Halloween in Crystal Cove, California, is a big deal, involving a spooky soiree where the Winsome Witches, a fund-raising group, gather to open up their purse strings and trade superstitions. But party magicians, fortune-tellers, and herbalists are only the beginning of this recipe for disaster…
Jenna Hart has packed The Cookbook Nook chock-full of everything from ghostly texts to witchy potions in anticipation of the annual fund-raiser luncheon. But there’s one unexpected addition to the menu: murder.
When the Head Priestess of the Winsome Witches is found dead under mysterious circumstances, there’s no logical answer and plenty of blame to go around. With her aunt, Vera, unable to call on her ability to foresee the future, Jenna will have to use more than just sleight of hand and a few magic tricks to conjure up the truth…
The first Avery Aames (aka Daryl Woods Gerber) book I read was "The Long Quiche Goodbye", the first book in "The Cheese Shop Mysteries, which I had won in an online giveaway. It was my first exposure to the 'cozy mystery' genre and I was hooked! I subsequently bought the next five books in the series and have read all of them. A sixth installment is due out next year and I am already eagerly awaiting its publication.
So, when the chance came to read and review "Stirring the Plot" I JUMPED on it! And Ms. Gerber does not disappoint. I absolutely LOVE the punny titles!
Poor, poor Jenna Hart. Her husband has committed suicide, and she finds a note some time after, indicating that he has kept other secrets (of a financial nature?) from her. So she moves to Crystal Cove to help her aunt open and run a combination cookbook store and bistro. This is the third Cookbook Mystery (if I'm not mistaken), and in the short space that Jenna has taken up residence, three people have died in suspicious circumstances. She begins to feel like her presence is causing a negative turn in the town's energy.
I like the way the paranormal is handled in Stirring the Plot. You have folks like Aunt Vera who believe they can see the future, quite a number of townspeople, who come to her for readings, Bingo - who practices spells in her shop and in the graveyard at night. As a counterpoint, you have the skeptics, Jenna and her father (Vera's brother) - who don't believe in 'powers' but cannot deny the spiritual energy of the town. There are even a few people who equate the term 'witch' with 'evil'.
You see, there is a group called the "Winsome Witches" in town. They are not a coven in the conventional sense. They get together to host a fundraising luncheon around Halloween to raise money for literacy projects. It's a BIG DEAL in town.
But shortly before this year's fete, the head Winsome Witch is found dead. There is no shortage of suspects. The daughter, whose money faucet from mom has been turned off of late. And then there's the rest of the town, many of whom see the woman on a professional basis - she is a therapist.
And, not to mix holiday metaphors, but Ms. Gerber provides us with some wonderful 'Easter Eggs' in Stirring the Plot. Like Jenna's love interest, Rhett, (his sisters Scarlett and Ashley - and their mother Melanie). There's also enough cookbook titles that even I might be able to bring something out of the kitchen that did not make my family run and hide. And last, but SO not least, a 'goodie bag' STUFFED with recipes at the back.
Stirring the Plot is a delightful Halloween-themed treat!
How hard is it to keep your Daryl Wood Gerber and Avery Aames writing personas distinct?
Not too hard. When I was first becoming Avery, I had a hard time writing my name. LOL. But even that has become natural over time. I’m a Gemini as well as an actress, so having a couple of people using my body seems perfectly natural. I do have separate websites and Facebook pages and Twitter accounts, so there are times I post different things that are particular to Gerber or Aames. There’s more cheese on the Aames sites. ;) You wouldn’t believe the discussions Daryl and Avery have when it comes to plotting!
How did the first book of the “new” Cookbook Nook Mysteries get the name "Final Sentence"?
This is a bit of a lengthy story. Though I thought “recipe” or “cookbook” in the title would be best, the publisher wanted “book-ish” titles. They thought my new series would compete with other book-related series rather than foodie-related series. Book series include those written by Kate Carlisle, Miranda James, and Jenn McKinlay. Trying to stay away from the specific word: book, I offered all sorts of titles with aspects of books, using words like sentence, word, or plot, and the publisher (okay, advertising department) loved Final Sentence. The double entendre twist really wowed them: final sentence meaning death. Inherit the Word is simply a good play on a movie title. The Word, in this instance, happens to refer to a diner in the story called Mum’s the Word. When we arrived at Stirring the Plot for the 3rd book title, the publisher fell in love with the feature of using both a foodie term and a book term. I can’t tell you how HARD this is to do. I offered approximately fifty titles for the 4th book in the series before settling on Fudging the Books, which does focus on chocolate.
Who would you choose for key roles should "Stirring the Plot" be filmed?
I really like Angie Harmon for Jenna, but she’s already taken on Rizzoli and Isles. ☺
Why do you think some teachers are supportive of their students' dreams and goals, while others are *ahem* less so? (I think one of my college theatre coaches was related to 'those' English teachers of yours.)
You must have read the bio on my website. You’re referring to the seventh grade teacher who told me that I wasn’t a good writer, and I should quit. I don’t know why some teachers are supportive and others aren’t, other than the fact that they’re probably not good teachers, or they see the world in a very practical way and don’t feel they should encourage any dreaming. I am a big dreamer. I believe everyone should at least try to pursue a dream. Perseverance is a huge part of fulfilling a dream. You can’t succeed at something if you quit. Now, as for me being a good writer back then…I probably wasn’t. I’ve put in a lot of time taking classes, learning, writing, and rewriting. I might not have all the talent, but I do have discipline. I’m willing to learn, and I don’t mind failing.
How did you get past the 2nd English teacher's (obviously erroneous) assessment of your writing?
Aw, you’re sweet. Thank you for the pat on the back. As for the second teacher, in college, (another reference to my bio), he probably had the same world vision as my 7th grade teacher. Don’t encourage. Be practical. Given that this occurred years ago, it’s very possible I didn’t “hear” the teachers correctly. Maybe they told me I was good at something else. Maybe…
What has been the hardest thing for you as a writer and all-around creative person?
Rejection. It’s crushing! No two ways about it. You pour your heart and energy into a project, and then you hear from agents (publishers, readers) that it just didn’t rock their world, and you wonder if you have it in you to write something else. It’s difficult to sit back down at the computer and start a new project knowing the last was rejected. But you do. And you keep going. And you find the inspiration to keep at it. Perseverance. It takes work and grit. Even harder is when you hear (from an agent/publisher) that they “loved” the character and the writing and you and your vision and the fill in the blank, but they don’t want it, and then follow up with this question: “What else do you have?” Like inspiration is pouring out of you in droves! Gack!
Do you still participate in community theatre?
Oh, I wish. I did a lot of theater when we lived in Charlotte, North Carolina, but when we moved to Connecticut (for my husband’s career), there was a dearth of local theater. And when we returned to Los Angeles, where I live now, there just isn’t the opportunity to perform. I mean, there is—it’s an acting mecca—but everyone in LA is out for a role. The competition is fierce. Also, I don’t have time! I’m writing 2 books a year plus doing the promotion. That’s taking up all my extra energy. I need to spend time with my wonderful husband, my kids, their adorable kids, and my darling dog!
Do you come up with the recipes in your books or is there a 'ghost' chef?
I come up with all my own recipes. Sure, I might search cookbooks or the Internet for inspiration, but when the recipe is finalized, it’s mine. I’ve baked it, tweaked it, worked out the kinks. I love to cook. I always have, unlike Jenna in the Cookbook Nook series who is learning as she goes. She never had to cook. Her mother did it all. Now she’s digging in and enjoying it. She really likes recipes with five ingredients! If you haven’t checked it out, come to the blog where I post recipes every week: Mystery Lovers Kitchen, a collective of authors who love to cook up crime. As for recipes with cheese, I had to learn all about the cheese before I got started in that direction. Cheese is a vast world and one I love to explore.
The 3rd book in the Cookbook Nook Mysteries, “Stirring the Plot” is out this month. Without revealing any secrets, can you say what's next for Jenna, Aunt Vera, and their friends?
Halloween in Crystal Cove, California, is a big deal, involving a spooky soiree where the Winsome Witches, a fund-raising group, gather to open up their purse strings and trade superstitions. But party magicians, fortune-tellers, and herbalists are only the beginning of this recipe for disaster. Jenna has packed The Cookbook Nook chock-full of everything from ghostly texts to witchy potions in anticipation of the annual fund-raiser luncheon. But there’s one unexpected addition to the menu: murder. When the Head Priestess of the Winsome Witches is found dead under mysterious circumstances, there’s no logical answer and plenty of blame to go around. With her aunt, Vera, unable to call on her ability to foresee the future, Jenna will have to use more than just sleight of hand and a few magic tricks to conjure up the truth…
The 6th book of the Cheese Shop Mysteries, "As Gouda as Dead" is slated for February 2015. Without revealing any secrets, can you say what's next for Charlotte and her family and friends?
When a beloved bar owner is discovered murdered on her fiancè’s farm, Charlotte is deeply troubled, as is her betrothed—artisanal cheese farmer Jordan Pace—who believes they should reschedule their upcoming wedding, given the grim turn of events. With the whole town celebrating Valentine’s Day with weeklong events, including lovers’ baskets with heart-shaped cheeses at Fromagerie Bessette, Charlotte is heartsick over the postponement—and more determined than ever to contain the killer. But when a second murder occurs, it’s clear someone is not feeling the love. As Charlotte plunges headlong into the investigation, is she in danger of getting in over her head?
If you could speak with any author from any point in history, whom would you choose and why?
I have lots of favorites. William Shakespeare. I simply love his wit. Mark Twain. Again, what a wit! Agatha Christie, the mistress of plotting. Edgar Allan Poe, so dark and sinister I can’t possibly imagine his inner thoughts. Alexander Dumas. I fell in love with The Three Musketeers. Daphne Du Maurier. Ah, Rebecca. Last night I dreamt I went to Manderley again… And so many more…
Thanks for having me on your blog. What a fun set of questions!
Thanks for answering! I appreciate you taking time from your busy schedule! I never thought from winning a copy of "The Long Quiche Goodbye" a couple of years ago that I would actually be 'speaking with' the author! C-O-O-L!!!
(Disclosure: I received a paper copy of this book from the author and publisher via Great Escapes Virtual Book Tours in exchange for my unbiased opinion.)