By the Spoonful is Snowflake, Vermont’s most popular soup shop, but owner Lucky Jamieson doesn’t have any time to enjoy her success—she’s too busy trying to keep a lid on false accusations against her loved ones…
It’s almost May, and some of the local ladies have organized a pagan celebration in the woods to welcome spring. But the evening goes terribly wrong when one of the attendees winds up dead, apparently poisoned by an herbal concoction prepared by Lucky’s grandfather, Jack.
Lucky’s sure her grandfather could not have made such a tragic mistake. But before she can clear him of suspicion, her best friend, Sophie, is diverted from planning her wedding to By the Spoonful chef Sage DuBois when she finds a dead man floating in the creek on her property. Now it’s up to Lucky to get both Sophie and Jack out of hot water before a killer stirs up more trouble…
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Connie Archer is one of my favorite cozy mystery authors. Her stories suck you in and leave you wanting for more. It doesn’t hurt that she has awesome recipes in her books. I love being able to talk with her. Okay, so I tend to get just a little bit excited. Anyyyyway.....Today, we’re talking about her upcoming book, Ladle to the Grave.
Hi Connie. Welcome back to Read Your Writes Book Reviews.
Thank you, Kim. I’m really happy to be back with you on Read Your Writes. Thanks so much for hosting me on this stop!
You are more than welcome. In Ladle to the Grave, you're dealing with not just one murder, but two. Was it harder to deal with two murder investigations as oppose to just one?
I’m not sure if it was harder, I guess it was. It was definitely an exercise in interweaving the story lines together, while keeping both crimes apart and seemingly unconnected. It was fun for me to do because I really enjoy mysteries that keep me guessing till the end, ones that I can’t possibly anticipate how everything will be resolved.
Sounds great. So, what's your writing style like? Do you start out with an idea of how the person is going to die and then figure out who dies and why? Or do you just somehow let the story play out?
I think if I had to put it in words, I need to start with something – an idea – an emotional kernel – something that really stirs me, or intrigues me, or baffles me. Ideas can come from all sorts of places. For example, in A Broth of Betrayal, the second book in this series, the idea for the plot came from a “what if.” What if a crime had been committed years before but had not been properly recognized as a murder? Rather like a cold case that comes back to life. How long could that fester and why would it now rear its ugly head? In Ladle to the Grave, the idea for the plot came from a true crime story I read on the web about a young child. (The child wasn’t harmed at all, by the way.) But the story had an odd twist at the end and that started the little gray cells quivering (a la Poirot). Once I have an idea for a story that emotionally grabs me in some way, I try to line it up with the characters in the village and find connections between the characters and the crime or the perpetrators. Then I like to plan it out as a sort of visual storyboard and convert that to an outline. It saves a lot of rewriting time if I work that way, and I think it helps to keep the pace and the suspense going. I certainly don’t want readers to lose interest. Once I’ve done that, then I can focus on actually writing each scene and section.
I'm a romance girl at heart, even with cozy mysteries. In a Roux of Revenge, you left me, sorry, readers with a cliffhanger as to Lucky's love life. Are some questions going to be answered or are you just going to have me, I mean readers, banging our heads again?
(I’m chuckling here, Kim). And I apologize for that cliffhanger.
I love ya, but I’m sure you aren’t really sorry. But that’s okay.
(Still chuckling.) You’re not the only one who didn’t like that ending. Several people said the same! But let me explain a bit how that came about: I felt it was time for Lucky and Elias to have some rocky moments (as happens in real life). I didn’t want their romance to become so settled that their relationship would be a given. And of course the more conflict a writer can create for his or her protagonist the better, I think. Plus, A Roux of Revenge centered around an earlier crime and was interwoven with a story of love lost and what happens to lovers when fate steps in, so Lucky and Elias’s problems echo that, or mirror it in a way. I’m not sure I was totally conscious of that as I wrote the book, but looking back on it, their relationship is an echo of Eamon and Miriam’s life.
As I was writing the ending, I really wasn’t sure which way to go. In my mind, they would stay together, since they clearly loved each other very much. But should they resolve their differences and make up so easily? Or should Lucky go in a different direction and stay alone? (With the possibility that she and Elias could get back together later.) I agonized over those choices for a good long time. Finally, in the end, I felt that neither of those choices was right, and that leaving that question mark in the air was the correct thing to do. I know it’s usually not done, particularly in romances or cozies, but I explained my thought process to my editor when I submitted the manuscript. I told her that if she didn’t agree with the ending, I would be happy to change it. As it turned out, she also really liked the “cliffhanger,” so it stayed. I think she and I must have been the only ones who did like it! Looking back on it now, I don’t regret the choice, I still feel it was the right way to conclude that book. And I sincerely apologize to you and to those readers who were disturbed by it. That was the last thing I wanted to do. I wanted to create an ending that felt like real life, that involved readers in these two characters, and an ending that would pull readers back to finding out more in the next book.
Oh, I’m definitely anxious to find out what happens. If you could be any one of your characters who would you be and why?
I think I would be Sophie, Lucky’s best friend. I think of Sophie as the perfect foil for Lucky. Even though Lucky has a bad temper, she’s not a critical or sarcastic person. She’s very kind and understanding. So many things that Lucky can’t actually say, Sophie can. She can be brash and outspoken and critical and cranky in ways that just don’t feel right for Lucky. Sophie can often say what the readers are thinking, but Lucky can’t. Being Sophie could be a lot of fun!
If you aren't a full time writer, does your day job help to give you ideas for your books?
You mean have I plotted to kill my bosses and coworkers? I probably have -- but please don’t tell anyone!
Hey, as long as you don’t plot to kill me, we’re good. My name was in a book once and I thought, “Crap, I made her mad.”
(Chuckling) I do think writers pull from all sorts of experiences and areas. The more life situations a writer has dealt with, or experienced through someone close, broadens their compassion and understanding. Even if it’s just people-watching and being observant of emotional reactions, body language, things like that. After that, it’s a matter of imagination, or doing your best to put yourself in another person’s shoes. If I find myself writing about something I have never personally experienced, I try to dredge up something in my life that might evoke the same response and do my best to create a scene as realistic as possible for the reader. Sometimes my ideas spring from a weird internet article, or a true crime story, or just delving into the dark side of an everyday observation or occurrence. Remember Rear Window with Grace Kelley and Jimmy Stewart? That film illustrates my point -- ordinary people who happen to be in a certain place at a certain time and notice something odd across a courtyard. It’s still one of my favorite films. Just look around you, is that uniformed man walking down the driveway of your neighbor’s house really a meter reader? He seems to be, but what if he’s not? What if he’s a rogue cop planting evidence against an enemy? Or about to kill a member of the family in revenge against a doctor whom he blames for the death of a loved one? Anything is possible. Do I drive myself crazy? Sometimes. But it’s a blessing when it comes to dreaming up plots, so I guess that’s a good thing.
Oh. Those ideas sound good, and just a little bit scary. What are you working on now?
I’ve finished the fifth book in the Soup Lover’s Mystery series, and awaiting comments from my editor. This one will be called (and I love this title) A Clue in the Stew to be released in the spring of 2016.
I like that title.
And then hopefully my publisher will want to continue the series because I have lots of ideas for plots in the village of Snowflake.
I’m also reviewing three books I wrote a few years earlier in a different series. My protagonist is a little older, lives a very urban life, but because of her clients, finds herself involved in murder. I’d love to see these books find a good home. And then I want to find time to work on yet another idea (hopefully a series). This one will be set in Los Angeles with two well-past-middle-aged, female protagonists who dislike each other intensely, and who are very down and out on their luck and are forced to team up and resort to an unusual occupation (no spoilers here). In my head I’m calling this idea Betty & Flo. I think their situation and their age group is definitely an underserved area in crime fiction and these two ladies would have seen a lot and have no hesitation in speaking their minds. I do plan on working more on this idea when time permits and I think they will be a lot of fun to write.
I’m loving the ideas that are in your head. Of course, you know I’m going to want to read them! Connie, thank you soooo much for taking the time to answer some questions for me. I'm looking forward to reading the book.
Thank you, Kim! I really hope you enjoy Ladle to the Grave!
Hungry for more? Of course you are. You can purchase your copy of Ladle to the Grave in eBook and paperback format, from these locations:
A Soup Lover’s Mystery Series:
A Spoonful of Murder ~ Review
A Broth of Betrayal ~ Review coming soon
A Roux of Revenge ~ Review
Ladle to the Grave ~ Review coming soon
Connie was born and raised in New England. She now lives on the other coast.
Places to find Connie Archer:
You can follow Connie’s Ladle to the Grave Blog Tour here for reviews, interviews, guest posts and giveaways.
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