Tell us about your cozy mystery series.
A single thirty year old Hungarian gal with a love of food and wine decides to open a bistro, which was her lifelong dream. Corpses seem to like to crop up on her property. Since the bistro is also her home, she can’t afford to have the bistro go under if its reputation is damaged. Naturally, she ends up getting involved with solving the cases—or rather, bumbling her way through and putting herself in danger but eventually getting to the bottom of things.
Where did you find inspiration for your main character Amalia Kis?
Myself, of course. “They” say to write what you know about, right? So I’ve taken some of my personality traits and background and created Amalia.
You chose the Whine and Cheese Bistro as the setting for the series. Plus each book title features a wine and a cheese, which are also each related to the story. Please tell us about the play on words as it relates to the plot and characters in your mysteries.
This is rather interesting, actually, since the series did not start off like that. As soon as book one was finished, and I must admit, not well-polished, I excitedly sent my query letter to top publishers. A lady at a one of the top 5 US publishing houses actually requested my full manuscript. While she found several positive things to say, it was a no, but she did suggest incorporating a wine and cheese as the title. I thought that was brilliant, and took it one step further and rewrote the book to also make part of the title to be a “key” to the story. In the case of book one, Asiago and the Accomplice, the killer turned out to have an accomplice(s). In book 3, Feta and the Fat Bastard, the story is about a not so nice fat man whose wife had been killed. The cheese in the title is what I decided sounded best with the wine in question and then I focus a bit extra on that particular type of cheese here and there throughout the book.
How long does it usually take to write a book in the series?
This has varied greatly. The first version of book one was written in four months, but then later rewritten a couple of times. Book two took about five or six months and then I spent more time polishing it. Book three took about two years to write: the breakdown of a marriage, two moves, a new love, a cancer diagnosis, the removal of a kidney and the commencement of cancer treatment, as well as the editing of book one and book two peppered throughout, made for many challenges.
The supporting characters in your mysteries appear in each book. Which supporting character is your favorite?
To my surprise, Nora and Mr. Kis are turning into very interesting characters with which I’ve been having tons of fun!
Let’s talk about the recipes found in your series. Do you create each recipe? Which one is your all-time favorite?
I do create most. The ones that I have not, I’ve made sure to note. While I gather a lot of ideas from things I see on Pinterest, everything is modified and “Judified”, usually by making a lighter, easier version and infused with my usual mix of spices, which most often involve either (or all) paprika, dill weed and garlic powder.
I’d have to say hands down, my Hungarian beef goulash or easy cheesy enchiladas. And the Bavarian apple torte, which I’ve been making for almost thirty years. Oh my god, and Chris’s cheesy potatoes. When I make a batch of that (which is not often because it’s sinful!) I could eat it three times a day.
Where do you write?
Oddly enough, while I go to great pains to always have a designated writing area, I seldom use it. I’ll write on the couch or a lounge chair or outside under my covered patio area in the summer, or at the kitchen counter. It varies on my mood and wherever I happen to be comfortable that day. Oh yeah, and at times I’ll actually write at my desk in my designated writing area! Wherever I write, it must be impeccably tidy otherwise I simply cannot focus.
Is there any one thing that especially frustrates you about the writing process?
I would have to say that it would be the lack of time that I can dedicate to it. Prior to being on medical leave, I would have to fit it on days off from work or free time. Now that I am currently not able to work, I still don’t seem to have enough time.
Any advice for novice writers?
Just do it. You don’t need writing classes if you have a natural talent. Write it, then polish it, look for loose ends, remember to spell check, reread and edit again, then ask someone that you think has excellent grammar and that you trust and admire completely to read it and make comments and listen to them. Then polish it again before creating an excellent query letter.
Book four, which is really exciting me, called Swiss Cheese and Sibling Rivalry. And yes, there’s loads of sibling rivalry peppered around in this book!