Born and raised in northwestern Indiana, Valerie now lives in Northern Georgia with her two poodles, where she is also an operations manager at a local call center.
She also serves as an adjunct professor in the Writing Popular Fiction Program at Seton Hill University in Greensburg, PA.
Q Do you always write stories with dogs?
Valerie: I have two poodles. “The Mystery Bookshop Series” has two poodles. The “Dog Club Mystery Series” also had poodles, but this series has ended. In this “Baker Mystery Series”, the dogs are not poodles but English Mastiffs.
Q Why did you go from poodles to English Mastiffs?
Valerie: I love dogs and would love to experience different breeds. I was speaking with a co-worker who had this breed. They were talking about how they are large and drool. I thought it would be nice to experience the breed without totally experiencing it, without owning a 250-pound English Mastiff. I researched the breed, and my co-worker told me things their dog did, to help me with the dog storyline.
Q How did you get the idea for the series, centering it around a bakery?
Valerie: During Covid I watched a lot of cooking shows and compared them to the cooking shows I watched before Covid. There were a lot of differences in the camera angles and hilarious outtakes. I was inspired by that to write a culinary cozy mystery. The main character owns a bakery but does not know how to bake. She inherited it from her great Aunt. I put in recipes at the end of the book. Some of them came from friends, and some I used and adapted over years, including the Peanut Butter Cookie and the Chocolate Cake recipe at the end of this book.
Q Why the military angle?
Valerie: I am not sure. I did have Maddy, the main character’s father, as an Admiral in the Navy. Her love interest, Michael served in the Army. I also had fun with the nicknames. Michael called her “Squid,” “Swabbie,” while she called him “Grunt,” “Dumb Joe.” I have friends in the military and asked them for advice. This is where I got the names. It is all in good humor. Also, I liked that Maddy can ask herself in certain situations what would her Admiral father do.
Q How would you describe Maddy?
Valerie: She is old fashion and loves social media. She is indecisive, the opposite of her father who must make life/death decisions. This provided a certain amount of tension. She likes to talk a lot, avoids conflict, bold, determined, compulsive, impulsive, smart, funny, and can be insecure. I hoped readers see her development from the first in the series, Two Parts Sugar, One Part Murder to this book. In this book she is learning to trust herself more, bolder, and is less insecure.
Q Why make Maddie a suspect in the murder?
Valerie: I wanted her close to the investigation and to have a strong motive to find the killer. She is willing to engage to find the truth.
Q How would you describe Michael?
Valerie: Even-handed, kind, supportive, and protective. Just as those in the military it takes a certain type of person to put themselves on the line, and this is Michael. He makes sacrifices, to run into dangerous situations. I see him as a traditional knight in shining armor who is bright, honest, and courageous. He takes care of his grandmother, Hannah, who has dementia. This really shows his character, kindness, and how he is willing to sacrifice his own life.
Q Is the “Master Criminal” and overriding arc in the series?
Valerie: Yes. I wanted to do something different in this series. It will be carried across multiple books in the series but will be wrapped up in the next book. I stretched myself as a writer.
Q How would you describe the bad guy, Clayton?
Valerie: Evil, shady, cruel, vengeful, abusive, and mean.
Q What’s next?
Valerie: The next book in this series will be titled, Another Slice of Murder, out this time next year. Readers will meet the Admiral who will be a part of the murder investigation and find out who killed Maddy’s Great Aunt Octavia.
Book 9 in the “Mystery Bookshop Series” is titled Murder on Tour. The main character, Samantha, has her first book released. On her book tour there is a murder.
I also have a new series coming out this December. It will involve Bailey the Bloodhound, another mystery series, and is titled, Sniffing Out Murder. An elementary school teacher, Priscilla, has written children’s books featuring her dog Bailey, a detective. In her hometown Bailey finds a “real” body who was murdered.
Murder is A Piece of Cake by Valerie Burns is the second book in the “Baker Street” Cozy Mystery Series. As with all her books dogs play an important role and the characters are very well developed.
The first book in the series, Two Parts Sugar, One Part Murder, has Maddy Montgomery inheriting from her great Aunt Octavia the “Baby Cakes Bakery” and a 250-pound English Mastiff, named Baby. The will stipulates Maddy must keep the bakery afloat for a certain amount of time to receive her inheritance, and to keep Baby safe and sound.
This plot has Maddy in a lot of trouble when a multi-millionaire CJ Davenport comes to town to seek revenge on Maddy’s best friend, police chief April. He decides the best way to get to April is by destroying her friends. He chooses to open a bakery directly across from Maddy’s to put her out of business. But things go from bad to worse when Davenport is murdered in the Baby Cakes Bakery with both April and Maddy as the prime suspects. Now Maddy and her friends, known as the “Baker Street Irregulars,” must find the true killer to clear Maddy and April.
This series is a delight. It has great characters including Baby. The author always seems to key in on why people love dogs so much. She involves in her plots humor, a tinge of romance, and a who done it mystery that keeps people turning the pages.