by Lorie Lewis Ham
This week we have an interview with mystery/vampire author Sarah Zettle, a review of her latest book Let Them Eat Stake, A Vampire Chef Mystery, & a chance to win a copy of the book–details at the end of this post.
Let Them Eat Stake, A Vampire Chef Mystery by Sarah Zettel
I’ve read a lot of great books over the past several years and have had the privilege of reviewing many of them, but I would have to say that Let Them Eat Stake by Sarah Zettel is one of the most unique and one of my favorites.
Charlotte Caine is the vampire chef, not because she herself is a vampire, but because she cooks for them at her restaurant Nightlife—one of the top restaurants for “haute noir” cuisine. However, there is no shortage of vampires in this book including Charlotte’s brother Chet and the very charming Anatole. There are also witches in this world where the paranormal is out in the open.
In this book Charlotte takes over the catering job of the century—the wedding between a two hundred year old vampire and a wealthy witch who is a part of the most powerful witch family around, the Maddox’s. Charlotte’s sort of boyfriend Brandon is also a Maddox though not the crazy kind like the rest of them. Brandon’s grandfather would like to do away with vampires all together so of course there’s no end of trouble surrounding this wedding.
Charlotte takes on this job with some hesitance knowing that typically witches and vampires don’t get along, and also that the big name chef who had the job before her suddenly quit despite the large fee being offered, which seems suspicious. It becomes even more suspicious when he ends up dead.
This book is for me the perfect mix of things I love—mystery, vampires and food! Charlotte not only has a murder to help solve, a restaurant to keep from going under, and a wedding to cater, but she also finds herself drawn to not only Brandon but Anatole. This catering job could be the answer to her problems, or the death of her. There were a lot of twists and turns in the plot that I didn’t see coming, great characters—I look forward to seeing more of the relationship between Charlotte and her brother—humor, and a great setting. I highly recommend this book, especially if like me you enjoy the combo of fantasy/mystery.
This is the second book in the series but I wasn’t lost at all jumping in though I do plan to go back and read the first one, and I can’t wait for the next one! I think Hollywood should take notice of this one—it would make a great TV show!
Interview with Sarah Zettel
Lorie: How long have you been writing?
Sarah: As long as I can remember. Seriously. I went through my poetry phase in fourth grade, and had my first seven book series planned by eighth. I got my first rejection slip in high school, and made my first story sale when I was a sophomore in college. It’s been downhill, or uphill, ever since.
Lorie: When did your first novel come out? What was it called? And can you tell us a little about it?
Sarah:My first novel was the space opera Reclamation. It was a far future romantic adventure, and managed to win the Locus Best First Novel award.
Lorie: That’s great! Obviously you haven’t always written mysteries, what else have you written?
Sarah:I started out as a science fiction and fantasy writer. I’ve also written romance under a pseudonym. I’ve got a new Young Adult historical fantasy coming out in June from Random House, and I’ve just signed a contract for a new Young Adult historical mystery series with Houghton Mifflin.
Lorie: What led you to write a mystery/fantasy/horror like your vampire chef series?
Sarah: I’ve always loved mysteries. I grew up on Sherlock Holmes and Agatha Christie, so it seemed like a natural fit for me.
Lorie: What brought you to choose the particular setting and characters in your latest book/series? Tell me a little about the setting and main character for your most recent book.
Sarah: I wish I could take credit for the vampire chef idea. I can’t. That was the brain child of publisher Marty Greenberg, and I was lucky enough to get the job of turning it into a book. However, once I had it, I knew immediately it had to be set in New York City, which is the capital of foodie America. I also decided the main character, Charlotte, should not herself be a vampire. She just cooks for them. Well, that, and her brother Chet is a vampire, which causes her some problems.
Lorie: Do you write to entertain or is there something more you want the readers to take away from your work?
Sarah: I see myself primarily as an entertainer. I joke about being the literary equivalent of a Snickers bar. But you know, some days, you really just want that Snickers. That said, I do hope people might get a new look at relationships and maybe a little bit about society and ourselves while they’re reading.
Lorie: Do you have a schedule for your writing or just write whenever you can?
Sarah: I am lucky enough to be a full time writer. I pretty much keep business hours. I start the day around nine and finish around four between five and six days a week, most weeks. Unfortunately, those are not always productive days, but I do try.
Lorie: 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?
Sarah: Oh, I outline. Editors ask for an outline with a proposal, so there has to be one. However, about a hundred pages in, the story has usually changed so much that the outline bears very little relation to what’s being written and I’m flying blind.
Lorie: If you had your ideal, what time of day would you prefer to write?
Sarah: I’m a morning person myself. I like to get up, get a walk in, get settled with a cup of coffee and get started.
Lorie: Did you find it difficult to get published in the beginning?
Sarah:Oh, yeah. It’s a lot of rejection, but I knew that, and was sort of braced for it. The trick I found was to always have a new project that I was working on. That way by the time the rejection came in, I was well underway with something new that might just be the one that sold this time. It was also great practice for writing steadily, which is important.
Lorie: Do you have a great rejection/critique or acceptance story you’d like to share?
Sarah: My first (you always remember your first, right?). I opened the mailbox and saw the envelope with the magazine’s return address on it. I swear, I slammed out of the lobby, bolted into my apartment, ripped open the letter and when I read it, I was jumping up and down in the living room yelling “I’m an author! I’ve authed! I’ve authed!” If I hadn’t known I was a hopeless case before, I knew it then.
Lorie: Most interesting book signing story-in a bookstore or other venue?
Sarah: Actually, I’ve been lucky to not have any stand-out signings yet. Those usually involve disasters, or craziness.
Lorie: Future writing goals?
Sarah: Just to keep writing. There’s always (I hope!) another interesting idea around the corner.
Lorie: Writing heroes?
Sarah: Alexander Dumas. There is out there in a library in Paris a manuscript page of his. I believe it’s the last page of The Three Musketeers. So there he was, he’d just finished what would come to be regarded as one of the greatest adventure stories of all time. Did he have dinner? Uncork the wine? No. They’ve analyzed the ink. He didn’t even put the pen down. He just started writing The Count of Monte Cristo. Now, that’s a writer!
Lorie: What kind of research do you do?
Sarah: Depends on the book, really. Out of the past or the future, it’s a lot of book research. Vampire Chef is a lot of fun to research because it was a license to go to Manhattan and eat, and visit the farmers markets. I was also able to observe dinner rush at a local restaurant here.
Lorie: What do you read?
Sarah: Whatever I’ve got time for. I’m going through a Dickens phase right now (don’t ask, I really don’t know why). But I love romances, mysteries, and history. Lots of history.
Lorie: Favorite TV or movies?
Sarah: How much space have you got? I’m a huge fan of classic Hollywood. Bogart, Cagney, Jimmy Stewart, Astaire and Rogers, Gene Kelly, all that wonderful stuff. I don’t have much time for TV, but I’m really enjoying Smash and, of course, I love Castle.
Lorie: Ah Castle is a KRL favorite! Any advice for aspiring or beginning writers?
Sarah: Remember this is a marathon, not a sprint. Even in the modern world of self-publishing, books and stories will fail, and you will have to try again, and again, and again. Also, be careful. Writing and publishing is a business and it can be a tough one. No one can guarantee your success. If anybody is talking to you like that, they are probably trying to scam you.
Lorie: How do you feel about the growing popularity of e-books?
Sarah: I think it’s terrific. It’s expanding the reach and availability of titles and authors. Obviously, there are problems, and we haven’t yet seen where this revolution is going to end up, but overall, I think it’s going to be a great solution for things like being able to find all the books in a series, or get hold of niche titles, especially in areas where the library system is small or that don’t maybe have good bookstores.
Lorie: Do you read e-books yourself?
Sarah: I sure do. I especially love them for research, or for books I’m pretty sure I’m only going to read the once.
Lorie: What is something people would be surprised to know about you?
Sarah: Considering I’ve written two books starring a New York City chef, it might be that I’m actually a rather timid diner and have to be talked around to trying new things. Probably my suburban Midwest background showing there.
Lorie: Website? Twitter? Facebook?
Sarah: Website is: www.sarahzettelcom. Yes, I’m on Facebook. Haven’t taken the tweeting plunge yet.
Lorie: How do you compete in an overcrowded market?
Sarah: Frankly, by working your tuchus off. Publishing has never been easy, and there have always been more people who want to write than the economics of the market can support. So, someone who wants the job of professional author has to write, and keep writing, submit their material, and keep submitting. Each sale is a lottery ticket. This time you might win. Or you might not. But if your stuff is not out there, you definitely won’t.
To enter to win a copy of Let Them Eat Stake, simply email KRL at life@kingsriverlife[dot]com by replacing the [dot] with a period, and with the subject line “Stake”, or comment on this article. A winner will be chosen May 26, 2012. U.S. residents only.