Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Featured Author: Connie Archer

About the book: 

When a local woman is poisoned at a pagan ritual in the woods, Lucky Jamieson’s grandfather, Jack, who provided the herbs for the gathering, is suspected of making a terrible mistake. The following day, a dead man is found floating in a creek just outside of town, his face unrecognizable. Is he a stranger or Lucky’s best friend’s estranged brother? Lucky is certain both deaths are murder but can she find the connection and clear her grandfather’s name before more victims fall prey to a killer? 

Other books by Connie Archer:

Interview with Connie Archer

Connie, how long have you been writing, and how did you start?
I actually haven’t been writing all that long, at least not compared to others who have been writing all their lives. I’ve always been a mystery and thriller lover, and for several years I toyed with the idea of writing a mystery, not at all sure if I would or could ever do it, but I did think about it. My first (as yet unpublished) book took a long time, a few years I think. Of course, I wasn’t in any hurry and was under no pressure, so I could take my time. Then I was very fortunate to find an agent who had faith in me.  That was about eight years ago. I wrote two more books in that series because I still felt very strongly about it. I still do and hope those will find a good home in the near future. When I first started writing, my goal was to finish and publish one mystery book.  Little did I ever think it would lead to writing a series. I started this series, the Soup Lover’s Mysteries, at the end of 2011. The first book, A Spoonful of Murder, was released in August, 2012. Since then I’ve written four more in this series, the fifth, A Clue in the Stew, will be released next spring, March 2016. I still pinch myself!

How did you come up with the title Ladle to the Grave?
Choosing titles has been a collaborative effort with my publisher, and I think they’ve come up with some amazing titles. They chose the first one – A Spoonful of Murder, and, following the same format, I chose the next two: A Broth of Betrayal and A Roux of Revenge. My working title for this fourth book was actually A Corpse in the Cauldron, but my publisher opted for Ladle to the Grave which everyone seems to love, and I think it’s probably a much better choice. 

How would you describe your book in five words?
A suspenseful village mystery. Oops, that’s four. 

How did you create the plot for this book?
The basis of this plot came from a news article I had read several weeks before I started working on Ladle. I like to peruse crime stories and look for the ones with a weird twist, the type of story that leaves you wanting more, although often there’s no way to find out more. This was a cold case about a missing child with a very unusual ending.  That really piqued my interest and started the wheels turning. It wasn’t possible to use the actual story, but it gave me a jumping off spot that helped form the plot. I can’t really say much more because I don’t want to give away any spoilers. 

How do you get to know your characters?
They seem to just pop into my head when needed. And this series has been a wonderful arena for introducing quirky residents of the village, some nice, some not so nice. They have sometimes arrived fully formed without my having to struggle to create them. Once they’re on the page, they have a mind of their own and I’m not really sure I’m in control of their thoughts and words.

Which character did you most enjoy writing?
Well, I’m very partial to all of them, but one of my favorites is my protagonist Lucky’s grandfather, Jack. Jack is elderly and a World War II veteran and struggles with PTSD. He spent most of his life in the Navy and always tells time by the bells. Only Lucky can translate. Jack calls the walls the bulkhead and the floors the deck. He’s a bit eccentric but a very loving grandfather. He’s an amalgam of my dad who had Jack’s disposition and my father-in-law who really was in the Navy and did tell time by the bells. 

What would your main character say about you?
First of all, I think she’d be upset and very hurt to learn she doesn’t exist in the real world. I can just imagine her shock now. I don’t know what she’d say or think about me.  Probably ask me why I gave her so many problems to deal with.

Speaking of characters, there was a television show several years ago in which a cartoonist, a writer of a very popular comic strip, feels his bed and house shaking. He’s terrified and wakes thinking it’s an earthquake. It isn’t, it’s the shock wave of his character breaking through to his world. Unfortunately his super hero character can’t quite understand that he has no super powers in our universe and constantly gets hurt when he’s chasing bad guys. I thought it was a brilliant comment on the reality of characters that come alive and leap off the page.

Tell us about your favorite scene in the book.
In Ladle to the Grave, Lucky is very busy helping her best friend Sophie plan her wedding to the chef of the By the Spoonful Soup Shop. Partly because of the circumstances of the crime and mostly because Sophie is going through a major life change she discovers some aspects of her family history that she never suspected. There is a scene that I felt was essential to exploring Sophie’s past and was very much tied in to the larger crimes, but I was afraid my editor would think it was inappropriate for a cozy mystery. As it turned out, she was very happy with that scene. I was relieved because I wouldn’t have wanted to go back and delete all references to it because it has so much to offer in developing the character of Sophie. 

What song would you pick to go with your book?
Vermont has inspired some amazing songs, even Revolutionary War battle songs. The state song is “These Green Mountains” which is lovely, but I think “Moonlight in Vermont,” reprised by many artists over the years would be the one I’d pick.

How long is your to-be-read pile?
Very. Piles of books next to the bed and all over the house, not to mention my Amazon Wish List. I try to be economical and not get carried away ordering more books when I have so many to read. 

You get to decide who would read your audiobook. Who would you choose?
The first name that pops into my head is Maria Bello, an actress I admire. She was never a typical vapid Hollywood starlet, but I see great character in her face and hidden depths.  I’ve always found her both real and intriguing. 

What book are you currently reading and in what format (e-book/paperback/hardcover)?
Right now, I’m reading Tana French’s The Secret Place. I usually don’t buy hardbound books but this one was a Christmas gift I was thrilled to get. I’ve read all of her books so far and loved them all. She’s an absolutely poetic writer. 

Where’s home for you?
I live in Los Angeles. It’s sort of a long story how that happened, but years have gone by and here I am. It was culture shock at first, but I guess we all adjust. 

Tell us one weird thing, one nice thing, and one fact about where you live.
Los Angeles has lots of weird! I’m not so sure if this counts as weird because I actually think it’s quite interesting. Hollywood Forever Cemetery is very old (for Los Angeles), and situated on a beautiful parcel of land bordering the north side of Paramount Studios.  It numbers among its residents many famous stars of the 20’s, 30’s, 40’s and on, including Tyrone Power, Rudolph Valentino, Darren McGavin and many others. Until it was taken over several years ago by a family in the cemetery business, it had fallen into a sad state of disrepair and neglect. Now, revitalized, with a welcome center, it’s a great place to visit. You can find a festival with food and music on November 1st, the Day of the Dead.  And in August, a Rudolph Valentino celebration offers his silent films and the mysterious “Lady in Black” lays one red rose on Valentino’s crypt. 

One very nice thing about Los Angeles is that we’re not suffering through a brutal winter. I grew up on the east coast and I do remember them! Now I can wax poetic about snow in Vermont because I don’t have to shovel any sidewalks or driveways and chip ice off a windshield. 

One fact: Not sure if this is fact, or maybe it is, but there was a phrase that made the rounds and everyone would have a good laugh. It was: “We have four seasons -- fire, floods, riots and earthquakes. 

You won the lottery. What’s the first thing you would buy?
That’s a fun question! After I paid every bill that I, my family and my friends owe, I think I would buy a house on a cliff overlooking the ocean – the Pacific Ocean. 

You’re given the day off, and you can do anything but write. What would you do?
I’ve been under a tight schedule for a long time.  I think I might clean my house, then go through my file cabinets and do the same. 

What would your dream office look like?
It would be a small, dark and cozy space, perhaps six feet by six feet, a magical Oriental rug on the floor to take me on strange journeys, lined with bookshelves floor to ceiling, filled with mysteries, thrillers and forensic reference books, a desk, a chair, a computer for writing and a locking door so nothing could interrupt me. 

What three books have you read recently and would recommend?
Red Sparrow by Jason Matthews
Ordinary Grace by William Kent Kreuger
Deep Into Dusk by Laurie Stevens

If you could live anywhere in the world, where would it be?
I think Venice – there’s the ocean again. In an elegant palazzo with my own gondola.  Perhaps I could sip a cappucino with Commissario Brunetti. Of course, I hear it’s not so lovely when the water’s high. Maybe San Francisco would be a better choice. I lived there for years and still miss it. It’s the most beautiful city in the U.S.

About the author:

Connie Archer is the national bestselling author of the Soup Lover’s Mystery series from Berkley Prime Crime. A Spoonful of Murder, A Broth of Betrayal and A Roux of Revenge are set in the imaginary village of Snowflake, Vermont. The fourth book in the series, Ladle to the Grave, will be released on March 3, 2015. 

Connect with Connie:
Website  |  Blog  |  Facebook  |  Twitter  |  Killer Characters (on the 15th of every month)  |  Goodreads  

Buy the book:
Barnes & Noble