We were thrilled to find out that Roberta will be writing a new mystery series featuring a food critic and set in glamorous, sunny Key West. The first in the series (from NAL) is A TASTE FOR MURDER. Roberta will be writing under a new pen name, Lucy Burdette, but here at Jungle Red, we're still going to be calling her Roberta.
JAN: You've written mysteries with protagonists who were golf
pros, advice columnist/psychologist, and now food critic. How do you
go about learning the occupation of your main character and how does
that play into their personalities and/or sleuthing.
ROBERTA: The golf lover's series came at a time when I was deeply
obsessed with golf. I knew how to play, though certainly not at
the level of a professional, and was familiar with what happens to a
neurotic personality under the stress of competition! To get ready to
write about Cassie, I read a lot about pro women golfers, watched
tournaments, and even played with two pros in a tournament. So much
The advice column series featured a clinical psychologist and this
character was actually much closer to home for me. I gave her a
private practice very similar to the one I had and placed her in New
Haven, CT, which is very familiar to me. the advice column stuff I
simply made up...
Now this new series is something different--the first time a publisher
has suggested a character's occupation. I probably wouldn't have
thought of writing about a food critic, but I love to eat, cook, and
read and write about food, so why not give a try? I've been reading
memoirs by retired New York Times food critics (Born Round by Frank
Bruni and Garlic and Sapphires by Ruth Reichl) and other food writers
like Kim Severson (Spoon Fed.) And most luckily, the Key West Literary
Seminar in January is focused on food writing this year. So I'll get
to hear and learn from all kinds of well known food writers, including
the two critics I mentioned. I'm so excited!
JAN: I love Key West, but tell everyone else, why it makes such a
ROBERTA: Key West is a gorgeous tropical island at the very tip of
the Florida keys, just 90 miles from Cuba. Tolerance of differences
seems to be higher here at the end of the earth, so KW attracts a
fascinating mix of people--artistic types, wealthy, homeless, gay,
straight, you name it. It has a kind of Caribbean island mentality,
while maintaining the advantages of being in the US. The police and
the town struggle to balance welcoming tourists and taking care of
actual residents. And the foodie scene is terrific!
JAN: Tell us about your new protagonist, Hayley Snow -- is she native to Key West, an import??And how does either one of those factor into her personality or her
ROBERTA: She has just arrived on the island and fallen in love with
the place. As the book opens, the boyfriend she moved to be with has
dumped her. She can afford to stay only if she lands the food critic
position at the new Key Zest style magazine. Jan, I'm realizing as I
think about your question that I have so much left to find out about
this new character...
JAN: I know that you are a enthusiastic cook -- does that factor into your development of Hayley. Will you be sharing your recipes??
ROBERTA: Hayley's a great cook--she learned that from her mother. Her critical streak comes from her father. I loved having my character Rebecca Butterman think about problems while she cooked, and feed people both physically and emotionally (including herself!). So I'm delighted to have the chance to write another character for whom food and eating are important and pleasurable. I have no idea whether the
publisher will want recipes in the book, but I can definitely picture sharing some on a new blog. It's going to be a challenge to figure out how to promote this series under a brand new name--and a challenge to answer to "Lucy"!
JAN: Please feel free to ask Lucy more about Key West, cooking or her new series!!