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In Conversation With Leslie Budewitz Whose Latest Novel The Solace of Bay Leaves Has Just Been Published
From:
Norm Goldman --  bookpleasures.com Norm Goldman -- bookpleasures.com
For Immediate Release:
Dateline: Montreal , QC
Tuesday, September 29, 2020

 

Bookpleasures.com welcomesas our guest, Leslie Budewitz whose latest novel The Solace of Bay Leaves has just been published.


Leslie is the first authorto win Agatha Awards for both fiction and nonfiction. Death alDente, first in the Food Lovers’ Village Mysteries, won the2013 Agatha Award for Best First Novel.

Her guide for writers,Books, Crooks & Counselors: How to Write Accurately AboutCriminal Law and Courtroom Procedure, won the 2011 Agatha Awardfor Best Nonfiction.

She also won the 2018Agatha Award for Best Short Story for All God’s Sparrows, ahistorical mystery, and the 2018 Derringer Award in the Long Storycategory.

A Montana native, Lesliegraduated from Seattle University and Notre Dame Law School. Afterpracticing in Seattle for several years—and shopping and eating herway through the Pike Place Market regularly—she returned toMontana, where she still practices law part-time. Killing people—onthe page—is more fun.

A true believer in thepower of writers helping other writers, Leslie served as president ofSisters in Crime (SinC) in 2015-16, and a founding member of theGuppies, the SinC chapter for new and unpublished writers. Shecurrently serves on the national board of Mystery Writers of America,and is also a member of the Authors of the Flathead and MontanaWomen Writers.

Leslie loves to cook, eat,hike, travel, garden, and paint—not necessarily in that order. Shelives in northwest Montana with her husband, Don Beans, asinger-songwriter and doctor of natural medicine, and their grayTuxedo, named Squirt but usually called Mr. Kitten. Because what elsewould you call a 13-year-old, 17-pound killer and cuddler who alwaysdresses in formal attire?

Norm: Good day Leslieand thank  for participating in our interview.

What do you consider tobe your greatest success (or successes) so far in your writingcareer?


Leslie: Two, I think, andthey’re closely related: Telling the stories of women’s lives,that is, touching on truths of personal experience, particularly whenI write about women’s friendships and the search for identity,which I think is at the core of a woman’s journey.

The point of mystery andcrime fiction is to use the crime story to tell a larger story, toexplore a theme and provide some insight into experiences we may nothave had or haven’t thought about in a particular way. What tellsme I’ve done that is hearing from readers that they have connectedwith the stories. Not with the murder, but with what it reveals aboutpeople. Giving readers that insight and a few hours of enjoyment,introducing them to a place, a business, food that’s new to them,giving them a respite during a difficult time---that’s the realsuccess. 

Norm:What has been your greatest challenge (professionally) that you’veovercome in getting to where you’re at today? 

Leslie: Any arts-basedcareer requires a person to keep the business and creative aspects oftheir career separate. That’s hard, and it’s a daily challenge.It demands passion and persistence, and the right balance of coffeeand wine. 

Norm: Does the linebetween truth and fiction sometimes become blurred for you?

Leslie: Fiction issometimes described as the lie that tells the truth. What that means,I think, is that by inventing stories, we can delve into the truthabout human experience. That’s the real challenge for a writer---totouch those truths. When we do it, that’s when a book succeeds. 

Norm: If you couldinvite three writers, dead or alive into your living room, who wouldthey be and why?

Leslie: Well, I would betotally daunted, but I’d be delighted to sit and listen to ToniMorrison. I actually did hear Chaim Potok speak once, about writing,religion, and baseball. Add Ivan Doig, who wrote so beautifully aboutyoung boys in Montana’s farm and ranch country, and I’d betotally captivated.

You’ll notice they wereall mainstream novelists, not crime or mystery writers. One of theunexpected bonuses of this career, and of my work with Sisters inCrime and Mystery Writers of America, has been to meet, talk, andeven become friends with some of the finest writers of the day---SaraParetsky, Laura Lippman, Laurie R. King, and many more. They’rewelcome in my living room any time. 

Norm: How do  youlive with the way people interpret and analyse your books?

Leslie: It’s great funto hear people talk about Pepper and Erin and Detective Tracy as ifthey know them, and in a sense they do.

As writers, we create thecharacters and tell the stories, and then they go out and have livesof their own. Sometimes they skin their knees---no one likes atwo-star reader review on Amazon---and you have to put a Band-aid onyour own scratched ego, then learn from it and move on. And it’sparticularly wonderful when a reviewer sees just what I was trying todo with a book, and says I hit the mark. 

Norm: If you couldrelive a moment in your life, which moment would you choose and why?

Leslie: The first bite ofBoeuf Bourgignon at a sidewalk table at Bistro Paul Bert in Paris onmy 50th birthday. Or maybe the first bite of the chocolate cake withbasil crème anglaise that ended the meal. No apologies---I loveParis and I love good food!

Norm: In your opinion,what is the most difficult part of the writing process?  

Leslie: Finding theemotional core of the story. There are two, really, in crime fiction,and they should intersect or reflect each other: the reason for thekilling, and the reason the main character, an amateur sleuth, mustsolve it. 

Norm: Could you tell usabout The Solace of Bay Leaves?

Leslie: When her life fellapart at age 40, Pepper Reece never expected to find solace in bayleaves. But her impulsive purchase of the Spice Shop in Seattle’sfamed Pike Place Market turned out to be one of the best decisionsshe ever made. Between selling spice and juggling her personal life,she also discovers another unexpected talent – for solving murder.

In Solace, thefifth book in the series, Pepper is about to celebrate her secondanniversary running the shop. She’s got a great staff, a newrelationship that’s heating up nicely, and solid friendships.

But when an old friend isshot and seriously injured, and the evidence links the shooting to anunsolved murder, she’s drawn into the investigation.

What she doesn’t expectis that she’ll be forced to confront her own regrets and theeffects of her decisions on other people, including her friends andher former husband. It’s all connected to the investigation of thepresent and past crimes. There’s an exploration of Seattle’sneighborhoods and long-gone movie houses, some spice spying, and ataste of what makes Seattle’s Pike Place Market so special. It’sall a rather delicious combination, if I do say so myself! 

Norm: Where do you getyour information or ideas for the novel?

Leslie: Pepper likes tosay that when her life fell apart, she never expected to find solacein bay leaves---meaning that buying the Spice Shop would be the bestdecision she ever made.

With the anniversary ofher ownership in Solace, I wanted to explore that decision and whatit meant for her. I’d had a conversation with a friend about envyand jealousy that gave the story an emotional element.

That same friend and Iwandered Seattle’s Montlake neighborhood, which gave me visualdetails that prompted some of the story events. The unsolved murderin Solace is based on a real case in Seattle, although I havefictionalized everything except the victim’s occupation; I wantedto explore the ripple effects of crime in a community. 

And of course, fall andbay leaves mean soup, which is the heart of the recipe section in theback of the book. 

Norm: Did you write thenovel more by logic or intuition, or some combination of the two?Please summarize your writing process.

Leslie: I’m a planner,meaning I try to learn as much as I can about the characters, theirconflicts, and the story itself before I start with the sentences.For me, having this rough idea of where I’m going allows for morefreedom and creativity along the way. 

Norm: What were yourgoals and intentions in this book, and how well do you feel youachieved them? 

Leslie: Good question! Ijot a few intentions down on a 3X5 card when I start a book. I wantedto explore the next phase of Pepper’s life, deepening the tone andmeaning while still appealing to the light side.

I wanted to solve themurder of Pepper’s friend Laurel’s husband, which occurred beforethe series started, and ease Laurel’s pain. I wanted to show thepolyglot world of the Market in action. There is no present-daymurder, a first for me. I think I pulled it off---I’ll let thereaders tell me!

Norm: Did you know theend of your book at the beginning?  

Leslie: In general terms,yes, though I sometimes discover who the killer is and theirmotivation in the planning phase and sometimes not until the firstdraft. 

Norm: What was the mostdifficult part of writing this book and what did you enjoy most aboutwriting this book?  

Leslie: The biggestdifficulty was recognizing that my original plot would work perfectlywell, for a different book, and that Pepper’s relationship withMaddie Petrosian was the heart of the story. Once I realized that,the words flew!

Norm: Where can ourreaders find out more about you and The Solace of Bay Leaves?

Leslie: Readers can learnmore about me and all my books, and read excerpts, on my WEBSITE

 I share books news, talk about inspirationand research, and more in my bi-monthly newsletter; subscribers alsoreceive a free short story. Sign up on my website. I also enjoyconnecting with readers on Facebook,

 Readers who love good food aswell as crime novels will enjoy Mystery Lovers’ Kitchen,where I’m one of a bakers’ dozen ofwriters serving up crime and recipes; I blog on the 1st, 3d, and 5thTuesdays. 

Norm: What is next forLeslie Budewitz?

Leslie: My suspense debut,Bitterroot Lake, written as Alicia Beckman, will be publishedby Crooked Lane Books in April 2021. When a young widow returns toher family’s lakeside Montana lodge in search of solace, murderforces her to reconnect with estranged friends and confronteverything she thought she knew about the tragic accident twenty-fiveyears ago that tore them apart. 

Norm: As this interviewcomes to an end, what advice can you give aspiring writers that youwished you had received, or that you wished you would have listenedto?  

Leslie: Read, write, studythe craft, and repeat. Find what matters most to you, and delve intoit on the page; writing is hard, but when you use your passions,you’ll do good work.  

Norm: Thanks once againand good luck with all of your future endeavors.

Thanks, Norm!

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