Interview: John Stith

Read on to get to know John Stith, author of Pushback.

Which books/authors inspired or influenced you the most?

In mystery my list would include Nelson DeMille (love everything he does), Thomas Perry (I love the trope inversion and the intelligence in the Jane Whitefield books), Linwood Barclay (I love the mix of humor and drama in his Zack Walker series), Lee Child (no explanation needed), and Robert B. Parker.

In SF it’s impossible to escape the influence of Asimov/Clarke/Heinlein but I also love Ray Bradbury, Daniel Galouye, Dean Koontz, Preston & Child, Robert Sheckley, and Clifford Simak (he shows that gentle stores can be filled with suspense).

Both lists omit dozens of brilliant, moving writers.

Tell us a bit about your new book.

PushbackPushback is a mystery-suspense novel. It begins with Dave, an investment counselor with PTSD, who survives a blowout accident that kills his fiancée, Allison.

A year later, Dave has found unexpected happiness with Cathy. At Dave’s high-school reunion, he is stunned that he doesn’t recognize anyone there. Cathy, who was previously victimized by a con man, breaks it off. And that night Dave gets a text: “How does it feel to be so quickly forgotten?” Apparently, someone close to Allison is angry that he has moved on so “soon.”

Dave’s PTSD symptoms make him avoid conflict, so he hopes this will pass. It doesn’t. His car is filled with cement. His house is razed. And now, someone is trying to kill him.

Dave’s only choices are to flee to Bolivia or stay and fight. He stays.

What inspired you to write it?

I typically start a book with an emotional issue, plus a vague idea of a plot that appeals to me, and a setting that fits both. One of the emotional triggers of the book was moving on after a huge loss. My wife of nearly 30 years died of cancer, and in the following year I happened to meet a new wonderful woman. But while I was feeling attracted and wanted, I was also feeling guilty that I was still around to experience life, while my former wife was not. I felt disloyal. Intellectually I knew that was wrong, partly because of two things my former wife had told me before she died. Her two greatest desires were to get through the dying process with dignity (she was a 10) and that I would find happiness after she was gone. In writing the novel, I jumped from those feelings to imagining a character who was moving on after a loss, and compounding the situation by adding a character who also felt my hero was moving on too quickly. Someone angry enough to do something about it.

How did you get started writing?

I spent years wishing I were a writer. And then finally I decided to spend a fixed time every day and do it. I started with 15 minutes a day, and that grew. Eventually I sold some non-fiction articles, then worked my way to short stories, and finally to novels. My first eight novels with Ace and Tor were all science fiction, but most with a strong mystery element (a private eye on a distant planet, an amnesia/murder tale aboard a space station, an undercover operative going back home again and finding an old flame in trouble, a starship hijacking, and an investigative reporter wondering why one news team is often the first to reach a new disaster).

If you couldn’t write, what would you do?

Kill myself. Just kidding. Writing is the most fulfilling work I know, so would feel incomplete without it. But I do suffer from having too many interests. If I had additional lifetimes, I would love to develop the skills to become a fine photographer. In another life, I’d love to compose music.

*****

About the book:

At his ten-year high-school reunion, Colorado investment counselor Dave Barlow, who suffers from PTSD, finds he doesn’t know one person there, and soon realizes he must outwit an unknown antagonist before he winds up dead.

“Some people dream about going to their high-school reunion in their underwear. Dave Barlow goes to his and finds himself worse than naked — unrecognized. A lovely, twisty thriller that moves like a roller coaster — racheting up the suspense, then plunging into crisis, or doing a swift loop-the-loop through flashbacks of PTSD before the climb stars again.” — Diana Gabaldon, New York Times bestselling author of the Outlander series.

“PUSHBACK is a fast-paced crime novel guaranteed to keep you reading into the night. Accelerating through enough twists and turns to keep you guessing, PUSHBACK ramps up to a heart-pounding ending that will leave you breathless. Stith, known for his award-winning science fiction, really brings it home in his debut mystery. Bring on the next installment!” — Chris Goff, author of RED SKY

*****

John Stith HeadshotScience fiction and mystery author John E. Stith writes across many worlds. His books have been translated to French, German, Italian, Japanese, Portuguese and Russian and are even available in braille for the sight-impaired.  His science fiction stories have been categorized as “Hard science fiction,” a label given to those stories thoroughly researched to play fair with the rules of science; something any die-hard SciFi fan can appreciate. PUSHBACK is his debut in

Stith holds a B.A. in physics from the University of Minnesota, has served as an Air Force Officer, where he worked at NORAD Cheyenne Mountain Complex. The passion for science runs in his family, as his father George worked at the White Sands Missile Range on such projects like the rocket sled.

He has appeared on a live nationwide PBS broadcast or Science-Fiction Science-Fact (SF2) and his work has also been sold to film and television. His novel Reckoning Infinity was chosen as one of Science Fiction Chronicle’s Best Science Fiction Novels,  Redshift Rendezvous was picked as a Nebula Award nominee and Manhattan Transfer received an honorable mention from the Hugo Awards and a nomination from the Seiun Award in Japan.

Stith is a member of Science-Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America (SFWA), Mystery Writers of America (MWA), Writers Guild of America (WGA), International Thriller Writers, Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers (RMFW), Colorado Author’s League and Mensa.  He currently lives in Colorado Springs.

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Whale Watching

whale tailLast summer, the family and I traveled down the road to the sleepy port town of Seward for whale watching.

Seeing a gray whale is a mystical experience. Here you are in modern motor boat, drinking coffee from a paper cup and dressed to the gills in nylon rain gear, and just a few yards away are mammals that could well be 50-70 years old, cruising along doing exactly what whales have done since time immemorial, sentient and sensitive beings who well may be more intelligent than humans in different ways. It made me feel small, insignificant and very fortunate to share the planet with these creatures. There is something deeply peaceful about being in their presence.

Seward sits on Resurrection Bay, a fjord which is deep enough that migrating gray whales and orcas visit in the summer. It is the home of the Seward SeaLife Center, a research and public education facility that was funded by settlement proceeds from the 1989 Exxon Valdez oil spill. The SeaLife Center also takes in orphaned sea animals that would not survive on their own.

One popular exhibit at the SeaLife Center is the stellar sea lion whicStellar sea lion and cute kidh is so big, I couldn’t get it all into the camera frame. Check out the Alaska SeaLife Center.

There are a variety of cruises that can be taken from Seward to view the whales and other sea creatures. You can go on a half-day cruise or a full day cruise. One of the cruises will take you to Fox Island for lunch at the day lodge so you can walk on the beach after feasting on prime rib, king salmon and king crab. I haven’t done that cruise but I hear the food is really good.

So here are some photos of wildlife we saw on the whale cruise: two orcas, a gray whale surfacing close to Seward (The locals go sit on the beach with a cup of coffee to watch the whales. Nice life!) and seals.

Question of the day: If you could spend a day in Seward, what animal would most like to see? The barking seals? Puffins, the sea parrots? Orca, the sea wolves? Or, the ancient and majestic whale? Me, I’m a whale person. 

 

 

The Legacy of the Flying Sidekick

Tomorrow I get a new hip.  I like to think it’s on account of many years of sports abuse, particularly those elusively troubling jump sidekicks that I’ve had to practice over and over in the martial arts.  The truth is much simpler and far less fun:  arthritis + an annoying injury (not from sidekicks).    

Still, it will be nice to regain some physical mobility, although probably the flying sidekicks will remain elusive.  

I’m completely inexperienced at anything surgical, but in my age group, everyone seems to be doing these hip replacements.  My sis just had hers done, and she tells me it’s an “easy” procedure.  

Right.  

Then she told me that while she was laid up, resting for a couple of weeks, she got to read five books.   

Five books??  Somehow, this doesn’t sound so bad anymore.  

Usually my book choices are ruled by book clubs, research, and staying as current as I can with my community.  Choosing five “wild card” books overwhelms me with giddy delight, but also uncertainty.  I can’t just grab the first five off the TBR pile.  I have to plan this carefully.  Which should I choose first?  

I started organizing the possibilities by categories, such as books that make me laugh, classics that I’ve missed, books that are old comfortable friends, whimsical books, comfy cozies, filling in unread books from a beloved series, suspense books that will keep me turning pages, books about places I plan to visit, bestsellers, and so on.  In no time at all, the books on my list were soaring well beyond thirty in number.  I’m not going to be laid up long enough to read all of them!  

Ruthlessly, I narrowed down my list to ten.  Some of them are doorstoppers that could be dangerous to hold in bed.  I know I’m missing a lot of other compelling choices, but here they are:    

The Far Pavilions, by M.M. Kaye

or

Pride and Prejudice, by Jane Austen

 

Fer-de-lance, by Rex Stout

or

The Chill, by Ross MacDonald

 

Wicked Autumn, by G.M. Malliet

or

The Glamorous (Double) Life of Isabel Bookbinder, by Holly McQueen

 

The Winter Rose, by Jennifer Donnelly

or

The Return, by Victoria Hislop

 

The English Spy, by Daniel Silva

or

Origin, by Dan Brown

Help!  Any votes for one choice over another?  Anything else that I should consider adding to my list? 

Reading, reading, and more reading.

I am a reader, not a writer, and reading is essential for me. Reading a book is like visiting old friends and making new ones.  Books are good because the writing is good. I think that to be a good writer, one must be a good reader.

  • With that in mind, what are all you good writers reading right now, or have just finished?
  • What book could you read over and over again, and why did you make that choice?

Here is my list:

proofRight now, I am reading “Absolute Proof” by Peter James. It has an intriguing premise – what would absolutely prove the existence of God? An investigative reporter, Ross Hunter, is confronted with this question. He receives a phone call from an unusual man who says he has just such proof and will share it only with Hunter. The subsequent thrills, investigation, and mystery take Hunter all over the globe and put his life in jeopardy. Peter James a definitive storyteller and this book has me glued to the pages. One note, it is available in the U.S. only as an Audible audio book, but the owner of my local bookstore, The Book Carnival, ordered me a hard copy from England.

six

I also just finished “Six Four” by Hideo Yokoyama, with Japanese translation by Jonathan Lloyd-Davies. It is a l-o-n-g book, but every word contributes to the total picture. It is a universal story of crime, family, conflict, and duty all centering around one man who works in a police department in Japan. The pace is slow at first, but it comes to a frantic, desperate, and shocking end. I learned a lot about Japanese culture while reading, and my complete review is posted on “Looks at Books. (https://3no7.wordpress.com/2018/11/09/six-four/ )

 

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The book I would read again and again is “Murder on the Orient Express” by Agatha Christie. It is such a classic story with twists, turns, and surprises, even after eighty-four years.  Every time I read it, I find some new little detail that I had overlooked; it is Hercule Poirot after all.

Now, your turn — What are you reading and what are your  favorite books?

Interview: Carl Brookins

Get to know Carl Brookins, author of Grand Lac!

Grand LacWhat’s your idea of a perfect day?

Early rise, coffee, orange juice, cereal,(hot or cold) a serving of berries and yoghurt: daily newspapers, email, Internet news channels, TV news, 4 hours of work on one or two books in process, lunch with my wife, Internet mail, political discussions, a drink before dinner, research, TV news and more discussion and a good wine with dinner. Readings for the reviews I do.

Do you have a signature accessory, color, fragrance, phrase/expression, or meal?

No

Which books/authors inspired or influenced you the most?

Shakespeare, John Sandford, William Krueger, Richard Barre

Do you listen to music when you write? 

Sometimes. Jazz and/or classical, depending on my mood and the book I’m working on.

If your latest book were chocolate, what kind would it be and why?

M&Ms because various bits of evidence gradually melt together to form a tasty whole.

What made you interested in writing this particular story?

A tale from my niece which is the genesis action of the novel.

 What themes do you regularly (re)visit in your writing? 

People relating to and helping others out of fraught circumstances.

Tell us about your main character.

Two, in this case; both of retirement age, a man, Alan Lockem, formerly in Military Intelligence, and Marjorie (Kandy) Kane, ex-show-girl, a woman with experience on the runways of the world. Both are possessed of good hearts, honest attitudes and clear, balanced vision. They have seen the best and worst of people. My detective in the other series is a very short, very bright, urban fellow who works with cops and almost never shoots anybody although he’s good with all sorts of weapons. He wears bright red Keds.

Describe your protagonist as a mash-up of three famous people or characters.

Alan has elements of Travis McGee, Marjorie has some reflections of my niece, Theresa and V.I. Warshawski is in there, too.

If you could host a mystery-author dinner party, who are the six writers (living or otherwise) you’d include?

William K Krueger, John Sandford, Wm. Shakespeare, Ellen Hart, Monica Ferris, John D. McDonald

What’s next for you?

My current WIP is a political thriller, about the formation of a new political party, named the Progressive Conservative Party (PCP), a mysterious highly protected government enterprise and strange goings on in North Minneapolis, and murder most foul. This book will engage my detective, Sean NMI Sean, in a deep plunge into tangled and illegal political shenanigans.

At the same time, I’m working on the second about my two protagonists from GRAND LAC. Tentatively called TRACES, this one is focused on the movement of international spies through the transportation systems in Minneapolis and Saint Paul.

How did you get started writing?

I have always been interested in writing and reading—as long as I can recall. As a child I sat beside my mother who would read from her own book, while I read from one I had chosen at the library. In spite of objections from some librarians, as a youngster I read a lot of adult fiction.

What is your favorite/least favorite thing about the writing process?

Sales work.

What do you think makes a good story?

Conflict, questions, tension between people and situations, danger.

How do you incorporate that into your books?

Observation, adaptation, organization, research and good use of language.

How long have you been writing?

My entire life. I was in the seventh grade when I won second prize-50 cents-for a short short Western story. Whenever possible I chose essay test questions in school and got better grades.

What do you know now that you wish you knew when you first started out?

I learn new things and new ideas every day. My critique group, dubbed Crème de la Crime is a constant source of ideas and pointed positive criticism. I wish I’d been a part of them years earlier.

Has that changed the way you write or market your books?

Yes

About the marketing thing—love it, hate it?

I love being at conferences, making appearances, working with my PR firm, doing radio interviews and meeting people. Libraries are fun. Getting there is not half the fun, although when I traveled as a member of Minnesota Crime Wave, traveling was fun. A lot.

If you couldn’t write, what would you do?

Read more.

Tell us a bit about yourself.

I’m old, I’ve done a lot of interesting things, have some interesting and unusual family members. I own two successful daughters of whom I am extremely proud. Associating with my very successful wife and girls has taught me a lot about people and attitudes and equality. I’ve worked as a TV Producer-director, film maker, writer, college faculty and student counselor, all careers that now invade my writing at various times.

Where do you see yourself in five years – this is the time to dream big!

I hope I’m still alive, mobile, writing better crime fiction, still reviewing crime fiction and living as independently as possible.

*****

CBrookins2017Before he became a mystery writer and reviewer, Carl Brookins was a counselor and faculty member at Metropolitan State University in Saint Paul, Minnesota. Brookins and his wife are avid recreational sailors. He is a member of Mystery Writers of America, Sisters in Crime, and Private Eye Writers of America. He can frequently be found touring bookstores and libraries with his companions-in-crime, The Minnesota Crime Wave.

He writes the sailing adventure series featuring Michael Tanner and Mary Whitney. The third novel is Old Silver. His new private investigator series features Sean NMI Sean, a short P.I. The first is titled The Case of the Greedy Lawyers. Brookins received a liberal arts degree from the University of Minnesota and studied for a MA in Communications at Michigan State University.

http://www.carlbrookins.com/

https://www.facebook.com/carl.brookins?fref=ts

@carlbrookins

Buy Grand Lac from Amazon

Buy Reunion from Amazon

 

Interview: Diane A.S. Stuckart

Please welcome Diane A.S. Stuckart, author of Fool’s Moon. Read on to learn all about Diane.

Which books/authors inspired or influenced you the most?

Fools MoonLike most authors, I read voraciously from a young age. Since we were poor, I spent a lot of time at the public library each weekend borrowing all the books I wanted to for free. (Though, sadly, that stack I checked out on Saturday never lasted all the way through the following week.) My favorites in grade school were the Bobbsey Twins, Encyclopedia Brown, as well as the works of Edgar Eager and Zilpha Keatley Snyder. Basically, anything with a mystery and featuring magic or cats (preferably both!) As a teen, I graduated to Phyllis Whitney, Victoria Holt, Mary Stewart, and Barbara Michaels. So you can see that mystery and magic both made an impression on me from the start.

Do you listen to music when you write?

I’m one of the few authors who can’t listen to music while writing. I don’t mind some TV noise drifting through my office door because I can tune it out…though when I’m on a really stressful deadline, I have a mini white noise machine on my desk that I use to block out everything else. On the other hand, when I’m driving and need to do a bit of mental plotting, classical or New Age music helps jumpstart my brain. 

If your latest book were chocolate, what kind would it be and why?

Chocolate-covered cherries! Chocolate for my two black cat sleuths, Brandon Bobtail and Ophelia; the sweet white syrup center for the cats’ white pit bull sidekick, Zuki (short for Azu’car which is Spanish for “sugar”); and the cherry for my human protagonist, Ruby. Besides, I like chocolate-covered cherries…my paternal grandpa used to share a box with me and my siblings when we kids went to visit.

What made you interested in writing this particular story?

Since my previous cat-centric cozy mystery series had been cancelled, much to the dismay of my readers and me, I thought it important to do another feline series. I was also eager to set a story in quirky South Florida, where I’ve lived for more than a dozen years now. And I’d been wanting to add a bit of magic to my next books, so I settled on Tarot, which has been an interest of mine since I was in high school. All these elements came together in the perfect cozy mystery storm that is the Tarot Cats Mysteries!

What themes do you regularly (re)visit in your writing?

Friendship and family tend to be core themes in all my books, along with the notion of being (or learning to be) true to one’s self. My protagonists usually are separated from their birth families by distance. In the course of establishing their new (or simply better) self, they also recreate their absent family unit with friends and even pets. My fond hope is that this gives my readers who are on their own encouragement to do the same for themselves in real life.

*****

About the book:

Two magical tarot cats and their tenderhearted human outwit a cruel criminal in South Florida.

Most days, Ruby Sparks feels like the sign that says Tarot Card Reader Extraordinaire should say Tarot Card Reader Fairly Competent. But as challenging as it is to take care of her half-sister’s new age shop — and her growing menagerie of mystically inclined pets  Ruby never worries that she’s bitten off more than she can chew… until a customer wants her to divine the truth about murder.

When her own life is threatened with a double dose of danger, Ruby begins to wonder if she’s being played for a fool. Luckily, she has Ophelia and Brandon — sibling black cats with a talent for tarot — and a feisty pit bull friend who all lend a paw in collaring the culprit before Ruby finds herself taking her final cat nap.

“Lighthearted and quirky, this will enchant cozy readers and animal lovers.” – Publisher’s Weekly

“…she writes throughout with charm and warmth. Anyone with a pet will enjoy.” – Kirkus

*****

dianestuckartheadshotblackblue3Diane A.S. Stuckart is the New York Times bestselling author of the Black Cat Bookshop
series for Berkley Prime Crime (writing as Ali Brandon). She’s also the author of the
award-winning Leonardo da Vinci historical mystery series. Fool’s Moon (Nov. 8,
Midnight Ink) is her first installment in the Tarot Cats Mystery Series.

Stuckart has written several mystery and fantasy short stories published in various
anthologies from DAW Books and five critically acclaimed historical romances
published by Zebra and Pinnacle Books.

The Texas native has a degree in journalism from the University of Oklahoma, and while a westerner at heart, she migrated to South Florida over a decade ago and now calls herself a Floridian. She is a member of Mystery Writer’s of America, a past board member for the MWA Florida Chapter, and belongs to the Cat Writers Association. Stuckart is married and is a proud caretaker to four dogs and four cats (all but one of them rescues).

For more information on the author, please visit DianeStuckart.com.

CONNECT WITH DIANE A.S. STUCKART
Facebook: /BlackCatMysteries
Twitter: @dianestuckart
Goodreads: https://tinyurl.com/DianeAsStuckart

Death Comes in Through the Kitchen

Today on Mysteristas, I’m excited to interview Teresa Dovelpage, author of Death Comes in Through the Kitchen.

I loved this mystery with its colorful characters, twisty plot, and mouth-watering recipes.

Matt, a San Diego journalist, arrives in Havana to marry his girlfriend, Yarmila, a 24-year-old Cuban woman whom he first met through her food blog. But Yarmi isn’t there to meet him at the airport, and when he hitches a ride to her apartment, he finds her lying dead in the bathtub. The police and secret service have him down as their main suspect, and in an effort to clear his name, he must embark on his own investigation into what really happened. The more Matt learns about his erstwhile fiancée, though, the more he realizes he had no idea who she was at all—but did anyone?9781616958848

Teresa Dovalpage was born in Havana, Cuba. She earned her BA in English literature and an MA in Spanish literature at the University of Havana, and her PhD in Latin American literature at the University of New Mexico. Teresa is the author of twelve other works of fiction and three plays, and is the winner of the Rincón de la Victoria Award and a finalist for the Herralde Award. She lives in New Mexico.

Teresa_Dovalpage

KO: Teresa, welcome to Mysteristas. What was your inspiration for Death Comes in Through the Kitchen?

TD: The initial spark was lit when my mom, who still lives in Cuba, started pestering me about preserving my grandmother’s recipes. My grandma had a culinary repertoire that included many typical Cuban dishes like arroz con pollo (rice and chicken cooked together), picadillo (ground beef with raisins) caldosa, etc., but she always gave a personal twist to them, like adding a bit of honey to the aforementioned rice and chicken dish. I knew that nobody would buy a cookbook written by me (I am not even a good cook, you can ask my husband!) so I added the recipes to a mystery I was writing at that time. In it, I intended to portray a different Cuba, one that didn’t revolve around life in tenements and jineteras, which are the main themes of many Cuban “dirty realism” novels. Here readers see another face of the island: college graduates who speak several languages, enterprising restaurateurs, B&B owners…

KO: What inspired to you to turn to writing crime fiction?

TD: Once I started writing some themes surfaced like challenging people’s preconceived ideas about Cuba—Yarmi doesn’t look like the classic curvaceous Cuban beauty, Havana isn’t at all like Matt imagined it—and exploring the role of women in mysteries and life. Strong female characters like Isabel, Lieutenant Martinez and even Yarmi are mujeres fuertes, fully fleshed and, in my opinion, representative of real Cuban women. I was happy to feature them in my first mystery.

KO: With Yarmi Cooks Cuban and the recipes, the book has familiar cozy elements, but it also deals with some issues that are not so cozy. How did you balance the cozier elements with the difficult issues?

TD: I tried to have un poquito de todo a little bit of everything. In a way, the novel could be used as a travelogue for people who want to visit Cuba but don’t know much about it. I tried to create a realistic setting and believable characters… and I did my research. Among my “sources” was a former Havana police officer now settled in Miami—she was my inspiration for Lieutenant Martinez. She agreed to help me on the condition that I would disguise her in the novel so nobody could recognize her. “And while you are at it, give me a big fondillo like the one I would have liked to have in real life,” she said. I did. I also wanted a gripping plot with the promise of suspense and surprise so I balanced all these elements the best I could.

KO: What is your favorite recipe from Yarmi Cooks Cuban? Can you reproduce the recipe for us?

TD: Of course! This is one of my favorites, la caldosa.

Here is the passage from the book:

It’s about time I devote a post to this nutritive and delicious dish. In case you don’t remember, La Caldosa is also the name of a dear friend’s restaurant, home of the amazing rice and chicken a la Isabel.

Caldosa is a mix of meats and vegetables, boiled together until all the flavors are brought out. Quite simple, though it takes a few hours to “gel.” Therefore, the first step is making sure that you have the whole morning, or afternoon, to spend in the kitchen.

Fill a caldero (the biggest pot you have at home) with water. Boil and add four pounds of pork. Any cut will do, but bones and heads provide a nice consistency. After half an hour, add the chicken: wings, breasts, thighs, and giblets. It doesn’t matter. Again, bones are good.

Simmer for thirty more minutes and add the vegetables: potato, pumpkin, yucca, taro, plantains, cassava, sweet potato, corn… Whatever you have—caldosa is very accepting. Keep boiling. All the tubers are expected to become soft.

Make sure to add water when it gets too low.

In the meantime, take out the pan and fry (in lard, of course, unless you want to be health conscious and use oil) two onions, one chopped garlic, and three bell peppers. Add cumin, oregano, and tomato paste. Let it simmer for a few minutes and pour the mixture into the caldero. Boil for another forty minutes, adding salt and pepper to taste.

A common question: when do you know it is ready?

Answer: when the meat and vegetables are so tender that you don’t need a knife to cut them.

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Caldosa is one of the few Cuban dishes that have its very own song, composed by Rogelio Díaz Castillo and made popular by El Jilguero de Cienfuegos. I have danced to the caldosa rhythm many times!

KO: I loved the effect of hearing Yarmi’s voice from beyond death. The cooking blogs were a great device. Can you tell us about how you developed the character of Yarmi and what is was like trying to write her after she was dead? I must say, I’m sorry we won’t see Yarmi again….or will we?

TD: Yarmi was a key character but since she is dead at the beginning of the book I had to come up with a way to bring her back. Otherwise, why would readers care about her? Then it occurred to me that she should have a food blog—that would explain why she and Matt met online too. (I got the idea one evening when I was baking merenguitos.) I wanted readers to hear her voice and the blog first-person format was perfect for it. And it was important not to make her a total victim…Even in death, Yarmi still has power over Matt and others. I have thought of a prequel, something shorter, maybe a short story. The one who has come back, though, is Lieutenant Martinez. She is the main character in my novella Death by Smartphone, published in serialized form in English and Spanish in The Taos News.

KO: What are you working on now? Are you writing more mysteries? 

TD: I just finished another novel that features Padrino and Lieutenant Martinez. The title is Queen of Bones, a reference to an orisha, an Afro-Cuban deity named Oyá, the guardian of the cemeteries. I am also writing another novel in Spanish with a crime element in it, though not totally a mystery. I am afraid that if I don’t use my language I will end up saying “Voy a lunchear” or “Tengo que comprar groserías.” ¡Qué horror!

Thank you so much for interviewing me!

Thank you, Teresa.

imageforDeathComesinDovalpage

Praise for Death Comes in through the Kitchen

“Dovalpage’s first crime novel is a well-cooked stew of culture and cuisine . . . [A] stunningly unexpected conclusion.”
The Taos News

“[A] dazzling culinary mystery . . . Those expecting a traditional food cozy will be happily surprised.”
Publishers Weekly, Starred Review

“The parade of colorful characters helps Dovalpage paint a vivid portrait of late Castro-era Cuba.”
—Kirkus Reviews

“Don’t let the title and included Cuban recipes mislead you into thinking this is a cozy—this novel shows the gritty side of Cuba.”
—Library Journal

“[Dovalpage] creates a mélange of clashing cultures, multilayered deception, even traditional Cuban recipes, that are both entertainment and a revealing exposé of how a strangled society bypasses laws to survive, and dare to enjoy, daily life.”
—Booklist

“From tantalizing recipes to irresistible scenes of seduction, Death Comes in through the Kitchen provides a sumptuous feast for readers, who will fly through the pages to uncover not only the culprit, but also to discover the true identity of the victim. In her debut crime novel, Teresa Dovalpage delivers her signature sass and bawdy wit, while rendering a bittersweet portrayal of Cuba in the last years of Castro’s reign.”
—Lorraine M. López, author of Homicide Survivors Picnic and Other Stories and The Darling

“You’ve never read a mystery like this one! In Dovalpage’s Cuba, love, murder, food and politics form a deliciously dark and funny stew.”
—Chantel Acevedo, author of The Distant Marvels and The Living Infinite

 

Photo Credit: Chris Turner