Dead Bread, Killer Debutantes, and Peanut Butter Cups: Dishing with Debut Mystery Author Ann Myers
by Susan McBride
Susan: It’s funny to look back and realize I’ve been writing mysteries of one kind or another for 16 years, so I’m the grizzled veteran in this conversation. It definitely doesn’t feel like 11 years has gone by since Blue Blood came out, introducing my nutty mother-daughter duo of Andy and Cissy Kendricks to mystery readers. But it’s fun to be back with these characters after a brief (um, seven-year) hiatus, and it’s even more fun to get to chat with fellow HC/Avon author and true newbie Ann Myers about Bread of the Dead, the first of her new Santa Fe Café Mystery series. Not only do Ann and I share a publishing house, but we share a literary agent, and a pub date. Both Bread of the Dead and Say Yes to the Death have the same release date (September 29, 2015). I think we’re publishing twins separated at birth.
Susan: Okay, Ann, why mysteries? Did you feel the urge to kill somebody?
Ann: I’ve been driving around doing errands and pondering whether I want to kill. Almost definite answer: No, although I have wished for a blameless act of nature to take care of an obscenity-shouting former neighbor. My mother always says that she’d like to discover a body. Maybe I take after her in that. My main character stumbles on a lot of bodies, and I wouldn’t mind finding obscenity guy…. And you? You must have killed a lot of people in your books by now. What inspired the first one?
Susan: Ha! Yeah, I guess “a lot” is probably accurate, although committing fictional crime is very neat and clean. Heck, I scream when I see a spider (isn’t that what husbands are for?). In the beginning, there was Blue Blood, the first of my Deb Dropout series, in which I killed the owner of a restaurant called Jugs. I guess I’d gotten a little tired of hearing that guys went to places like that just for the chicken wings. (Um, not!) I find writing very cathartic! It’s my version of therapy.
Ann: I love that you killed off the owner of Jugs. Great therapy! As you say, clean and neat on paper and a lot less scary than spiders.
Susan: I’ll say! Tell me about Bread of the Dead and the inspiration behind your mystery debut?
Ann: Mmm…the inspiration behind Bread of the Dead… I knew I wanted to set a culinary mystery in Santa Fe, which I love and visit a lot for my husband’s work. I also love to bake, especially breads and holiday recipes. Pan de muerto (bread of the dead) has such a great name and is made for Day of the Dead—a perfect holiday for a mystery. It’s also really tasty, like a brioche you can shape in the form of a skull and coat in sugar.
I see there’s a baker in Say Yes to the Death (fabulous title!) and a dead wedding planner. I’m sure you don’t want to name names, but are there any real-life wedding stories behind this book?
Susan: Not sure about real-life stories—at least none that happened to me at my wedding, and I did all the planning so I’m glad no wedding planners were in jeopardy—but I had heard various tales about awful MOBs (mothers of the bride) from a good friend who is a wedding planner and also from watching reality shows about weddings (including “Say Yes to the Dress”—I love that one!). One I just had to use involved a bride getting stuck in a bathroom wearing a Scarlett O’Hara-inspired gown with hoops. Needless to say, I will not be acting that scene out at any book conventions.
So, who’s the protagonist of your new series? And is she anything like you?
Ann: Rita Lafitte is a Midwest transplant to Santa Fe, New Mexico. She’s a single mom to a teenager daughter, a chef at Tres Amigas Café, and a reluctant sleuth. I’m afraid we share some traits, like weaknesses for Frito pie and cookies, and neither of us can dance or stay on a diet. I, however, would never dare chase after killers.
Susan: I hear ya!
Ann: How did you come up with Andy Kendricks, the Debutante Dropout? Is she based on anyone in particular?
Susan: Andy was inspired by my time as a sorority pledge at UT-Austin. I was in the company of a lot of privileged young women from Texas who were debutantes-in-training. They would practice their Texas Dips—the nose-to-the-floor curtsy that Texas debs must learn to do—and I would feel like the “one of these things is not like the other” in the old Sesame Street song. I wanted to write about a girl who grew up with a silver spoon, but felt much more comfortable with stainless steel. Andy is the anti-debutante who refused to debut when she was eighteen, much to her mother’s dismay. Oh, yes, I gave her a dyed-in-the-wool Chanel-wearing blue blood mother just to balance things out. They are a fun pair to write about, and I think anyone with a daughter or a mother will relate. ;-)
What’s next for you, Ann? More of Rita?
Ann: I hope to continue with the Santa Fe Café Mysteries. I just finished book three of the series, Feliz Navidead, and have lots of mysteries (and recipes!) I’d love for Rita and her friends to tackle. And then there’s Rita’s developing relationship with hunky lawyer Jake Strong. She started off as a reluctant dater, but how can she resist a man with shiny cowboy boots?
Ann: I see you’re writing another River Road Mystery—yay! Is another Debutante Dropout in the works too?
Susan: I’m working on the fourth “Helen” book now (well, I’ve started it anyway!). It’s called Come Helen High Water and should be out next year. I haven’t thought about another Debutante Dropout book, but you never know. I’m just amazed still that Andy and Cissy are back in Say Yes to the Death after a seven-year vacation. This is one crazy business, full of twists and turns, kind of like the mysteries we like to write and read. Speaking of reading, what’s on the top of your TBR pile? Something scary?
Ann: Hamish Macbeth mysteries and a lot of them. I’m binge painting almost all the walls in our house and listening to Hamish audiobooks while I work. I’ve gotten so caught up with the series that I’m reading them on my Kindle too. It’s hot, sunny, and dry in Colorado right now and lovely to imagine Scottish fog and cold, bleak moors.
Susan: Cold and bleak makes me think of Halloween! So let’s jump to a very important question: Snickers bars or Reese's Peanut Butter Cups? Then I'll know whether or not to ring your doorbell and say, “Trick or treat!”
Ann: Ah, easy one: Peanut Butter Cups! Hands down. How about you?
Susan: I’m torn between two candies and feelin’ like a fool. (Seriously, I’m a Libra. I like to keep it balanced.) I always buy more than we’ll need of both to give away just so I can keep the leftovers. Are you dressing up to answer the door? Or do you turn off the porch light and hide until it's all over?
Ann: I shouldn’t admit this, having written a Halloween book: I hide! There are all sorts of rationales, like the years I’ve been home alone and worried about opening the door to potential ax murderers, or apartments with coded entries, but excuses aside, I’ll probably still hide. However, I might reconsider if it means I could stock up on those Peanut Butter Cups you mentioned…
Susan McBride is the USA Today bestselling, Lefty Award winning, Anthony Award nominated author of Blue Blood and the Debutante Dropout Mysteries from HarperCollins. Say Yes to the Death is the sixth in the series. Susan also writes the bestselling River Road Mysteries for HC/Avon, including To Helen Back, Mad as Helen, and Not A Chance in Helen. A fourth in that series, Come Helen High Water, will be out in 2016. Visit Susan's web site at susanmcbride.com or facebook.com/susanmcbridebooks for more scoop on Susan and her books.
Ann Myers lives in Colorado but, like her main character Rita, feels most at home in Santa Fe. Bread of the Dead is the first in her Santa Fe Café Mystery series, to be followed by more holiday murders in Cinco de Mayhem (spring 2016) and Feliz Navidead (fall 2016). Follow Ann’s Southwestern cooking and writing adventures at www.facebook.com/AnnMyers.writer and www.annmyersbooks.com/.