Kathy: Setting plays a very important part of books, especially mysteries. Why choose the Hamptons for you series?
CD: I chose East Hampton as the setting for my books because I have lived there part time for my entire life and I know it like the back of my hand. It is my favorite place in the world—I find it placid and relaxing and exquisitely beautiful. As I mention in my books, most of the prominent American painters have flocked to the Hamptons over the decades because the light is so magical. Besides the glamorous folk who summer in the Hamptons, there are a lot of hard working and interesting people who live there. I love the creative energy. In addition, the landscape on the East End of Long Island varies remarkably. There is the ocean and the bay and the woods and the potato fields so you can feel like you are traversing across the country when you head from one end of town to the other. The produce from the farms, the fish from the ocean and the flowers from the fields are incredible.
Kathy: Although an excellent cook, Antonia Bingham bought the Windmill Inn without any real experience. Have you ever started a business without the "requisite" experience?
CD: Aside from the lemonade stand that I started with my friend Katinka when I was 10, I mostly had some experience in the areas where I started a business. In the early 1980s Katinka and I watched an old episode of “Little Rascals” and were enchanted by the goat that they had to pull their wagon. Well, I had the wagon but not the goat, but I knew of a farm in Sagaponack (a neighboring village) where there were goats so we decided that we would raise money to buy the goat. We made $17. That was actually a lot for that time. But we didn’t get the goat. I think our parents nixed that, and Katinka had to go back to London where she lived.
Kathy: In addition to being an innkeeper Antonio also becomes an estate manager. Have you ever watched over people's houses?
CD: I know several estate managers in East Hampton but I have never actually watched anyone’s house. They filled me in on all the nitty-gritty.
Kathy: Do you enjoy cooking as well? Do you like to experiment in the kitchen or do you tend to follow tried and true recipes?
CD: I am a huge cooking enthusiast. I generally like to make recipes from Ina Garten’s cookbooks. I worked at her store The Barefoot Contessa when I was in college, which was an incredible experience. I worked in the bakery section, which was so irresistible. But I learned a trick: if I came in the morning and had a bite of one of the pastries or cakes I would snack all day. If I could hold out two hours or so and not eat anything then I would fill up on all the aromatic fumes and not need to eat anything all day! I also read a lot of cooking magazines like “Food and Wine’”and “Bon Appetit” and “Saveur.” “Top Chef” is my favorite show. I tend to use tried and true recipes although I tweak them depending on ingredients. I replace herbs with my favorites—which are tarragon, basil, chervil and sage. I cannot stand cilantro or eat anything with it! Unlike Antonia I am a vegetarian and have been since I was 8 years old. That doesn’t stop me from making meat dishes for my family—in fact this weekend I made Ina Garten’s lamb shanks with orzo for my sister-in-law’s birthday. It is always a crowd pleaser! With meat recipes I keep them as they are because I can’t taste them! Other favorite chefs are Nigella Lawson, Jamie Oliver and Giada deLaurentis.
Kathy: What first drew you to cozy mysteries?
CD: I am drawn to crime and murder stories. There, I said it. But I suppose most cozy fans feel the same! I love a good mystery and a good thriller, always have. I don’t need slasher and blood—I find all those to be cheap thrills. But I like how cozy murders examine motive so closely and investigate the psychology behind the crime. I have been reading a lot of Agatha Christie with my son lately and was fortunate enough to recently discover the BBC series Agatha Christie’s Poirot on Netflix, which is sensational! David Suchet the lead actor is fantastic. I think we can all agree that Agatha is the master of this genre, and I love how she dapples her stories with red herrings and you never truly know who did it until the end (most of the time.) I also admire Poirot’s advice that: ‘until you know exactly what sort of person the victim was, you cannot begin to see the circumstances of the crime clearly.”
Mysteries and murder are stories I gravitate towards. I loved Encyclopedia Brown as a child and my favorite book was The Mystery at Number 7 Rue Petite by Ellen Shire. My favorite board game when I was young was 221 B Baker Street. This is Sherlock Holmes’ address and it was a mystery game like Clue. There is a funny story about when I was on vacation as a teenager I badgered my whole family to play one of those murder games where we were all assigned a character and one of us was the murderer then we had to go around and say who we thought it was. When we finally played it, everyone said their suspect and then my cousin Tricia said she thought it was my character. Everyone said, no way, my character seemed totally innocent but Tricia said, ‘do you think she’d pester us for days to play this and not make herself the murderer?” and sure enough she was right!
True crime also interests me. My aunt, Katie Mahon, had a very close call with Ted Bundy, a harrowing event that she wrote about in her book The Miracle Chase. I remember when she told me her story when I was in college and it totally captivated me. In addition, I was completely obsessed with the OJ Simpson trial and loved Jeffrey Toobin’s book The Run of his Life: The People Vs. O.J. Simpson. When I recently watched the ESPN series on OJ they showed an excerpt from Nicole Brown Simpson’s diary, which described the first time OJ had ever beaten her, and it was after a party at their friends’ apartment in NYC. It was my upstairs neighbors’! I knew they were friends but never knew the horrific details. The weird thing is I was probably asleep in my bed on the floor below when that happened.
I don’t know enough to write a legal or cop procedural, which is why I chose cozy mysteries. I like the idea of people like me solving crime!
Kathy: Do you write in any other genres?
CD: I have published six other books under my married name Carrie Karasyov. 5 of my books were co-written with my friend Jill Kargman. Jill and I both worked in magazines after college. I worked at Harper’s Bazaar in NYC then moved to Moscow to help launch Harper’s Bazaar in Russia and I eventually became Editor-in-Chief of the Russian edition of Marie Claire Magazine. After two years at the helm I realized I did not want to live my life working in magazines. I had an amazing experience, but I would rather be writing. So Jill and I quit our jobs (she was working at Interview Magazine) and wrote a screenplay about an intern at a fashion magazine called Intern (this was before the Devil Wears Prada.) We sold the film and it was made and we found ourselves at the Sundance Film Festival. After that we sold a bunch of scripts to Paramount, Oxygen Network, Showtime and Nickelodeon but nothing ever got made so we decided to flip some of our scripts into books. Our first book was called The Right Address and it is about a fancy building on Park Avenue in Manhattan. The New York Times christened it “Gossip-Lit” and we wrote several more books in that genre, including teen books. After awhile I decided that I wanted to write less about the Upper East Side of Manhattan and more about murder, which is how I came to cozy mysteries.
Kathy: Tell us about your series.
CD: Antonia Bingham is the protagonist of The Hamptons Murder Mystery Series. She recently moved to East Hampton, New York from California after escaping a toxic marriage to a violent police officer. She has bought The Windmill Inn and revived its restaurant, which she oversees as executive chef. Antonia is curious, nosy, the friend who everyone dishes to, and who lacks self-control when it comes to food and snooping. She finds herself solving the various murders that happen around East Hampton.
Kathy: Do you have a favorite character? If so, who and why?
CD: Larry Lipper is my favorite character because I always know what he will say and how he will react to any situation. He is the diminutive crime reporter for the local newspaper, and is conceited, arrogant, and childish. Antonia has a love/hate relationship with him.
Kathy: Did you have a specific inspiration for your series?
CD: I love Sue Grafton’s alphabet series, which is a definite inspiration for my book. She conjures up such a sense of place and I really feel like I know everything about her characters and Santa Teresa where the books are set.
Kathy: If you could have a dinner party and invite 4 authors, living or dead, in any genre, who would you invite?
CD: This is a great question. I was a Russian Language and Literature major so I would definitely have the Russians! I wrote my senior thesis on Vladimir Nabokov—whether or not he could be described as a Russian or American author as he wrote most of his masterpieces in English when he was living in America (and his first language was English courtesy of his governess.) His niece Marina Ledkovsky was my thesis advisor who told me all sorts of stories. I would definitely have him! I also think Nikolai Gogol would make a witty guest judging by his books which are hilarious and clever. Tolstoy is another favorite but I think he would be grumpy, and Dostoevsky would probably be drunk so in that case Jane Austen is a must as ‘Pride and Prejudice’ is my favorite book. I think I would also like F. Scott Fitzgerald as well. I have been fortunate enough to meet some of my favorite living authors already or they would be on the list! I interviewed Donna Tartt for “Town & Country Magazine” after she wrote The Goldfinch and we had a great time having tea together. I worship all of Michael Connelly’s books and I met him at Author’s Night at the East Hampton Library, a fundraiser I am involved in. I was so intimidated by his greatness (plus he is very tall!) that I could only sputter a few words. When I was young my aunt was Carol Higgins Clark’s editor and I remember when she and her mother Mary Higgins Clark came over to my house, which was very cool.
Kathy: What are you currently reading?
CD: I’m reading a “Murder She Wrote” cozy mystery called Killer in the Kitchen as well as V is for Vengeance by Sue Grafton. In addition, and I am reading Crooked House by Agatha Christie to my son at night. I have Michael Connelly’s new book on my nightstand. I almost hate to read it because then I have to wait a year for the next one.
Kathy: Will you share any of your hobbies or interests with us?
CD: I love jigsaw puzzles (1000 piece) and cooking. I also play a lot of tennis, paddle tennis and golf and like to compete in tournaments.
Kathy: Name 4 items you always have in your fridge or pantry.
CD: What do I always have in my fridge? Ina Garten’s Caesar salad dressing, which I make by the buckets and use on my salad. I could eat it out of the jar it is so delicious. We have whole milk, 1% milk and almond milk to cater to the various family members (I am almond.) I always have a lot of lemons and limes so my son can make me margaritas (again the recipe is from Ina Garten—very tart, not sweet.) Parmesan cheese is usually a stand by and lately Kimchi! I have been on a kimchi craze.
Kathy: Do you have plans for future books either in your current series or a new series?
CD: I am working on the third book of the Hamptons Murder Mystery Series called Death on West End Road. It is a cold case that Antonia has been asked to look into by one of her former suspects in a murder, who was also a suspect in the cold case. It’s been fun to travel back to East Hampton in the 1990s in my mind.
Kathy: What's your favorite thing about being an author?
CD: I love the flexibility of being an author. I am a mobile party unit! I have been able to live in various cities around the world and still do what I love to do. The best and worst aspect of being a writer is the flexibility though. Because I don’t have a boss or set time constraints I have to be very strict about prioritizing my work. And that can be tough to do. That’s why I work at the NY Society Library in the quiet room. There are no bills sitting in front of me that need to be paid and no dogs looking at me sadly begging for a walk.
DEATH ON LILY POND LANE by Carrie Doyle
The Second Hamptons Murder Mystery
It's the off season in the Hamptons and Antonia Bingham has taken on extra work looking after a few estates while the owners are away. At one of her stops Antonia is surprised to discover the car of a house guest who was supposed to have already left town. She is even more surprised to find his dead body in the bathtub! In an attempt to protect the homeowners and thinking the death is a tragic accident, Antonia removes what may be a vital piece of evidence. However, the victim had been making high powered enemies by filming a documentary expose. Could his death actually be murder?
I thought for sure I knew a vital clue and was giving Antonia withering glances from my side of the book for not realizing it. I eventually discovered that I was hasty in my deductions. The object was a clue, but it wasn't what I thought it was. In fact, there were several other times that Carrie Doyle led me down paths and I willingly followed, fully believing I was correct, changing my mind a few times as I then followed new paths laid out for me. Carrie Doyle challenged me in this book, not only by the false trails left for me, but Antonia's attitude on certain subjects, and Genevieve's whole persona.
DEATH ON LILY POND LANE is a mystery filled with twists and turns, relationship conundrums, and an intriguing look at those who reside in the exclusive enclave known as the Hamptons.
The author has graciously offered paperback copies of the first two books in the Hamptons Murder Mystery series (DEATH ON WINDMILL WAY and DEATH ON LILY POND LANE) to one lucky reader. Simply leave a comment on this blog post telling us your thoughts of either the Hamptons or running an inn. Leave your comment as well as an e-mail address no later than 11:59pm EST Sunday, December 18, 2016. Sorry, US mailing addresses only.