The Chicks are tickled to welcome back Agatha award-winning author pal Leslie Budewitz as our guest chick today! The sixth entry in Leslie’s wonderful Spice Shop Mysteries, Peppermint Barked, is just out. And she is giving away a fab swag package to one lucky commenter on today’s blog! Take it away, Leslie!
Killing it on the village streets
“When people get arrested in your books,” said my reader’s son, maybe twelve, at the Bigfork Festival of the Arts earlier this month, “do they go to Food Court?”
And that, dear readers, is why I love my booth at the annual Festival held in my town. (You’ve been there, if you’ve read any of the Food Lovers’ Village Mysteries, and you’ve been to the Festival in Crime Rib, second in the series.) It’s certainly not getting up at 6:00 a.m., unloading my packed-to-the-gills Subaru on the sidewalk, waiting for the magic toll of 7:30, wrestling with the broken leg on the canopy, sitting in the August heat (and some years, the smoke), then taking it all down at 4;30 and repeating the ritual the next day.
No. It’s the readers. I love selling books, and making a nice bank deposit on Monday is great. But honestly, truly, it’s so much more than that.
It’s talking about mysteries with a ten-year-old whose favorite Agatha Christie novel is And Then There Were None, and who was very happy to tell me why. No question that she’s old enough for my cozies—they’re perfectly clean, of course, but most of the characters are adults—and she jumped up and down when I inscribed it to her. “For Finley. Stories are the spice of life. Enjoy.”
It’s talking with the eighteen-year-old about the thriller she’s writing. “For Elizabeth,” my alter ego Alicia wrote in her copy of Bitterroot Lake. “May your stories be thrilling— and true.”
It’s seeing the woman in the wheelchair whose disability also limits her speech, but not her enjoyment of a good mystery, or of getting her picture taken with me each summer.
For all its pleasures, my little town in NW Montana lacks a bookstore. (I remedied that problem in the fictional village.) So, to meet readers and get my books in their hands, I’ve had to be creative. It started when my first book came out and the owners of a local gallery asked me to launch it at the opening of an exhibit they planned to call “Bigfork in Paint and Print.” The exhibit was a great success, running each summer for five years, until the gallery moved. The local art center stepped in.
My cozies have a foodie theme, so the local kitchen shop is a natural partner, and both the Village books (which include a kitchen shop) and Spice Shop mysteries are perennial hits there. Their biggest seller, though — go figure—has been my moody suspense novel with three layers of mystery reaching back nearly a hundred years. I make it a habit to stand by the fudge counter to sign books when I bring them in — and inevitably, the savvy saleswomen spot the tourists who love to read and sell the books right out from under me. Such
But the Festival — oh, my. I loved it as a local long before I became a published mystery author. And after ten years of setting up that canopy and draping tables with blood-red cloths, I love it even more. I love the women with their lists who know just which books they need. The summer people who say “We weren’t here last year so I’m behind—what’s new?” The tourists who say “It’s set here? I’ve got to have it!” The men who tell me my books are the perfect way to unwind. I love telling the festival-goers about my books, but also asking what they read and who they recommend. I love hearing the parents say to the kids as they turn away, “Now you’ve met a real author.” I love the sweet response when readers ask about my pen name and I tell them it honors my mother and grandmother.
It’s a treat to participate in the life, the artistic life, of a vibrant, creative community. To help another woman struggling with her canopy. To watch younger artists finding their way. To be part of a village that values what I do.
Plus, you never know when you’ll hear your new favorite joke.
Leslie Budewitz is a three-time Agatha Award winner and the best-selling author of the Spice Shop mysteries, set in Seattle, and Food Lovers’ Village mysteries, inspired by Bigfork, Montana, where she lives. The newest: Peppermint Barked, the 6th Spice Shop mystery (July 2022). As Alicia Beckman, she writes moody suspense, beginning with Bitterroot Lake and continuing with Blind Faith (October 2022). Leslie is a board member of Mystery Writers of America and a past president of Sisters in Crime. Connect with Leslie on Facebook and through her website.
Readers, what’s your favorite way to meet authors? Is there an arts festival you love? Talk to us about it in the comments section below for a chance to win a packet of Mystery Lovers’ Kitchen recipe cards and a pad of library card sticky notes from our guest chick, Leslie Budewitz, aka Alicia Beckman. (U.S. addresses only are eligible for the drawing.)