Q&A with Author H.S. Burney

The Lake Templeton Murders

Q: What was the first book that you have written and published?

The Lake Templeton Murders, a Fati Rizvi Private Investigator Murder Mystery.

Q: When did you get started as a writer? 

In some way, I have always been a writer. When I was in middle school, I wrote in longhand a series of stories starring fictional characters based on me and my friends, putting us in interesting situations. The series was an instant hit and the journals were passed from person to person at school. Everyone wanted to read them. 

I wrote a collection of short stories for my undergraduate Honors thesis while completing my Bachelors’ degree in Creative Writing. At the time, traditional publishing was the only path available to budding writers. I sent out my short stories half-heartedly to a few agents, before giving up and focusing on the more lucrative world of banking and finance. 

After graduation, I started my career in banking, found out I really enjoyed it, and promptly got totally absorbed in the corporate world. As I was building my career through successive promotions, writing went on the backburner. 

I rediscovered my passion for writing through blogging. I discovered Medium.com and was awestruck by how easy it had become to put your writing out there. Blogging – about my journey as a Canadian immigrant and my learnings as a corporate leader – got the creative juices flowing again. It made me realize that I really wanted to be a published author. However, I had absolutely no idea what type of book I wanted to write. 

During the pandemic, while reflecting on my life and my passions, it struck me that I should write a murder mystery. I needed to write a book that would keep the reader up late at night, desperate to know what happens next. In other words, exactly the type of book I myself loved to read, every since I was a little girl. And so, The Lake Templeton Murders took shape. 

I have a Google’s Drive worth of half-completed writing projects. But this was the one that flowed – easily, naturally, to the point where I was disappointed when the story ended as I wanted to write more. Through The Lake Templeton Murders, I finally discovered my true calling – as a mystery writer. 

Q: How does your career as a business executive help inspire you with your writing? 

As a leader, you become adept at studying human behavior. When you’re dealing with people, in many ways you’re a psychologist and, at times, a therapist. Leading a team in commercial banking, I meet all kinds of people – eccentric entrepreneurs, community pillars, influencers, politicians, and more. Their unique personalities and colorful stories all coalesce to help inspire my ideas. 

Q: Did you always see yourself as a writer?

Actually, yes. But I didn’t always want to admit or acknowledge it. For a long time, in my mind, being a writer carried a certain image – the loner and introvert – which conflicted with my own personality as a social person and an extrovert. 

And my skill with writing has also helped me in the corporate world. Apparently, it also translates with effective communication, delivering tough messages, and phrasing emails just right. 

Q: How many more books do you have planned, if any? 

If I publish a book every month, I still won’t run out of ideas! Sadly, writing a book is a lot of work that involves endless hours of writing, editing, not to mention publishing. I wish I could write faster but, particularly with a very demanding day job, my pace is limited. Right now, my goal is to finish my next book, the next adventure of Detective Fati Rizvi, by Spring 2022. 

Q: What three words would you use to describe your writing style?

  1. Direct – I do not waste words
  2. Fast-paced – I endeavour to keep the story moving; my books are meant to be a quick read 
  3. Accessible – You don’t need a dictionary to make it through my writing! 

Q: Tell us, readers about your main character, Fati Rizvi. 

Fati is the daughter of Pakistani immigrants and a second generation Canadian. She’s unconventional and flouts the traditions she was brought up with. Despite her parents’ pleas, she refused to go to law school. She joined the police academy but quit after three years as she couldn’t stand being constrained by procedure. Fati is someone who likes doing things her own way; she doesn’t care for rules. To her, everything is above board as long as it helps her solve a case. 

Fati is self-sufficient, independent, and assertive. A loner, she can get a little obsessive about her cases to the point where, in the thick of things, nothing else matters – not personal relationships, health, or hygiene. It’s not the pursuit of justice that drives her, but intellectual curiosity. For her, every case is a puzzle. 

Fati’s relationships with people are transactional, where most in her orbit are there because of their usefulness in solving cases. She views people dispassionately, although her hidden biases sometimes get in her way. Romantic entanglements are an unnecessary distraction, so she remains devoutly single. Her only hobby outside of solving cases is learning languages. But she’s always game for a good pinot noir and a chocolate croissant! 

Q: What is your go-to beverage as a writer? 

Coffee! Black, no sugar.

Q: What advice would you give to fellow mystery/thriller writers?

The most important function of a mystery novel is to keep the reader turning the page. You need to be very lean with your words and exposition. Too much detail can distract from the story. It’s essential that you keep the story moving. 

A mystery novel isn’t just a creative work. There’s an analytical aspect to it, whereby your clue trail needs to be resolved in a logical fashion. Open threads need to be tied. Breadcrumbs have to make sense. For me, having a high-level plot / outline really helps. But I also find that following my outline without exception stunts my creativity. The story wants to go where it wants to go. If I refuse to follow its lead, the writing sounds wooden and forced. So the trick is to have an outline but also give yourself the freedom to go to different places as the story unfolds.

Q: What themes can readers find in your latest release, The Lake Templeton Murders?

The deep thread that runs through the work is the idea of family. More precisely, dysfunctional families. Family ties are deep and indelible, but they can also be messy. They impact our behavior, sometimes in ways that are not ideal. 

A secondary theme is loneliness and isolation and where it can lead a person. 

Q: Where can readers find you and your books online?

My book is available on Amazon and Kobo.

The Lake Templeton Murders on Amazon

The Lake Templeton Murders on Kobo

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HS Burney

Author Bio:

HS Burney writes fast-moving, action-packed mysteries set against the backdrop of majestic mountains and crystalline ocean in West Coast Canada. She loves creating characters that keep you on your toes. A corporate executive by day and a novelist by night, HS Burney received her bachelor’s in creative Writing from Lafayette College. A proud Canadian immigrant, she takes her readers into worlds populated by diverse characters with unique cultural backgrounds. When not writing, she is out hiking, waiting for the next story idea to strike, and pull her into a new world.

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