About the book:Cherry Tucker’s in a stew. Art commissions dried up after her nemesis became president of the County Arts Council. Desperate and broke, Cherry and her friend, Eloise, spend a sultry summer weekend hawking their art at the Sidewinder Annual Brunswick Stew Cook-Off. When a bad case of food poisoning breaks out and Eloise dies, the police brush off her death as accidental. However, Cherry suspects someone spiked the stew and killed her friend. As Cherry calls on cook-off competitors, bitter rivals, and crooked judges, her cop boyfriend get steamed while the killer prepares to cook Cherry’s goose.
Interview with Larissa Reinhart:Larissa, it's no secret I love your genre. Are any of your characters inspired by real people?
No real people, although one of my characters was inspired by another character. Max Avtaikin, Halo’s notoriously rich foreigner and Cherry’s mental sparring partner. Max hails from an unnamed ex-Eastern bloc country, collects War Between the States artifacts, and hosts illegal poker in his basement. He was inspired by the rich Russian with the tiny giraffe in the Direct TV ads. I loved those commercials.
If you could be one of your characters, which one would you choose?
Cherry’s friend Leah is level-headed, a talented singer and musician, and patient with Cherry. Leah’s mother is too controlling, but Leah has all the virtues I wish I had. Particularly a tall, curvy body which she hides behind shapeless, ruffly, grandma clothes. I would ditch the clothes and walk around in a bikini. Maybe.
To be Cherry for a day would be fun, though...
With which of your characters would you most like to be stuck on a deserted island?
Hmmm. Maybe Cherry’s brother Cody because he’s a genius mechanic. If we were on the S.S. Minnow’s three hour cruise, Cody would have fixed that boat by episode two and sent us back to Hawaii.
Now if I didn’t want to leave the island....probably Luke. Or Max, he entertains me. Todd’s pretty yummy, too. All three might be fun.
Where’s home for you?
I grew up in Andover, Illinois, a farming town of six hundred founded by Swedes. My parents moved to this town from another part of the state, whereas most of the people living there were from the area, so I spent my childhood feeling like I were stuck in an anthropology project. Of course, at eight I didn’t know anthropology. I did know I wasn’t Swedish.
Tell us one weird thing, one nice thing, and one fact about where you live.
We live in Peachtree City, Georgia, a planned community with a ninety mile network of golf cart paths set in a heavily wooded twenty-four square mile area. What’s weird is to see people driving golf carts while walking their dogs. What’s nice is taking my children to and from school on golf carts. I’ve lived here for fourteen years and I still find it beautifully odd.
It sounds wonderful. Do you ever get writer’s block? What do you do when it happens?
Of course, although getting writer’s block is nothing as dramatic as you see in the movies. When I can’t seem to move forward in a story, that means I’ve done something wrong. I have to back up, reread, and rewrite. Kind of like driving down the wrong street and having to turn around to go back and find my route.
Is there anything in particular that you do to help the writing flow?
Showers are the best for finding your muse! What is it about showers? Long drives, too. Sitting in church. Singing actually helps me. I am inspired by country music when I’m writing Cherry Tucker. I’ll drive and sing and ideas just pop into my head. I think it’s a zen thing of emptying your mind while keeping your hands (or mouth) busy.
I totally agree. I get ideas while driving too. What do you like to do when you’re not writing?
My family loves to travel. We’ve lived in Japan, and my little girls are excellent travelers. They are good with local or exotic destinations, will eat almost anything, and find other cultures fascinating. We’re really lucky. My daughters are adopted from China, so we spent our first moments with them in hotel rooms!
If you could live anywhere in the world, where would it be?
I’m pretty happy where I am, but my family and I do miss Japan. We loved living there. I think we could live most anywhere, but I’d probably complain a lot if we were someplace really cold.
What are you working on now?
I’m doing my revisions for the third Cherry Tucker mystery coming out in November, Hijack In Abstract. I’ve also got a Cherry Tucker prequel novella that will be in The Heartache Motel, a mystery anthology coming out in December. The anthology is set in the Heartache Motel, a total dive, in Memphis. There’s many crazy Elvis inspired adventures set at that motel. It’s been fun to write with my Henery Press friends, Terri L. Austin and LynDee Walker.
Excerpt from Still Life in Brunswick StewThe officials had abandoned the booth for the cook-off, but a gigantic source of distraction did stand in the empty tent. With hands on his hips, he surveyed the flyers scattered over a picnic table. When you’re five foot and a half inch, any guy over six foot is big, but this particular man would put a steroid-infused Soviet weight lifter to shame. A frown twisted his mouth and his glacier blue eyes appeared troubled.
I hesitated at offering help. Max Avtaikin might be a supporter of the arts, but he had a dubious criminal background. And I kind of accused him of murder a few months back. Which is just plain embarrassing.
Before I could skedaddle, Max turned and caught me gawking.
I skimmed a hand over my limp, blonde ponytail, flapped the sweat off my neon pink halter, and entered the booth. “Hey, Mr. Max. You need help?”
He leaned in for one of those European double kisses. “Cherry Tucker. A pleasure, as always. Do you have the artist stand?”
It took me a second to understand his meaning. Max grew up in one of those Eastern bloc countries when they were still more bloc than country. Using his wily business acumen, he got rich and then got the hell out of Dodge. He settled in small town Georgia because of his odd love for the War Between the States. His accent moved with him.
“I’m selling little oils,” I said. “Still lifes mostly. And trying to advertise my portraiture business. I’ve got a booth with my friend, Eloise Parker. She does pottery. You should check it out.”
“I am wanting to see this art works, but I was asked to judge a food competition,” Max said.
“You sound surprised, Miss Tucker.”
“I just thought, with your, uh, recent trouble, folks would kind of...”
“I am involving in the community services.” He shifted his stance. “You disapprove?”
“Helping the community is a good start.”
“You’re still playing cards in your basement?” I asked, referring to his illegal poker games busted a few months ago. Men like Max would play it cool for a while, but find a stealthier way to restart their business. Some folks don’t care about local vice if it’s kept indoors. There’s a history of juke joints and moonshining in rural Georgia that’s transferred to other realms in the modern era. However, I grew up around a county sheriff and know for a fact that doings behind doors eventually seep outside and run havoc elsewhere.
“I’m not understanding your meaning,” he said.
“Oh, I think you do. But it’s none of my business.”
“That didn’t stop your interest a few months ago.”
I fiddled with my sunglasses, wondering what good manners dictated in this situation. Grandma Jo never covered apologies for accusing criminals of the wrong crime. “Well, I hope you’re not messing around with poker anymore.”
“I like games,” Max paused. “And you do, too.”
We shared a long look. I had an inkling Max had some tricks up his sleeve that might warrant closer scrutiny. And oddly enough, he seemed to enjoy baiting me. Maybe he missed the excitement of outsmarting the secret police in his old country. I couldn’t help a small shiver of pleasure at the thought of Max finding me a worthy opponent. Although he probably just found my antics amusing.
I gave Max a half-hearted shrug to show this rabbit wasn’t about to sniff around his traps. If he wanted to corrupt Halo with his shady dealings, well, he just better be careful. I was dating a deputy.
“I have noticed you no longer have use of my nickname,” Max said, steering the conversation down a different current.
“You want me to call you Bear?” Max’s shadier cohorts called him The Bear.
“You used to call me Bear.” He stroked his chin. “Maybe there is significance to your more formal manner?”
A shriek cut off our conversation. “Dangit, I’m missing the fight.” Thankful for the excuse, I fled the stuffy tent.
Max caught up with me in two strides. “What is this fight? A boxing match?”
“Maybe boxing if we’re lucky. Probably just some smart mouthing and shoving.”
“Is this usual at the American festival?”
“America, I’m not sure. But Sidewinder, you bet. Partly it’s the weather. My Grandpa says Southerners used to handle the heat until everyone got air conditioning. You find a shady spot for fishing or sit on your porch and wait for the sun to go down. Now we’re running around in the sun like stray dogs working up a lather.”
Judging by that shriek, it sounded like a stray dog howling up a storm.
And that stray dog sure sounded a lot like Shawna Branson.
About the author:Larissa Reinhart loves small town characters, particularly sassy women with a penchant for trouble. Still Life in Brunswick Stew (May 2013) is the second in the Cherry Tucker Mystery Series. The first, Portrait of a Dead Guy, is a 2012 Daphne du Maurier finalist, a 2012 The Emily finalist, and a 2011 Dixie Kane Memorial winner. She lives near Atlanta with her minions and Cairn Terrier, Biscuit. Visit her website, her Facebook page, or find her chatting with the Little Read Hens on Facebook.
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