John A. Burnham – The Kitten Burglar

What is your most recent book? Tell us a bit about it.

The Kitten Burglar

Everybody calls Amanda “Kitten,” but few are in on the joke. Amanda is a cat burglar. Life is great for Kitten; she drives a Corvette, has great working hours and enjoys a rush from plying her trade. That is, until she finds out that both the law and the mob are aware of her activities.

While detective Garth Moore is investigating an alarming pattern of missing children reports, he’s presented with horrific evidence that the children are being used to make snuff videos. Garth recognizes that the sophisticated distribution setup for the videos is an elaborate early warning scheme. Conventional investigative techniques will probably trip it and send the perpetrators to ground before he gets close. If he’s going to nail these scumbags, he needs to think and act outside the box.

Kitten and Garth form an unlikely alliance. Reluctantly, Kitten agrees to utilize her unique abilities in the investigation. In exchange, she will receive immunity and a new identity, unknown to the mob.

Kitten’s efforts help Garth locate the “studio” where the videos are probably made. It looks like a straightforward takedown—raid the place while they are in the act.

Then, a new missing persons report adds a personal dimension to the mix. The profiles match; the missing child is probably the star of the next video. As plans are being made for the raid, it becomes apparent that the child—the pictures of whom they are now looking at—won’t survive a conventional raid. More out-of-the-box techniques are needed.

As the investigation progresses, Kitten finds unexpected enjoyment in the process. She begins to see that citizens aren’t the boring drudges she always thought them to be. To her surprise, she finds fulfillment in being regarded as one of them.

Garth, on the other hand, is beset by concerns that the unconventional techniques will compromise the possibility of getting a conviction. A quarry this smart and well financed will be using the best counsel, so any irregularity might let them jump slick. To make matters worse, the unusual requirements of this case have led to the use of another civilian—an ex navy SEAL named Stew. Both Kitten and Stew have no hesitation about playing their part to save the child. But, Garth knows that if anything happens to either of them, he can kiss his career goodbye.

On the night of the takedown, there hasn’t been any resolution. It still appears as though it’s one or the other; a good conviction or the life of the child. Garth knows how he’s going to call it. The child will be saved whether it costs him the conviction (and his job) or not.

Tell us something about yourself.

Even though adversity brought local author, John Burnham, to Red Deer, he considers it the best place in the world to live.

John saw a lot of the world courtesy of the US Navy. As a professional pilot, he’s been in every state in the US and every province in Canada. Involvement in manufacturing management, computer programming and the oil patch has made it necessary for John to reside in many communities.

John and Mary Lee—his wonderful wife of 38 years—relocated to Red Deer in 2001 so she could receive treatment at the Red Deer Hospital Cancer Center. Although the staff there fought valiantly, Mary Lee died in 2003.

John spent the next year trying to get his head back on straight. Somewhere along the line, he realized that Red Deer is as nice as any place he’s been and a good deal better than most.

John has three younger sisters residing in Colorado. Through a bit of subterfuge, they let him know his first love was now a widow. After a bit of correspondence and a hefty investment in Telus, he visited her and found the spark still alive. After exchanging vows in 2005, John and Rochelle bought a home in Red Deer.

John still marvels at his good fortune: While many men spend their entire lives searching for the right woman, John has enjoyed the love of two fine ladies. In a time when many people have strained relationships with their children, John can say that his three grown daughters are his best friends. Even though children can’t be faulted for disapproving of a parent’s second marriage, John’s daughters embraced Rochelle—one even introducing her as “My new mom.”

John is:

The author of an adult mystery—The Kitten Burglar—released in November, 2009.

The Vice-President of Writer’s Ink, the Red Deer and district writer’s club.

A member of the MENSA society.

A member of IONS.

A member of the Orchid Society of Alberta.

A member of the Red Deer Arts Council board of directors.

John’s interests are: Paleontology, Astronomy, Comparative Religion, Cosmic Evolution and—of course—Writing.

What inspired you to write this book?

There were multiple inspirations. In order of importance they are:

1. A desire to entertain, pure and simple. As a Dr. Johnson eloquently puts it, “The only aim of writing is to help the reader better to enjoy life, or better to endure it.” If I can provide a bit of escape and enjoyment for my readers, that’s all I really want. If the reviews appearing on the links below are any indication, I’m a success.

2. An interest in attempting to write a good mystery without relying on the shopworn literary devices of gratuitous violence, chases, or sex scenes.

3. A belief that we need more good fiction displaying tolerance and original thinking in a positive framework.

How did you choose the title?

I don’t remember actually choosing it, nor do I remember a time when I thought of the story under any other title.

What obstacles did you encounter in getting this book published? How did you overcome them?

I can’t say that I encountered or overcame any obstacles. I lucked out in finding an interested agent who found a publisher.

How did you know you wanted to be a writer? How did you get started?

I’ve been writing something or other most of my adult life. Early on, it was mostly technical stuff. Later, it was newspaper columns, material for political candidates, and the like. When I was fifty, I got serious about writing fiction and took the Reader’s Digest Novel Writing Workshop (which involved writing a novel). Writing took a back seat while I dealt with my late wife’s illness. After losing her, I returned to writing with a vengeance.

Do you have any writing rituals?

Anytime I get quiet, I can watch my current story unfold inside my head.

How do you come up with the names for your characters?

Good names are more of a challenge for me than story elements. I jot down interesting names that I hear. I search my memory. I ask my wife what she thinks a good name for a particular character might be. I’ve even resorted to scouring the telephone book.

Did you learn anything from writing and publishing this book? What?

1. Negotiate some say over pricing into the contract. I didn’t and my book is overpriced.

2. Be certain that the contract allows you say over the artwork. The publisher offered this in the first draft of the contract and I’m so glad he did! The first two proposals were awful!

If you were doing it all over again, what would you do differently?

I’d establish a web presence before publishing. Playing catch-up is tough while trying to write a sequel.

What types of books do you like to read? Who are your favorite authors?

“One Cosmos Under God,” by Robert W. Godwin, “The Tao of Physics” by Fritjof Capra, the writings of Joseph Campbell, Tom Harpur, Timothy Freke and Peter Gandy for philosophical underpinnings.

Tom Clancy’s stuff for examples of unexpected and satisfying conclusions.

Nora Roberts writing as J.D. Robb in the “In Death” series for character development.

Herman Wouk’s “Winds of War” and “War And Remembrance” for an inspiring example of historical fiction.

Are you working on your next book? What can you tell us about it?

“The Kitten Burglar P.I.” is a sequel to “The Kitten Burglar” in which the characters and the broad story line continue to develop.

What is the best advice you could give other writers about writing or publishing?

Join a writer’s group in which you can read your stuff aloud and receive critique. Your writing will never sound as good when you are reading it for the first time as it did when you were writing it.

Seek critique and evaluate it with humility. Our greatest enemy as writers is that we tend to get inspired by our own genius.

Keep a file of your responses to questionnaires like this. Beginning with your initial contact with an agent, through your dealings with a publisher and on into the promoting and marketing of your book, you will be asked similar questions. You’ll have to provide long and short versions of your book’s synopsis, and your biography to more people than you can imagine. Keep a file of your replies so you won’t have to reinvent the wheel on each occasion.

Who is the perfect reader for your book?

Adults, with a minimum of an associate degree from the school of hard knocks.

Where can readers learn more about you and your book? Barnes & Noble Google Books