Miracle Fleur de Lis James-Diaz is visiting Ascroft, eh? today to tell us about Bayou Book Thief, the latest novel in the Vintage Cookbook mystery series. Her friends call her Ricki.
Welcome, Ricki. Let’s get started, shall we?
Tell us about the novel that you live inside. Is it part of a series? If so, please tell us about the series too.
Hi – I’m Miracle Fleur de Lis James-Diaz. But my friends call me Ricki. You’ll find me inside the new mystery, Bayou Book Thief, which is the first book in the new Vintage Cookbook Mystery series. After losing my estranged my husband to a stupid internet challenge, I’m now a 28-year-old widow. I also lost my job managing a billionaire’s collection of first editions when he was arrested for running a Ponzi scheme. So I’ve moved back to New Orleans, where I was born, and I’ve opened a shop selling vintage cookbooks and kitchenware at Bon Vee Culinary House Museum in New Orleans’ Garden District. But I’m thrust into sleuthing when a sticky-fingered coworker is found murdered with a vintage kitchen item from my own shop.
The series follows my journey as I put down roots in New Orleans – launching a new business, making new friends… and perhaps even a new romance. And now that I’m in the city where I was born, I hope to track down the teen girl who disappeared from Charity Hospital after giving birth to me and find out what I can about my birth family on both sides. I adore my adoptive mom and dad, Josepha and Luis James-Diaz, and really appreciate how they’re supporting me on my journey. But pesky murders keep getting in the way of everything! Given how overwhelmed NOPD is these days, I find myself doing a lot of amateur sleuthing to save my friends from being falsely accused of crimes.
Does the writer control what happens in the story or do you get a say too? My writer keeps me on a pretty tight leash, lol! Because of her TV background, she’s an outliner. But I let her know when she’s off base and she listens to me.
How did you evolve as the main character? My author did something she’d never done before. She can’t remember how she happened upon it, but she found a really detailed character chart she used to develop me. Character Chart for Fiction Writers – EpiGuide.com. But as she wrote me, I asserted some of my own personality and she found new aspects to me that went beyond the extensive development she’d already done. It was fun!
Do you have any other characters you like sharing the story with? If so, why are you partial to them? I really like my new friends Zellah, Cookie, and Lyla. Zellah is a talented artist who runs the café at Bon Vee where I work. She’s also got a great B.S. detector and I really trust her opinions. I didn’t think I’d like Cookie, who’s kind of self-involved, but she’s funny and totally honest about who she is and what she wants from life. She calls herself a “recovering children’s librarian” and insists she is over children. But she’s wonderful with them. And Lyla’s both my boss and friend. She’s older, in her mid-40s, and has a teenage daughter who tests her on a daily basis. The stories she tells us!
What’s the place like where you find yourself in this story? I’ve just opened my shop and I’m both incredibly excited and nervous. I have a great collection of vintage cookbooks from all decades of the twentieth century – and even older. And some great vintage kitchenware. But I’m hoping my past doesn’t haunt me. My husband was an internet star. He changed his name from Chris to Chris-azy! and made a lot of fans doing his dumb stunts, so his death got a lot of attention. So did my boss Lachlan Barnes’ arrest. I’m trying to fly under the radar in the Big Easy. But between my notorious past and the murder of a tour guide I kicked out of my store for shoplifting, under the radar goes out the window.
Is there anything else you’d like to tell readers about you and the book? Not only do you get to visit New Orleans vicariously and see if you can solve two murders, each book in the series includes recipes my author adopted from her very own vintage cookbook collection. If you’d like Greta Garbo’s recipe for Swedish Salad from the Photoplay Cook Book [sic] of 1928, this is the book for you!
Thank you for answering my questions, Ricki, and good luck to you and your author, Ellen Byron, with Bayou Book Thief, the latest book in the Vintage Cookbook mystery series.
The novel is available at the following online retailers:
About Ellen Byron: Ellen’s Cajun Country Mysteries have won the Agatha Award for Best Contemporary Novel and multiple Lefty Awards for Best Humorous Mystery. Bayou Book Thief will be the first book in her new Vintage Cookbook Mysteries. She also writes the Catering Hall Mystery series under the name Maria DiRico.
Ellen is an award-winning playwright, and non-award-winning TV writer of comedies like Wings, Just Shoot Me, and Fairly Odd Parents. She has written over two hundred articles for national magazines but considers her most impressive credit working as a cater-waiter for Martha Stewart. An alum of New Orleans’ Tulane University, she blogs with Chicks on the Case, is a lifetime member of the Writers Guild of America and will be the 2023 Left Coast Crime Toastmaster.