Sunday, February 23, 2014

Private Investigation: Information for Writers with Laura Burke


Lightening from my back garden
 (Photo credit: SK-y Photography)
Fiona - Right now, I am enjoying a thunder snow
            storm, and Laura, I believe you just came in
            from sunbathing. Can you introduce
            yourself to the readers, telling them about
            your job prior to becoming an author?

Laura - Okay, my name is Laura Burke, and it has
             been just a beautiful day here. The low
             was 65 and the high 75, perfect breeze
             out of the north west. A little chilly for
             sunbathing, but not to sit out with a good
             book in hand and soft music in the 
             background. As far as my PI job, I was a
             private investigator for approximately ten
             years. I worked at some pretty scary jobs
             and some not so scary. Being involved
             with some cold cases and going through a period of 
             helping families find closure became an obsession for
             me. Now after twenty years, I decided to write
             about some of those cases. Naturally building them
             up as fiction.

 Fiona - Your books have won some impressive 
              awards - do you think your hands-on experience is
             one of  the keys to your writing success?

Laura - By all means.  I've been really lucky the reviews have
            been awesome and everyone has said my
            novels are so trapping they can't put them down until
            they  have finished them.

Fiona - I want to help writers who don't get to have that
            hands-on experience to get a feel for what it takes
            to be a lady PI. I say lady PI because you must have
            gone to some places most women would have
            normally stayed away from - met and talked to some
            people that were not so nice, and I'm assuming alone.

Laura - I'm around 110 lbs, blonde, and only
            five-foot-two inches tall. There have been some
             very challenging
             times. Sometimes a case called for me to go into
             bars, dark alleys and sometimes in to
             neighborhoods even the police don't like to go

            One time when I was nearly broke, I did a little
            bounty hunting. There was a guy who had jumped bond and the price to catch him was around
            $5000.00. A good pay check! The only problem was he had skipped from Washington DC and 
            was now in Florida. Going around the area where he was suppose to be, I was able to find out 
            where he hung out in the evening and what kind of car he drove. The bar wasn't somewhere a lady 
            would go into by herself, especially a little blonde woman alone! Carrying a Dirty Harry gun and my 
            trusty .38 police issue revolver, and dressed to the tee's as they say, I checked out the parking lot to 
            make sure he was there. Now that I knew he was there I strolled into the bar with tears rolling down
            my face and asked if there was someone who owned a 82 Grand Am. The bar tender walked to the
            end of the bar, and this guy stood up, six foot six and had to have weighted at least 300 lbs. With
            shaky knees, he walked up to me and asked what did I want. I poured on the water works and told
             him I had accidentally ran into his car. He turned and started out the door of the bar. Once his back
             was to me, I took my Dirty Harry gun out and placed it at the back of his head near his neck, told
             him to get down on the ground and not to move. after he laid down, I took my .38 and held it on
             to him while I placed the handcuffs on him. Naturally everyone from the bar was in the parking lot
             watching and calling the police about this little blonde lady holding a gun on this giant. The cops
             arrived and took him into custody and I followed to do the paper work so I could collect.
            It would have gone the other way if one person had stepped in and challenged me.

Fiona - Laura! What an awesome story. You're itty-bitty. Did you have some military training - some martial
            arts? Were you from a family with 15 brothers who taught you to fight from day one???

Laura - Yes, I've always been small, but they
             say TNT comes in small packages. No, I wasn't in
             the military, but did go through police training in New
             York a life time ago; and yes, I did take karate when
             I was much, much younger.
             As far as brothers, I'm an only child.
             My mother died before I was a year old,
             and when my father and I moved to Florida in the
             early fifties, I had to find things to do to keep myself
             occupied. I learned to work in the fields. Later, after
             getting a little older, I could throw watermelons just
             as long as some of the men and work circles around
             most of them. I've always been physical and try to
             keep my muscles strong, you never know when you
             need to use them.

Fiona - Amen sister friend!

            Would you please take us through a pretend case?
            How would people know to contact you, how do
            you price your services? Is it based on danger? The
            what steps would you take to solve the pretend case?
            Hahaha - good luck figuring out that barrage of questions.

Laura - Say you had a brother or sister who was killed but the police thought it was just an accident. After
            they gave you the report you were just not sure and something kept nagging at you. Being well
            known in the field, they would call and ask to meet me. The rate is so much per day and expenses.
            It might take a day or two just to gather all the information from the police, which is all public
            information. Next they would take you to the area where the body was found and look over the
            area for anything the police might have missed and usually you do find something, whether it's
            important or not it's still a clue. Then the task is to go around and ask questions of all his friends,
            people they worked for, and visit all the places they visit. The last twenty-four hours of the person's
            life are the most important, usually the police look at everything, but those last twenty-four hours
            sometimes don't get investigated, only the last few hours.

            Sometimes the case is more than ten years old and people have moved away, this is when it takes
            longer to solve and sometimes you do find the police have done everything right and it was an
            accident. But hearing it from an outside source makes it final and easier to except.

Fiona - And stake outs are your favorites (kidding). Can you tell me what a real stake out is like and what
            you do to keep from falling asleep? (Tell truth, were you really writing your manuscripts)

Amazon Link
Laura - About the manuscript - I had started my
            first manuscript over twenty years ago and put it
           away before it was completed, and one night while
           sleeping, I kept having this same dream over and
           over for me to finish that darn thing. So I pulled it
           out and now have just published my fifth book and
           will have  another ready by summer.

           As to wonderful stake outs - Usually these are taken
           in shifts, but when there isn't but one of you, you
           have to take a couple of days to figure out when
           your suspect is moving around. Sometime it can take
           three or four days to find out what their pattern is.
           Once you have their movement patterns down, you
           can pick your hours.

          Staying awake for long  periods  of time is
           the pits. A lot of coffee, and making sure there is a
           public bathroom near by is one way, but
           when there isn't a bathroom around, you have to
           think  of other ways to stay awake. Forget about
           eating, that only makes you sleepy or no big meals
           or sandwiches allowed for me. I'd chew sour chewing gum, sour
            balls, lemons, limes, anything that was sour keeps you ready.
           These all help keep you awake and less hungry.

Fiona - What a great detail! 
             Tell me about your training - is it by apprenticeship, a degree program...

Laura - To become a licensed PI, you have to go through a two year apprenticeship unless you have been a
             police person. There are some programs now that teach or train a person to become a PI, but I
             don't know what good they are. I was always taught hands on makes all the difference in the type
             of  PI you'll be.

Fiona - Can you tell the readers about your style of writing and the subjects you find compelling?

Laura - I really don't think I have a style. Most of my stories start out rather quiet and build. I find serial
            killers my most compelling challenge right now. I'm bombed by so many stories that want to be told
            and most of them about serial killers.

Fiona - And the victims a re usually...

Laura - Most of them are women. There is one serial killer that I've written about who doesn't care whether
             it's a woman or man.

Fiona - And who brings the killers to justice - women like yourself or do you also write heroes?

Laura - I've had some people say I make the police and the FBI look rather incompetent, which is not true, I
             usually let them catch the bad guy, but in one novel I did have a PI and her colleagues solve the
             case, but gave the credit to the FBI.

Fiona - LOL - you're so sweet! Okay Laura, can you share your favorite scar story?
Amazon Link

Laura - In NY my partner and I were chasing a 16 year old
            who had just robbed a liqueur store. We chased
            him into an alley, and he turned and fired three or four
            rounds. I fired back but missed, and my
            partner fired six times. This kid came running at us
            like none of the bullets had hit their mark. He fell
            at my partners feet after my partner tackled him. We
            could see he had been shot several times,
            but he still was going strong. 
            The ambulance came and my partner said, "Hey, take
            her first." 
            I turned to him and asked him,  "What the hell are
            you talking about?" 
            He said, "Look you've been shot in your left
            I didn't realize I had been shot. The adrenaline was
            streaming so strong through my veins, I didn't 
            feel any pain. By the way, the kid died at the hospital,
            and it was determined he had so many drugs
            in his system, he was running on borrowed time.

Fiona - Oh, wow!
            I see our time is up Laura, can you leave us with some advice for writers who want to write it right - 
            perhaps something that you see consistently incorrectly written about PIs?

Laura - Most people think PI's are the cigarette smoking man in a run down office with a pile of papers on
            his desk. We as PI's are (mostly anyway) very efficient and very organized.
           We're no smarter than the police, but able to get into places police can go and get answers the police
           can't. The police can be your best friend if you need something checked out, so just because the
            police don't like PI's remember one day they maybe a PI also, so when you write about PI's and
            cases, treat them gently, they often have bigger hearts than the police.

            I want to thank you for taking the time out of your snow storm to do
            this interview with me. Stay warm and hope you don't lose your power.

Fiona - A pleasure.

Thank you so much for stopping by. And thank you for your support. When you buy my books, you make it possible for me to continue to bring you helpful articles and keep ThrillWriting free and accessible to all.

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  1. Do you have any more information on bounty hunting?

    1. Hi Randall,
      I don't know anything beyond what I've read in the Stephanie Plum books - so that's probably not much help. I'll try to find an expert... Typically, people in this field don't advertise the fact, so it will might take me some time. Readers - if any of you have a contact, could you send me a message either on Twitter or Facebook?

  2. Wonderful dialogue, I enjoyed it . Thank u so much.

  3. These simple tips are really simple. I have used all these tips and I am surprised that these all works fine. You are a great advisor. Thanks for advising these simple tools.
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