Ricki James-Diaz is visiting Ascroft, eh? today to tell us about Wined and Died in New Orleans, the latest novel in the Vintage Cookbook mystery series.
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.
I’m the proprietor of Miss Vee’s Vintage Cookbooks and Kitchenware, the gift shop at Bon Vee Culinary House Museum in New Orleans’ Garden District. I generally hate social media since my estranged husband died doing a stupid stunt online. But in Wined and Died in New Orleans, I force myself to use it to help publicize the auction of a cache of 19th century Madeira wine discovered under the mansion. The money will help preserve the historic home, so I’m really proud of myself when my posts go viral – until every descendent of the home’s original owner crawls out of the woodwork demanding a piece of the proceeds, creating such antagonism that one of them is murdered. All this happens while a hurricane bears down on New Orleans.
It’s the second book in the Vintage Cookbook Mysteries, which revolved around my new life in New Orleans, where I’ve returned at the age of 28 to find my birth family. (The first book is titled Bayou Book Thief.)
Does the writer control what happens in the story or do you get a say too?
We work together. But honestly, she knows what she’s doing so I generally let her call the shots.
How did you evolve as the main character?
I moved from New Orleans to Los Angeles with my adoptive parents when I was eight years old. I never felt like I fit in there. After my soon-to-be ex passed away and I lost my job when my billionaire boss was arrested for Madoff-ing, I worked up the courage to make the big move to my birthplace. I’m a little insecure so I at first I feared I might have trouble fitting in there too. But my self-confidence evolves every day and I’m really finding my footing in the Big Easy.
Do you have any other characters you like sharing the story with? If so, why are you partial to them?
A lot! My creator tends to come up with a ton of characters, lol. My closest friend is Zellah. She’s an artist whose day job is running Bon Vee’s café. But I’m really growing close to Cookie, who describes herself as a “recovering children’s librarian,” and runs the education program at the house museum. She’s blunt and ballsy and makes me laugh – at her, the world, and myself.
What’s the place like where you find yourself in this story?
I’m becoming acclimated to my new home but I’m terrified of a hurricane that might hit any day. I’m also forcing myself out of my comfort zone with social media, to the point where I’ve reluctantly agreed to make cooking videos to promote my cookbooks. I have a crush on the chef across the street, so I’m excited because he’s letting me film in his cool kitchen. Unfortunately, his nasty new assistant also has a crush on him and is out to get me. Grrr….
Is there anything else you’d like to tell readers about you and the book?
Not only does it include recipes, there’s a chase scene when I got to Florida to do some amateur sleuth, and a daring rescue during a hurricane!
Thank you for answering my questions, Ricki, and good luck to you and your author, Ellen Byron, with Wined and Died in New Orleans, the latest book in the Vintage Cookbook mystery series.
Readers can learn more about Ricki and her author, Ellen Byron by visiting the author’s website and her Facebook, Goodreads, Bookbub, and Instagram pages.
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.
Thanks for a great Q&A!