I'm pleased to welcome Laura Jensen Walker to Cozy Up With Kathy. Laura writes the Bookish Baker Mystery series. Murder Most Sweet is the first book in the series and will be released next week.
Kathy: In Murder Most Sweet we meet Teddie St. John, a baker, a bohemian bon vivant, and a mystery writer. We know you're a mystery writer, but do you like to bake? What do you most like to bake? Or, if you don't like to bake, what baked delights do you prefer to eat?
LJW: I did not inherit the baking gene, unfortunately—my husband, Michael, is the baker in our family. A really good baker. (My sole contribution is to make peanut-butter blossom cookies every year at Christmas.) I have a sweet tooth, so love most baked goods (unless they have nuts) including chocolate chip cookies or oatmeal-raisin cookies fresh from the oven. Since I’m a chocoholic, I’ve always loved brownies, and used to make box mix brownies and slather them with canned fudge frosting. That is, until Michael came up with the best brownies I’ve ever had—triple chocolate brownies. Oh. My. Gosh. I thought I’d died and gone to chocolate heaven. (You’ll find the recipe in my second cozy, Hope, Faith & a Corpse, which releases in Jan. 2021.)
Kathy: Teddie's missing silk scarf gets her in trouble. Aside from winter scarves, do you tend to wear scarves yourself?
LJW: Yes. Always. I’m very much like Teddie in my love of colorful, swirling scarves. I’m known as the “scarf queen.” (Or at least I was pre-pandemic—I don’t usually wear scarves around the house.)
Kathy: Teddie has an American Eskimo dog named Gracie. Are you a dog lover? Do you have a favorite breed?
LJW: I’m definitely a dog lover. My (our) first dog was also a American Eskimo named Gracie, who we got through a rescue group. Gracie crossed the rainbow bridge years ago, however, so I wanted to pay tribute to her in my first cozy. We now have another rescue, Mellie, an adorable Tibetan-spaniel mix with a touch of pug, that shows up in the cutest underbite. I don’t have a favorite breed—it’s more about the personality of the dog—but we tend to go for a small-to-medium-sized dog (22-26 pounds) since we live in a small house. I’m a huge believer in getting rescue dogs, however.
Kathy: What first drew you to cozy mysteries?
LJW: The humor and the quirky characters. I love character-driven fiction and writing humor comes naturally, so cozies were a good fit for me. (I’m also a cozy person—a rabid Anglophile, who lives in a wannabe English cottage with an English cottage garden full of roses, geraniums, azaleas, hydrangeas, and other beautiful blooms.) My favorite thing to do is curl up with a good book, a nice cup of tea (PG Tips) and English shortbread, with Mellie snuggled by my side. Bliss.
Kathy: Do you write in any other genres?
LJW: I used to write chick lit back in the day, but for fiction, cozies are definitely my preferred genre and one I hope to keep writing in for at least the next decade or so. I also write non-fiction. In fact, my best non-fiction book, Thanks for the Mammogram! is being rereleased 9/15 in a new updated version in time for Breast Cancer Awareness Month (October.) I also have a memoir—the book of my soul—that I hope will be published someday.
Kathy: Tell us about your series.
LJM: The Bookish Baker Mysteries are about baker and writer Teddie St. John
who lives in the small town of Lake Potawatomi, Wisconsin. Everyone in
town knows tall, curly-haired Teddie. She's a superb baker, a bohemian bon
vivant, a breast cancer survivor, and a mystery writer. Teddie is
walking her American Eskimo Gracie, when her four-legged friend finds Teddie’s
missing silk scarf. Only problem: the scarf is tied tightly around the neck of
the fiancée of a touring British author. Before you can say “Wisconsin
kringle,” Teddie becomes a murder suspect. With the help of her Three
Musketeers friends Sharon and Char, can Teddie clear her name and deliver a
killer’s just desserts?
Kathy: Do you have a favorite character? If so, who and why?
LJW: My heroine/protagonist Teddie. Because she’s fearless and funny, and doesn’t have a flirtatious bone in her body. She’s also a great friend and doesn’t let her breastless state define her or stop her from going after what she wants.
Kathy: Did you have a specific inspiration for your series?
LJW: My Racine, Wisconsin childhood with its wealth of Danish bakeries full of wonderful treats like kringle, Danish layer cake, and Seven Sisters (a type of coffee cake filled with almond custard). Also, my Scandinavian Grandma (Florence) Jorgensen, whose house my sister and I went to every day after school. The moment we opened the door to grandma’s house, we were assailed by the heavenly scents of her baked goods. I have such fond memories of my grandma’s baking and my Racine childhood. Also, I’m a longtime breast cancer survivor, who made the choice to go flat after my second mastectomy five years ago, and wanted to see someone like me in a cozy.
Kathy: What made you decide to publish your work?
LJW: Every author wants to get published. (At least all the authors I know.) A few years ago when I started dipping my toes into writing cozies, I knew I’d be retiring from cubicle world soon, and I needed to supplement my modest retirement with writing income. Also, my last chick lit novel released in 2009, and I was itching to return to the writing and publishing world. When my agent called last fall with the news that Crooked Lane Books wanted to buy not only Murder Most Sweet, but also, Hope, Faith & a Corpse, along with a follow-up to my bookish baking cozy, I burst into happy, grateful tears.
Kathy: If you could have a dinner party and invite 4 authors, living or dead, in any genre, who would you invite?
LJW: My first thoughts were Jane Austen and Agatha Christie, but everyone says that, so although it was hard to narrow it down, I’ll go with Rosamunde Pilcher (author of Coming Home, my favorite WWII saga, which I usually reread every couple years) Bill Bryson (Notes from a Small Island, A Walk in the Woods, etc.) Herman Wouk (whose Marjorie Morningstar I read and loved when I was around twelve. He also wrote the classic The Caine Mutiny and Winds of War. Epic.) For my fourth author I’d invite Catriona McPherson (Strangers at the Gate, the Dandy Gilver series, the Last Ditch series) because she’s so funny and has that delightful Scottish accent. Plus, she’s a friend. Catriona and Bill Bryson together at the same table, hilarity is bound to ensue.
Kathy: What are you currently reading?
LJW: Kristin Hannah’s The Nightingale. Finally. I’ve been longing to read this bestselling WWII novel for some time, and have just started it.
Kathy: Will you share any of your hobbies or interests with us?
LJW: Reading, decorating, gardening, listening to music with my husband while doing mosaics or coloring in coloring books (so relaxing), watching favorite English (or Australian) mysteries together every Sunday night: Vera, Shetland, Grantchester, Endeavour, Inspector Lewis, Foyle’s War, Miss Marple, Inspector Lynley, Miss Fisher. And hosting the occasional English tea with girlfriends, complete with real scones, jam and cream.)
Kathy: Name 4 items you always have in your fridge or pantry.
LJW: PG Tips tea, Devonshire or clotted cream, shortbread, and Campbell’s chicken noodle soup in case we get sick.
Kathy: Do you have plans for future books either in your current series or a new series?
LJW: My first book in a new series, the Faith Chapel mystery series, Hope, Faith & a Corpse featuring Pastor Hope Taylor, a woman Episcopal priest, releases in January 2021. My second book Bookish Baker mystery starring Teddie St. John is called Deadly Delights and will come out in June 2021. I do have plans for more books in both series, but it’s too early to talk about those yet.
Kathy: What's your favorite thing about being an author?
LJW: Watching the story unfold before my eyes and being surprised and delighted by what happens. I’m a seat-of-the-pants writer rather than a plotter, so it’s as much of a surprise to me as to what’s going to happen next as it is to the reader. How fun is that?
Laura Jensen Walker has loved mysteries ever since she read Trixie Belden in the fourth grade in her Danish-founded hometown of Racine, Wisconsin—America’s unofficial kringle capital. A former journalist and the author of several fun chick-lit novels and humorous non-fiction books, including Thanks for the Mammogram! Laura lives in Northern California with her Renaissance-man husband Michael and their canine daughter, Mellie. She is a member of Sisters in Crime and Mystery Writers of America. Murder Most Sweet is her first mystery novel.
The author is graciously offering a print copy of Murder Most Sweet to one reader who comments on this post. (Sorry US only.) Simply leave a comment on this post sharing what interests you most about this new series no later that 11:59pm Eastern Sunday, September 6, 2020. Be sure to include an e-mail address so that I may contact you should you have the winning comment.