Interview: Lucy Burdette

Please welcome Lucy Burdette, author of the Key West mysteries and other works.

What’s your idea of a perfect day?
Mmmm, that’s not so easy, but I’ll try. Let’s say we’re in Key West, ok? We’ll get up and walk Tonka the Australian Shepherd to the Ctoppedchefuban Coffee Queen. There we’ll order a large cafe con leche (with steamed milk and one sugar) and Tonka will get a little piece of ham. Back home, I’ll go to work and whip out five good pages of the new book in under two hours while my husband plays tennis. Oh, and my agent will call to say they’ve gone back for another printing on the first three Key West mysteries.

After pilates class, we’ll pick up chicken burritos and freshly-squeezed limeaid at Bad Boy burrito and bike over the Fort Zachary Taylor Beach to eat it. A few hours spent reading Barbara O’Neal’s new novel, and we’ll head home. Then a quick spin through the Sunset Celebration at Mallory Square to see the Cat Man and his flying house cats perform, and off to dinner. Maybe we’ll choose tapas at Santiago’s Bodega, with a glass of Spanish Albarino? Finally, we’ll catch up on the latest episode of Nashville on TV and hit the hay!

Do you have a signature accessory, color, fragrance, phrase, or meal?
I don’t suppose I should admit to the blue yoga sweatpants…

Excluding family, name three people who either inspired you or influenced your creativity.
I’ve had teachers, Mrs. Covey in fifth grade, Gabriel Asfar in college, and Roger Blashfield in graduate school, who told me I was a good writer. None of us imagined I’d end up writing fiction, but feeling encouraged about writing anything was so important! An aspiring writer hears so many negative voices (and lots in her own head), that hearing positive feedback makes a huge difference.

Do you listen to music when you write?
Oh no! Absolute quiet unless someone is purring…

What made you interested in writing this particular story?
Topped Chef is the third Key West food critic mystery featuring Hayley Snow. She’s starting to settle into her job and her life in Key West, but she’s still a little uncertain about her abilities as a food critic–and her romantic prospects. This story about a reality TV cooking competition explores her growing confidence in her own judgment and her writing. I had a lot of fun exploring how I would show the personalities and tastes of the characters through what they chose to cook and eat!

What themes do you regularly (re)visit in your writing?
In the end, it’s always about family–how important they are, how they can drive you crazy, how they mean more than anything in the world. And food, of course, as a way of showing love and making connections.

Tell us about your main character’s psyche or personality. What led her (or him) to be the person s/he is today?
As the series begins (An Appetite for Murder), Hayley Snow has impulsively followed a man from New Jersey to Key West. He dumps her (of course) but by now she’s fallen in love with the island and will do anything to stay. She starts out the series a little impulsive, but that gives her lots of room to grow. Like her mom, she’s a fabulous cook and foodie, with a great sense of humor.

Describe your protagonist as a mash-up of three famous people or characters.
Off the top of my head, let’s try Diane Mott Davidson’s catering character Goldy for her food and her nose for righting wrongs, Meg Ryan in Sleepless in Seattle for the soft heart and charming dizziness, and a little dash of Julie Powell/Amy Adams in Julie and Julia–for the passion for food and cooking.

If you could host a mystery-author dinner party, who are the six writers (living or otherwise) you’d include?
Last summer, I actually had a dream dinner party with my blog sisters at Jungle Red Writers–Hallie Ephron, Hank Ryan, Julia Spencer-Fleming, Rhys Bowen, Deborah Crombie, and Rosemary Harris. We interact every day online, so it was so much fun to eat and gab together. Although, actually Debs couldn’t be there in person so we dialed her up on Skype and included her that way!

I blog with another group of mystery writers at Mystery Lovers Kitchen–I would LOVE to have dinner with them. The food would be amazing! Krista Davis, Avery Aames, Cleo Coyle, Sheila Connolly, Victoria Abbott, and Peg Cochran.

What’s next for you?
I’m almost finished with Murder with Ganache, which will be out in February 2014. ALL of Hayley’s family has arrived on the island for her best friend’s wedding. Mayhem ensues…I love this story!


Lucy Burdette aka Roberta Isleib is the author of eleven mysteries, including her latest, Topped Chef. Her books and stories have been short-listed for Agatha, Anthony, and Macavity awards. She’s a past president of Sisters in Crime.

Twitter: @lucyburdette


7 thoughts on “Interview: Lucy Burdette”

  1. Wow! What a day! A woman after my own heart: admitting to blue yoga sweatpants. I had a student who was working in the food world and he said it was just too wild for him. You’ve cooked up a great deal of mayhem.


  2. The Cat Man and his flying house cats? Now I need to go to Key West. =)

    Having seen Jungle Reds Family Feud-style (and having shared a meal with Hank), I’m sure that would be quite the memorable and enjoyable experience.


  3. Thank you for the great interview. Tonka is a fabulous name!

    I read the second Key West mystery recently and loved it! The third one has a reality-TV competition? Can’t wait.

    My ever-present yoga pants are black.


  4. One of my favorite authors! So glad you visited us today. I have to admit, I usually don’t enjoy series that focus on food/cooking, but I’m totally smitten with this one. The books don’t come out fast enough, though! I think it’s largely Hayley and the setting, as much as the stories themselves, that I’ve fallen in love with; she’s so likeable and real. I’ve grown quite attached, so thank you for her. And of course, I’m dying to visit Key West now. You’ve built such a rich world with these stories. (My yoga pants were hot pink and VELOUR. . .I’ve retired them, and am searching for a replacement pair now.)


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