Interview: Shawn Reilly Simmons

Please welcome Shawn Reilly Simmons, author of the Red Carpet Catering Mysteries.

What’s your idea of a perfect day?
I’m lucky that most of my days are pretty great. My routine is to get up at 5 and write until 7:30, then I get my son up for breakfast and get him to school. After that I go for a run or get a workout in at the gym, and then I’m back at my desk working on revisions, editing, Malice, or different tasks related to the anthologies I’m involved with. Then school is out, everyone is home and I’m making dinner, which is one of my favorite times of the day. I really try to save those quiet morning hours just for writing. The rest of the day gets busy and it’s easy to get distracted.

That’s a workday. If I’m on vacation, the perfect day is sitting on the beach with a book in one hand and a margarita in the other.

MURDER DESIGNER DIET front smDo you have a signature accessory, color, fragrance, phrase/expression, or meal?
My signature meal is one of my family’s favorites: Maryland crab cakes, roasted potatoes, and corn roasted in the husk, all done on the grill. It’s a definite crowd-pleaser. I make my own herb butter for the corn and sriracha mayo for the crab cakes.

Which books/authors inspired or influenced you the most?
I’ve been a fan of Stephen King for a very long time, since around the age of 12. I was probably a bit young for the subject matter, and I remember my mom having to give permission for me to borrow his books from the library. She signed me up for an adult library card at a very young age and told me to check out whatever I wanted.

Do you listen to music when you write?
Not while I’m writing, unless I’m at a coffee shop. I can tune it out there but not at home. Most other times we have music on at the house, while we’re cooking or hanging out on the patio.

If your latest book were chocolate, what kind would it be and why?
It would be dark chocolate, because that’s the best one for you with all of its health benefits and antioxidants. And you can eat it while still being on a diet.

What made you interested in writing this particular story?
I wanted to set a book in New York City because I lived and worked there for many years right after college. The city always fascinates me because it’s so big, and it literally has everything you can think of to do, or eat, or see at any time of the day or night. But while all of that is going on, you can also feel isolated surrounded by all of that humanity, depending on where you are in your life. It’s easy to get lost in the stream of people. It’s a perfect place to become anonymous, or to start over. To me that makes it very unique and I wanted to touch on some of that in the book.

What themes do you regularly (re)visit in your writing?
I’m always fascinated with the past, and what impact it has on present day. I think it’s because we moved several times while I was growing up and I’d be the new kid, having to make new friends. Part of being the new kid is not immediately realizing the deeper connections that run through a particular place. You’re coming in fresh, not immediately understanding the conflicts, connections, or rivalries people may have. Navigating that can be challenging while trying to find your footing in a new school or town.

Tell us about your main character.
Penelope Sutherland is Chef-Owner of Red Carpet Catering, an on-set movie catering company. She’s a strong, confident young woman, and a hard worker, who is very loyal to her friends and employees.

Describe your protagonist as a mash-up of three famous people or characters.
Penelope is a mash-up of Julia Child, Stephanie Plum & Jennifer Lawrence

If you could host a mystery-author dinner party, who are the six writers (living or otherwise) you’d include?
Louise Penny, Sue Grafton, Catrionia McPherson, Hank Phillippi Ryan, Laura Lippmann & Elizabeth George. They’re all brilliant and the conversation would be lively!

What’s next for you?
I’m working on the fourth book in the Red Carpet Catering series, which will be published in March 2017. I’m also editing two mystery anthologies: Windward, The 14th annual Best New England Crime Stories, to be published in November, and Mystery Most Historical, the 12th Malice Domestic Anthology, which will be released at Malice 29 in 2017.


Shawn Reilly Simmons is the author of the Red Carpet Catering Mysteries, which are inspired by her experiences as an on-set movie caterer. She is on the Board of Malice Domestic, a founding member of The Dames of Detection, and co-editor at Level Best Books. Her short story “A Gathering of Great Detectives” appears in the newest Malice Anthology and her third book, Murder on a Designer Diet, released on June 7, 2016.



11 thoughts on “Interview: Shawn Reilly Simmons”

  1. I’m really impressed with people who can get up that early to write. I’m dead asleep at 5:30 and if I had to get up, I’m certainly not coherent enough to write! And can you come cook for me?


  2. Thanks so much for the glimpse into your idyllic life. Congratulations on the success of your series! And thank you for your service to Malice Domestic. It’s a magical thing.


  3. Welcome, Shawn! Your series sounds so fun, and I love what you say about NYC being the perfect place to be anonymous. Definitely adding to my TBR list!! 🙂


  4. Thank you all so much! Kait–I hope you enjoy! Mary–I was never a morning person, especially when I lived in NYC and was definitely a nightlife lover. It took a while, but now that’s my new normal. I wish I could cook for all of you…someday at Malice maybe, if I can somehow work that out LOL.


  5. Wow, that description of how you can feel so isolated in a big city is on point. I’ve always thought that ironic. Love this interview, Shawn! And love your series. And yes, thank you for ALL you do re: Malice! ❤


  6. I love the cover of this book and I’m now hankering for seafood. I love your point about feeling isolated in a big city. So astute.


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