Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Interview with Shelley Costa, Author of You Cannoli Die Once

Welcome, Shelley! Can you tell us about You Cannoli Die Once...what inspired you to write a mystery series about an Italian chef?
Not what, but who! My agent. The story I originally started to write was set in Greenwich Village in a tap dance academy, and when my sleuth (the dancer/owner) walks in one morning, she discovers a corpse in her studio, wearing a pair of Fred Astaire's old tap shoes. After getting the word from publishers that there are already too many dance-related mystery series, my agent ran the idea by me of a series set in an Italian restaurant. Well, it felt like a great fit for me, considering I'm half-Italian and it's a world I feel I understand. To top it off, I have three Costa first cousins who are chefs. Once I got under way with the new world and setting (I moved the series to a fictitious town forty minutes north of Philly), the characters "came" to me quickly. You'll note that Eve, my head chef, has had a previous career as a tap dancer -- which, in a way, is true!

What's your favorite Italian food? Any special recipe you'd like to share? 
To place a new spin on Italian cooking, I've made the restaurant specialize in northern Italian cuisine, and this very definite regional bias is a source of great fun throughout the series. Northern Italian -- which is where my Costa family hails from (little coastal and hill towns outside Genoa) -- is very influenced by its neighbors to the north and its topography. As for my favorite Italian food, too much to narrow down to a single dish, but my earliest memory of my Italian grandmother, Pia Costa, who was a fabulous cook, is eating her stuffed artichokes. I was hooked! Trim your artichokes in the usual way, discarding the tough outer leaves and cutting off the prickly tips of the remaining ones. Then, with your thumbs, spread them gently outward to give yourself some room to work. Score the bottom stalk. Make a mixture of finely minced fresh garlic and finely diced Italian parsley, to taste. Stuff the artichokes, then steam in about an inch of water until tender (usually about thirty minutes). In the last ten minutes, add some red wine to the pot -- it'll soak up through the stalk. Test for doneness by how easily an outer leaf comes off when you tug gently. Serve with some garlic butter you've melted. Enjoy!

What's a typical writing day like for you?
When I'm really hard at work, I'm my most disciplined, and I generally start in the morning and write for four hours. At that point, I'm pretty fried. There are days when the schedule switches, though, and I find I can work well in the afternoon. If I write 1,000 words a day I'm really happy about, it's been a good day and all is right with the world.

Do you have any pets?
Right now we have a "grandkitty," my daughter's one year old tabby, Edgar, living with us. His middle names are Highclerc (after the castle depicted in Downton Abbey) and Branson (after the lovely Branson in Downton Abbey). Much for a tabby to live up to. . .

What are some of your favorite books/authors?
Ah. Again, so hard to choose. I'll stick to mystery, since it's virtually all I read. C.J. Sansom's Shardlake series, set in the time of Henry VIII. Anne Perry's World War I series. Peter Robinson, Louise Penny, Elizabeth George, Laura Lippmann, S.J. Rozan, Jasper Fforde, P.D. James -- all writers I return to hungrily. Recently I motored through all seven books in James R. Benn's Billy Boyle series set in World War II. I also really liked Preston and Child's Diogenes trilogy. I'm sure I'm leaving out plenty. You can see I like historicals, traditionals (some cozies), police procedurals, PIs -- but I'm not much one for thrillers.

I've already check out the second book in the series on Amazon...The Ziti That Never Sleeps. (You have the yummiest looking covers!) What's that one about?
So glad you like the cover! But don't get too attached to the title because it's been chucked in favor of something (yet to be determined) that will be less of a head scratcher. A few minds (including mine) are presently at work on it. For now, we'll call it Book Two, and it's a story I really like. Just to tempt you, there are two plot threads. In one, Eve's grandmother, Maria Pia, has been tapped for initiation into Belfiere, a secret, two hundred year old, all female cooking society, and Eve and her cooking cousins are deeply concerned when they get wind of the possibility that Belfiere is at least shady, at most homicidal. So they need to get the society-smitten Maria Pia out of their clutches. The other plot line has to do with the basic cooking skills class Eve has agreed to teach at a local career center. . .and things get dangeorusly lively when she discovers the truth about her students. Needless to say, these two stories come together like a delicious pomodoro sauce in Book Two -- and Eve's got a murder on her hands.

About the Book: At Miracolo Northern Italian restaurant, one can savor brilliantly seasoned veal saltimbocca, or luscious risotto alla milanese, but no cannoli. Never cannoli. Maria Pia Angelotta, the spirited seventy-six-year-old owner of the Philadelphia-area eatery that’s been in her family for four generations, has butted heads with her head chef over the cannoli ban more than once. And when the head chef is your own granddaughter, things can get a little heated.

Fortunately, Eve Angelotta knows how to handle what her nonna dishes out. But when Maria Pia’s boyfriend is found dead in Miracolo’s kitchen, bludgeoned by a marble mortar, the question arises: Can a woman this fiery and stubborn over cream-filled pastry be capable of murder?

The police seem to think so, and they put the elder Angelotta behind bars, while Eve, sexy neighborhood attorney Joe Beck, and the entire Miracolo family— parenti di sangue and otherwise—try every trick in the cookbook to unravel a tangle of lies and expose a killer.


Unknown said...

The first thing that comes to mind is lasagne roll ups--flavored ricotta rolled into individual strips of lasagne noodles, bakes in a flavorful tomato sauce (or "gravy"). With cheese in the rolls and on top of the sauce.

Sue said...

My favorite Italian food---just about all of it!!! If I have to choose it would be Baked Italian sausage and Meatballs with penne pasta.

Dru said...

looking forward to reading this. My favorite is baked ziti.

Shelley Costa said...

Oo, interesting! A new twist on an old noodle.

Shelley Costa said...

Sounds hearty, Sue! Yum!

Shelley Costa said...

Hard to go wrong with ziti! And cheese!

Heather said...

My favorite Italian food is spaghetti. Thanks for the giveaway!! bluepooh1 at hotmail dot com