Thursday, February 13, 2014

Interview/Giveaway with Lucy Burdette, Author of Murder with Ganache

Murder With Ganache: A Key West Food Critic Mystery

Tell us a bit about the new book, MURDER WITH GANACHE:
MURDER WITH GANACHE is a cozy mystery starring Hayley Snow, a food critic who lives on a houseboat in Key West (the fourth in the Key West food critic series.) Her extended family is descending on the island like a category 3 hurricane for her best friend's wedding. When her teenage stepbrother disappears into the Duval Street spring break party scene, she must put the baking of cupcakes and other wedding chores on hold in order to search for her brother. The book features Hemingway cats, and cupcakes, and wedding drama, but in the end it's about finding and embracing family in whatever form they come.

Are you a food critic in real life? Why write about food in your mysteries?
This is the launch of my third mystery series, but the first one focused on food. (Although any readers of the advice column mysteries written as Roberta Isleib might remember that the main character, Dr. Rebecca Butterman, was an excellent cook.) It's such a pleasure to write about things I love--and food is certainly one of them. I love to eat, to read about new recipes, to cook, to eat out in restaurants, to read about food in both memoirs and fiction. This series has given me license to do all that with a vengeance! My husband likes to tease that "Isleib" means "is stomach" in German. His other fictionalized translation for my family name is "large lunch followed by a restful nap." No telling what he'll make up for Burdette...

That said, I don't think I'd like to be a food critic in real life--when I go out to eat, I like to choose what I feel like eating, not what I think other folks want to hear about. And there are places where I'd draw lines that my character Hayley Snow, cannot. For instance, tentacles. Raw fish and meat. Slimy things. Like that:). All the restaurants in my books really exist in Key West--except for the ones where the characters have bad meals. 

Were you a foodie before you began to write the Key West mysteries?
The food critic series has really tweaked my interest in food and cooking because I have to think the way that my character, Hayley Snow, thinks. She uses food as a way to connect with people, and to calm herself down, and to seduce the folks she’s trying to get information from that may solve the mysteries. I've become a better cook--and eater too!--as a result.

I like what Hayley wrote for Key Zest at the end of DEATH IN FOUR COURSES: “I’d summed up by saying how important it was to remember that while food did mean life and death in its most elemental form, most often we in the food writing industry were talking about food as the pleasure of connections. When we wrote about simmering a stew or a sauce for hours or days, we were really talking about how much we owed to the folks who came before us and the importance of cherishing their memory. And how much we yearned to give to the people in our present who’d be gathered around our table. We were writing about food as family history, and love, and hope, and sometimes a little splash of guilt.”

I think the message in TOPPED CHEF might be that food doesn’t have to be fancy to be good. And a grandmother’s recipe for chocolate cake scratched out on a notecard can hold its own with a fancy chef’s menu. As for MURDER WITH GANACHE, I'll leave you with a bit of conversation from Hayley and her mother:

"Why is it that cooking always makes things feel a little less hopeless?” my mother mused as the vegetables softened.

“At least we’re doing something,” I said, as she whipped the eggs with a splash of water and stirred them into the pan.

“We feel like we’re taking care of people when there’s really nothing to be done.” I grinned. “That’s what you taught me anyway.”

What’s your favorite comfort food? Least favorite food?
Oh food, food, food--I find it one of life’s great pleasures! I can’t possibly pick one dish, so I’ll give the general idea. I love homestyle food--nothing too fancy--things like macaroni and cheese, roast chicken, Bolognese sauce on spaghetti, fried okra, fresh tomatoes with basil and a drizzle of olive oil, chocolate cake, peanut butter cookies, caramel cake...

Luckily, in the Key West mysteries, the more I write about food, the happier is my editor. And to write about it, I have to cook and eat and try new restaurants. And that makes my husband happy. It’s a hard life, but Hayley and I are willing to do it!

Why did you decide to set this series in Key West?
My husband and I drove up and down both sides of Florida about seven years ago, looking for a place to escape winter. I already liked the state, having spent four years in Gainesville for graduate school, and lots of time visiting relatives in Tallahassee and Fort Myers. Key West was our last stop--a sort of vacation from the trip, a respite from our search. We drove down the string of islands and bridges that leads to Key West, agreeing that we'd never live in a place so fragile, so isolated, so exposed.

But instead of listening to our practical voices, we fell in love. Of course, the island is totally gorgeous, dotted with tropical foliage and surrounded by turquoise water. But underneath its fashion-model looks, magical, whimsical, bizarro Key West has many layers, reaching from the richest of the rich at one end to a significant homeless population on the other. There are folks who were born and raised on the island and lots of others who come to party or who come because they don't quite fit into a traditional lifestyle but find they feel comfortable here. There's a thriving artistic scene, great food, and a fabulous literary history. 

So when I was thinking about pitching a new series, Key West chose me. Naturally my other books were set someplace--golf courses for Cassie Burdette's series and Southern Connecticut for the advice column mysteries. But Key West doesn't lay back as scenery--the island insists on becoming a major character. 

Were you “born to write” or did you discover your passion for writing later in life?
For me, writing is definitely a midlife crisis! It’s hard to believe that my twelfth book, MURDER WITH GANACHE, will be published this month. I have a Ph.D in clinical psychology and worked for fifteen years in that field, never dreaming that I’d become a mystery writer. On the other hand, I’ve always been a big reader, especially of mysteries. And the psychology background is so useful when I’m developing characters and motivation. So it all falls into place...

Any tips for aspiring writers? How do you get your books written?
This tip is no real revelation: Plant butt in chair and write. Remain there until I hit my predetermined word count. Lately I've been trying for around a thousand words a day. If it takes two hours to write those words, then YAY!, I have time to do other things that all sounded more appealing as I fended them off while writing. On the more painful days, especially when I don't know where I'm headed with the story, it might take seven or eight hours because I've checked my gmail inbox every five minutes. And then remembered there must be some urgent laundry to do or the dog needs walking or I can't go one more minute without organizing that messy kitchen drawer. But I try to stick with it and to ignore the voices in my head telling me this is the worst dreck I've ever written. Because I know I can always (almost) fix it later.

What’s the strangest thing you have ever done in the name of research?
I don’t know if this qualifies as strange, but last winter I attended the Key West Citizens’ Police Academy. This involved eight weeks of listening to all kinds of police experts, like police dog handlers, search and rescue teams, SWAT teams, traffic cops...and to top it off, a ride-along with a real cop, which ended up including a visit to the local jail. Mystery writer’s heaven! Readers will see some of these great details in MURDER WITH GANACHE.

You can learn more about Lucy on her website (, or Facebook (, or Twitter (, or Pinterest ( She also blogs at Mystery Lovers Kitchen ( and Jungle Red Writers (

Buy Murder with Ganache here

About Murder with Ganache: Hayley Snow, the food critic for Key Zest magazine, has her plate heaped high with restaurant reviews, doughnut and sticky bun tastings, and an article on the Hemingway cats. But this week she’s also in charge of her best friend’s wedding. And then someone adds a side of murder…

For better or worse, Hayley has agreed to bake over 200 cupcakes for her friend Connie’s wedding while still meeting her writing deadlines. The last thing she needs is family drama. But her parents come barreling down on the island like a category 3 hurricane and on their first night in town her stepbrother, Roby, disappears into the spring break party scene in Key West.

When Hayley hears that two teenagers have stolen a jet ski, she sets aside her oven mitts and goes in search of Rory. She finds him, barely conscious, but his female companion isn’t so lucky. Now Hayley has to let the cupcakes cool and assemble the sprinkles of clues to clear her stepbrother’s name—before someone else gets iced.

GIVEAWAYLeave a comment by noon EST on February 19, and you will be entered to win a copy of Murder with Ganache. U.S. entries only.


Karen B said...

The location sounds ideal after a winterof freezing in MN! I'm looking forward to seeing what pops up as a result of your Citizens’ Police Academy classes. Should be an interesting addition to a great series.

Acemommy said...

I love this series and now really want to visit Key West!! Sounds like an awesome place!

Anonymous said...

There is always something that draws me to characters who live on houseboats. The first three books were delightful, and I am looking forward to this entry.

I,too have endured a terrible winter in Minnesota, so reading about Key West will be great.

Robin Coxon said...

I love a good mystery that is mixed with a cooking touch. Also reading a good cozy that is situated someplace warm will be wonderful after the beastly winter we've had it in Ohio.

Carol M said...

I love mysteries and cooking! This is my kind of book! Thanks for the giveaway!

Sue said...

I'm so tired of being cold and shoveling snow that I want to go to Key West---even if it is only traveling by book. I can escape with my imagination.

holdenj said...

Looking forward to this title in the series! Key West is a lovely place to disappear to while reading--we're having a tough winter too! Thanks!

Sharon Braswell said...

I fell in love with this series after the first book. I really love Haley and her friends and the wedding is exciting, but even more exciting is the fact that her crazy family is coming and I get to learn some more about them! Thanks so much for the giveaway!

GLOGIRLY said...

Well I was thinking a food critic might be fun until I read the word 'tentacles!' haha!!!
This sounds wonderful...I'll go to bed tonight dreaming of Key West and sunshine.
; ) GG

Denise said...

I love mystery books! Especially the foodie ones :)
Thank you!

Rita Wray said...

Love a good mystery. I can't wait to read it.


Fiona L. Woods said...

Sounds like just my kind of book. I love mysteries with houseboats. They're a disappearing breed (houseboats not mysteries!) here in the Puget Sound/Lake Washington area.

Anita Yancey said...

It sounds like a wonderful series, and I really like the setting. The book has a very pretty cover. I would enjoy reading it. Thanks for having the giveaway.


Unknown said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Unknown said...

I love cozy mysteries and this sounds like a good one. Sounds like a fun character , a food critic living on a houseboat.

cyn209 said...

what a fun cozy series!!
thank you for the giveaway!!

cyn209 at juno dot com