Kathy: Sugar Calloway has launched a community cookbook publishing business. I collect cookbooks and some of my favorites are those from churches, schools, and other community organizations. Do you collect cookbooks? Have you ever been part of a community cookbook?
MLA: First off, Kathy, thanks for having me and how fun that you collect cookbooks, too! To begin with my collecting was somewhat unintentional. I had a few older cookbooks from my childhood. One of my favorites is the American Woman’s Cookbook with a 1942 copyright. It must have been my mother’s and it has so many great basic recipes. Through the years I was given or purchased others and the collection grew. Then a few years ago a dear friend, Mary Ellen, passed away and left me her cookbooks. Some were fancy gourmet cookbooks but my favorites were the ones from churches, schools, and tea rooms.
I have had recipes included in community cookbooks and one that was a lot of fun was one called, Cozy Food: 128 Mystery Writers Share Their Favorite Recipes
Kathy: In Risky Biscuits Sugar and Dixie prepare a fundraiser for the St. Ignatius Crack of Dawn Breakfast Club. What recipe would you like to see in that cookbook?
MLA: My favorite breakfast casserole is included in the fictional Crack of Dawn Breakfast Club Cookbook and also included in the back of Risky Biscuits. It’s the perfect, make the night before and put in the oven the next morning, dish to share with friends and family.
Kathy: I adore biscuits and gravy, but never make it myself. Consequently, on the rare occasions I go out to breakfast, that's usually what I order. What's your favorite breakfast?
MLA: If biscuits and gravy are on the menu, that’s what I’m always going to choose!
Kathy: What first drew you to cozy mysteries?
MLA: I think my love of cozy mysteries is rooted in my early love of Nancy Drew and Trixie Belden. My mom was a mystery reader and so I soon moved on to her Agatha Christie books. The transition from there to cozies was kind of a natural progression. I love the puzzle in the stories.
Kathy: Do you write in any other genres?
MLA: For the present, I don’t write in any other genre.
Kathy: Tell us about your series.
MLA: In the Sugar & Spice mysteries, Sugar Calloway, a down-sized magazine editor and Dixie Spicer, a blue-ribbon baker, team up to start a community cookbook business in peaceful St. Ignatius, Iowa. Stir in some small-town drama and a dollop of murder and the two suddenly have the perfect recipe for disaster.
I also write the Pampered Pets mysteries as half of Sparkle Abbey. Those books feature two cousins, one a pet therapist, and the other a pet boutique owner who’ve moved from their native Texas to posh and pet-friendly Laguna Beach. I like to describe it as: no pets are harmed, people are dead.
Kathy: Do you have a favorite character? If so, who and why?
MLA: It’s always the one I’m writing, so right now, Sugar is my favorite character. I love that she’s smart, and brave, and stubbornly persistent. She doesn’t take no for an answer! But she’s also genuinely caring and fiercely loyal to those she cares about.
Kathy: Did you have a specific inspiration for your series?
MLA: The inheritance of those cookbooks was the inspiration. Going through them and thinking about the groups of people that created them, planted the idea that every group has their own story. So many possibilities with all those different situations!
Kathy: What made you decide to publish your work?
MLA: When my agent began shopping this series, I was hopeful. I really loved the idea of a community cookbook business as the basis for the stories, and I hoped she could find a publisher who loved the idea as much as I did. Lucky for me, Kensington thought the idea had merit and bought the series.
Kathy: If you could have a dinner party and invite 4 authors, living or dead, in any genre, who would you invite?
MLA: I think a great dinner party would be Agatha Christie, Mark Twain, Sara Paretsky and Stephen King. Can you imagine the conversations around that table?
Kathy: What are you currently reading?
MLA: I alternate fiction and non-fiction books and so at the moment I’m reading Atomic Habits by James Clear.
Kathy: Will you share any of your hobbies or interests with us?
MLA: I have a passionate interest in creativity and teach a university class on the topic. As far as hobbies, with a demanding full-time job and a very busy family, there is unfortunately little time for hobbies. If I’m not working or writing, I mostly spend time with my family – husband, sons and their wives, six wonderful grandchildren, and one cat. Beyond that, if I’m able to carve out any free time, I read.
Kathy: Name 4 items you always have in your fridge or pantry.
I always have butter and eggs in the fridge and wheat bread and peanut butter in the pantry. That sounds sort of boring, doesn’t it? I wish I had something more exotic or interesting to share.
Kathy: Do you have plans for future books either in your current series or a new series?
MLA: Book three in the Sugar & Spice series has just been turned in. So, watch for news about that book soon! There are still edits and all to go through, so I don’t have a release date yet.
Kathy: What's your favorite thing about being an author?
MLA: Definitely my favorite thing is meeting or hearing from readers! I love getting emails or notes from readers who have enjoyed my books and finding out what elements in the story connected for them. Or in some cases simply hearing that the story provided a much-needed escape. Writing a book is a very solitary pursuit and that connection to readers, whether in person or via email, is just the best!
Risky Biscuits (A Sugar & Spice Mystery) by Mary Lee Ashford
About the Book
Cozy Mystery 2nd in Series
Setting - Iowa
Lyrical Underground (July 9, 2019)
Paperback: 190 pages
Former magazine editor “Sugar” Calloway’s life has taken a delicious twist since she launched a community cookbook publishing business with blue-ribbon baker Dixie Spicer. Now these amateur sleuths must solve a small-town murder—without getting burned . .
Sugar and Spice Cookbooks’ newest project is a fundraiser organized by the St. Ignatius Crack of Dawn Breakfast Club, famous for their all-you-can-eat biscuits and gravy events. But when a group member is found dead, Sugar and Spice’s priorities change from raising dough to figuring out who put murder on the menu.
The return of former badboy Nick Marchant has stirred the town’s gossips too. Add a few grudges and some old-fashioned greed over a land deal into the mix, and it’s a recipe for mayhem. And when someone serves up a second helping of murder, Sugar and Spice need to sift the guilty from the blameless, or their next breakfast may be their last . . .
* Includes delicious recipes! *
About Mary Lee Ashford
Mary Lee Ashford is a lifelong bibliophile, and avid reader, and supporter of public libraries. In addition to writing the Sugar & Spice mystery series for Kensington Books, she also writes as half of the writing team of Sparkle Abbey, author of the national bestselling Pampered Pets mystery series from Bell Bridge Books. Prior to publishing Mary Lee won first place in the Daphne du Maurier contest, sponsored by the Kiss of Death chapter of RWA, and was a finalist in Murder in the Grove’s mystery contest, as well as Killer Nashville’s Claymore Dagger contest. She is the founding president of Sisters in Crime – Iowa and a current board member of the Mystery Writers of America Midwest chapter, as well as a member of Novelists, Inc., Romance Writers of America, Kiss of Death the RWA Mystery Suspense chapter, Sisters in Crime, and the SinC internet group Guppies. Mary Lee has a passionate interest in creativity and teaches a university level course in Creative Management to MPA candidates, as well as presenting workshops and blogging about creativity. She loves encouraging other writers and is a frequent presenter on a variety of topics at workshops, conferences, and writers’ groups. In her day job, Mary Lee is a Deputy Chief Information Officer. She currently resides in the Midwest with her husband, Tim, and Sparkle, the rescue cat namesake of the Sparkle Abbey pseudonym. Her delights are reading and enjoying her family and especially her six grandchildren.
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