The Internet can be a valuable resource. Whether researching a topic for school
or keeping abreast of the latest political news, we always seem to be connected
in one way or another. Itís hard to remember what our lives were like before its
conception! Nowadays, we even have Face Book and Twitter. The advances in
technology are truly amazing.
Just as we have embraced this new movement comes the alarming reality of the
dangers associated with these networking sites, especially for our youth. The
number of predators lurking in cyberspace is disheartening. From prostitution
rings to drug trafficking, the Internet has become a very nefarious place.
This monthís Jenís Jewels
Alafair Burke tackles
this very controversial topic in her latest release, 212. The third installment
of her highly popular The Ellie Hatchet Series, Alafair takes us through
the streets of New York in search of a cyber killer. Fast-paced and brutally
honest, she exposes the secret lives of women caught up in the Internet sex
As part of this interview, Harper, an imprint of Harper Collins
Publishers, has generously donated five copies for you, my favorite readers,
to try to win. So, donít forget to look for the trivia question at the end. And
as always, thanks for making Jenís Jewels a part of your reading adventure.
Jen: Without a doubt, the headlines are the spark that ignites your
suspenseful stories that keep your readers on the edge of their seats. So that
we may have a better understanding of the woman behind the words, please share
with us your educational and professional background.
Alafair: Iím a
law professor at Hofstra Law School outside of New York City, where I teach
criminal law and procedure. Prior to that, I was a prosecutor in Portland,
Oregon and a law clerk to a federal appellate court judge. I graduated from Reed
College and Stanford Law School.
Jen: I think it would be fair to say that your legal career gives you a
leg up for writing in this genre since your experience lends credibility to your
plot. At what juncture in your life did you decide that writing needed to be
part of the equation? And, how do you manage to balance a law career with
Alafair: I came to writing as a reader. Iíd always been an avid reader
of the genre. After five years of working at the District Attorney's Office in
Portland, I felt like I was ready to contribute. By then, I could imagine the
kinds of settings, characters, and dialogue that would color a series set in the
Portland prosecutor's office. I also had a plot, inspired by two actual cases
that arose while I was in the office. That idea became my first novel, Judgment
As for the balance, I have to be diligent. Iím always working on something
whether a book, or a law review article that no one will ever read, or teaching.
It pretty much means I work a lot, but itís all stuff I love. I know Iím lucky.
Jen: Your latest release is the third book in your highly acclaimed
The Ellie Hatcher Series. 212 is a riveting novel that delves into the clandestine world of
the sex industry. For those readers unfamiliar with your books, please give us a
brief overview of the series and its main characters.
Alafair: Ellie Hatcher is a detective in the NYPD, relatively new to
homicide cases. Her father was a cop whose mysterious death plays a big part of
her back story, but because she was raised in that atmosphere, she has good
instincts about human motivations. She and her partner, JJ Rogan, are still
finding their way, but theyíre a good team.
Ellie was raised in Wichita, but sheís been in New York for over ten years after
initially following her big brother, Jess, there. Jess is a terrific character,
a struggling musician who crashes on her couch during frequent bouts of
Jen: Ellie Hatcher is not your typical detective. Hard-nosed but
sensitive, she runs the gamut with her emotions. Yet, with every step she takes,
she inches closer to the killer. What is the driving force behind her desire to
Alafair: Thereís no question that Ellie is always looking for approval
from her dead father. She also has an overriding desire for justice. She wants
to do whatís right, even when it puts her in peril.
Jen: Ellieís partner J.J. is a rough and tough kind of guy who definitely
has a soft-spot for her. Like a protective older brother, heís got her back.
What makes these two such formidable partners? And, are they truly equals in
each otherís eyes? Why or why not?
Alafair: JJís got the experience, but heís careful not to use that
against her. He started out partnering with her when other detectives were
skeptical after Ellieís rapid movement in the department. I love the comfort
theyíve managed to find in each other after a pretty short relationship. Iíve
also been careful to steer clear of the usual romantic sparks. Their
relationship is absolutely platonic.
Jen: The suspect in 212 is Sam Sparks. A Donald Trumpish kind of character who
believes himself to be above the law, he irks Ellie from the get-go. If this
character were Samantha Sparks, would Ellie have reacted in the same way? Why or
Alafair: What a terrific question. It recognizes that women are often
their harshest critics. In this case, however, I think Ellie would have reacted
the same. Sparks gets under her skin not because heís a man, but because heís
part of an extremely elite class that she knows does not accept her kind and
that sheíll never be a part of. I donít want to say too much, but Sparks turns
out to be more than he appears.
Jen: Without giving too much away, the essence of the plot centers on
some girls getting caught up in a prostitution ring via the Internet. I was
shocked by my own sense of naivetť when it came to this topic. How are social
networking sites such as MySpace, Facebook, and Craigís List a crucial part of
the mainstreaming of the sex industry?
Alafair: What the book explores (in an entertaining way, I hope) is the
mainstreaming of todayís sex industry. Walking on corners has been replaced by
ads in Craigís List, and ads on Craigís List donít seem so different to some
young women from social networking sites. At the same time, the dating world has
become courser, as many girls routinely ďhook upĒ with free-spending guys on the
assumption that thereís no future, just an expensive night. As Eliot Spitzerís
escort has since explained, she didnít see a big difference between hooking and
what she and her friends had already been doing.
Jen: In terms of the storyline how does the role of technology help as
well as hinder Ellieís investigation? With prepaid, disposable phones and
unidentifiable IP addresses, how can todayís law enforcement effectively protect
our citizens? In your opinion, are they able to remain one step ahead of the
criminals? Or, are they constantly just trying to keep up?
Alafair: Technology has become a part of the cat and mouse game between
police and criminals. Johns no longer have to circle a high vice area in their
car to pick up a prostitute; they can go online, making it much less likely
theyíll be stopped in advance. On the other hand, internet use leaves more of a
fingerprint than people realize. If the trick goes wrong and police are looking
for the person who hired the victim for the night, chances are theyíll be able
to track the person down through technology. That, in turn, causes more
sophisticated criminals to hide their tracks, using public cyber cafes and
downloading programs that block their identifying information. I find it all
fascinating. So much has changed even since I was a prosecutor.
Jen: In 212, the
character Katie Battle is a real estate agent who turns tricks at night to make
ends meet. Nowadays, celebrity news magazines seem to glorify these types of
women making their pursuits a desirable profession. How do you think this will
affect future generations of young women? And, what can we do to stop it?
Alafair: Oh, if only I knew. As a writer, itís much easier to point out
and fictionalize social ills than to fix them. I do think we have created a
culture in which young women think itís normal to see Miley Cyrus and Britney
Spears dance on stripper poles, for women to engage in girl-on-girl flirtations
not because they want to but to titillate men, and even for them to sell their
bodies for money if the price is right.
Jen: Of course, every leading lady must have a strong, sexy man to share
her bed. Max Donovan is definitely hooked by Ellieís charms. Why then is she so
reluctant to just let herself go and fall deep in love with this super guy?
Alafair: I try to leave that for the reader to figure out. It could be
that Max just isnít the right guy. More likely, sheís so used to being the one
who has to take care of everyone that sheís just not able to need another
person. Sheís getting better, though. Itís part of her journey.
Jen: Whatís next for Ellie now that she has closed this case? And, when
can we expect to see it in bookstores? (I will be the first in line!)
Alafair: Iím working on a standalone right now, also set in New York
City, but a little different for me. The main characterís not in law
enforcement. Then itís back to Ellie. Iím pretty much on a book-a-year schedule.
Jen: Letís switch gears and talk about your promotional plans. Will you
be going on a book tour?
Alafair: Iím already on the road! I launched in NYC last week, then went
to Pittsburgh over the weekend and Houston today. This week Iíll be doing a
joint event with Harlan Coben in Phoenix, and then Iím off to Seattle and
Portland. The full schedule is at www.alafairburke.com/events
Jen: Please take us on a brief tour of your website. Do you e-mail
notification of upcoming releases? Do you give away signed bookplates?
Alafair: I have a newsletter than people can subscribe to on the
website. I also have a blog that I update regularly with videos, interviews,
announcements, and, yes, giveaways.
Jen: Do you participate in author phone chats? And if so, how would my
readers go about scheduling one?
Alafair: I have been experimenting with Ustream, which allows me to do
live video chats. The first one was a great success. Sign up for my newsletter
for notice of future chats.
Jen: Thank you so much for taking time out of your very busy schedule to
stop by and chat with my readers. I absolutely loved 212. I look forward to
seeing it at the top of the bestsellers lists! Best of luck!
Alafair: Thank you so much for including me in your interview series. Iím
proud of 212, so really
hope your readers will enjoy it.
I hope you have enjoyed my interview with Alafair. Please stop by your favorite
bookstore or local library branch and pick up a copy today. Better yet, would
you like to win one instead?
here and answer the following triva question and you could be one of five
lead character in 212.
Later this month, I will be bringing to you my interview with debut novelist Holly LeCraw. You wonít
want to miss it.
Until next timeÖ
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