interview with Suzanne
Suz: Romance Bandits, all of our Bandit Buddies and readers, I have a surprise guest for y'all. Today I'm chatting with my friend Liz Lipperman. Liz is one of the people who first made me feel welcome in my DARA (Dallas Area Romance Authors) chapter when I first moved to Dallas. Now I get to return the favor by hosting her for the release of her brand new debut, first-ever published book, LIVER LET DIE: A CLUELESS COOK MYSTERY available Oct 4th!
Liz, please pull up a barstool and we'll have the Lair's chief cabana boy, Paolo bring us a pitcher of Margaritas.
Liz: Yum! Margaritas are my favorite. No salt, please. And what's more fun than drinking it with you Suz, and the fabulous line-up of Romance Bandits and their readers? And I can only imagine what Paolo looks like! Thanks to all of you for inviting me here today.
Suz: So Liz, I love the story on how you came to write a cozy mystery series. Can you tell our readers what events led up to you writing LIVER LET DIE?
Liz: First of all, I didn't even know I was a mystery writer until my agent told me. Duh! I had been chasing the romance market for many, many years and never ever finaled in a contest. Guess my dead bodies and big explosions didn't go over with the romance judges.
Anyway, once I realized she was right, I wrote a paranormal mystery, the first in a proposed series. It's about a trash-talking ghost who helps her sisters solve her murder. My agent sent it to a new editor at Berkley Prime Crime who'd just moved from an inspirational publishing house. I thought it would be a resounding "no" since there is a lot of bad language, sex, and gruesome murder scenes.
Turns out you can never tell about people. Not only did she love the story, she read it twice and quoted some of my ghost's best lines. BUT (don't you hate those?) she couldn't buy it since she was acquiring cozies, and she'd have to cut out the best parts. She wanted to know if I could write a cozy, specifically a "foodie." That's when I rushed out to the bookstores and grabbed up a bunch of them to read.
What I found was that most of the foodie cozies were about gourmet food, and there was no way I could pull that one off. I am one of 9 children. We ate casseroles, and to this day, I hate fancy food. So, I said no, I couldn't write it. Fortunately, my agent knows me better than I do, because she said yes, I could and to sleep on it.
I woke up the next morning with this great plot in my head about a wannabe sports reporter who gets dumped in Dallas and ends up in a small town writing personals. When she is offered the culinary column temporarily for a woman who is out with a broken hip, she jumps on it, seeing it as a way to mover closer to her dream job. The problem is, she was raised with four brothers, and although she can throw a great touchdown pass, she can't cook a lick, surviving on fried bologna sandwiches, fast food and Hostess Ho Hos. Three chapters and a synopsis later, I had a three book deal.
Suz: I love that story! LIVER LET DIE is set in a small town in Texas. How did you get the small-town feel for the story? Is there one key element about small towns that you think plays into the way a cozy mystery fits into it?
Liz: You've hit on one of the big requirements for a cozy, Suz. They're all set in small towns with a protagonist who just happens to fall in the middle of a murder. There are usually no cops or private eyes solving the mystery. As for the small town, originally I wrote it with a specific town in Texas. However, I changed it later because a fictional town offered way more options-that and the fact that I called the cops Dumb and Dumber.
Here's an excerpt from LIVER LET DIE:
Jordan dropped her review on Dwayne Egan’s desk and stepped back to await her fate. She’d spent the entire morning researching foie gras on the Internet and had come away outraged and ready to make a stand on the issue.
That was before Egan grabbed the report and lowered his eyes to read, and all her bravado dissipated. Shifting nervously and second-guessing herself, she tapped out the melody of a rock song along the side of her slacks with her fingers.
Too late to change her mind as Egan motioned for her to sit.
She eased into the chair behind her, eyes fixed on the editor while he finished the first page and flipped to the second. Her nerves were like aliens ready to burst through her skin.
“You actually ate this?” he asked, finally glancing at her over the top of his silver-rimmed reading glasses.
“Yes and no,” she replied. “Mostly, no.”
Egan had already turned back to the report, re-reading the first page. “And this is how they get the duck liver?”
Her eyes lit up. Maybe he wouldn’t scream at her after all. “Yes sir. They force-feed the animals to fatten them up.” She paused, remembering how the pictures had sickened her, how seeing the tubes shoved down their throats had nearly made her gag. “The ducks are kept in tight cages so they can’t exercise or even move around.”
“Geez! And they’re serving this right here in Ranchero?”
“Yes,” she answered quickly. “At a price that would water your eyes.” She stopped, not sure she wanted to remind him how much she’d charged on the company card.
Egan dropped the report on his desk and leaned back in the chair, hands behind his head, making his ears protrude even more. “This is going to ruffle a few feathers at Longhorn Prime Rib.” He grinned, obviously pleased with his play on words.
Jordan shifted in the chair. “I was totally complimentary about the restaurant in general.” She thought about the Chocolate Decadence Cake that had doubled as breakfast that morning. “The desserts were phenomenal and the service – fantastic.”
Egan studied her face, his head tilted as if in deep thought. “I had you pegged for a simple meat and potatoes girl. For the life of me, I can’t figure out why you’d order this when you’re obviously so outraged at how they get it.”
Here it is! This was where she’d have to admit she was clueless when it came to fancy food. This was where he’d realize what a big mistake he’d made giving her the job. “The waiter recommended it. Said it was imported from Canada. Since I knew it was too expensive to ever try on my own, I went with it.”
“I still find it hard to believe you’d even order the dish, knowing how you feel about it.”
“I thought it was chicken,” she blurted, looking away for a moment, imagining the pink slip falling from this week’s pay envelope.
Egan threw back his head and laughed. And continued to laugh until Jordan finally gave in and smiled.
“So, let’s see,” he began when he was finally able to speak. “I have a culinary expert who has no idea what she orders at restaurants.” He slapped the desk. “That’s rich. Loretta would never see the humor in that, of course, nor would she be caught dead ordering anything but a thick, juicy steak.” He leaned forward and lowered his voice. “And just between you and me, she wouldn’t know foie gras from chicken piccata, either, even if it bit her on her overpaid butt.”
“I’m sorry, sir. Maybe you should give this job to someone else.”
His eyes bored into her. “Are you joking? This is going to grab the attention of every animal lover in Ranchero who probably has never even looked at Loretta’s column before.” He slid the papers across the desk. “Take this down to the copy room ASAP. I want it in tonight’s edition.”
Stunned, Jordan grabbed the report and headed for the door.
“Oh, and McAllister?”
She whirled around, expecting her little bubble of excitement to burst like a piñata at a birthday party with eight year old boys on a sugar high.
“From now on, you’ll do a bi-weekly column with recipes and food information. Fancy food like this. A couple of exposés would be great.” He rubbed his hands together. “If my gut is right, with the exception of the restaurant owner, the good citizens of this fine town are going to love you.”
“What about the Personals?”
He smiled. “Look at this as a freelance opportunity,” he said. “And the Personals as your day job. Now go.”
Jordan wondered how he could say that with a straight face, but she was too excited to care. She hurried out the door, surprised to see Jackie Frazier smiling. She’d obviously been eavesdropping. She imagined her, as Roseanne Roseannadanna saying, “It’s always something,” and she smiled back.
Who knew fatty duck liver could wipe the sarcasm off the secretary’s face and maybe even jump-start her career?
Suz: Your heroine, Jordan McAllister stumbles into more than a new career when she takes over the food critic position at the local paper. Can you give our readers a little hint about the trouble she gets into?
Liz: Her first assignment is to critique a steakhouse on the edge of town that has just reopened after being closed for six months when one of the owners died in a botched robbery. Since Jordan only eats hamburger meat well done, she asks her hunky waiter what on the menu isn't red meat, not seeing chicken anywhere. He tells her the foie gras must be good because the guy across the restaurant ordered the pricey dish every week. After one look at the squashy fatty duck liver, she nearly gags, and the entire entrée ends up in a borrowed purse. Two days later, the hunky waiter is found dead outside her apartment with her name and number in his pocket. And that's when it all starts.
Suz: Alex Moreland is the hero of LIVER LET DIE, how does he fit into the story?
Liz: Did I mention I am a romance writer at heart? Everything I write has a little romance in it. I knew I needed a love interest, but she's just new in the town, and the only friends she has are residents of her apartment. Most cozies are written in first person, but I am more comfortable with 3rd person and asked the editor if she had any problems with that or with multiple POVs. She said no. Later she had me take out a couple of short scenes written in a "he" point of view as the killer, but she liked that we were in Alex's head at times. She felt like the deleted scenes weren't necessary since we found out the info later in Jordan's POV. She was right. Anyway, Alex thinks Jordan is the killer, and she thinks he's been ransacking her apartment.
Suz: In cozy mysteries there are always some whacky secondary characters. Do you have any waiting to help or hinder Jordan and Alex?
Liz: I think the secondary characters are what convinced Berkley to buy the series. The editor loved the wacky residents of Empire Apartments who took Jordan under their wings that first day when she arrived broken and unsure of herself. There's a retired sixtyish cop with his seventyish psychic "lady friend", two gay guys who own the apartments, one of whom is my favorite character of all times to write, and a hippyish fifty year old who has been married four times and does all the cooking for the gang.
Suz: What's next for your series?
Liz: BEEF STOLEN-OFF will release in July, 2012. It's about modern day cattle rustling and has the same cast of characters with a fresh batch of suspects. Here's the down and dirty short blurb.
On an assignment to write a column about the famed Cattleman's Ball in Fort Worth, Texas, Jordan is the guest of wealthy ranch owner, Lucas Santana, who sees her review as a way to increase the sagging beef sales in the county. He's even hand-picked her escort, his right hand man, Rusty Morales, who looks like he just stepped off the cover of GQ, Cowboy Edition. But instead of dancing the night away, Jordan ends up in the emergency room where her date is DOA.
Currently, I am writing the third book of the series, MURDER FOR THE HALIBUT, where I have sent Jordan and her friends on a Caribbean Cruise to judge a cooking competition. (think Bravo's Chopped.)
One last thing before I have to shut up-beginning October 4th through the 31st, you can enter the LLD contest where the prize is a Pandigital Kitchen Technology Center worth $399. I'm also putting up my straight mystery, MORTAL DECEPTION, on Amazon next week as a marketing tool for LLD, kind of a try-me-you-might-like-me thing. For the entire month of October, it will download for $.99. Check out my website www.lizlipperman.com for details on both.
Okay, I've done all the talking. Now, it's your turn. Since I had to walk into B & N and pick several books to tutor me about cozies with no knowledge of cozy writers, I made an interesting observation about myself. I made my choices after reading the first line. The cover may catch my eye initially, but ultimately, it has to grab me with the opening line. What about you? What teases you into buying a book from a debut author or one you're not familiar with? The cover? Blurb? Chatting with them on a blog? All of the above? None of the Above?
I have one copy of LIVER LET DIE to give away, thanks to Berkley. To enter, leave a comment with a valid email address. This is open to US residents (publisher's request.) Suz will pick the winner. Before I leave, I want to thank Suz and the Romance Bandits again for having me here today. Answering these questions has been fun.