Romance often involves a bit of mystery. And yet, mystery novels don’t always have romantic parts. But that’s actually what you’ll get from writer Bob Burnett’s Kate Swift Mystery series, which he’s kicking off with the novel Death Is Potential (paperback, Kindle). In the following email interview, Burnett discusses what inspired this mystery / romance series, and this first story.
To start, what is Death Is Potential about, and when and where is it set?
Death Is Potential is set at the fictional Satori Institute in Big Sur, California. “When U.S. Marshall Kate Swift enters a trauma-recovery workshop, she never expects to be caught up in a fiery romance and a violent crime wave.” Marshall Swift goes to Satori for PTSD-related therapy and is enlisted by the local Sheriff’s Department to assist in a murder investigation.
Where did you get the idea for Death Is Potential?
The novel resulted from the convergence of four factors:
- I had been writing a political column and got tired of it.
- As a longtime mystery fan, I thought the genre had grown stale.
- I’d gone to a similar psychological workshop at Esalen Institute in Big Sur and believed the workshop experience would translate into a good novel.
- Because Satori is isolated, I liked the notion of having the road closed and the workshop participants trapped with a killer on the loose.
And you kind of just answered this, but is there a reason you set it in Northern California as opposed to Southern California or some other part of California or, call me weird, a state other than California? I mean, mysterious stuff happens in New Jersey, too…
Satori Institute is set in Northern California because that’s where Esalen is located. After I wrote Death Is Potential, I conceived of a sequel that was set in Monterey. Then I outlined a third book set in Silicon Valley. By that time, I realized I could write a series entirely set in Northern California. (There have been mysteries set in San Francisco, but not in various Northern California settings,)
It sounds like Death Is Potential is a mystery novel. But I could be wrong…
Death Is Potential is a mystery and a romance. The good news is that it should appeal to both mystery fans and romance fans. The bad news is that almighty Amazon does not have a category for mystery / romance.
Anyway, Death Is Potential is your first novel. Who do you see as being the biggest influences on both the story you’re telling in Potential and how you wrote it?
However, I’m a long-time reader and have been influenced by great writers such as Joseph Conrad, Ernest Hemingway, and Tom Stoppard.
What about non-literary influences; was Death Is Potential influenced by any movies, TV shows, or games?
I was very influenced by the HBO-adaptation of Liane Moriarty’s novel Big Little Lies.
Now, you’ve already said that Death Is Potential is the first in a series. But is the plan that these will be loosely connected stand-alone novels, or is Potential the first book in a trilogy or some other set number of books?
Three mysteries are written: Death Is Potential, set in Big Sur; Death Is Resistance, set in Monterey (begins with the death of a Satori therapist who is found to have been living under a false identity for 40 years); and Death Is Technical set in Silicon Valley. Death Is Political, set in Sonoma County, is in process.
A moment ago I asked if Death Is Potential had been influenced by any movies, TV shows, or games. But to flip things around, do you think Death Is Potential could work as a movie, or a TV show, or a game?
Yes. I think Death Is Potential would make a terrific TV series like the adaptation of Big Little Lies on HBO.
And if HBO greenlit that series, who would you want them to cast as Kate and the other main characters and why them?
I think Taylor Swift should be cast as Kate and Travis Kelce should have the role of Tom.
So, is there anything else people need to know about Death Is Potential?
Death Is Potential is a mystery / romance and I am one of the very few men to write in this genre.
Finally, if someone enjoys Death Is Potential, what romance / mystery novel of someone else’s would you suggest they check out next while waiting for Death Is Resistance to come out?
If you want classic mystery, Past Lying by Val McDermid is 2023’s best mystery.
Down on her luck, Charlotte Holmes sets up a detective consulting business using her imaginary brother, Sherlock. She fools everyone except her longtime friend, Lord Ingram. After a period of adjustment, Charlotte and Ingram become lovers. Sadly, they cannot spend time together because they are pursued by the evil Moriarity.
In book 7, Charlotte and Ingram book passage on the RMS Provence bound for Gibraltar. Holmes seeks a dossier but is diverted by the murder of a wealthy passenger.