By Brian Knight
When Lucky Jamieson inherits her parents’ soup shop, By the Spoonful, she realizes it’s time to take stock of her life. Does she really want to run a restaurant? But her life decisions are moved to the back burner when an icy blonde tourist is found frozen to death behind the soup shop and her chef is arrested. The only way she can save her employee and her business is to find out herself who iced the tourist.
Connie Archer’s new novel, A SPOONFUL OF MURDER, from Berkley Prime Crime, has just been released and is now a national bestseller. She was kind enough to answer some questions about her cozy mystery story.
Welcome Connie, and thanks for spending some time with us.
Thank you for this opportunity! I’m excited to be contributing, especially in such fabulous company.
Tell us a bit about your new mystery, A SPOONFUL OF MURDER.
A SPOONFUL OF MURDER is the first in a new series that revolves around a soup shop in the mythical town of Snowflake, Vermont. Lucky Jamieson, a young woman just six years out of college, and at a dead end in her career path, learns that her parents have been killed in an icy car crash. Devastated, and at a terrible crossroads in life, she returns home and must decide if she will take over her parents’ business, the By the Spoonful Soup Shop. Her grandfather Jack, a Navy veteran who tells time by the bells, has been handling the restaurant with the help of a talented chef and two young waitresses. But Jack is elderly and Lucky is very worried because he is starting to display symptoms of dementia. The trouble starts when a mysterious, attractive woman is found bludgeoned and frozen to death behind the Spoonful. Lucky’s chef had a dark history with the murder victim. When he is arrested for the crime, Lucky realizes she’ll have to make it her business to uncover some town secrets and expose the murderer herself.
I love your synopsis for A SPOONFUL OF MURDER. It sounds like great fun. I bet you had a great time writing it.
Yes, it was a lot of fun. I grew up in New England but haven’t lived there for a long time. So creating an idyllic Vermont town with all its classic and peculiar characters was almost like a trip home. Of course, Snowflake has a dark side too – after all there’s a murder (or more) in each book.
Starting a new series is always a daunting, but exciting prospect. Are you looking forward to spending a few years of serious quality time with Lucky Jamieson?
That would certainly be rewarding. The inhabitants of Snowflake are real to me now, and hopefully will be just as real to readers.
Tell us a bit about your past work.
A SPOONFUL OF MURDER is my first published book. I have another series set on the opposite coast and quite different in tone. Hopefully, those books will find a good home soon. I’ve written a few short stories, mostly for fun or for submission to contests, but haven’t thought about trying to publish them. I’ve been much too busy with this series. For some reason, all my short stories seem to fall into the category of horror. I’m not sure what that’s about but maybe I’ll have time to revisit them soon.
How do you feel A SPOONFUL OF MURDER compares with your past work?
This is a very cozy series, and I had actually never tried my hand at anything quite like this before. With A SPOONFUL OF MURDER I felt the right approach was to take a little more time setting up the town and its residents. I wanted to allow the characters room to breathe and display some level of emotional depth, at least until the discovery of the murder.
What were some of your greatest challenges working on A SPOONFUL OF MURDER?
I think of this type of setting as a “village mystery” a la Miss Marple and St. Mary Mead. Even though Miss Marple often travelled, she always found herself in the midst of a murder investigation. When a protagonist is an amateur sleuth, the writer must find a way to up the stakes in order to involve that protagonist in the solution of the mystery. After all, no amateur sleuth is ever called to the scene of the crime like a homicide detective. I tried as much as possible to exclude mention of computers, high tech forensics or police procedure. The less the modern world intrudes on the village, the better. The crime and its consequences should be revealed through the psychological makeup and motives of the characters.
In addition, the soup shop series falls into the sub-genre of “culinary mysteries” — a new experience for me. I am not the greatest cook in the world by any stretch, but fortunately, I’ve always been a big soup maker, so that was a plus. I invented recipes as I went along.
Tell us a bit about your writing process? Any rituals or unbreakable habits?
I really envy people who can work in their pajamas and fuzzy slippers. I never thought I had any sort of ritual until I realized I couldn’t start working until I was completely dressed, with makeup, hair combed and everything, as if I were just about to step out the door. Somehow, for me at any rate, this was part of the discipline of settling down to work. Okay, I’m ready now. I can do this. I also get horribly, insatiably hungry after an hour or so at the computer. So I fool my appetite with bundles of celery stalks. I can crunch away and keep working and not kick myself later for polishing off that box of chocolate bonbons. That, and lots of coffee.
Who are your influences?
I don’t know if I can point to just a few influences. There are so many writers I admire – past and present. I think as writers we are influenced by every book we’ve read and loved. For this series I found myself drawing upon memories of reading Agatha Christie and Simon Brett. I’ve devoured the books of Dorothy Sayers, Henning Mankel, Sue Grafton, John Le Carré, Nicholas Freeling, Denise Mina, Alan Bradley, to name just a few that pop into my mind immediately. There are so many more I can’t wait to read – too many to mention. More than anything I love thrillers and any mystery I can sink into and any protagonist I can travel along with, especially to an exotic locale.
Do you have anything new and exciting in the pipeline you can talk about?
A BROTH OF BETRAYAL is the second book in the soup shop series. Its plot is more complicated and the body count a little higher. I’m currently in the last stages of working on the third book in this series, as yet untitled.
Thanks for talking to me, Connie. Best of luck with A SPOONFUL OF MURDER.
“Snow in Vermont, soup, and murder. What could be more cozy?” — Julie Hyzy, national bestselling author of the White House Chef mysteries.
Connie Archer is the national bestselling author of the soup lover’s mystery series set in Snowflake, Vermont. SPOONFUL OF MURDER, the first in this series from Berkley Prime Crime was released on August 7, 2012.
Connie was born and raised in New England. She now lives on the other coast.
To learn more, please visit her website.