I’d like to welcome Daryl Wood Gerber, author of Sifting Through Clues, to Ascroft, eh? today. She’s stopped by to tell us a bit about her latest novel and the Cookbook Nook Mysteries.
It’s lovely to have you here, Daryl. Let’s get started, shall we?
Tell us about your novel. Is it part of a series? If so, please tell us about the series too.
DWG: Sifting Through Clues is the 8th in the Cookbook Nook Mysteries. In the first in the series, Final Sentence, Jenna Hart, an ex-advertising executive, moves home to Crystal Cove, California to help her aunt open a culinary bookshop and café and to find her smile.
In Sifting Through Clues book clubs from all over have descended on Crystal Cove to celebrate the library’s Book Club Bonanza week, and Jenna Hart has packed the Cookbook Nook with juicy reads. She’s most excited about spending an evening with the Mystery Mavens and their moveable feast, when they will go from house to house to share different culinary treats and discuss the whodunit they’re all reading, It’s all fun for the savvy armchair detectives until one of the members of the group is found murdered at the last stop on the tour until one of the members of the group is found murdered at the last stop on the tour. As if that weren’t enough to spoil her appetite, Jenna discovers that all the evidence points to her friend Pepper as being the guilty party. Sifting through the clues, Jenna unearths any number of possible culprits, but she’ll have to cook up a new way to catch the killer before Pepper’s goose is cooked.
Where did the idea for the mystery that is central to the story come from?
DWG: I did a book signing at a culinary bookshop called Salt and Pepper in Occoquan, Virginia, and I fell in love with the store. I knew then and there that I had to write about it. I set my store in California. I’m a California girl. Having worked as an actress, I thought it would be interesting to make my protagonist an advertising executive with an eye for detail. This is a great attribute for an amateur sleuth. In addition, I thought it would be fun if she couldn’t cook but wanted to learn.
Is there a theme or subject that underlies the story? If so, what prompted you to write about it?
DWG: In Sifting Through Clues, the notion of having to “sift” through so many facets of one’s life—or of the victim’s life–to find the truth is what came up for me. Who is hiding lies? How will these lies be uncovered? To pair this with a cooking theme of baking and sifting seemed a perfect fit.
How do you create your characters? Do you have favourite ones? If so, why are you partial to them?
DWG: I start with my protagonist and work out from there. I figure out what she looks like, her age, her marital status, etc. Then I work on her wants and needs, the things that make her happy and things that rile her. Then I create her family and friends, using the same method. I love all my characters. They’ve become like good friends. They live in my mind and come alive as I write them. I adore Aunt Vera in the Cookbook Nook Mysteries. I think, in a way, her childlike ability to love and trust everyone is a winning characteristic. I love Jenna, the protagonist, for her pluck and her resolve to rise above the dire situations that have upended her life. She’s strong and clever.
How do you bring to life the place you are writing about?
DWG: I work hard at detail. I try to picture the setting at all times. I have created a map of Crystal Cove and posted it on my website. It helps me orient myself to this fictional town. I like to infuse the town with activities because that brings the whole town to life. The mayor likes to feature weekly themes to encourage tourism. These themes help me anchor the stories.
What research do you do to provide background information to help you write the novel?
DWG: I research everything. Ask Facebook. You can’t believe the ads that pop up for me. I look up which cookbooks to include. I search recipes. I view photographs of the cities along the California coast for ideas. For Sifting Through Clues, I had to learn about mining for gold and all sorts of fun stuff. I even researched book clubs and the books they’d read. And I researched traveling feasts. Taste testing was a blast.
Is there anything else you’d like to tell readers about the book?
DWG: This story is fun because Jenna throws her all into helping Pepper, a woman who was once her antagonist. She and Pepper have since become friends. Pepper is the mother of the police chief. Jenna is friends with the police chief, too, and feels she must help, because, with her mother as a main suspect in a murder, she’s too close to the problem. Jenna can provide perspective.
Thanks for some great questions, Dianne.
It was my pleasure having you here today, Daryl, and thanks for your interesting answers. Good luck with this latest novel in the Cookbook Nook Mysteries.
About Daryl Wood Gerber: Agatha Award-winning Daryl Wood Gerber writes the nationally bestselling Cookbook Nook Mysteries as well as the French Bistro Mysteries. As Avery Aames, she pens the popular Cheese Shop Mysteries. Daryl also writes stand-alone suspense. Fun tidbit: as an actress, Daryl appeared in “Murder, She Wrote.” She loves to cook, and she has a frisky Goldendoodle named Sparky who keeps her in line!