MA-Row! Today my guest is author Amy Pershing!
(Photo credit: William Schwartz 2020)
Amy Pershing, who spent every summer of her childhood on Cape Cod, was an editor, a restaurant reviewer and a journalist before writing the Cape Cod Foodie mysteries, including A Side of Murder -- which Elizabeth Gilbert called “the freshest, funniest mystery I have ever read” -- and An Eggnog to Die For -- which Kirkus Reviews gave a starred review, saying, "A delightful sleuth, a complex mystery, and lovingly described cuisine: a winner for both foodies and mystery mavens." The third book in the series, Murder Is No Picnic, also received a starred review from Kirkus, which wrote: “A clever, empathetic and totally believable heroine sets this fine cozy above the competition.
- Tell us a little about your background
I’m only recently a fiction writer, but I’ve pretty much always written for a living, first as a book editor, then as a journalist in Rome, then as restaurant reviewer in New York, then as a financial journalist in New York, and finally as the head of employee communications for a major Wall Street firm. It was a great way to hone my craft, but I’ve got to say, nothing, but nothing, beats writing fiction!
Also, I spent every summer of my childhood on Cape Cod. It was magical. We kicked off our shoes the minute we hit the sandy soil of our little cottage by the bay and we did not put them back on until September. So I always hoped I could someday share Cape Cod in a book and, as a mystery addict, I really hoped it would be in a mystery. Thus, the Cape Cod Foodie series is a dream come true for me.
- Tell us a bit about your latest book
MURDER IS NO PICNIC is the latest in the Cape Cod Foodie mysteries series featuring Sam Barnes, a disgraced but resilient ex-chef and the world’s most reluctant YouTube star. While Sam tries to balance her new job as the local paper’s “Cape Cod Foodie” with her complicated love life, a posse of just-slightly-odd friends, a falling-down house and a ginormous dog, she also discovers a new talent – a propensity for falling over dead bodies … and for solving crime.
In MURDER IS NO PICNIC, the
Fourth of July is coming, and for Sam, it’s all about the picnic. Okay, and the
fireworks. And the parade. But mostly the picnic. What could be better than a
DIY clambake followed by the best blueberry buckle in the world? Sam has
finally found the perfect recipe in the kitchen of Clara Foster, famed cookbook
author and retired restaurateur, and she’s thrilled when Clara agrees to a
buckle baking lesson.
But when Clara dies in a house fire blamed on carelessness in the kitchen, Sam doesn’t believe it. Unfortunately, her doubts set in motion an investigation pointing to the new owner of Clara’s legendary restaurant—and a cousin of Sam’s harbormaster boyfriend. So, in between researching the Cape’s best lobster rolls and planning her clambake, Sam needs to find Clara’s killer before the fireworks really start….
- How do you construct your plots? Do you outline or do you write “by the seat of your pants”?
Because I write twisty mysteries that require clues strategically scattered about and all loose ends tied up, I always start with a detailed outline of about 30 pages before I even start the real writing. The outline process is no fun at all, but the writing – that is pure joy.
- Which do you consider more important, plot or character?
Definitely character, particularly the character of Sam. Sam is everything I’m not. Tall (really tall, like, over-six-feet-tall kind of tall), brave (wait until you see her take on the guy who kicks her dog), funny and snarky (I am boringly polite), and a terrific cook (I’m good, but I’m not chef-level good). On the other hand, and this is where we’re soul sisters, she believes in the primary importance of food, friends and family. Cooking for and/or sharing a meal with people you love is, in my opinion, one of life’s great gifts.
- What is a typical workday for you and how many hours a day (or week) do you devote to writing?
I write every weekday and (depending on what deadline I’m under!) sometimes on the weekends as well. I usually wake up in the early hours of the morning and simply allow my mind to float over what I might be writing that day. Then I’m at my desk by 6 a.m. and writing (or editing or rewriting) until noon. At which point my brain shuts down entirely!
- If you could take only three books with you for a year-long writing retreat in a gorgeous setting with no library, which three would you take?
Classic Italian Cooking by Marcella Hazan; The Habit of Being: The Letters of Flannery O’Connor; and Umberto Eco’s The Name of the Rose (592 pages!)
- What’s one thing your readers would be surprised to find out about you?
I’m really only a so-so cook, at least in my own estimation (others have been more complimentary). But I love reading about food (I read cookbooks, for Pete’s sake!), and researching food and cooking food (so-so is just fine by He Who Must Be Fed) and, most of all, eating food. Especially with friends!
Also, I studied Classical Archaeology in college. Go figure.
- Where can we learn more about you and your books?
I worked my buns off on my author website (amypershingauthor.com), so I humbly suggest you start there. You will find all sorts of fun stuff about me and my books as well as suggestions for other Cape Cod books to read, recipes to try and how to sign up for my newsletter!
ROCCO’s Fast Five:
- What’s something that’s always in your fridge?
A chunk of real parmesan cheese (parmigiano reggiano) to grate over everything
- What is your favorite movie quote
“I like you very much. Just as you are.” Mark Darcy to Bridget Jones in Bridget Jones’s Diary
- What food do you wish was calorie free
- What book was your favorite growing up?
The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett
- What is something you are really bad at?
Heights. I never seem to remember that I hate them. I once climbed to the top of Giotto’s tower in Florence, walked over to the railing, looked down,and then promptly lay down flat on the floor and crawled on my belly back to the stairway
Thanks for a great interview, Amy!
Berkley will giveaway a copy of MURDER IS NO PICNIC to one lucky commenter! To enter, just leave a comment with your name and e-mail address! US entries only please. Contest ends midnight, June 10!