Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Too Many Cooks? (Never!) Kate Flora on BEAT, SLAY, LOVE

SUSAN ELIA MACNEAL: I'm delighted to introduce the lovely Kate Flora. She's one of the five ( ! ) authors from the blog Views from the Muse, who together wrote the culinary thriller BEAT, SLAY LOVE: One Chef's Hunger for Delicious Revenge together. New York Times-bestselling author Charlaine Harris says:  "For anyone who’s ever watched CHOPPED or even stopped in at Williams Sonoma, “Beat Slay Love” is the perfect read. An incredibly sly mystery, it has everything you’d want when you bite into a dish: suspense, spice, and a new take on an old classic." 

Take it away, Kate!

KATE FLORA: When a group of the authors who blog together at Views from the Muse https://thaliapressauthors.wordpress.com decided to write a novel together, anything could have happened. How could five people who live in different parts of the country, don’t know each other well, and write wildly different types of books possibly do it? How would the process work? How would we even figure out what we’d write about?

There’s an old expression that goes “Too many cooks spoil the broth.” Definitely not true in this case. With over a hundred years of writing and publishing experience, and more than 75 books among us, we might be taking on something entirely new, but we all knew how to write, edit, discuss, and collaborate. We quickly agreed on our theme: a serial killer who was knocking off famous TV chefs. Without much more of a plan than that, we embarked on what came to be called, Beat, Slay, Love, a send-up of the journey toward self-discovery, and Americans’ obsessions with celebrity culture and food, by the imaginary Thalia Filbert.

The writers:

Gary Phillips writes hardboiled tales of flawed characters and their pursuit of hollow dreams.  In addition to being part of the Beat, Slay, Love crew, he is co-editor of Occupied Earth, an anthology of life and resistance under the boot heels of the alien Mahk-Ra. http://gdphillips.com

Katy Munger has written fifteen crime fiction novels, including series in the cozy, private eye, and modern noir genres. She was a co-founder of Tart Noir. http://katymunger.com

Lise McClendon writes mystery and suspense, celebrating 20 years in print last year. Her series include an art dealer in Jackson Hole, a private eye in Kansas City, and a lawyer with five sisters in France. She also writes thrillers as Rory Tate (PLAN X) and co-owns Thalia Press with Katy Munger. http://lisemcclendon.com

Taffy Cannon has written a mainstream novel, thirteen mysteries, an Academy Award-nominated short film, and The Baby Boomer's Guide to SibCare. http://taffycannon.com

Kate Flora writes two series—strong, amateur, female PI in her Thea Kozak series and cops in her Joe Burgess police procedurals. She’s published more than fifteen crime stories. She’s been a publisher at Level Best Books and teaches writing at Grub Street in Boston. http://kateflora.com

The process was simple: each of us would write a section, then pass the book along to the next author. Sometimes there was a pause while extra chapters were added in, or a discussion about the order of various events. Barbecue in Texas before or after lobsters in Maine? 

Sometimes different writer’s versions of the same character needed to be discussed and revised—was Jason Bainbridge a schlump or a hipster? Would he ever get together with the icy FBI agent? Or might she thaw? How hefty was our protagonist? Was it possible so many had done her wrong, and how had they done it? 

Still, even though it took a couple years, and involved a lot of work at the end to smooth it out and find just the right ending, it proved, as one writer observed, to be a lot more fun than we’d imagined.

The result? A book we’re all proud of. Read an excerpt here: http://wp.me/P2PnOF-2j

To celebrate we’ve put together a cookbook of party recipes called Thalia Filbert’s Killer Cocktail Party. To get a copy, send a quick note to Thalia (our pseudonymous five-person author) at thaliapress@gmail.com.

Beat Slay Love: One Chef’s Hunger for Delicious Revenge
by Thalia Filbert

Thalia Press     October 1, 2015

•    To order the book for Kindle: http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B015BQUZCK
•    To add it to your Goodreads shelf: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/26258450-beat-slay-love
•    To request a paperback at your local independent bookstore: ask for ISBN: 978-0-9819442-1-0
•    To buy a paperback online: https://www.createspace.com/5737186

SUSAN ELIA MACNEAL: Thank you so much, Kate! Reds and lovely readers, do you think you could write a novel in collaboration with others? (I keep thinking of the phrase, "Plays well with others".... ) Do you do best solo or as part of a team? Please tell us in the comments!


  1. What an interesting idea . . . I'm surprised that you didn't have more discussion about the book other than deciding on a serial killer doing in television chefs. But the excerpt was a hoot and I'm looking forward to reading the book.
    Congratulations to all of you!

  2. Such fun! The book awaits me on my Kindle (travel to Bouchercon reading). Congrats~! (And I've requested my cocktail recipes.)

    I've never done a story collaboration, although the Wickeds are coming out with a collection sometime soon with stories all set in the same fictional setting, so we had to collaborate on that.

  3. This sounds like fun.
    I did write 5 novels with someone, but he didn't 'write' - I'm sure I could not do this. In awe! Edith, thanks for the heads-up on the Wickeds anthology.

  4. Joan Emerson...it wasn't quite that simple. It did take us some time to figure out the basics of the plot, the killer, etc., but a lot of it did emerge in the process, and that was pretty seamless. Maybe the editors who had to smooth it out at the end would have a different take. The biggest surprise was how much FUN this was.

    Enough fun that we're already talking about doing another book. Maybe our protag will be a 6' + tough black woman named Jacquie Preacher. You can probably guess where this is going. Maybe designer shoes instead of a toothbrush?


  5. You all are too much! I LOVE this! (And I adore CHPOED, as well as the Great British Baking SHow.

    Anyway, congratulations! Kate I know you are a team player, so that's no surprise.

    I think the Reds should think about this, too. What would we have as our theme?

  6. Amazing. I always think writing with two collaborators would be a challenge, but five? My hat's off to you all.

    And Hank - I love CHOPPED. And Iron Chef. So yeah - this sounds like fun!

  7. Kate, this is wonderful. I have my copy on my ipad. The pix are hysterical too!

    How many chapters did each author write? and never in order, correct? so you were always a little surprised at what came your way?

  8. What a great idea! I love the concept! I can't wait to read this!

  9. Roberta....yes, we never knew what was coming, so it was like reading a fun book as well as writing one. I think one reason it went so well is that this wasn't anyone's own work, so there was less emotion and ego involved, it was just something we were trying on. And we had done a rehearsal with Dead of Winter, our story collection...though that was individual pieces.

    But you know how it is when you're writing a book and you're so enmeshed in the story you think, I can't wait to get back to that book I'm reading, and then you remember it's the book you're writing? This had elements of that. It was fascinating when it came around again to see what direction it had taken and where my part would go next.


  10. Welcome, Kate! Yes, I'm just in awe of all of you -- hearty congratulations! Off to look up the cocktail recipes... ; )

  11. I am reading this wonderful collaborative novel currently. It is incredible to think that five of you put your heads together and came up with such a wonderful, smooth book. (Chef's) hats off to all of you!

  12. What a fun idea, Kate! I am looking forward to reading this creative collaboration after I get off to and back from Bouchercon.

  13. Hi Kate! Just the title cracks me up. What fun. And I have participated in a serial novel--The Sunken Sailor--which was a send up of the classic British mystery. I remember I giggles quite hysterically. It was unexpectedly fun, but I felt sorry for the final author...

    Huge fan of Chopped, too, so can't wait to read this!

  14. Oh, Deb Crombie...I felt sorry for our editors, too, but they were tough...we got stern e-mails about fixing this or that, and there were discussions about which way to go with some too vague plot points, but everything was resolved so smoothly and easily. Perhaps they cursed in private and swilled down some of Thalia's peartinis or one of the other gems in our recipe book.

    Can hardly wait to dig into Jacquie Preacher. I hear she has a dumpy CIA sidekick...and who doesn't love sidekicks?


  15. Congratulations on this book and completing it so well together. That's just amazing to me. Maybe I don't play well with others, I don't know, but I can't imagine writing a novel with one other writer, much less four!

    Love that this is a send-up of EAT PRAY LOVE!

  16. This was the most fun I remember having on a writing project since my 1975 piece on the Miss Texas Pageant. What I particularly loved was seeing the directions that each person moved the story and the new characters who appeared between my turns on the manuscript.

    And what absolutely blew me away was that nearly all of these wild and crazy threads came together at the end.

  17. As one of said editors I can tell you we did very little but smooth things out, make it all hang together, and... oh, there may have been some actual editing. :-) We each wrote two sections and did it all sequentally which made such a difference. We fed off each others' creativity and riffed on things that we would never have thought of ourselves.

    Some cocktails were killed in the making of this novel. ! :-) Such fun.

  18. Following up on what Lise said, we wrote some wild passages that while we somewhat bucked tradition of round robin novels, where a previous writer would intentionally write themselves into a corner or whip up such a fantastic scene to see how the next writer got the main character out of said nutty situation, we consciously had a flow and pace as we discussed certain elements collectively. But don'[t get me wrong, BSL rocks and I'm not just being biased.