bestselling novels. She has been called “the Julia Child of mystery writers,”
because the murders in her books are solved by a caterer, and include several
she gets her ideas, and how her characters’ lives have grown over the course of
One of the
most frequently asked questions of writers is, "Where do you get your
ideas?" The truth is that ideas race through writers' heads at a dizzying
clip. The problem then becomes: Which ones of these do I use?
when my culinary mysteries began to be published, my image for the use of ideas
relates to food. We go to the refrigerator to take out ingredients to make
meals. A writer goes to the emotional
refrigerator to bring out characters and plots.
started writing, the most troubling ingredient in my own emotional refrigerator
was the amount of spousal abuse I was seeing in my volunteer work. These were
women who were working beside me -- one who helped me in organizing a
particular group of volunteers said, "Look at where my husband broke my
thumb in three places with a hammer." Her husband was a social worker. A
dear friend showed up at an another meeting with her face covered in bruises.
Her husband was an engineer. I heard many other stories from women who were
married to professionals, including one doctor who became the model for the
horrible ex-husband in the series. (This was all pre-O.J., and the phenomenon
of spousal abuse among wealthy people
was not in the general national consciousness.)
I knew I had
to write about this, but in a way that emphasized that people could put their
lives back together after abuse. So Goldy
who has taken the lemon of her life and made it not only into lemonade but into
lemon chicken, lemon bars, and lemon meringue pie. She has a son, Arch, who has
aged over the series from eleven to, at the opening of The Whole Enchilada, seventeen. Like Goldy, he bears the scars of
his father's behavior. But he, too, has gradually matured and become
importantly, Goldy has a deep faith; wonderful friends; a supportive church
community; and finally, several books into the series, a loving husband, Tom.
Goldy's best friend, Marla Korman, is the other ex-wife of The Jerk, as they
call Doctor John Richard Korman. Marla,
who has inherited money and a smart mouth, helps Goldy in numerous situations,
where having money or membership guarantees entry.
were the ingredients in my emotional refrigerator as I worked on the Goldy
series. Other things that have happened to me figured into plots. One woman who
was buying a copy of my second book,
Dying for Chocolate, gave me a stern look, tapped my author photo, and
said, "This is an extremely flattering photograph." The picture had
not been retouched, but never mind. Her comment made me scuttle down to a
high-end Denver department store for a makeover. The lovely, chatty woman
selling the cosmetics asked me what kind of work I did. When I said I wrote
murder mysteries, she did not pause before saying, "I sure could write a
murder mystery about this
place." And thus was my next book, Killer
book, I did actual (unpaid) catering so I could see the issues and obstacles
that accompany food service. Although I could not cook when my husband and I
got married many moons ago, I learned on the job. (This was so many moons ago
that it was the era when men rarely ventured into the kitchen.) Catering is
very different from home cooking; it's like going from having a small vegetable
garden to managing a thousand-acre ranch.
In the midst
of doing all the cooking to develop recipes for the books, I realized we had to
have our kitchen remodeled and enlarged. We had heard lots of contractor horror
stories from friends and relatives, but we thought we were immune. Alas, it was
not to be. When a job that was supposed to take three months took twelve, I
killed off a contractor in one of the books. The murderer hits the contractor
over the head with a two-by-four, shoots him through the head with a nail gun,
and then hangs him from the rafters. (P.S.: Our contractor thought this was
writer needs to learn the police procedure for his or her area, and my own
county sheriff's department has been extraordinarily generous in this regard.
In The Whole Enchilada, while trying
to figure out why one of her long-ago friends has been murdered, Goldy does not
have access to fingerprinting or DNA analysis. But she has lived in her small
mountain town of Aspen Meadow, Colorado, for a long time. She can use her
connections, and look at the relationships between people, to try to see what,
exactly, might be going on.
readers -- in fact, I hope all readers -- enjoy puzzles, and that is what I try
to construct. The best comment from readers, finally, also comes from the food
world: "I just devoured your book." What writer could ask for more?
recipe for Enchiladas Suizas