poodle kisses from Jazz and Louie.

  8. I love the bookshop mysteries and their zany cast of characters! A welcome new addition.