|Welcome to New Faces, where you'll meet some of the newest mystery authors on your local bookshelves. This issue we welcoem Joanne Fluke, whose debut mystery The Chocolate Chip Cookie Murder is now available from Kensington.
Hello, Joanne! Tell us about yourself.
I grew up in small town Minnesota -- VERY small town Minnesota (total
population 217.) That was a real advantage because there really wasn't much
competition and if I wanted to try my hand at something, everyone just
shrugged and said "Sure, go ahead." So I did. When I was in school I tried
baton twirling, playing in a band, singing, writing plays, acting, painting,
composing music on the piano, anything that I thought I might like to do when
I grew up. Some things worked and others REALLY didn't, (I almost got a
concussion from the baton,) but I got a lot of experience and I learned that
if you want to do something, you just have to get out there and do it. I went
on to college, worked at a whole lot of part-time jobs while I was there,
earned a degree in psychology, taught for a while, and then settled down to
writing for a career.
I'm married and we have 5 children between us. My husband's work took us to
California, and I still miss Minnesota, especially right around Christmas. I
love the snow, (but not the shoveling.) We share our house with 3 large dogs
(all strays,) one cat (an unwed mother,) and several noisy rats in the attic.
Are you coming to mystery writing from another job?
I'm writing full time right now, but I'll probably go back to work in the
fall to help out with the family finances. My husband also writes and it's
hard to manage without a regular paycheck.
You're new to mysteries, but not to writing, we understand.
I started out writing thrillers, which were really mysteries now that I think
about it. I've also written contemporary romances (Gina Jackson,) Regency
romances (Kathryn Kirkwood,) humor (R.J. Fischer,) Young Adult thrillers (Jo
Gibson,) and one half of a television episode. Mysteries are my first love.
I've always loved puzzles and a good mystery is like a good puzzle. You're
given the pieces and you have to put them together in a way that makes sense.
"Chocolate Chip Cookie Murder" is my 35th book and my first REAL mystery.
Tell us about your road to publication.
I started out writing short stories that didn't sell and ended up
wallpapering the bathroom with my rejection slips. I got tired of trekking
down to the post office every day with my stories so I decided to write a
novel and see if that would work for me. I submitted it to one agent (who
rejected it) and then to another who said she'd try to sell it. She did and
"The Stepchild," my first book, was published by Dell.
What kind of research was involved for this book?
Not much. I wrote about what I knew and set it in places I'd lived,
Minnesota and California. The research came later, when I started branching
out. There's much more research involved in the Hannah Swensen series
because of the recipes. I want to make sure they're perfect. I really
lucked out by inheriting my grandmother's book of recipes, all hand-written
and original. (She lived in MN and used to bake every day in the winter to
warm up the house.) My mother and my two aunts "tweaked" Gammie's recipes
and when I got them, I made my own additions. I won't publish a recipe in my
books unless it gets rave reviews from at least a dozen family members,
neighbors and friends.
Who are your influences as a writer?
My mother used to accuse me of inhaling books. We ordered them from the
large public library system and there was a limit on how many they'd send at
one time. My dad used to order three, my mother ordered three, my
grandmother ordered three and I ordered three. When the books came, it was
like Christmas. I read everything, sometimes twice. It would be difficult
to choose a favorite author -- there are just too many I adore.
What does your family think of having a mystery author in their midst?
My family is very supportive. It's difficult to work at home because there
are constant interruptions but my husband and the kids are wonderful about
answering the phone when I'm in the office (upstairs, over the garage) and
telling the telephone solicitors that we don't really need any of what
they're selling. Everyone pitches in and that helps a lot. The Hannah
Swensen series includes recipes (7 in each book) and my family loves that.
It means I have to test them all and the cookie recipes in the first book
certainly got a thorough testing! My husband grumbles a little about gaining
weight, but he's always the first to say "I think you should test that recipe
one more time."
Tell us about plans for future books.
"Chocolate Chip Cookie Murder" is the first in the Hannah Swensen series.
I've finished the second book, "Strawberry Shortcake Murder," and it will be
released in March 2001. I'm contracted for a third, as yet untitled, and
that will be published in February 2002. I hope the series goes on and on.
I really like Hannah Swensen -- she's like a family friend -- and I can
hardly wait to see what she does next. (That may sound strange, but she's so
real, she really does have a mind of her own. Several times, she absolutely
refused to follow my plot in the outline and insisted on doing things her own
How can readers get in touch with you?
My son is hosting a mystery web site for me: http://www.MurderSheBaked.com
(he's doing it on the barter system for a dozen Chocolate Chip Crunch cookies
a week.) There's a place to send e-mail there. I also have another e-mail
Joanne, thanks for joining us! Readers, we have a review of on our Cozy page.
April 26, 2000