JULIA SPENCER-FLEMING: In much of the country, it's still cold, wet and wintry, but if you're one of the the 2.5 million couples tying the knot this year, you know it's practically June already - how's your to-do list? Weddings are such a near-universal experience - if you don't get hitched yourself, you've almost certainly been a guest or a member of the bridal party. It's no wonder wedding cozies have proven so popular. Readers are able to enjoy the drama, pageantry, romance and food without having to get dressed up or drop $$$ on an Omega 8006 juicer.
Maggie McConnon (you may have enjoyed her writing as Maggie Barbieri) and Marla Cooper join us today as art of their 'Weddings to Die For' tour. So pour yourself a glass of champagne, pick the fish or the beef, and settle down to find out how they make the magic happen.
Lovable gourmet-chef-turned-wedding-caterer Belfast McGrath is back to solve another murder in the second book in McConnon’s cozy mystery series, BEL OF THE BRAWL (on sale: March 7, 2017).
Wedding planner turned sleuth, Kelsey McKenna is back this time in beautiful California wine country, a perfect dream wedding spot, in Marla Cooper’s hilarious follow-up DYING ON THE VINE (on sale: April 4, 2017).
JULIA: I have to ask...why weddings?
Maggie: Weddings combine all of the things I love as a writer: drama, food, and family. When you can put all three of those things together in a story, the book practically writes itself. I have never heard about or attended a wedding where there wasn't at least a little bit of drama; even on my own relatively drama-free wedding day, a hurricane swept through an hour before the ceremony, soaking the bottom of my dress and trapping some of my family in their station wagon on the East Side Drive in New York City until the water subsided.
Marla: The simple explanation (that doesn’t make me sound like a terrible person) is that I ghostwrote a nonfiction book with a destination wedding planner and got a crash course in a career that also happened to be perfect for an amateur sleuth. Now, just between you and me — and let’s just keep this between us, okay? — I’m also fascinated by the sheer potential for drama that only a wedding can provide. Heightened emotions, petty (or not so petty) jealousy, long-simmering resentments, all being fueled by champagne toasts and an open bar… everyone’s supposed to be on their best behavior, but they seldom are.
JULIA: Just yesterday, we were talking with Edith Maxwell about the importance of locale in a cozy mystery. How and why did you choose your settings?
Maggie: I'm a native New Yorker so I write what I know. From the Hudson Valley to the Staten Island Ferry, I feel at home. Plus, there's no better place to experiment with new types of food than New York which help me visualize new recipes for Belfast McGrath and new menus for Shamrock Manor.
Marla: [California Wine Country is] such a beautiful area — and it happens to be just over an hour’s drive from my house. I actually attended a wedding up in Sonoma County, and while I was staying up there I took a tour of a winery that included their wine cave. Talk about inspiration! I think I freaked out the tour guide a little while I was asking him how long it would be plausible for someone to be locked in a wine cave and not be discovered. (Oh, and also? Wine.)
JULIA: There's a lot of humor in both of your books. Do you have to work to bring the funny? Or does it come naturally?
Maggie: It is harder for me not to add humor to my work than it is to try to incorporate it into the story. Coming from a big Irish family, humor and storytelling is in my blood. The Irish can take the darkest of situations and find something to laugh about. I'm not sure where that comes from, if it's a byproduct of years of national struggle or something else, but there is nothing funnier than an Irish sense of humor, in my opinion, and I try to bring a bit of humor to even the saddest or darkest parts of any story that I'm working on.
Marla: For me, writing is a form of play, an escape from the everyday world. The best days as a writer are when I’m just having fun with it and make myself laugh without even trying. In fact, trying to be funny rarely works for me. When I read back over it, the humor always falls flat and I end up cutting it. You know what is hard, though? Trying to balance humor in a murder mystery. I should have probably thought of that before I settled on a genre!
JULIA: What are your best wedding stories, dear readers? Ever been part of a celebration you thought might drive you to murder? Two lucky commenters will win either DYING ON THE VINE or BEL OF THE BRAWL!
You can find out more about Maggie McConnon/Maggie Barbieri at her web site. Read an excerpt of BEL OF THE BRAWL, friend her on Facebook, and follow her on Twitter as @MaggieBarbieri.