Thursday, January 21, 2010

Guest Blogger, Robin Burcell

Please join me in welcoming award-winning author Robin Burcell to Thoughts in Progress today.
 Robin’s latest release, “The Bone Chamber,” is a thriller about FBI Special Agent Sydney Fitzpatrick and the second book in the series. This is a stand alone book so readers who haven’t read “Face of a Killer” yet won’t be lost, but will want to read it after meeting the character of Sydney Fitzpatrick.

Robin will be giving away a copy of “The Bone Chamber” to one lucky person who comments on her post between today and 6 p.m. on Wednesday, Jan. 27.

Robin would you tell us how you came to write about Freemasons, a covert U.S. government agencies, the Vatican, and the FBI all rolled into a conspiracy theory sprinkled with historical facts?

When I wrote THE BONE CHAMBER, I never set out to copy The DaVinci Code, even though TDC had a small part in how my book came to be. My goal behind the book was about telling a story that had to do with my favorite topic: conspiracy theory. 

I am fascinated by the thought that big government, little government, secret societies or the local boy scout troop might be trying to take over the world or U.S. politics, which (to many it seems) is the same thing.

A couple of my favorite movies are CONSPIRACY THEORY, starring Mel Gibson and Julia Roberts, and ENEMY OF THE STATE, starring Will Smith and Gene Hackman.  What’s not to love? The thought that there are evil people in politics who will do anything to succeed? Take it a step further, that those same evil people will join forces with other evil people to take over world governments? It’s the stuff that great fiction is made from.  

And what if I wanted to put both conspiracy and history into one of my novels, maybe something about the Freemasons. Would I be compared to you know who? And would it matter? I’d heard authors stating how much they hated the comparison and recall discussing this very fact with author James Rollins right after his novel BLACK ORDER was released. Did the comparison bother him any?  I posed this question to him one afternoon as we shared a flight home from the International Thriller Writers conference (ITW).
His answer? It didn’t bother him at all. In fact, People magazine had made the comparison. According to Rollins, if it sells books, the reviewers could compare him to anyone they wanted. 

A healthy attitude, I thought. At the time I had recently finished my first FBI forensic artist book, FACE OF A KILLER, and was looking to start the second novel. I loved the thought of combining history and conspiracy theory. In fact, having been inspired by Rollins’s work, and the ITW conference we’d just attended, I told him that if I could figure out how to instill some of those same elements into my books, turning my police procedural novels into conspiracy thrillers, I’d do it in a heartbeat. 

To which Rollins said he could easily help. He whipped out a dollar bill, stating:  “The DaVinci Code meets Silence Of The Lambs.” He then showed me the back of the dollar bill, pointing out that the pyramid is one half of a six-pointed star, and that if someone were to complete that star, five of its points touch letters that form the anagram MASON.  He proposed a girl, murdered at the beginning of the book, perhaps with this star carved on her chest. And that was it. One sentence, the back of a dollar bill, and a murdered girl. The rest was up to me.

It was enough. I wrote a few chapters, contacted my editor, (who also happens to be Rollins’s editor) and told her it was Rollins’s fault that the police procedural I had promised her was now a thriller. I’ll admit to being a bit nervous, as I had made a near 180 degree turn on her. She gave her stamp of approval. 

Now all I had to do was think of a plot to go with that germ of an idea…  And finish the book, of course.

THE BONE CHAMBER is the end result. The book starts off with a murdered girl as Rollins suggested, but instead of a star carved on her chest, I took a more gruesome turn. 

Here’s the excerpt from the back of the jacket, so you can see for yourself how this morphed from a conversation on a plane to the actual end product:

“Mysteriously summoned to Quantico to help re-create the face of a murdered, mutilated young woman, FBI forensic artist Special Agent Sydney Fitzpatrick knows immediately this is no ordinary crime. The hit-and-run death of the forensic anthropologist assisting her—a close friend—and Sydney’s abrupt dismissal from the case by covert government investigators only strengthen her need for answers. Now her hunt for a killer is carrying her from Washington to Rome to the hidden chamber of a legendary tomb—on the trail of a fabled treasure of the Knights Templar…and a curse. 

Buried deep in the mysteries of the Freemasons and the Vatican’s Holy See is a secret that could rock the world. Suddenly an ancient map is pointing Sydney toward something the Templars wished to hide away forever—something that could unleash an unstoppable tide of blood and devastation.”

And there is a really cool book trailer video that gives a great feel for the book. I hope you’ll check it out.

So what do you think when you read reviews that compare a book to TDC?  Does it bother you? Or are you willing to decide for yourself, based on the books merits what it is or is not about?

Robin, thank you so much for sharing this background on the writing of “The Bone Chamber.” The book is hard to put down because it holds your attention from beginning to end. Robin will be stopping back by off and on today so if you have questions or comments for her to respond to.

Just a little background on Robin. She herself is an FBI-trained forensic artist who has worked as a police officer, detective and hostage negotiator, and recently retired to write full-time. "The Bone Chamber" is her latest international thriller about an FBI forensic artist. "Face of a Killer" received a starred review from Library Journal. She is the author of four previous novels featuring Kate Gillespie. For more information on Robin, visit her Website at

What objects have inspired you to write?


  1. great interview! MY inspiration was a small statue that I received when a friend of mine died. For some reason an entire book came to life off of it.

  2. I think everyone is fascinated by a good conspiracy! And with Robin's background, she's a great match for the subject. Great interview!

    Mystery Lovers’ Kitchen
    Mystery Writing is Murder

  3. What a unique inspiration for a book!

  4. Thanks, Mason, for hosting Robin! Robin, thanks for sharing the story of how you wote The Bone Chamber. It sounds like such an interesting combination of themes (forensics, conspiracy theory and history), and I respect that forensics background.

  5. I'm never above a little conspiracy theory. I can't wait to read this book!

  6. It sounds like a great thriller with a title that would draw you to the book. I'll be looking for it.

    Straight From Hel

  7. Your book sounds interesting. I don't think comparisons to TDC should influence you, other than to acknowledge lots of folks read that fiction book to be entertained, and you surely hope lots will do the same with The Bone Chamber. Thanks for visiting.

  8. Emma, I'd be fascinated to see the end results of that statue. Sometimes it is amazing to see where inspiration comes from.

    And thanks for the warm welcome, everyone!

  9. I'm familiar with Robin via her Graveyard Shift presence, and enjoyed her first book. Looking forward to reading the second.

  10. I love how these things just seem to happen . . . with a lot of hard work, of course.

    Great post!

  11. What an great beginning Robin! I think it's intringuing and will be looking for the book in my local bookstore aka Wal Mart. My historical western just grew from one sentence that I used for the opening Tara flew into the west Texas town of Silver Springs on horseback. I had people tell me I should change it because they pictured a plane. I did it but really liked the original as I had a picture in my mind of a young woman dressed in men's clothing riding almost top speed into town rushing to take care of something.

  12. Wonderful guest post - enjoyed the trailer, the interview, all of it. Great book cover too. Objects that inspire me? Mmm - I'm a people watcher. I get my characters from real life people and plots from real life melodramas a lot.

    Marvin D Wilson

  13. This book is quite interesting and keeps you one the edge of your seat wondering what is going to happen next.

    Robin, thanks so much for guest blogging here today. It's always intriguing to find out what inspired a story. I'm just wondering what Sydney is going to do next.

  14. You have used your real life background to bring it to life for the rest of us who wonder what goes on there.

    Thanks for a great interview!


  15. I've always been afraid to try anything that complex. Vast conspiracies of secret groups and government agencies intimidate me. But your book sounds fascinating. I used to be a huge Robert Ludlum fan and those were the kinds of books he wrote.

  16. I applaud Robin for taking on the topic, even though she had questions about its viability. It seems you really made it work and went with your gut! Mason spoke well of this book on my blog and I look forward to reading it.


  17. Marvin, I'll admit to being a people watcher too. Constantly spinning vignettes of stories based on someone I see..

    Thanks for the link! What a great looking blog, one more I'm going to have to add to my list!!!

  18. Robin you do give readers an interesting insight into the inspiration for Bone Chamber.

    Regardless of where the idea came from and the inevitable comparisons (hey, any writer today can be compared to some writer of the past)
    you clearly made the story your own and as I said in my review, an enthralling novel. Good on ya.

  19. Pat, I'll admit to being intimidated. I still am! How do I follow up with a better book? Sometimes I find myself just surfing the web, typing in strange phrases, like "top conspiracy theories" or "Freemason conspiracy theories." That sort of thing. And then I often find some little tidbit on a website that intrigues me and do follow up research on that to see if it really pans out.

    Often it leads to a dead end, but sometimes I hit paydirt!

    And Carl, many thanks for the compliment!

  20. Fascinating to hear how this book came about. Can't wait to read it.

  21. Just wanted to pop in to wish you congratulations on the book, Robin!! Sounds fascinating.

    All the very best,


    from the desk of a writer

  22. Thanks, Corra!

    And thank you all for stopping be to comment. I'm on the road, and so haven't been able to thank everyone before now. I'll check back occasionally!


I'd love to hear your thoughts on today's post. Thanks for dropping by.