Today Lucy Lakestone is visiting Ascroft, eh? to tell us about Risky Whiskey, her first novel in the Bohemia Bartenders mystery series.
Welcome, Lucy. 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.
Risky Whiskey is the first novel in the Bohemia Bartenders Mysteries, fun whodunits starring a team of bartenders who travel to different events to make craft cocktails. Of course, they find trouble and solve mysteries along the way. In the first book, Pepper Revelle joins the team at a New Orleans cocktail convention as they make drinks to promote whiskey for a distiller from their Florida town. When the bourbon turns out to be dangerously bad, they have to track down the villain trying to sabotage the distiller while dodging attacks and making thousands of cocktails. Meanwhile, Pepper, an energetic extrovert, is drawn to Neil, the lead bartender, a cocktail nerd who is almost entirely her opposite. The contrast between them makes for good comedy.
It’s a bit unusual for a cozy series in that the settings change, but the cocktail world is almost like a traveling circus. Familiar characters show up in each story. While the first novel is set at a cocktail convention in New Orleans, the setting for the second novel, Wrecked by Rum, is a tiki convention in Fort Lauderdale. Many of the same characters appear in each book.
Where did the idea for the mystery that is central to the story come from?
We’ve all heard about bad batches of liquor that can make someone sick, whether it’s a moonshiner’s still gone wrong or something a traveler picks up from a market vendor. I was interested in the idea of what might happen if a villain wanted a batch of “bad” liquor to appear to be an accident. The added appeal for me was re-creating the fun, color and energy of a cocktail convention like one I’ve attended in New Orleans, with its historic and storied bars, creepy cemeteries, great music and eccentric characters.
Is there a theme or subject that underlies the story? If so, what prompted you to write about it?
One theme of Risky Whiskey is family and friendship. While my heroine, Pepper, who survived Hurricane Katrina while growing up in New Orleans, is mostly estranged from her parents, she finds a new family in the Bohemia Bartenders. I think a lot of us, even if we get along with our relatives, form lifelong bonds with people who love the same things we do. As Edna Buchanan said, “Friends are the family we choose for ourselves.”
The second theme is more of an idea: that cocktails have come into their own as a culinary art form, and there are dedicated artists in that world who are as skilled and creative as any great chef. They aren’t just slinging beers and pouring pink frozen drinks. The cocktail world is full of fascinating stories and characters that offer great inspiration for a series of books.
How do you create your characters? Do you have favourite ones? If so, why are you partial to them?
Bartenders are intensely fun to write about, especially craft bartenders. They range from Pepper, who’s outgoing and fun and even a little edgy (yes, she curses occasionally, though she’s trying to stop), to Neil, a well-educated bar owner who’s written a cocktail book and is very serious about his work. He first appeared as a minor character in a romance series.
Pepper is sort of who I wish I could be. She’s up for anything. She loves the romance and history of New Orleans (as do I). And after seeing the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina in person, I was inspired to make that storm part of her backstory. It’s enjoyable to write about someone who is always ready to plunge in where angels fear to tread, often with funny results.
How do you bring to life the place you are writing about?
New Orleans almost writes itself. I can close my eyes and see it, smell it, taste it. It’s beautiful and seedy and occasionally dangerous. It’s a rich and enticing city. All of my impressions of it go into Risky Whiskey.
The same could be said of Wrecked by Rum, which takes place in Fort Lauderdale, from the gorgeous tropical setting to the alluring 1950s-era Polynesian restaurant (inspired by the real Mai-Kai) where much of the action takes place. The tiki world is another world I love.
What research do you do to provide background information to help you write the novel?
I can get totally lost in research. I’m passionate about knowing my setting and details before I write, and sometimes I detour for an hour or two on the way looking up an elusive fact online. Ideally, I’ve experienced a place in person. I sometimes interview people to get a sense of my topic, and that’s a great way to get ideas that beget even more ideas and layers in my stories. One of the most enjoyable aspects of research for these books is tasting the cocktails.
Is there anything else you’d like to tell readers about the book?
I hope readers have as much fun reading Risky Whiskey as I had writing it. I wrote it and part of the second book before the troubled times we’re experiencing now, but I figure the Bohemia Bartenders Mysteries take place in the “before time” — or in a parallel universe where people still get together in large numbers and have fun. It’s a great escape for me, and I hope it will be for readers, too. There’s a bit of romance, a dash of heat and some cursing, as previously mentioned, so I want them to know what to expect and to get to love my characters as much as I do.
Thanks for answering my questions, Lucy, and good luck with Risky Whiskey, the first book in theBohemia Bartenders Mystery series.
The novel is available at the following online retailers:
Lucy Lakestone is an award-winning author who lives on Florida’s east central coast, among the towns that serve as an inspiration for the hot romances of her Bohemia Beach Series and the jumping-off point for the Bohemia Bartenders Mysteries. She’s been a journalist, photographer, editor and video producer but prefers living in her imagination, where the moon is full and the cocktails are divine.
See the book trailer