We Chicks are thrilled to have the fab Debra Goldstein visit us today to talk about her Sarah Blair series and her newest book!
The Culinary Evolution of a Character and an Author
When my first two books were orphaned by their respective publishers, I knew I wanted to try my hand at writing a cozy mystery series. As I analyzed the genre, I realized there was no problem writing a small town, amateur sleuth, or even adding a cat to the story, but I had a dilemma. Most cozies highlight cooking or crafts – two things I hate. I thought my cozy career was over before it began until I realized there had to be readers who were like me. Consequently, Sarah Blair, a woman who finds being in the kitchen more frightening than murder was born.
Sarah, who was married at eighteen, divorced at twenty-eight and only walked away from the marriage with her Siamese cat was easy and fun to write. The problem came when I was told I needed to include recipes. As a non-cook, this again was almost a no-starter until I decided to only use recipes Sarah might actually make with simple or pre-made ingredients. Because I, in my real life, often bring Spinach Pie made from Stouffers Spinach Souffle when I’m asked to bring a vegetable to a potluck, that dish found its way into One Taste Too Many as Sarah’s Spinach Pie. Looking for something comical, I found the perfect recipe advertised in 1950’s and 1960’s magazines – Jell-O in a Can.
As I was under contract for more books in the series, I had to come up with more recipes that Sarah and I could both make. Not being particularly comfortable in the kitchen, I focused on drink and hors d’oeuvres for Two Bites Too Many. The result of my efforts was inclusion of the Classic Wine Spritzer, the Howellian Catnip, and Sarah’s Sweet Potato Puffs the Convenient Way.
Until the pandemic closed the world, I envisioned being able to coast my way through the series by adapting recipes from some of my favorite cookbooks (Peg Bracken’s I Hate to Cookbook, and its sequel, The Appendix to the I Hate to Cookbook, and Come for Cocktails, Stay for Supper) or that I found online. Not so. Since March 2020, I have cooked more, with the help a few days a week of Home Chef meals, than I cooked in the previous thirty-six years of my marriage.
I’ve learned to make a meatloaf that sticks together, chicken that isn’t pink when you cut into it, and a steak that doesn’t taste like shoe leather. I’ve also learned that if the digital reading on the stove reads F3, it’s on fire, while F8 means the brain has blown.
My experimentation in the kitchen and begging from friends for recipes gave me a different perspective for the recipes included in Three Treats Too Many. This time, I included recipes Sarah would make, but also slightly more complex things her twin, Chef Emily, would prepare, as well as vegan recipes the book’s victim was a success with.
In recently released Four Cuts Too Many, I went with comfort food, something I’ve enjoyed during these long months – Emily’s Egg Salad, Sal and Laurie’s Tiramisu, and Stained-Glass Jell-O. Despite this long stint becoming familiar with my kitchen, I’ve concluded that neither Sarah nor I will ever think of it without an element of fear over what disaster might next befall us or possibly poison those we love. I regret this, but Kensington, my publisher, doesn’t.
Kensington has decided Sarah and my forays into the kitchen are so funny that they’ve created a cookbook of the recipes from the first four books. It’s called Simple Recipes from the Sometimes Sleuth. You can download a copy of it for free from my website, https://www.DebraHGoldstein.com . Who would ever have thought Sarah and my culinary skills would evolve to the point of having our own cookbook?
Readers … tell us some of your culinary disasters!
Judge Debra H. Goldstein writes Kensington’s Sarah Blair mystery series (Four Cuts Too Many, Three Treats Too Many, Two Bites Too Many, One Taste Too Many). She also authored Should Have Played Poker and IPPY Award winning Maze in Blue. Her short stories and novels have been named as Agatha, Anthony, Derringer, and Silver Falchion finalists. Debra serves on the national board of Mystery Writers of America and is president of SEMWA. She previously served on Sisters in Crime’s national board and was president of SinC’s Guppy Chapter.
Four Cuts Too Many – Sarah Blair, who finds kitchens more frightening than murder, gets an education in slicing and dicing when someone in the culinary school where her friend teaches serves up a main corpse. Sarah soon discovers that there’s no time to mince words when it comes to finding the real killer.