Behind the Book: “Maria DiRico’s” Fourth Catering Hall Mystery

Welcome to “Behind the Book,” our fun new Chicks on the Case feature! Join us as we Chicks share the real stories behind our stories. Inspiration, motivation, frustration, jubilation–you’ll find them all right here… 

Hi, Ellen and “Maria” here! You’ll notice I didn’t include the title of Catering Hall Mystery #4 in the header. And the cover image is on the bottom of this post instead of the top. You’ll understand why once I share the following story…

I was sailing along with my first draft, heading towards the barn as we say in TV. (That means towards the ending, which I’m sure you figured out for yourselves already.) Then my writing came to a screeching halt. The book was titled Four Funerals and a Wedding – and there was only one murder (and an attack) in the book. I panicked as I realized the title made no sense.

I wracked my brain trying to come up with a solution to the problem. Then I had a brainstorm. My protagonist Mia is the senior event planner at the Queens banquet hall her reformed mobster father runs. Belle View Banquet Manor hosts a wide variety of events, from weddings to Sweet Sixteens… to funerals. What if a little boy’s three goldfish passed away? And to honor their memory, his parents hold a small ceremony and luncheon for the family at Belle View? I had my four bodies! Excited, I took the beat even further. The event leads Shane, Mia’s boyfriend, to an emotional revelation, which led me to write a touching speech for him that I was oh-so-proud of.

Problem solved! Except…

Notice anything about the title? That’s right – it’s not Four Funerals and a Party. It’s FOUR PARTIES AND A FUNERAL! I got the title of my own book wrong. Wha whaaaaa.

But… I loved what I wrote. This boner move on my part lead to the absolutely perfect ending for the book. So, I kept it. And when I shared this story with my editor, he roared.

My improv guru Keith Johnstone trained us to believe that mistakes are gifts, if you embrace them. That couldn’t be truer in this case. Still… I’ll be a little more careful about remembering my own book titles in the future!

Readers, have you ever made a mistake that turned out to be a gift?

FOUR PARTIES AND A FUNERAL Synopsis: Agatha Award-winning author Maria DiRico returns with the fourth book in the Catering Hall Mystery Series, starring Mia Carina who is coming to grips with being back in Astoria, Queens, and running her Italian-American family’s catering hall, Belle View Banquet Manor but a TV casting call is about to put murder in the spotlight . . .

The June events schedule at Belle View is busting out all over—proms, graduations, and of course, weddings. There are unexpected bookings too, including a casting call for the pilot of Dons of Ditmars Boulevard. But soon, Mia’s fears about the cheesy reality show are confirmed . . .

Belle View quickly becomes the site of a sea of wanna-be goombahs and phony girlfriends, and some of Mia’s friends insist on getting in on the action. The production company owner and his executive producer ex-wife—who’s also very minor British royalty—have assembled a motley crew that does as much infighting and backstabbing as the on-screen “talent.” Even so, it’s a shock when a dead body is found in the pool house of a local mansion rented by the show . . .

Murder might boost the ratings. But Mia intends to make sure the killer gets jail time, not airtime . . . 


35 thoughts on “Behind the Book: “Maria DiRico’s” Fourth Catering Hall Mystery

  1. And that’s why you’re the pro, El! Who could resist this title–or the dearly departed goldfish? Can’t wait to read the official version.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Funny you should mention that, Leslie. In my Crossword mysteries I felt I needed to kill off Fang the goldfish. Not gratuitously, but very deeply thematic. Plus, I didn’t really think they’d live that long and it would be a somewhat natural demise. I mentioned it to my editor and under no circumstances would she allow that to happen. Turns out, goldfish can live rather long lives so Fang was spared and lived to swim through all the books. For all I know, he’s still alive!

      Liked by 4 people

        1. I have an 86-year-old neighbor that has huge Koi in his pond–beautiful colors. He just lost one and it was about 20 years old. It was during the 3 day down to 7 degrees and below freezing for three days in December. Those fish are worth thousands of dollars. I wish that I could attach photos here so you could see them.

          Liked by 1 person

  2. This is awesome–just like this series!!

    I can’t come close to this mistake-turned-gift story, but I did accidentally fall into my career after getting involved in a cultishy music group/charity thing. (Super long–and kinda weird–story.)

    But like Jen, I also have to know: what’s the origin of the barn expression?

    Liked by 2 people

  3. So wait, did you needlessly write a wedding into the book too, or just a few extra funerals? Either way, I love this behind the scenes peek into your latest and I’m glad it all worked out! (And I too am curious about the barn saying.)

    Liked by 2 people

  4. I don’t know why writers rooms – at least sitcom writers’ rooms – used the expression “heading for the barn.” It meant we were heading towards a story’s wrap-up. So that’s where the focus lay. No introducing new story beats at that point. The analogy, of course, is at the end of a day on the farm, you’re bringing the animals in. Since I can’t think of a group less like to farm than sitcom writers, the origin mystifies me.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Well Ellen, I am now reading your Vintage Cookbook Mystery #1 and #2 right after. Four Parties and a Funeral is preordered as were the above two. I can’t wait to get it because I think that your DiRico books are the best. They rate right up there with my top favorites. If I had a mistake that turned out good, I have forgotten it. I am getting old after all.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. I was lucky enough to get an early read on this one — one of my faves in the series! El, I’m excited for the release!!


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s