by Cynthia Chow
This week we have a review & giveaway of a fun new food mystery by Laura Bradford, along with an interesting interview with Laura. Details at the end of this post on how to enter to win a copy of Silence of the Flans. We also have a link to order it from Amazon, and from an indie bookstore where a portion goes to help support KRL.
Silence of the Flans: An Emergency Dessert Squad Mystery by Laura Bradford
Review by Cynthia Chow
Although a drastic hike in rent forced Winnie Johnson to give up her beloved bakery, an unexpected inheritance allowed her to create the Emergency Dessert Squad, where on-demand customized delicacies are delivered by a vintage ambulance. Less welcome is the gift that came in the form of hissing feline Lovey, who seems to love everyone except Winnie. Otherwise, prospects for the business look to be on an upswing; at least right until the recipient of one of the Emergency Dessert Squad’s latest deliveries is found poisoned to death by pastry.
Gossip and local media immediately condemn Winnie’s business as being responsible for the death of college newspaper investigator Melinda Tully. As a result, requests for emergency desserts dwindle to the few pity orders called in by Master Sergeant Hottie Greg Stevens, a stunning member of Silver Lake’s Ambulance Corps. Winnie’s heart leans toward college professor Jay Morgan, although his daughter’s absolute loathing of Winnie seems to be a massive roadblock in their relationship. At least, that was before an even bigger obstacle came in the form of Jay’s apparent condemnation and avoidance of Winnie following the murder. Infuriated and determined to prove her innocence, Winnie unites with her senior citizen friends to investigate who may have had a hand in the young journalist’s death and used Winnie as a scapegoat.
This second in the Emergency Dessert Squad Mystery series is full of quirky characters who feel perfectly enmeshed in the Silver Lake college town. Nosy Mr. Nelson, a lecherous geriatric former sailor, may flirt with every female within his vicinity, but his crusty exterior shields a mushy core that will have him dedicated to helping Winnie save her business. Winnie’s romantic life might be on a back burner, but her creativity continues to be sparked by her D’éclairs éclairs and other inspired delights. Although the sustainability of an on-demand dessert delivery service may be in question, what is never doubtful is the prevalence of delicious creations and humorous dialogue, all led by one very engaging lead heroine.
Interview of Laura Bradford:
KRL: How long have you been writing?
Laura: Honestly, it feels like forever. I was always the kid who was writing stories in her free time after school, leading the [Girl] Scout newsletter, writing pieces for my college paper, etc. After college I worked as a reporter to pay the bills. After I got married and had my second daughter, I turned my attention back to my true writing love: fiction.
KRL: When did your first novel come out? What was it called? Can you tell us a little about it?
Laura: My first novel came out in 2005. It was called Jury of One, and it [was] released with a small independent press. That book went on to be picked up by Harlequin Worldwide Mystery’s book club and to receive an Agatha nomination for Best First [Novel]. The protagonist is a young newspaper reporter in a beach town along the New Jersey shoreline. I wrote two more books in that series (all being picked up by Worldwide) before making the decision to shoot for a New York publisher. I’ve since brought these first three books out in e-format and they have new names now. Jury of One is now called Deadly Readings.
KRL: Have you always written mysteries/suspense? If not what else have you written?
Laura: While the majority of my work, thus far, has been mystery, I’ve also written four category romances for Harlequin’s American Romance line. Two of those books were nominated for RT’s Reviewer’s Choice Award and one—Miracle Baby—won!
KRL: What brought you to choose the setting and characters in your latest book/series? Please tell us a little about the setting and main character for your most recent book.
Laura: My Emergency Dessert Squad Mysteries came to life in a fun way. I’d been a [Girl] Scout leader for my daughter’s troop for eight years. During that time I grew close with many of my scouts via the troop and their friendships with my daughter. One of those girls came to visit us in our new state a few years ago. She loved to bake and was considering a career in that field. She told me she was drawn to food trucks. My mind played with that for a little while and, suddenly, the concept of a “dessert ambulance” came to me. I mentioned it to this young lady and while she kind of shrugged it off, I knew, almost instantly, that I had a heckuva cozy waiting to be written.
And write it, I did. Soon I had Winnie Johnson, a baker, forced out of her bakery due to rising rent costs. A bequest from an elderly friend of an old vintage ambulance (which seems useless in the immediate [circumstance]), soon proves to be the very thing that keeps Winnie baking. I like Winnie’s determination and my readers seem to, as well.
KRL: Do you write to entertain or is there something more you want the readers to take away from your work?
Laura: I write to offer an escape (from tough times), and an opportunity to try new things and visit new places the reader might not otherwise try/visit. Occasionally there’s a message infused into a story, but very often it just happens, and it’s the readers who point it out to me afterward.
KRL: Do you have a schedule for your writing or just write whenever you can?
Laura: I’m a morning writer. I do my best work before 3 p.m. However, during deadline crunch, I can write through the night if I’m entrenched in the story.
KRL: Do you outline? If not, do you have some other interesting way that you keep track of what’s going on, or what needs to happen in your book when you are writing it?
Laura: I know the main things that need to happen before I start. But the flavor—the relationships, etc.—happen as I write. These characters are real to me so they often know what works best more than my conscious mind does.
I also use a bullet-point system that keeps me on track, chapter by chapter. I note the main points that need to happen (a suspect, a clue, an encounter) and that’s what I use to stay on track.
KRL: Did you find it difficult to get published in the beginning?
Laura: I started in short stories. Got a lot of rejections. But as my writing changed, the responses did, as well. Yes, I still got rejections, but it was different. I was close. So I kept going.
KRL: Do you have a great rejection/critique or acceptance story you’d like to share?
Laura: I have a fun contract continuation story involving the Southern Sewing Circle Mysteries, [which] I write under the pen name Elizabeth Lynn Casey. It was near Christmas time and I wanted to post something fun on my author Facebook page, so I wrote: “I wonder what the ladies of Sweet Briar are doing for Christmas.”
Less than two hours later, while shopping for stocking stuffers at a local store, my phone rang. A check of the screen showed my agent’s number. I figured it was a “Merry Christmas” call and picked up in kind. She said, “We have a deal.” Confused, I asked her how. I was mid-contract already and hadn’t pitched anything. Her response to my inquiry? “Your editor read your Facebook post and she wants to know what they’re doing for Christmas, too.” Two years later, Let It Sew (my Southern Sewing Circle Christmas-themed mystery) hit store shelves.
KRL: What a fun story! Do you have a most interesting book signing story-in a bookstore or other venue?
Laura: I think it would have to be the moment a reader told me she’d driven five hours to meet me and have me sign her book. Total pinch-worthy moment.
KRL: Future writing goals?
Laura: I want to continue in mystery but also expand my horizons. I’ve just signed a contract for two Amish Women’s Fiction novels with Kensington Publishing.
KRL: Writing heroes?
Laura: Mary Higgins Clark. Her book, A Cry in the Night, is what eventually led me to writing mystery rather than the children’s books I once envisioned myself writing.
Linda Castillo. I absolutely love her Kate Burkholder series. Exciting side note here: I’ll meet Linda this month as she’s hosting a signing I’m doing at Poisoned Pen Bookstore in Scottsdale, Arizona!
KRL: What kind of research do you do?
Laura: That depends on the series I’m writing. For my Amish books, I spend time in Lancaster, PA soaking up everything I can about the Amish. For my Emergency Dessert Squad Mysteries, I spend a lot of time baking (and eating).
KRL: What do you read?
Laura: Linda Castillo [and] Harlan Coben.
KRL: Favorite TV or movies?
Laura: I watch Survivor and have since the first season. I think it’s habit at this point. A few of my favorite movies include: The Intern, Hitch, A Few Good Men. I like characters with really good stories.
KRL: Any advice for aspiring or beginning writers?
Laura: Read. And don’t spend too much time on how-to-write books. Just write.
KRL: What is something people would be surprised to know about you?
Laura: Since I was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis in July 2006, I have gone on to have 29 more books contracted with New York publishing houses (to date). I’m proud of that accomplishment and the hope it gives to others.
KRL: That is wonderful. Website? Twitter? Facebook?
To enter to win a copy of Silence of the Flans, simply email KRL at krlcontests@gmail[dot]com by replacing the [dot] with a period, and with the subject line “flans,” or comment on this article. A winner will be chosen April 1, 2017. U.S. residents only. If entering via email please include your mailing address, and if via comment please include your email address.
Check out other mystery articles, reviews, book giveaways & short stories in our mystery section.
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