As part of a Blog Tour organized by Great Escapes Virtual Book Tours, Leslie Budewitz is my guest today. She’s here to tell us about her most recent release, Treble at the Jam Fest, and share a few insights into how she creates the characters and stories in her books.
On the Job Training
Astute readers have noticed that though I’m a lawyer by day, my characters have far more interesting jobs. Why, they ask?
Because part of the fun of writing fiction is to explore lives I haven’t lived. That may mean living in a one-room log cabin, on a houseboat, or in a million-dollar lakeside dream home, none of which I’ve done. Yet. It may mean imagining a thirty-year career as a chef or a banker, a life on stage playing the guitar or singing opera, or the trials and tribulations of a police officer or sheriff’s deputy. Or it may mean being a 33-year-old woman running a specialty local foods grocery in her family’s hundred-year-old grocery, as Erin Murphy, the main character in my Food Lovers’ Village Mysteries, does.
As a former teenage bookseller, I know just enough about retail to be dangerous. Or more accurately, to observe, and to get people to tell me their stories. Mr. Right and I live in a lakeside resort community in northwestern Montana on the road to Glacier National Park—oh, gosh, that could also describe Jewel Bay, the Food Lovers’ Village! It’s a tourist town, and we’re friends with the folks who run the restaurants and art galleries, the children’s shop, the kitchen store, the bar, even the Playhouse. The liquor store and jam shop owners are pals, and we quite enjoy the man who runs the community foundation, as well as the hoteliers. And the man who runs the gas station—well, you can’t like them all, can you?
Everywhere I go, I listen and learn—and some of those conversations and characters wriggle their way onto my pages.
It’s all about keeping your eyes and ears open. Thinking about what a gallery owner does all day. Watching the barista’s movements, and how she handles the customer who can’t make up her mind. Figuring out who does what in the restaurant, and what conflicts might arise. Picturing what might go wrong when you host a food lovers’ film festival, or run a summer arts fair that takes over the village streets. (Hint: those screens are fragile, and when the signs say no vehicle traffic after 7:30 a.m., yes, that means you, too, Mr. Beer Truck Driver!)
And imagining all the pressures on the board of directors of a music festival as the final details come together—and when the star performer dies.
For my characters who slave over hot stoves, I read a lot of “chef lit”—kitchen memoirs and exposes. I’ve pored over blogs and online magazines for the trendy new foods, and the newest business terminology—because Erin would know it. I’ve even dabbled in spreadsheets and timeline software, because she adores that sort of thing, and finds it most useful in investigating.
I’ve had the same fun with my Spice Shop series, set in Seattle’s Pike Place Market. I fell in love with the Market as a college student, and ate my way through it both then and a few years later, when I was a young downtown lawyer. And while the real spice shop was my entrée into flavors and big enticement to learn to cook, I’d never worked in one. So I went in and asked questions: What’s the best part of working here? The hardest part? Your favorite spice? And when I met Amanda Bevill, owner of World Spice Merchants on Western Ave, just below the Market, all my prayers and questions were answered!
But about those lawyers. They love mystery and crime fiction, and it wouldn’t be fair to leave them out entirely. In the Food Lovers’ Village Mysteries, Bill Schmidt is a lawyer turned herbalist and acupuncturist and—well, no spoilers, right? But he always answers Erin’s questions, even when he doesn’t like what she does with the info!
Pepper Reece loved her job as staff HR manager for a massive Seattle law firm that imploded in scandal. When her job evaporated, she bought a spice shop in the Pike Place Market. (Wouldn’t you?) Traumatic as such things are, I knew the lawyers would land on their feet. But what about the staff? I was far more interested in the choices they might make. Pepper keeps in touch with them, and they often give her leads or critical information. One even runs a mystery bookshop.
Hmm, now there’s a career I might actually consider.
About Treble at the Jam Fest
Erin Murphy, manager of Murphy’s Mercantile (aka the Merc), is tuning up for Jewel Bay’s annual Jazz Festival. Between keeping the Merc’s shelves stocked with Montana’s tastiest local fare and hosting the festival’s kick-off concert, Erin has her hands full.
Discord erupts when jazz guitarist Gerry Martin is found dead on the rocks above the Jewel River. The one-time international sensation had fallen out of sync with festival organizers, students, and performers. Was his death an accident—or did someone even the score?
Despite the warning signs to not get involved, Erin investigates. And when the killer attacks, she orchestrates her efforts into one last crescendo, hoping to avoid a deadly finale.
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About the Author
Leslie Budewitz is the author of the Food Lovers’ Village Mysteries and the Spice Shop Mysteries—and the first author to win Agatha Awards for both fiction and nonfiction. She lives in northwest Montana with her husband, a musician and doctor of natural medicine, and their cat Ruff, a cover model and avid bird-watcher.