Today I'm delighted to welcome my friend and fellow-Darkstroke author Jessica Thompson, whose new novel A Caterer's Guide to Holidays and Homicide is published today.
Welcome to Broad Thoughts, Jessica. What prompted you to first start writing? What was the first thing you wrote?
It sounds so silly now, but the first thing I sat down to write as "a writer" was my first book, A Caterer's Guide to Love and Murder. I did so after reading a really disappointing culinary cozy mystery. I thought, "If THAT can get published, then so can I!"
Can you summarise your latest work in just a few words?
A Caterer's Guide to Holidays and Homicide is a holiday-flavored sequel to my first book. Violet and her husband are acting as personal chefs on their friend's vacation. But then, they get snowed in and someone dies! *GASP*
What was the inspiration for this book?
When I went to college in Utah, there was this big mountain house that used to be owned by a wealthy family but had since been donated to the college. I think I was largely inspired by that real-life building, so it's pretty accurate in the book - indoor treehouse and everything!
I have also been snowed in for about a week, twice. Both times it was an ever-present thought that if anything went wrong, even a little, we would be in huge trouble.
Did you do any research for the book?
I won't name the mountain house because last time I was there I hopped the fence and snuck around to make sure I had the setting description just right. Twice when someone came by on an ATV I dived into the bushes to hide!
I also brushed up on my knowledge of plant poisons. At college I was a horticulture major. I already thought I might use Taxus cuspidata (or Yew) in the book because it looks Christmassy and is poisonous, but I knew I had to when I looked up how very poisonous it is and saw it next to the front door at the read-life lodge!
How do you decide on the names for your characters?
Mostly the names are ones that I like but couldn't use for my own children, like Violet or Mercedes, but sometimes the are names that remind me of the people that the character is modeled on - such as Jake for the character who looks like my husband Nate, or Gayle for the character who looks like Oprah.
Do you plot your novels in advance, or allow them to develop as you write?
Oh, I'm a plotter, all the way! I don't know how a person could write a mystery without plotting. Well, I couldn't. Even with plotting, there are things that I think of towards the end of the book that I have to go back and "plant the seeds" for.
Which writers have influenced your own writing?
I love Agatha Christie and have almost finished reading all of her novels (it's been quite the project), but there are also several contemporary cozy mystery authors that I love, like Josi Kilpack and Ellie Alexander.
What has been the best part of the writing process - and the worst?
I love the plotting and the first draft, but I'm not a fan of the editing. But marketing might actually be the worst. To have to sell yourself and your creations is a strangely arrogant and presumptuous act. Especially for something that is not technically needed, but is entertainment. It’s a weird feeling.
Is there a message for the reader?
Maybe, just don’t take this too seriously. It’s for fun!
Do you have any advice for new writers?
My advice would be to reach out to other authors. For a long time I thought I could be a closet writer and no one needed to know that I was writing, but that doesn’t work. It takes a village to get a book into print. And you don’t need to be scared to start making those connections! Everyone in the writing community is so generous with their time, and willing to help and make friends. It’s wonderful!
What can we expect from you in the future?
I have at least one more Violet book in the works. I'm thinking a prequel. I always planned to go back and write some of the early story between Violet and Jake, and I think I am finally ready.
I'm also working on something that's not as cozy. Shoot Shovel and Shut Up will be my classic-style mystery that doesn't have recipes but is instead a retelling of an Agatha Christie novel, but set on a Texan family cattle ranch.
That sounds intriguing! Thank you for visiting me today, Jessica, and good luck with the new book!
MORE ABOUT THE BOOK:
Deck the halls...with a personal chef, a snowed-in lodge, and a sprinkling of murder!
"Watch the knives!"
While acting as personal chef for a friend's mountain retreat, Violet and her husband Jake must set aside their stress over infertility and create a magical and delicious holiday - until tragedy crashes the party.
Being snowed in and unreachable from town, Violet and Jake end up hired for a different kind of job: finding out which of the guests committed murder, and why they're trying to frame their hostess. Violet must find a balance between following her gut and keeping it all under control until the police can reach them, while still managing the kitchen. But can she sniff out the killer before anyone else bites the big one?
A Caterer's Guide to Holidays and Homicide will give you a culinary holiday you won't forget! To order your copy, click here.
When Jessica discovered mystery novels with recipes, she knew she had found her niche.
Jessica is now the author of the Amazon bestselling culinary cozy mystery A Caterer's Guide to Love and Murder, with the second book of the series - A Caterer's Guide to Holidays and Homicide - now available. She is active in her local writing community, and is a member of the Writers' League of Texas and the Storymakers Guild. She received a Bachelor's degree in Horticulture from Brigham Young University but has always enjoyed writing and reading mysteries.
As an avid home chef and food science geek, Jessica has won cooking competitions and been featured in the online Taste of Home recipe collection. She also tends to be the go-to source for recipes, taste-testing and food advice among her peers.
Jessica is originally from California, but has now adopted the lifestyle of Austin, Texas. She enjoys living in the suburbs with her husband and young children, but also enjoys helping her parents with their nearby longhorn cattle ranch.