Since she was seven, Sarah E. Burr has wanted to be Nancy Drew. Sarah now follows that dream through her characters in her Trending Topic Mysteries. Trending Topic #Murder is the first in the series. Sarah also writes the Court of Mystery fantasy series.
A generation gap leads to a Trending Topic #Murder
“I have been a cozy mystery fan for a long, long time,” Sarah said. “A few summers ago, I went on a big cozy mystery binge. I had just moved away from family and friends outside of Boston, ready to start a new life in New York City, so I was feeling kind of lost and adrift. The warm, welcoming world of cozies ended up being a great source of comfort. There was something about the genre, about an average woman who was willing to put everything on the line for justice, that really moved me.”
Sarah added that while she was reading, she began to feel a growing generation gap with the characters. “I was reading about twenty-something year olds, young women my age, who never thought, “Maybe I should Google my victim?” Millennials who left their phone uncharged or forgot about their phone completely. I don’t know about you, but my cell phone is the first thing I interact with in the morning. My mom DMs me every day and sends me pictures through Pinterest. My 83-year-old grandmother has a Bitmoji character. Technology is very much a part of all our lives, but it seemed to be missing from this genre that I absolutely cherish. So, I began to toy with the idea of an amateur sleuth who used her extensive knowledge of the internet to unearth clues and dig up suspects.
“Once this idea took shape, I found myself dreaming of the beautiful beaches and boutique shops of the fictional Central Shores strip, and Coco began taking shape in my mind. Back when I was in college and searching for jobs post-graduation, if I had known social media would become as big as it is, I would have wanted to get into social media marketing. As luck would have it, I was about one graduation year too early, so I decided to create a character who dominated this cool field of networking because I could vicariously live through her and her achievements.”
Social media—both good and bad
“I first began crafting Coco Cline’s story on my laptop, but one issue that I think really shines through Trending Topic #Murder is how connected and—in a little more ominous tone—exposed we all are on social media and the greater World Wide Web. My heroine Coco continuously references apps like Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter when piecing together timelines and trying to understand her suspects. That is something anyone with internet access can do these days. I do it myself whenever I’m watching 48 Hours Mystery! By showcasing this through Coco’s amateur detective work, I hope to give readers insight on how they can better protect themselves online and provide thoughtful reminders that once something is on the web, the whole world has access to it. Granted, I don’t mean to frighten folks off of social media. As much as it scares me sometimes, I absolutely love it. Following celebrities, staying connected with family, gushing over cute dog pictures…it can be a wonderful tool. As the saying goes, with great power, comes great responsibility, and being connected virtually is one of those things we all should be mindful about.”
Sarah’s main character Coco runs a social media consulting business. In the book, Coco also posts regularly to a lifestyle blog Your Way Today. That means Sarah must come up with ideas and topics for Coco to feature during her mystery adventures.
“I am no blogger, in fact (and followers of my writing blog Noteworthy are well aware of this) I struggle pretty hard with it. So, why would I ever decide to write about a young woman who runs a super successful blog? Wishful thinking, maybe? Actually, when I have my ‘Coco Cline’ cap on, it’s really fun to brainstorm and whip up blog ideas. Coco’s blog mostly focuses on fashion, beauty tips, home décor, and entertainment. She stays far away from cooking most days…unless she wants to regale readers with a crazy kitchen fiasco. My favorite topic out of these subjects is home décor. Since I work from home, my 900-square-foot apartment has to function as both an office and an oasis. When Coco writes or outlines her blog posts about home décor, I’m often pulling from tips and tricks I’ve used to make my home feel fresh and cozy. I am a big lover of candles, so naturally, Coco writes a blog entry about how one can repurpose candles around the house.”
Connecting to characters
“Something that is really important to me, and one of the best things when it comes to reading a book, is feeling a strong connection with the main character. Someone who is relatable, real, and raw. As a writer, I want all my readers to feel that bond with my characters, which is why I set out to write a cozy mystery that a twenty-something year old reader could discuss with their grandparent because they both see themselves in Coco Cline. I want to write for both of those generations, and everyone in between! Just like technology connects us, it can also be frustrating. I hope that by humanizing technology, I can make it a little less fearsome to self-proclaimed technophobes.”
Dealing with life’s changes
On a more personal level, Sarah recently became a first-time paw parent. She said she grew up with pets, but Sarah’s mom was always the one who cared for them. “My dog’s name is Eevee, and she is just about the sweetest thing ever. She was rescued from a kill shelter in Texas, and after a few months being rehabilitated on a farm, she has made her way home to New York. I could not have asked for a better fur baby…and I have a feeling Coco may be getting a doggie of her own in the near-to-distant future!”
Castles and clues
Sarah’s Court of Mystery series features a headstrong Duchess who finds murder and mayhem around every medieval castle corner. “Because the series takes place in a fictional realm, I get to create a lot of my own rules, although I try to keep things as realistic as possible for the time period…which meant I needed to do research on palace architecture and nobility. What better way to research than to visit the United Kingdom? I went to England this past year and got to explore some breathtaking castles and estates, from the Tower of London to Kensington and Buckingham Palaces, all while learning about the long-standing history of nobility and the hierarchy of the monarchy. It was really inspiring and oh, so much fun!”
Learn more about Sarah E. Burr and Trending Topic #Murder at saraheburr.com