Q&A with Joanne Fluke- Author of RED VELVET CUPCAKE MURDER
How did you come up with the concept of writing about Food and Mysteries?
I grew up in small town Minnesota where food is a part of every occasion and it’s considered rude not to offer a cookie or some kind of sweet treat with coffee. I think Minnesotans are the original “comfort food” people. If you’re visiting a sick neighbor, you bring soup, or custard, or something else that’s nourishing and easy to eat. If there’s a family crisis, you all sit around the kitchen table (with food, of course) to talk about it. Food accompanies every happy occasion and also every unhappy occasion. After a funeral, relatives gather in the church basement for lunch and condolences. With a background like mine it was natural for me to pair cookies and crime, and murder and munchies.
Another factor is that my sleuth, Hannah Swensen, owns a bakery and coffee shop. Customers gather at her coffee shop to eat, drink coffee, and socialize. This gives Hannah the opportunity to practice her “invisible waitress trick”. People tend to go right on talking, even about private things, when a waitress delivers food or refills their coffee cups. This gives Hannah the opportunity to overhear tidbits of private conversation that may help her solve the mystery.
Your latest novel is Red Velvet Cupcake Murder. How did this one come about?
The title was first. My editor at Kensington Publishing, John Scognamiglio, begins discussing new titles with me long before I start to write the book. Both of us noticed that red velvet cupcakes were very popular in bakeries and restaurants across the country. Of course Hannah had to put her own spin on the traditional recipes and I began working on that immediately. I’m a bit like Hannah in one respect. She thinks about solving a mystery while she’s baking and I think about what mystery I want her to solve next while I’m baking.
Is there a message in your novel that you want your readers to grasp?
I hope the message is: Reading is great fun and it can also be good therapy. My goal is to tell a good story that’s fun to read and will help readers relax and escape all those niggling everyday worries while they’re reading it.
You have written over 40 novels. What keeps you going and how do you keep your readers engaged?
Fear of starvation is what keeps me writing. You see, I love to eat almost as much as I love to write and to bake. I’m really not sure if it’s my writing or Hannah’s yummy recipes that keeps the readers engaged. Maybe it’s a little of both. Whatever it is, I’m thrilled that folks like to read the books and try out the recipes.
What was your favorite book as a child?
My favorite book was Gloria, Ballet Dancer. I think I read it at least a half-dozen times and I had dreams of becoming a prima ballerina. Unfortunately, a lack of grace and balance nipped that dream in the bud! (I did look pretty good in pink toe shoes, though.)
What was a book that you purchased solely based on the cover?
I don’t think I’ve ever purchased a book solely based on the cover. The cover may cause me to pick it up and page through it, but I won’t buy it unless what I discover inside piques my interest.
Favorite Quote from a Book?
I’m not sure where I read this but my favorite quote is “Stressed is desserts spelled backwards, so eat dessert first!”
What are you currently reading?
I’m currently reading a book called Video Kill and it’s a mystery I wrote years ago. I’m in the process of making some final edits and now that I’m re-reading it, I realize that the idea for Hannah Swensen’s cat Moishe began with a cat named Al in Video Kill. (Kensington Publishing will re-release Video Kill in paperback in May of this year.)
Outside of your children, grandchildren, pets, and wonderful recipes what is next for Joanne Fluke
If I knew that I’d be psychic and I’m definitely not psychic! I don’t even know what Hannah is going to do in her next mystery. (By the way, that one will be called Blackberry Pie Murder and I’ve got Hannah’s first test pie in the oven right now!) There are times when I wish I had psychic abilities. Then I’d not only know exactly what mystery Hannah was going to solve next, I’d also know which lottery numbers would come up in Saturday’s drawing and I could run right out to buy a ticket with the winning numbers.