Magic, Lies, and Deadly Pies By Misha Popp: Review/Giveaway/Interview

Jun 4, 2022 | 2022 Articles, Cynthia Chow, Mysteryrat's Maze

by Cynthia Chow

KRL tries to feature LGBTQ+ mystery authors throughout the year (we also have a monthly Queer Mystery Coming Attractions column), but especially during Pride month. This is the first of several coming up this month. We are thrilled to be reviewing Misha’s first book, and we have a fun interview with her as well. Details at the end of this post on how to enter to win a copy of the book, and a link to purchase it from Amazon.

Magic, Lies, and Deadly Pies: A Pies Before Guys Mystery by Misha Popp
Review by Cynthia Chow

Most days, Pie Girl Daisy Ellery parks her Pies Before Guys bakery van in front of Frank’s Roadside Diner selling her flaky, handmade creations. Through word-of-mouth referrals, Daisy also bakes customized pies for those needing her help to eliminate abusive problems. While her witchy family lineage gives Daisy the ability to bake emotional strength and hope into her pies for those who need it, it also bestows upon her the capability to add in far more lethal results. Daisy has sworn to never use her powers against women, for profit, or personal gain, which means that she has a selective process for determining those who may receive a final tasty sendoff. Her vetting process isn’t flawless though, as proven when she begins receiving blackmail threats that would force her to act against her morals and all of the rules that keep her from going out of control.

The countdown is on as Daisy tracks down the stalker who vows to reveal her secrets to the world unless a long list of women are delivered their own lethally-laced pies. It was by accident that Daisy first discovered her ability to magically enhance her pies, but since then she has forged an underground network to discreetly wield justice on behalf of women too defeated by their abusers and the official systems to achieve it on their own. An alluring biker in black leather tantalizes as a woman Daisy would both love to be and perhaps be with, while neighboring orchard owner Noel stands out as a good guy but who might never accept her extracurricular activities.

This debut series is a fascinating mix of vengeful justice and the traditional cozy mystery. A baking competition has Daisy vying to become Miss American Pie Massachusetts with her twist of a traditional apple pie, and recipes for both it and hand pies are included. These scenes of Daisy’s bonding with fellow bakers are contrasted with the much darker themes of #MeToo, abusive relationships, and trauma. Daisy emerges as a fascinating character, one whose dark humor is still embodied with hope and support for other women. Daisy is indeed torn between her heritage as a powerful witch and all of the risk it incurs, and a dream life as the “normal” pie-baking girl next door. More exploration of the source of her abilities will hopefully occur in future installments, especially as her powers grow and she pushes them further. The characters within the diner and church groups are both fun and sympathetic, especially as more is revealed about them and their backstories. This first in the series delicately interweaves romance, retribution, and baking, making it a unique entry in the mystery genre.

Cynthia Chow is the branch manager of Kaneohe Public Library on the island of Oahu. She balances a librarian lifestyle of cardigans and hair buns with a passion for motorcycle riding and regrettable tattoos (sorry, Mom).

Interview with Misha Popp:

KRL: How long have you been writing?

Misha: On and off for most of my life, but I only got serious about it recently.

KRL: Please tell us about your book?

Misha: Magic, Lies, and Deadly Pies is about a vigilante baker who kills bad men with good pies. In TV terms it’s Pushing Daisies x Dexter and is full of baking, banter, and blackmail.

KRL: What brought you to choose the setting and characters for your book? Will this be a series?

Misha: Daisy came to me fully formed as a character and everything else sprouted in service of that, including the setting. Massachusetts made sense because – A) I’m already familiar with it and B) it’s full of orchards and farmers markets! Being a progressive state, the setting also plays into the politics of the book and Melly’s brand of campus activism is alive and well at colleges across the state.

Misha Popp

ML&DP is the first of the series and the sequel, A Good Day to Pie, will be out in February 2023 and is essentially murder at the Great British Bake Off!

KRL: Do you consider your book a cozy?

Misha: I personally tend to think of it as cozy-adjacent, since I didn’t set out to write a cozy and it therefore doesn’t follow many of the genre conventions, but my publisher has it officially categorized as a cozy, so I suppose that’s what it is!

KRL: I’m not aware of any other cozies published by a traditional publisher featuring a bisexual main character. I think it’s exciting to finally have representation in this sub-genre. Why did you choose to write a cozy?

Misha: To my knowledge, it is the first cozy with a bi main character, but not the first featuring a queer MC. Rob Osler, author of Devil’s Chew Toy, coined the term ‘quozy’ to denote cozies with queer protagonists and along with his, Zac Bissonnette’s forthcoming A Killing in Costumes, Frank Anthony Polito’s Renovated To Death, and CJ Connor’s Board To Death will also star queer MCs. (Editor’s note-these have either been reviewed in KRL or will be in future issues)

As I said above, I didn’t set out to write a cozy at all, so I was as surprised as anyone when that’s where it landed! This project started purely as a ‘write the book you want to read’ thing and in the end, it was packaged as a cozy, so that’s what we’re calling it!

KRL: That’s great! I know that there have been quite a few cozies published featuring LGBTQ+ main characters over the years from smaller presses and indie publishing, but it is great to see more of that happening with the bigger publishing houses now too.
Have you always written mysteries/suspense and if not, what else have you written?

Misha: This is my debut, so at this point, yes, it’s all I’ve written, but I read widely across genres so there’s a good chance I’ll be dabbling elsewhere at some point!

KRL: Do you write to entertain or is there something more you want the readers to experience from your work?

Misha: ML&DP was written to entertain, definitely, but it’s also very much a product of our current catastrophic social climate. There’s no way it couldn’t be. It is unabashedly political in a genre that usually strives to be anything but, and addresses misogyny, gender roles, and feminism, while acknowledging the reality that the police are often ineffective at/or unwilling to deal with domestic violence and rape, that trans rights are human rights, and that safe abortions should be easily available to those who need them. However, none of that changes the fact that, at its core, it’s a whimsical murdery pie book – and that’s just fun!

KRL: Do you have a schedule for your writing or just work whenever you can?

Misha: I don’t write every day, but when I’m drafting, I’ll use the entirety of my day off for it and also most nights until I’m done. My writing is 100% fueled by tannins – tea in the morning, wine at night!

KRL: What is your ideal time to write?

Misha: In a perfect world, I would write from 8 a.m.-.2 p.m. everyday until a draft was finished, but I’m unlikely to ever be able to swing that reality!

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?

Misha: I do outline. Because I fast-draft, it’s important that I have an idea where I’m going when I sit down to write, but I’m also not overly rigid about it. Sometimes you need those little detours!

KRL: Did you find it difficult to get published? Do you feel the fact that you are an LGBTQ author with a series featuring an LGBTQ main character made it any harder?

Misha: I actually didn’t find it that difficult to get published, nor do I think having a queer book was in any way an impediment, but a LOT of this was down to timing and luck – which, given that I signed with my agent right at the start of the pandemic, is saying something! One thing that gave me a leg up was that I have been reading craft and industry books for fun for ages, before I even seriously thought about writing a novel! So, I was pretty prepared going in.

I knew what to expect and I knew how to present what I had in a way that would give it the best chance of being picked up and when I signed with my agent, one of the things they loved was that there was a bi MC and inclusive cast – which I expected because I tailored my query list to agents who were enthusiastic about queer books. When we went on sub it wasn’t so much the queerness that made it a hard sell, it was the fact that I crammed too many genres into one book!! Even that wasn’t a dealbreaker in the end. Crooked Lane is one of the leaders in acquiring queer cozies right now, so it’s a good group to be among.

KRL: What are your future writing goals?

Misha: In addition to more pie books, I’m very keen to be tackle the thriller that’s been percolating in the back of my mind for a few years now. It will be significantly darker than my debut, but hopefully some of my cozy readers will still want to come along for the ride!

KRL: Who are your writing heroes?

Misha: I don’t really have writing heroes, because at the end of the day, writers are just human trying not to miss their deadlines! But if the questions is, who are writers I admire, then I think you can’t beat Clare Mackintosh for twists, Stephen Graham Jones’ ability to rip your heart out through horror, and Becky Chambers is a virtuoso at writing the kind of SF you want to live in.

Talia Hibbert and Alexis Hall’s dialogue is unmatched with genuinely laugh-out-loud characters you want to befriend, Nadine Matheson and Dervla McTiernan are breathing life into procedurals, and PJ Vernon and Will Dean write the kind of read-in-one-sitting thrillers the genre lives for. I could go on, but I think it’s safe to say there are LOTS of authors I admire!

KRL: What kind of research do you do?

Misha: ML&DP really didn’t really require any research which is part of what it made it easy to fast draft, but I’m a huge nerd and have a graduate degree’s worth of reading ready to go for a future project!

KRL: What do you like to read?

Misha: Good stories told well! I read widely across genres and usually have three different books going at any given time (physical, audio, and e-book). Recent “faves” have included Annie Hartnett’s Unlikely Animals, Gillian McAllister’s Wrong Place, Wrong Time, Matt Cain’s The Secret Life of Albert Entwhistle, and Hayley Campbell’s All the Living and the Dead.

KRL: What are your favorite TV shows or movies?

Misha: I’m a chronic re-watcher when it comes to TV, so my favorites are REALLY favorites, and like my reading, they’re all over the genre map – Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Battlestar Galactica, Pushing Daisies, Dead Like Me, Hannibal, Sherlock, Killing Eve, and Justified have all seen more than a few binges! I’m also very partial to crime shows like Broadchurch, The Killing, and The Sinner which delve into a one crime for a full season/s.

KRL: What is something people would be surprised to know about you?

Misha: I have way too many extra organs (of my own! Not that I collected!). My doctor was not amused when I suggested selling the spares to pay for college!

KRL: How interesting. Do you have any pets?

Misha: I have an awesome one-eyed rescue dog who is the undisputed queen of everything!

KRL: Is there anything you would like to add? Website? Twitter? Facebook? Instagram?

Misha: I can be found at mishapopp.com and @mishapopp_ on Twitter and Instagram.

To enter to win a copy of Magic, Lies, and Deadly Pies, simply email KRL at krlcontests@gmail[dot]com by replacing the [dot] with a period, and with the subject line “deadly pies,” or comment on this article. A winner will be chosen June 11, 2022. U.S. residents only, and you must be 18 or older to enter. If you are entering via email please include you mailing address in case you win, it will be deleted after the contest. You can read our privacy statement here if you like.

Check out other mystery articles, reviews, book giveaways & mystery short stories in our mystery section. And join our mystery Facebook group to keep up with everything mystery we post, and have a chance at some extra giveaways. Also listen to our new mystery podcast where mystery short stories and first chapters are read by actors! They are also available on Apple Podcasts, Google Play, and Spotify. A new episode goes up next week.

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Disclosure: This post contains links to an affiliate program, for which we receive a few cents if you make purchases. KRL also receives free copies of most of the books that it reviews, that are provided in exchange for an honest review of the book.

2 Comments

  1. We have a winner!

    Reply

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