Today we’re please as punch to welcome cozy mystery writer Amy Pershing! We ask our usual and customary questions to see what we might find out from this charming author.
What drives your story forward in your books the most, the characters or the plot, or do you feel they are intertwined?
Definitely, the characters. Honestly, as much as I admire intricate mysteries (and mine are very twisty!), the ones I love are always the ones in which the characters are fully rounded, smart and funny. They’re not perfect, but they’re definitely doing the best they can.
For instance, my main character, Samantha Barnes, is a disgraced ex-chef (think highly embarrassing YouTube video) who retreats home to Cape Cod where she finds herself juggling a new job as the local paper’s “Cape Cod Foodie,” a complicated love life, a posse of just-slightly-odd friends, a falling-down house, a ginormous puppy and a propensity for falling over dead bodies. Sam is definitely not perfect. But she is also definitely doing the best she can.
In truth, if as an author you have characters like that in your books, they drive the bus (or my bus anyway). I would never do what my heroine, Sam, does. She is everything I’m not: tall (really tall, like, over-six-feet-tall kind of tall), brave (wait until you see her face down the Santa slayer), and snarky (I am boringly polite). So I even though I put her into the scenes that I’ve outlined before I start writing, I really don’t know what Sam’s going to do or say until she does it.
If you were a character in one of your books, which would you be? The protagonist, mentor, villain, love interest, etc.?
I’d like to be Helene Greenberg, Sam’s librarian friend, next-door neighbor and confidant—or mentor, if you like. After six decades on the planet—twenty five years of them spent as a legal psychologist with the Manhattan DA’s office—Helene has a certain wisdom (including a deep and cynical knowledge of human nature) that I very much admire. I also admire her style. This 60-ish libarian is like no librarian you ever met, with her mane of curly silver hair that she doesn’t even try to tame and a penchant for t-shirts that say things like “Don’t judge my journey.” When I grow up (if I ever grow up), I want to be just like Helene.
If you had the power to make any of your books into a film, which would it be and why?
Definitely An Eggnog to Die For. I mean, it has everything:
1) Christmas in a charming small town on Cape Cod: “There was something magical about a small New England town like Fair Harbor over the holidays. Pine garlands looped along white wooden fences, candles shining in the windows of four-square captain’s houses, wreaths with big red bows on the front doors of modest Capes, little wreaths with smaller bows on the dormer windows—it never changed, and it never failed to lift my heart.”
2) A very dead Santa in a very hip restaurant: “Sprawled on the worn linoleum, one hand still clutching a manila file folder, lay the Santa with a nose like a potato, his head neatly caved in at the temple.
Aghast, I stood and stumbled back to the front room, where the Martin groupie was still filming. I gripped the edge of the bar to keep my legs from folding underneath me like a rickety lawn chair.
“It’s Santa Claus,” I stammered with my usual eloquence. “Santa Claus is dead.”
3) The world’s hunkiest harbormaster: “Oh Lordy, would you look at what Santa brought me,” he said as I opened to door to him and pulled him inside.
The man was looking pretty yummy himself. He was wearing a soft gray-and-white tweed blazer over a black button-down shirt open at the collar and new black jeans that fit him only too well. His thick, wavy hair had recently seen the ministrations of a barber, but one lock was still insisting on falling enchantingly over his brow. And then I stopped staring at him and closed my eyes.
Because Jason Captiva was kissing me.
Need I say more?
Is there a particular genre of fiction that you have always wanted to write, but haven’t yet tackled?
Nope. I am hopelessly in love with the mystery genre.
If you could meet a literary character or author, who would you most like to meet?
Sue Grafton’s wonderful PI, Kinsey Millhone. I’ve read and re-read every one of the Kinsey Millhone books from A is for Alibi to Y is for Yesterday. I was so sad when we lost Ms. Grafton (and Kinsey) a few years ago, and I almost cried when her daughter said that for her family, “the alphabet now ends at Y.”
As with the rest of us, you have a real life to live. So, in your most recent book, what was happening in your life and how did it influence your writing?
What was happening in my life while I was writing An Eggnog to Die For is what was happening to all of us: I was struggling with a world and a life suddenly on lockdown because of the fearful Covid pandemic. And honestly, it was such a joy to escape into a fictional world where the biggest concern was which eggnog recipe to choose for Christmas Eve that, if anything, my writing grew even more lyrical, more appreciative of the small joys, like dinner with friends and family, that we were all missing so very much.
Was there something in your first edit that didn’t make it in the final copy that you sometimes wish you would have kept?
I have learned through experience that if my wonderful agent or my wonderful editor suggests a deletion, THEY ARE ALWAYS RIGHT. As Stephen King so famously advised in On Writing: “Kill your darlings, kill your darlings, even when it breaks your egocentric little scribbler’s heart, kill your darlings.”
What do you do to prepare your mind to write? To get into the mind of your characters.
I usually wake up in the early hours of the morning and simply allow my mind to float over what I might be writing that day. You would be amazed at what rises to the surface.
What book as a child/adolescent most influenced you as a writer?
I will never forget reading Louise Fitzhugh’s Harriet the Spy when I was ten. I loved everything about Harriet—her blue jeans rolled up at the cuff, her glasses, her classic black and white notebook in which she wrote down everything she saw and heard around her. I remember thinking, “Maybe if I did that, maybe I could figure out why people do the things they do.” (I was a very clueless kid!)
How much research went into your last book?
I write murder mysteries. Which means that for every book, I do extensive research on how to murder people. (It’s a nasty job, but someone has to do it.) Also, since I came up with a rather novel approach to murder in An Eggnog to Die For, I had to do even more research to be sure that what I was proposing was even possible. I truly hope nobody ever goes through my search history on that one.
What’s one of the most important things you’d like your readers to know about you? What defines you most as an author?
I am, and have been since I was a child, an indefatigable fan of the traditional murder mystery. I have read thousands of them over the course of my life. I consider the masters like Agatha Christie, Dorothy Sayers, Sue Grafton, and Louise Penny, to name only a few, to be my mentors. If I can even begin to approach their mastery of craft, their understanding of the human condition and their skill as writers, I will consider myself their worthy disciple.
What is one thing about you that may surprise your readers?
I’m really only a so-so cook, at least in my own estimation (others have been more complimentary). But I love reading about food (I read cookbooks, for Pete’s sake!), and researching food and cooking food (so-so is just fine by He Who Must Be Fed) and, most of all, eating food. Especially with friends!
Can you tell us what prompted you to write your latest release?
My publisher prompted me to write my latest release. And I always do what my publisher prompts (wink, wink).
What’s next for you? What are you working on now?
It’s less what’s next for me than what’s next for Sam. The poor dear has no idea what she’s getting into. Next summer’s Murder is No Picnic starts out nice—the discovery of the World’s Best Blueberry Buckle, plans for a Fourth of July clambake, a search for the Cape’s best lobster roll—then moves into murder by arson and finally ends up with a hair-raising rescue at sea that I’m not going to spring on Sam until the very last minute…
Thanks so much for joining us, Amy! Your answers are so fun and give us a little peek into the mind of a cozy mystery author. 🙂
Cape Cod Foodie Mystery: Book 2
Publication Date: November 2, 2021
Christmas has come to Fair Harbor, but when the town’s Santa is murdered, it will be up to Sam Barnes to find a killer in this newest installment of the Cape Cod Foodie Mysteries.
It’s Santa Claus, she says tonelessly. Santa Claus is dead.
Food writer Sam Barnes wants a lot of things: a quiet Christmas at home with her dog and the town’s handsome harbormaster, to never be in a viral video again, and to stop finding dead bodies. Unfortunately for Sam, her parents are coming to visit, she’s often around cameras for work, and she just found the town Santa dead in the storage room of the cocktail bar she was profiling.
Although she was only interviewing the owners of the Ginger Jar in hopes of getting the recipe for their Coquito Eggnog cocktail for the friends and family Christmas Eve dinner she’s hosting, Sam quickly finds herself taking on the role of investigator once again. She needs to find out who slayed this Santa–but with holiday stress already building, will Sam be able to pull off a perfect feast and nab a killer?
In the immortal words of Julia Child, “People who love to eat are always the best people,” so I’m delighted to meet you! I’m Amy Pershing, the author of the Cape Cod Foodie Mysteries and a pretty dedicated foodie myself!
I’m also an unapologetic cheerleader for Cape Cod, where I spent every summer of my childhood sailing, swimming, and never, as far as I can remember, putting on a pair of shoes from June to September. It was paradise. It still is.
As a lifelong mystery lover and wordsmith, I’ve been an editor, a restaurant reviewer and a journalist before leading employee communications at a global bank. A few years ago (with the final college tuition bill paid!), I waved goodbye to Wall Street to write full time (and spend more time sailing on the Cape!). A Side of Murder, the first of the Cape Cod Foodie mysteries, is my first novel.
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November 2 – I’m All About Books – SPOTLIGHT
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November 4 – Mysteries with Character – GUEST POST
November 4 – Maureen’s Musings – SPOTLIGHT
November 5 – Cozy Up With Kathy – REVIEW
November 5 – The Avid Reader – REVIEW
November 6 – Books a Plenty Book Reviews – REVIEW
November 6 – Reading, Writing & Stitch-Metic – RECIPE POST
November 7 – Laura’s Interests – CHARACTER GUEST POST
November 8 – Brooke Blogs – SPOTLIGHT
November 8 – Reading Is My SuperPower – REVIEW
November 9 – Literary Gold – AUTHOR INTERVIEW
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November 10 – Sapphyria’s Book Reviews – SPOTLIGHT
November 11 – Ascroft, eh? – CHARACTER INTERVIEW
November 12 – Celticlady’s Reviews – SPOTLIGHT
November 12 – Mochas, Mysteries and Meows – CHARACTER INTERVIEW
November 13 – My Reading Journeys – REVIEW
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November 15 – Melina’s Book Blog – REVIEW
November 15 – BookishKelly2020 – SPOTLIGHT