Mystery Author @LucyBurdette Talks Food

Please welcome Lucy Burdette to the blog today. Lucy (aka Roberta Isleib) has had eleven mysteries published, most recently Topped Chef, the third in the Key West food critic series. Murder with Ganache will be out next February. Lucy’s books and stories have been shortlisted for Agatha, Anthony, and Macavity awards.

Were you “born to write” or did you discover your passion for writing later in life?
For me, writing is definitely a midlife crisis! It’s hard to believe that my twelfth book, Murder with Ganache, will be published next February. I have a Ph.D in clinical psychology and worked for fifteen years in that field, never dreaming that I’d become a mystery writer. On the other hand, I’ve always been a big reader, especially of mysteries. And the psychology background is so useful when I’m developing characters and motivation. So it all falls into place…

What’s the strangest thing you have ever done in the name of research?
I don’t know if this qualifies as strange, but last winter I attended the Key West Citizens’ Police Academy. This involved eight weeks of listening to all kinds of police experts, like police dog handlers, search and rescue teams, SWAT teams, traffic cops…and to top it off, a ride-along with a real cop, which ended up including a visit to the local jail. Mystery writer’s heaven! Readers will see some of these great details in Murder with Ganache.

What inspired your latest release?
Topped Chef was hatched at the Key West Food and Wine Festival (I know, it’s a hard life) and then I started thinking about how I could increase the job pressure on my food critic character, and also get her linked into another murder investigation. A cooking contest with quirky characters desperate to get their own reality TV show was what came to mind.

How do you decide on setting?
Key West is one of those places that’s a slam dunk as a choice for setting. It has all the usual draws–palm trees, turquoise water, Conch-style houses with eyebrow windows and gingerbread trim. It perches on an exposed coral reef at the very end of the keys, as close as you can get to a Caribbean island without leaving the country.
Besides all that, my writer’s brain is constantly fed by a stream of events and people that fire up my imagination. Where else but Key West could you…
*Pay a dollar to get your picture taken with Elvis?
*March your Australian shepherd in a parade of Dachshunds dressed in hot dog costumes? (Believe me, I am so working on Tonka’s weiner costume for next year!)
*Celebrate Sunset every night with a tarot card reader?
I could go on and on–chickens, cats, sunsets, drag queens– but I think you get the idea. I love Key West and so does my main character Hayley Snow. In Topped Chef, she’s been suckered into judging a reality TV show called “Key West Top Chef”–but she’s also attending the Key West Food and Wine Festival, eating at Michael’s restaurant, and cooking up a storm on her houseboat. We will be delighted to have you join us on a tour…

How much research was involved in writing your book? How did you go about it?
I guess I already answered this–I’m always on the lookout for the next plot idea or character…

What is your favorite part of writing?

I love it when I’ve sweated through the first draft and get to go back and revise. Tweaking words and sentences and buffing up descriptions and figuring out what my characters are feeling and making sure the reader will get this–it’s so much fun at this stage. And of course, what could be better than typing THE END.

What is your least favorite part of writing?
The hardest part is the middle–when I’m not quite sure where I’m headed and it feels like I’ll never get there…

Do you have or belong to a writing organization? Which one?
I belong to a small writers group–these friends read everything I write, and vice versa. Some writers work better alone, but I definitely appreciate feedback and brainstorming. I joined Sisters in Crime shortly after my first book was published (Six Strokes Under, 2002)–this has provided me with so many friends on this crazy journey. I also belong to Mystery Writers of America and the Authors Guild.

What books are on your nightstand or by your chair?
I just finished reading Barbara Ross’s Clammed Up, the first in a cozy mystery series set in Maine. She did a fabulous job of setting scene, creating believable characters, and telling the story. Now I’m in the middle of a novel called Calling Invisible Women by Jeanne Ray. Though I learn so much from reading other mysteries–sometimes I need a change of pace.

What’s your favorite comfort food? Least favorite food?
Oh food, food, food–I find it one of life’s great pleasures! I can’t possibly pick one dish, so I’ll give the general idea. I love homestyle food–nothing too fancy–things like macaroni and cheese, roast chicken, Bolognese sauce on spaghetti, fried okra, fresh tomatoes with basil and a drizzle of olive oil, chocolate cake, peanut butter cookies…
Luckily, in the Key West mysteries, the more I write about food, the happier is my editor. And to write about it, I have to cook and eat and try new restaurants. It’s a hard life, but Hayley and I are willing to do it!

For more information about Lucy Burdette and her books, please visit her website, follow her on Twitter, or Like her on Facebook.


This author is a member of Books for Reality TV Fans. Stop by the Books for Reality TV Fans list to browse novels for adults and teens revolving around dance shows, adventure shows, dating shows, soap operas, and lots more, and to read interviews with real life reality show contestants from Splash, Survivor, So You Think You Can Dance?, and more.

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  1. Hi Stacy & Lucy! Great blog! Interesting questions & answers!

Stacy Juba