As a former federal and state prosecutor, it’s no wonder debut author Katherine Burnette is brimming with stories to tell. “My dream was always to write a novel,” she says. To make this dream a reality, Burnette prosecuted by day and wrote by night, eventually resulting in her first novel Judge’s Waltz, as she says, a “collage” of her experiences.

When Federal Judge Patrick O’Shea is found dead, hanging from his courtroom chandelier, FBI task force officer Katie O’Connor joins with small-town attorney and former federal law clerk, Buck Davis to untangle the ever-growing lists of suspects. Can Davis and O’Connor juggle their budding romance with their own careers and the murder investigation? Or will the killer escape right in front of their noses?

Readers will get a behind-the-scenes, first-hand look at the legal system in motion. “I wanted to convey that what the public sees in the courtroom is only a small part of any case,” says Burnette. “The team effort to solve a murder surpasses any agenda or personality.”

Burnette not only gave us an insider look into the inner workings of the law, but also into the writing of her book.


Q: What would prompt an attorney (and former prosecutor) to try her hand at a novel?

A: My dream always was to write a novel. To make it a reality I returned to school, while I worked as a federal prosecutor, to earn my MFA in Fiction and workshop the novel.

Q: The story starts off with a whopping discovery. Tell us about that and how it sets up the story.

A: Federal judge Patrick O’Shea is found hanging from the chandelier in his courtroom clad only in his robe. The list of suspect­s — his colleagues, his law clerk, his estranged wife — all wanted him dead.

Q: The book has a small town setting and feel. How does that locale serve as almost a character onto itself?

A: I wanted the reader to fall in love with the small town and its quirky characters. Hopefully, the reader becomes invested in the relationships and how they affect the ongoing investigation.

Q: Who if anyone was the inspiration for the lead character Buck Davis, and what drives him?

A: Buck is a collage of attorneys, and he is driven first by his loyalty to Judge Foster, his former mentor, and second by his budding romance with Katie O’Connor and his friendship with Sgt. Johnson.

Q: Are there any underlying themes or messages you want to convey – about the justice system or otherwise?

A: I wanted to convey that what the public sees in the courtroom is only a small part of any case and to give a glimpse of “behind the scenes” in the legal system.

Q: What do you hope readers will take away from the story?

A: Small town law enforcement works well with its federal counterparts and that the team effort to solve a murder surpasses any agenda or personality.

Judge’s Waltz is available for purchase here.

Katherine Burnette is a former federal and state prosecutor. Burnette graduated from Wake Forest University with a BA degree in English and Politics and a JD degree. In 2019, she received her MFA in Creative Writing from Queens University of Charlotte. Her work has appeared in Flying South, Red Fez and Sky Island Journal. She is a state district court judge and lives in Oxford, North Carolina.