Murder Comes to the Scribes — Interview with Mystery Author Lucy Burdette

Hey, all! Suze here. Today I’m thrilled to have mystery author Lucy Burdette visting us. Her new series is the Key West Food Critic Mysteries, and Book 2, Death in Four Courses, just released. I’ve read it, and I love it! Take it away, Lucy.

You write wonderful cozy mysteries, Lucy. How would you define a cozy, and why do you think people love them so much?
Thanks so much for those kind words. Cozies are traditional mysteries that avoid graphic description of violence and sex. They often take place in a small town and introduce the reader into the protagonist’s world, including a group of friends and family.
The real world is such a scary place these days! I think readers like the idea of the good guys winning and the bad guys getting what they deserve, as always happens with a cozy mystery. And they like strong women who use their smarts to solve puzzles and problems. And food–food and cooking are very big right now and I’m delighted to be part of that trend!
Your latest book is DEATH IN FOUR COURSES, book 2 in the Key West Food Critic Mysteries. Tell us a bit about it.
Food critic Hayley Snow has the biggest assignment of her short career–covering the food writers who are attending the Key West Loves Literature conference. Unfortunately her assignment gets complicated when she finds the keynote speaker floating in a dipping pool at the opening night reception. And to top that off, she’s made the mistake of inviting her mother down for the weekend, which adds another layer of pressure. This is the second book in the Key West food critic series, after AN APPETITE FOR MURDER.
How do you go about developing a new series? What kind of  research is involved? (Sign me up for some of that Key West on-location  research, will you?) Does the sleuth or the setting come first?
Usually character comes first. When thinking about Hayley, I wanted to develop a protagonist who was a little lost, a newcomer to Key West, yearning to make a mark as a foodie writer. Some reviewers find her a little naive and dizzy–I think that gives her plenty of room to grow over the course of the series… With DEATH IN FOUR COURSES, I was delighted to learn that the REAL Key West Literary Seminar was focusing on food writing just as I was planning the book. So research involved attending the sessions, eating great meals, and tooling around Key West to come up with plot tangents and setting. I must admit that I’m astonishingly lucky to be able to combine my passions for food, writing, and Key West!
Do you have any pets?
Always! Right now my faithful writing companions are Yoda the cat, and Tonka the Australian shepherd. They stick with me through every word and adventure.

When you set out to write a mystery, do you know whodunnit and why at the outset? Or does that only become clear to you once your cast of characters is complete?
I like to try to start knowing whodunnit, but also who else might have done it. It helps me write the book to give several characters important secrets that they might kill to keep from revealing. Often about halfway through the book, I’ll stop and write the ending. This gives me something to point to during the development of that murky middle.
Who are your literary inspirations, and why?
I read all kinds of books as a kid, including Nancy Drew, the Hardy boys, Cherry Ames, and the Bobbsey twins mysteries. I still love to read mysteries such as Diane Mott Davidson’s culinary series, Julia Spencer-Fleming’s wonderful series featuring an Episcopalian priest and a small town police chief. I’m also reading lots of food memoirs like Frank Bruni’s BORN ROUND and Kim Severson’s SPOON FED. And women’s fiction too, especially if there’s food in it:)

Thanks for visiting today. Readers, any questions for Lucy?

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13 thoughts on “Murder Comes to the Scribes — Interview with Mystery Author Lucy Burdette”

  1. Hello fellow Nancy Drew fan! Well, I suppose many of us writers can say that, hmmm? I loved your “Murky Middle”. I’m totally stealing the idea of writing the end when I get to the middle as a compass to get through it! Thanks.

  2. Okay, I’m convinced. I really need to start reading cozy mysteries. They sound so charming and fun. I’m embarrassed to say I haven’t read any other than some fabulous manuscripts from our very own, Suze here, who writes them so well. We just have to get her to publish one of them (hint, hint). Thanks for the wonderful interview, ladies, and thanks for being here, Lucy. Must go get your book.

  3. JMonkeys–you are absolutely welcome to steal that idea! Here’s another one that I stole from someone else: Get a sheet of notebook paper. At the top write a sentence about the opening action and at the very bottom, a line about the end. Then work back and forth, filling in next thing that happens after beginning, and last thing before the end. Until you finally get to the middle.

    I say try anything! writing a book is Hard!!

  4. PJ–yes, cozy mysteries are ALL the rage. And many many of them are terrific with great characters, setting, and hooks. If you find DEATH IN FOUR COURSES on Amazon for example, you will see a ton of other book listed as “people who enjoyed this also bought xxx.” Lots of good ideas to add to your TBR pile.

    Katy, thank you–give me a shout when you make it to “The Rock” (aka Key West.)

  5. Lucy, it was fun reading the comments. You have done a good job at stirring the pot. I am working my way to murder mysteries from the “Gone with the Wind” and “Outlander” type stories. Loved this blog. Thanks for the interview and Suze, thanks to you too for having Lucy.

    1. thanks so much! Gone with the Wind has to be the best book ever…I can remember taking it to school and hiding it in a textbook because I HAD TO KNOW WHAT HAPPENED! Now that’s a good book!

  6. Lucy, I am SO happy to hear you say that cozies are big right now — I’m shopping one around to agents/editors, and I have ideas for two more series “cooking.” I just adore this genre — I love to watch the characters develop over the course of a series, learn about interesting crafts/occupations and fun settings, and see what inventive ways the author will use to murder people.

    1. Susannah, things change so fast in this crazy business, but right now lots of cozies are getting bought and published and even hitting the NYTimes bestseller list. (I’ve got all my digits crossed for that one day!) At any moment, that could shift, but I think right now is a good time to be shopping a cozy! good luck:)

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