My guest today is Award-winning author Leslie Budewitz!
Hello, Leslie and welcome! Tell us a little about your background
Hello, Rocco and Toni! Such a treat to be here with you. I started writing at 4, on my father’s desk – literally. I did not yet understand the concept of paper. Fortunately, my parents were amused and kept me well-supplied in paper and books. I grew up in Montana and went to college in Seattle, where I practiced law for several years. I started writing seriously about 25 years ago, after I returned to Montana. Other writers asked me questions about using the law in their fiction, which led to my first published book, Books, Crooks and Counselors: How to Write Accurately About Criminal Law and Courtroom Procedure, winner of the 2011 Agatha Award for Best Nonfiction. Then I dove into the delicious world of the culinary cozy with the Food Lovers’ Village mysteries; the first, Death al Dente, won the 2013 Agatha Award for Best First Novel. That series includes five novels and a short story collection. My Spice Shop mysteries are set in Seattle’s Pike Place Market, a place I fell in love with as a college freshman, and still visit regularly for research. By research, of course, I mean eat.
I’m also writing stand-alone suspense as Alicia Beckman, a name that honors my mother and grandmother. Bitterroot Lake came out in 2021 and Blind Faith will be out October 11.
R: Tell us a bit about your latest book
L: Just a pinch of murder . . . When her life fell apart at age 40, Pepper Reece never expected to find solace in bay leaves. But her impulsive purchase of the Spice Shop in Seattle’s famed Pike Place Market turned out to be one of the best decisions she ever made. Between selling spice and juggling her personal life, she also discovers another unexpected talent – for solving murder.
In Peppermint Barked, the 6th Spice Shop mystery, out July 19, a Dickens of a Christmas turns deadly. Pepper investigates when a young woman working the Christmas rush in her friend’s Vinny’s wine shop is brutally attacked, on the busiest shopping day of the year.
It was great fun to write a Christmas book -- I also wrote one in the Village series, As the Christmas Cookie Crumbles – and celebrate the season so many of us love, a season where cozy communities, rural and urban, really shine.
R: Which do you consider more important, plot or character?
L: For me, plot, character, and setting can’t really be separated. The best stories grow from the relationship of the three – what will these characters in this place do, when faced with these goals and these conflicts and obstacles.
I’ve often said that my books, particularly the Spice Shop series, focus on a woman’s search for identity. Not that men don’t sometimes struggle with a sense of themselves and their purpose, but it has always seemed like the true heroine’s journey. In Peppermint Barked, I decided to flip that script and focus on the male search for identity, while writing a Christmas mystery set largely in the Market. That led directly to decisions and actions by three recurring characters, men closely connected to Pepper and her shop, as well as men we hadn’t met before. The combination, I think, is a fun story with a serious edge, and good food!
R: What are you working on now and what are your future writing plans?
L: I’m working on the 7th Spice Shop mystery, set for publication in July 2023. It’s the Lunar New Year, the year of the Rabbit, and Pepper investigates when a friend discovers a body in a boarded-up building in the Chinatown-International District and believes she’s being haunted by the ghost of Bruce Lee.
I plan to keep writing the Spice Shop mysteries as long as the readers and publishers will have me. Other books? Stay tuned!
R: What is a typical workday for you and how many hours a day (or week) do you devote to writing?
L: Pepper likes to say there is no typical day in the Market, and that’s true in writing world as well! I write full-time now, doing just a little bit of legal work. I keep business hours, meaning I try to be “on the page” by 8:30 and write until 12 or 12:30. My goals vary with the stage of the manuscript – 8-10 pages a day for a first draft, time or other specific goals during revision. After lunch, I may go back to the ms. if I haven’t met my goals. Then it’s business and promotional work. That’s my life, 5-1/2 days a week!
R: What advice do you have to offer to an aspiring author?
L: Read, read, read. Learn to read like a writer, analyzing recent books in the genre or subgenre you’re writing. Outline them, write yourself detailed reviews, think about what works and doesn’t, what you like and don’t, develop your internal feel for pace and structure and language. Find a good writers’ group, in person or online – I highly recommend the Guppies chapter of Sisters in Crime. Read craft books. Commit for the long haul. I wrote four books, two circulated by agents, before selling the Village series. Art is risky, and fulfilling in ways you will never have imagined, but it isn’t easy.
R: Where can we learn more about you and your books?
L: So glad you asked! My website, www.LeslieBudewitz.com, includes excerpts, praise, and buy links (hint: all the usual sources, online and in person) for all the books, lists of the series books in order, and much more. I love communicating with readers through my monthly newsletter – link on the website; subscribers get a free short story, currently “The End of the Line” (originally published in Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine), featuring an elderly Greek man who really hates change! And writers will appreciate my blog, with Writing Wednesday posts twice a month and Saturday Creativity Quotes.
I’m on Facebook as Leslie Budewitz Author, and Instagram, @LeslieBudewitz
I’m also part of the Mystery Lovers’ Kitchen crew, www.MysteryLoversKitchen.com, twelve cozy mystery writers cooking up crime and recipes. I share recipes from the books and from my life on the 1st, 3d, and 5th Tuesdays.
And now....Leslie answers ROCCO’s Fast Five:
What sound takes you back to your childhood?
The song of the Western Meadowlark.
What skill have you always wanted to learn?
To play the piano.
If you weren’t a writer, what would you be?
A rock star, if I could sing.
What book was your favorite growing up?
Calico Bush by Rachel Field, first published in 1931 and till in print. Set in 1743, it’s the story of Maggie, a young French girl orphaned on board ship and “bound out” to a family homesteading on an island off the coast of Maine. I was probably 11 when I found it, and it took me to a place far away from my Montana home, to a time I knew nothing about. I still give it to young girls.
What authors have had the most influence on you?
Too many to name, but in mystery, standouts include Margaret Maron, Laura Lippman, Sue Grafton, Ellis Peters, and Tony Hillerman, whose mysteries set on Indian reservations in the Four Corners area showed me that my life in Montana, in a corner of the world not well known to most people, were filled with stories people would want to read. Sort of like Calico Bush did, now that I think about it. I also deeply admire books by Toni Morrison, Elizabeth Strout, and Ivan Doi
Thanks so much for inviting me, Rocco, and Toni!
Thanks so much for participating, Leslie! Peppermint Barked is out today! Take a moment and check it out!
Leslie will giveaway a copy of either PEPPERMINT BARKED or ASSAULT AND PEPPER to one lucky commenter!
To enter, leave your email address and choice of book in our comments section! Winner will be chosen at random by ROCCO's brother Maxx! US entries only, please. Contest ends midnight, July 24th!