Today, we’re excited to host Lucy Burdette, author of the scrumptious and satisfying Key West Food Critic Mysteries. And if you’ve never been to Key West–aka “The Conch Republic,” and southernmost part of the continental U.S.–we guaranteed you’ll want to jump on a plane or drive your car there as soon as you get a taste of her fabulous series, especially the newest, A Deadly Feast!
Do you like to spot real places and people in the novels you read? Or might you think that reality in fiction falls into the category of “lazy imagination?”
My ninth Key West food critic mystery, A DEADLY FEAST, will be published on May 7. Since this series takes place in Key West, it’s very tempting to borrow characters and places from the island and put them in the story. If a writer can’t find interesting details in Key West, she surely must have her eyes closed and her ears stoppered.
In fact, for me writing without actually seeing the scene of the crime has gotten harder. An important part of my process is visiting the setting, either before or while developing the story. That way I see and hear what’s there—and smell it, and taste it—and the story ideas start to flood in.
Houseboat Row, the floating home community where food critic Hayley Snow and her roommate Miss Gloria live, is a real place. We pass it all the time on our way to the supermarket or the gym. It’s hard not to think we should pull into the little parking lot and stop in for a sample of whatever baked goods Hayley has in the oven and have a good chat with Miss Gloria.
Houseboat Row, close up
Steve Torrence is a real police officer (and also a minister and marriage officiant.) He’s my go-to guy for questions about police procedure, and for this book he also answered questions about his experience with weddings. Hayley Snow has lots of doubts and fears about her upcoming nuptials, and channeling Steve helped me write those scenes accurately and with feeling.
Officer Steve Torrence with a natty shirt and delicious read
Analise Smith is really the owner operator of the Key West food tours—it’s the perfect way to get a taste of lots of restaurants in Key West, in case you don’t have a lot of time on your visit. My husband, John, and I took both of her tours—she’s a Conch (born and raised in Key West) and so knows a ton of history—and she was very gracious about having a fictional death happen during one of her tours.
Analise Smith with author Lucy Burdette
And Martha Hubbard is a real chef. Her food is incredible and she was so helpful about what it’s like for a woman to work as a chef in a restaurant kitchen.
Martha Hubbard demonstrates her good taste in reading
There are a few problems with working this way. By now I’ve included so many real people in this series, that it’s hard to remember who is fictional and who isn’t. I want to write enough true details about the island and the town so that the conflicts ring true. But I don’t want to feel welded to the truth. Nor do I want to blaspheme real people or places. For that reason, I won’t include a restaurant for Hayley to visit that we have not enjoyed. I also think it would be wrong to set a murder, especially poisoning, at a real place.
So you see for me, reality and fiction are wound tightly together. But I’d love to hear your opinions: Do you like real people and places in the books you read—or write? Or do you prefer 100% fiction?
A Deadly Feast:
Before Key Zest food critic Hayley Snow’s family descends on the island for Thanksgiving and her wedding to heart throb Detective Nathan Bransford, she has one last assignment—a review of a seafood tasting tour conducted by her friend Analise Smith. But when one of the tourists collapses on the last stop, Analise begs her to investigate before the police destroy her business and shut down the local Key West eateries on her tour. Pressure mounts when Analise calls a second time to request that Hayley meet with Chef Martha Hubbard, who prepared key lime pies for the tasting tour and is terrified that someone poisoned her pies to ruin her reputation. Chefs all around town are preparing their versions of a Thanksgiving feast, but with a murderer on the loose, will Hayley and her friends have anything left to be thankful for?
About Lucy Burdette:
Clinical psychologist Lucy Burdette (aka Roberta Isleib) has published 17 mysteries, including the latest in the Key West food critic series, A Deadly Feast (Crooked Lane Books, May 2019). Her books and stories have been short-listed for Agatha, Anthony, and Macavity awards. Read more at https://lucyburdette.com. You can also find Lucy on Facebook and Instagram and Bookbub.