Olivia (Livie) Greyson and Maddie Briggs run The Gingerbread House, a store specializing in cookie cutters and all things cookie. In addition to running a business, baking and decorating many dozens of cookies, and sneaking the occasional nap, Livie and Maddie find themselves embroiled in murder investigations. (Cookie cutters do have sharp edges, you know…) In Cookies and Scream, their fifth sleuthing adventure (released July 1, 2014), Livie and Maddie investigate a murder involving a stunning collection of antique cookie cutters.
When I began writing the Cookie Cutter Shop mysteries, it struck me that I’d be hanging out with my characters day after day. I’d likely spend more time with Livie and Maddie than with my own family. So I’d better like them! At the very least, they shouldn’t bore me. In fact, all the characters had to intrigue me on some level, or they wouldn’t feel real to me. And if the characters didn’t feel real to me, how could I expect readers to be interested in them?
I thought long and hard about Livie’s and Maddie’s personalities, remembering all those fictional sleuthing duos whose adventures had kept me turning the pages over the years. Sherlock Holmes and Watson, Nick and Nora Charles, Tommy and Tuppence… They’d all come alive for me through their personalities, dialogue, and behavior. I looked forward to each new adventure both for the mysteries, which were intriguing, and because I so enjoyed revisiting those unique relationships.
Of my two sleuths, Livie, who has a business degree, is the more practical, analytical one. She often finds herself intrigued by the people around her, especially when there has been a murder in her hometown. Maddie, in contrast, would happily describe herself as “the fun one.” She bakes, cuts, and decorates the cookies that are a staple at The Gingerbread House. Maddie has enormous energy, is up for any adventure, and doesn’t seem to need much sleep. Unlike Livie, Maddie throws herself into computer research and isn’t above a bit of snooping… all in the interests of catching a killer, of course. Livie and Maddie make a tenacious pair, which is why murder never goes unsolved in Chatterley Heights.
As it happens—okay, I made it happen—the town sheriff, Del Jenkins, is Livie’s main squeeze. He is good at his job and protective of Livie, which causes some tension between them. Del worries when Livie and Maddie put themselves in harm’s way to investigate a murder. To be fair, Livie worries when Del calls her from his cell phone while he’s driving, so they’re even. In Cookies and Scream, Livie gets a chance to solve a murder while Del is handling a crisis out of town. Between you and me, I think he is becoming more impressed with Livie’s sleuthing skills. Maybe he’ll stop fussing so much when she and Maddie embroil themselves in yet another mystery.
Olivia’s little rescue Yorkshire terrier, Spunky, is one of my favorite characters. He came to me one day when I looked out my window and saw a gigantic black Labrador wandering in my backyard. He wasn’t wearing a collar and didn’t belong to any of my neighbors, so I went outside to have a little chat with him. He was friendly, luckily, since I was fairly certain he could have knocked me over without difficulty. He followed me to my neighbor’s house. Her little Yorkshire terrier sensed a threat to his territory and unleashed a volley of ferocious yaps. I realized the little guy had no idea how tiny he was. So I gave Olivia a Yorkie. Spunky fearlessly defends his mistress without regard for his own safety. Olivia isn’t always comfortable with his protective tendencies, but she has learned that you can’t argue with a Yorkie. (You can, however, scoop him up in your arms. Spunky weighs only about five pounds.)
And don’t forget those characters we all love to hate, like that nosy mail carrier. (Folks in Chatterley Heights are fairly sure he steams open their mail, but no one has been able to prove it.) Other characters are more tolerable, such as the town gossip, Polly, who keeps binoculars in her desk drawer so she can observe any shenanigans in the town square. And don’t forget Ida, the irascible waitress at Pete’s Diner. Ida picks up all sorts of juicy secrets while she’s serving Pete’s famous meatloaf. Give her an extra tip, and she’ll fill you in on the latest.
Each time I sit down to work on a new book, I begin by wondering what’s been going on in the lives of my sleuths. Since they thrive on adventure and puzzle solving, it seems natural that they should lead me into yet another mystery. And while I’m well aware that I’m the one who is doing all the work, I don’t feel alone. I’ve got my characters to help with the heavy lifting and make the work fun for me.
*************************Blurb: Olivia Greyson, proud owner of The Gingerbread House—a quaint shop that specializes in all things cookie—and her best friend, Maddie, are baking up scrumptious treats for their cookie-themed parties. But when a stunning antique cookie cutter collection leads to murder, things get a bit too hot to handle…
After a brief vacation to escape the summer heat, Olivia returns home to find the safe at her beloved store stuffed with unfamiliar cookie cutters. The cutters are part of a priceless set owned by former local Greta Oskarson, who has returned home after fifty years in the hopes that Olivia will broker their sale.
But before Olivia can sell a single piece, Greta turns up dead. Though the cause of death appears natural, something is not quite right—between Greta’s mysterious past and her long list of enemies, Olivia suspects murder. And with Sheriff Del Jenkins away, it’s up to Olivia and Maddie to sift through the cookie cutters and the clues before the killer claims another victim…
Giveaway: Leave a comment by noon eastern on Friday, July 11th for the chance to win a copy of Cookies and Scream. (US entries only, please.)