All Day and a Night is a fast-paced crime fiction, and a bit of a hybrid between a police procedural and a legal thriller. At the plot’s center is a convicted serial killer named Anthony Amaro, who has been in prison for twenty years. After a psychotherapist is murdered in New York City, her killer using the same “signature” that defined Amaro’s crimes, Amaro claims he was wrongly convicted, which would mean that the true killer is still on the loose.
NYPD Detective Ellie Hatcher is tapped, along with her partner, J.J. Rogan, as the “fresh look” team to reassess the original investigation that led to Amaro’s conviction.
On the other side of the investigation is a young defense attorney named Carrie Blank, who agrees to help Amaro pursue his wrongful conviction case. Carrie also happens to be the half-sister of one of Amaro’s alleged victims, so that makes things pretty interesting.
Please tell us about the character of Ellie Hatcher for those who are not familiar?
Ellie Hatcher grew up in Kansas but is now a detective with the New York Police Department, specializing in homicide cases. She’s young, snarky, smart, and a bit of an outsider. She’s tough in the sense that she knows exactly who she is and is willing to fight for what’s right. But she’s not (usually) a jerk about it. Part of her is always going to be a Kansas girl.
She’s also quick witted. Writing her dialogue in one book requires me to write down every funny thing I happen to think of for an entire year.
She does have a bit of a dark side. Her father was a homicide detective in Kansas and talked to her about kinds of things kids probably shouldn’t know about. He died under circumstances that still haunt her, and I think readers have a sense that the rest of her family really wasn’t able to care for her properly once dad was gone.
You have been praised for surprising your readers with every new book, so how do you keep this up?
I think it helps that I don’t feel confined by genre or sub-genre labels or any specific form of novel. I have written in both the first and third person (sometimes both in one book). I write series and standalone novels. I’m not afraid to use humor in what’s otherwise a pretty hardcore crime book. This book, for example, is a series book, but nearly half of it is told from the perspective of Amaro’s attorney, Carrie Blank. It’s also a series book in that it features Ellie Hatcher, but I think readers will find that it reads as a standalone.
How much has your background helped you to write the detail in these books?
In a way, I would say that every book I've ever written was based in some part on my legal experience. (I worked as a Deputy District Attorney for several years before writing fiction.)
Even when the characters are not lawyers, I am writing about the impact of crime on human lives, which I don't think I would understand at the same level if not for my time at the District Attorney's Office.
At the very least, it certainly makes my research easier!
You are now a professor of Law, so how do you juggle writing with this?
I just have to be very efficient, as do many people who are juggling multiple responsibilities. I imagine that many of the people reading this know what it’s like to hold down a job, manage a household, care for children or parents, be a good partner to a loved one, maintain supportive friendships. We’re all multi-taskers. My juggling just happens to involve a lot of storytelling and typing.
Your novel IF YOU WERE HERE was named one of Amazon’s Best Novels of 2013. How did this make you feel?
I know writers are supposed to say that stuff like that doesn’t matter, but I’ll admit it: Yeah, it’s pretty darn great to have your work recognized. And it’s not just the pat on the head. A lot of readers find authors they may never have heard of through awards and other recognitions, and I always appreciate any chance to introduce my work to new readers. At the end of the day, though, all you can do is create the best novel you can and hope it lands in front of some readers who enjoy the ride.
After 10 novels what is your writing process?
I start writing when I the characters start to pull at me. I get to know them better as I write about them, and somehow, over the course of about a year, I find my way through a beginning, middle, and end. I don’t outline. When I’m stuck, I always go back to the characters and let their motivations guide the plot.
The closest thing I have to any magic rule is to try to write every single day once I start. Even if it’s only a paragraph or two, those few words will keep the characters, voices, and story in my head, so I’m ready to go once I have the time to write more. And most of the time, I find that if I force myself to write even a paragraph, I often end up with several pages.
What is next for you?
Right now, I’m really enjoying talking to readers about ALL DAY AND A NIGHT, whether it’s in person or online at Facebook or Twitter.
At the end of the year, I have an exciting collaboration coming out, a co-authored novel with Mary Higgins Clark. I still can’t get used to saying that. I’ve been reading her books for years, so this is really an honor for me.
And then I’m working on a new standalone, details to come!
ALL DAY AND A NIGHT by Alafair Burke is out now, £10 (Faber & Faber)