Thursday, October 21, 2010

The Key West Food Critic Mysteries

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
terrific setting.

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
sleuthing skills.

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!!


  1. I'll look for your next series, but wish you'd just write under Roberta. I find it confusing when writers switch names. Usually, it's the writing that I like regardless of the subject, especially since it is in the same genre. When is the first book scheduled for release? Does this mean you won't write your psychologiest character anymore? I'll miss her if that series ends...

  2. Hey EB, thanks for the nice comment. I would have stuck with Roberta, but the pen name was a publisher request:). Lucy Burdette was my grandmother's name so I figure it's still family!

    And for now anyway, there aren't any plans for more psychologist (advice column) mysteries. I miss that character too!

  3. Very exciting news, Roberta! I can't wait to read the first in the series. I visited Key West in a former life and loved it. Love the name of the magazine, too!


  4. Congrats Roberta! This is awesome news.

  5. Hurray hurray hurray--this is SO exciting! And I know you'll have to try out recipes on us!

    Lots to talk to hear about the thought processes of coming up with something COMPLETELY new.

    But this is fantastic!

  6. Congrats Roberta! Can't wait to read the new series. Yum.

  7. Exciting news, Roberta/Lucy! I have never been to Key West, but have always wanted to visit. Got some sense of what it's like there from reading Barb Ross's story,"Key West," which appears in the new Level Best Books' anthology, THIN ICE, and it sounds fascinating. So I look forward to traveling to Key West vicariously through your series. And as someone who loves to cook and eat, I know I'll enjoy the food part as well.

  8. Yippee! So happy for you, Roberta. When's the first book due out? I'll put it on pre-order.

  9. Key West and good restaurants--that sounds like my kind of research, Roberta! And this sounds like my kind of book.
    Wishing you every success with it.

  10. I look forward to reading your new Lucy Burdette series and learning about Key West that I've never seen. For a long time, I've had a secret wish to change my name and live as someone else for a while. The logistics seem overwhelming.

    Writing under a different name and developing a new character seem a perfect substitute. I plan to keep both a secret if I go that route.

    I'm going to miss your psychologist/advice columnist character.

  11. Exciting news, Roberta. The adventures of a food critic sounds like a lot of fun - with restaurant undercover work, too! And eating. Hmm, a perfect job. Congratulations!

  12. thank you guys so much for the congratulations and encouragement! I'm just back from New York where I met my new editor--now it seems REAL!

    Can't wait to read Barb's story...

  13. Hi Roberta. Your new series sounds like fun and I'm looking forward to reading the first book in the series! I also like your new pseudonym. Hope to get you to sign a copy at Crime Bake!

  14. I LOVE everything about Key West, including the pie...such an inspired idea to write a food critic/mystery set there. Completely inspired!

  15. Love Key West, love to eat, love to cook. What's not to like? Can't wait to read it. The best thing is, you can travel to Key West to do research. Incredibly cool.