Monday, September 14, 2009

Wendy Watson

Interview with Suzanne

Suz: Welcome to the Bandit, Lair, Wendy. Pull up a barstool and we'll have one of the cabana boys fetch us a margarita. So congratulations on the debut of I SCREAM, YOU SCREAM, the first in your cozy mystery series. Please tell everyone what the book is about.

Wendy: Cocktails! Fantastic! Had I known we were having snacks, I would have brought along some of Tally's avocado gelato. Maybe next time ...

I SCREAM, YOU SCREAM is about Tally Jones, proprietor of Dalliance, Texas's ice cream parlor, Remember the A-la-mode. With a struggling business, a crumbling historic home, and a motley assortment of family members depending on her, Tally swallows her pride and agrees to provide ice cream for her ex-husband's company luau. But when her ex's arm-candy girlfriend drops dead, Tally finds herself scooping for her life, hoping to find a murderer before she finds herself locked in the hoosegow.

Thankfully, Tally's cousin Bree, Bree's daughter Alice, and Tally's high school beau Finn Harper are all on hand to help her out.

Suz: I've been looking forward to this book since you first announced it at one of our chapter meetings. How did you come up with the concept?

Wendy: Funny you should ask. Normally, I start with a very vivid scene, and the characters and plot flow from that. For I SCREAM, YOU SCREAM, though, I started with the hook: ice cream. My agent and I had a brainstorming session, trying to think of ideas for a cozy series, something that I knew about and was passionate about and that people would find relatable. Well, friends, this girl knows food. Cooking it, eating it, reading about it, dreaming about it ... I {puffy heart} food. And the mother of all foods, in my opinion, is ice cream.

As soon as I said the words aloud, Kim and I knew it was the perfect hook for me. And it has been. My husband jokes that he can always tell when I've been writing "ice cream procedural," the passages where Tally is making or eating ice cream, because I get all keyed up and he can't drag me away from the computer.

Suz: Tallulah, "Tally" Jones is the star of this series. She has a lot to overcome, but doesn't come off perfect. How did she first make her appearance to you?

Wendy: Ice cream equals indulgence. It's sensual and luscious and fattening as heck. I wanted a character whose life was the opposite of that. And thus Tally Jones was born. She's all about duty and responsibility and being a good girl and not making a scene. At least on the outside. She's got ice cream in her soul, though, and getting down to that vibrant, raw, passionate person is going to be tons of fun.

Suz: The secondary characters in I SCREAM, YOU SCREAM are a hoot. How do they play a part in Tally's life?

Wendy: Wow. You get right to the heart of the matter, huh?

That's a big theme in the book, how we define ourselves relative to the people around us. My extended family lives in a small town, and everyone is defined by their relationships to one another: "Roberta's boy," or "Junior's ex." We moved around a lot when I was growing up, so for me, those sorts of relationships were largely impermanent; I didn't have a place in some vast interpersonal web, but was mostly floating free. As a result, that small town feel intrigues me.

In this book, I play a lot with that notion of being defined by the people around you, both your relationships to them and their expectations of you. On the one hand, I find that sort of belonging seductive. On the other, I can see how it could be stifling, oppressive. For Tally, it's both.

Gee. Didn't mean to get all heavy, but you really touched on one of the more emotional themes of the book. And while I love to laugh--and hopefully make others laugh, too--I want Tally's story to touch people's hearts, too.

Suz: Speaking of Finn Harper, is there a future romance in the works between him and Tally?

Wendy: LOL! Yes, one of the most delicious threads of the story (to me) is Tally's struggle to define her relationship with her high school boyfriend Finn. When the book begins, she hasn't seen him in nearly two decades, not since she broke his heart in the Tasty-Swirl parking lot on the eve of their high school graduation. When he comes back to town and into her life, he stirs up all sorts of feelings she'd rather not examine too closely.

Do they have a future? Hmmmm. Maybe. Finn and Tally have a lot of past to overcome before they can start thinking about happily ever after. And, well, there might be a competitor for Tally's affections just around the corner .....

Suz: So what's next in the MYSTERY A LA MODE series?

Wendy: SCOOP TO KILL is slated for a July 2010 release. Tally's precocious niece Alice is finishing up her first year at Dickerson College, and when the annual Honor's Day festivities turn bloody, Alice enlists her Aunt Tally's help in solving an ivory tower murder.

Suz: At the end of I SCREAM, YOU SCREAM you have a delicious recipe for "Tally's Tropical Sundaes", which sounds delicious by the way, is this going to be something you do with each book? If so, I can see one dear husband wanting me to buy more books!

Wendy: Trust me, that ginger-lime-coconut sauce is highly addictive (great for dressing up carrot cake, too!). There will be recipes for ice cream goodies in every book, all using store-bought ice cream and all designed so even "can't boil water" cooks can craft something company-worthy.

So dear readers...what is your favorite ice cream and/or toppings?

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