Please contact E. B. Davis at for information on guest blogs and interviews. September Interviews 9/1 Carol Perry 9/8 Nupur Tustin 9/15 Maggie Pill 9/22 Veronica Bond 9/29 Rhys Bowen Guest Blogs 9/18 Mark Leichliter -----------------------------------------------------------------------------

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Lucy Burdette (Roberta Isleib) Interview

Roberta Isleib practiced clinical psychology and transitioned to writing years ago. Now, she’s writing her third mystery series. Written under the name Lucy Burdette, book four of the Key West Food Critic mysteries, Murder with Ganache, was released on February 4th. Roberta’s first published book, Six Strokes Under, premiered in 2002. Her main character solved murders while playing the professional golf circuit. In between, Roberta merged her real-life career with fiction in another series, Advice Column mysteries, featuring psychologist Dr. Rebecca Butterman. Roberta also served as President for SinC. Please welcome Roberta to WWK.                                                E. B. Davis

Which do you prefer, Roberta or Lucy?

I’ll answer to either :). But usually when I’m talking about the Key West books, I call myself Lucy. I haven’t minded the name change (which was requested by the new publisher,) because Lucille Burdette was my grandmother’s name—she died rather young so I like the idea of carrying her torch.

While we’re on the subject, how do you feel about author branding?

Well, I’m not sure exactly what you mean by author branding, but I think the publishers are interested in
being very clear about what kinds of books an author writes. So in my case, with this new series, the covers and titles are designed to showcase food and Key West—and generate a cozy feel that a reader of that genre will recognize. If it helps my books find readers, then I’m happy!

When you practiced psychology did you have a particular focus?

I had a practice in psychotherapy, most often working with adults, occasionally teens and couples. I was trained in longer-term psychotherapy, so I worked with people who were depressed or unhappy. We tried to figure out what kinds of things in their family history might be resonating with issues or relationships in the present. All of this turned out to be very useful in writing novels too!

Please give our readers a short description of Murder with Ganache.

MWG is a cozy mystery starring Hayley Snow, a food critic who lives on a houseboat in Key West. Her extended family is descending on the island like a Category 3 hurricane for her best friend's wedding. When her stepbrother disappears into the spring break party scene, she must put the baking of cupcakes and other wedding chores on hold in order to search for her brother. The book features Hemingway cats, and cupcakes, and wedding drama, but in the end it's about finding and embracing family in whatever form they come.

Family relationships, especially in mixed families, predominate Murder with Ganache. Do you agree with Leo Tolstoy’s assessment. “All happy families are alike; each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.”

I wouldn’t agree that all happy families are alike. (Excuse me Mr. Tolstoy.) Each has its quirks and secrets and ways of coping that could cause trouble when the system is stressed. So I’d say all families are different—though there may be common problems. And as Hayley finds out with her own stepfamily, some loyalties developed since birth are stronger than others.

Main character, Hayley Snow takes on the problems of her entire family. Does Hayley have personal
boundary issues?

Hayley is still young—mid-twenties—so she’s feeling her way in the world. She’s very connected to her mother, but working to figure out who she is, separate from family. That’s not so easy when they all arrive on an island that’s only 2 by 4 miles!

Which came first—Key West or the series?

My husband and I drove up and down both sides of Florida about seven years ago, looking for a place to escape winter. I already liked the state, having spent four years in Gainesville for graduate school, and lots of time visiting relatives in Tallahassee and Fort Myers. Key West was our last stop--a sort of vacation from the trip, a respite from our search. We drove down the string of islands and bridges that leads to Key West, agreeing that we'd never live in a place so fragile, so isolated, so exposed.

But instead of listening to our practical voices, we fell in love. Of course, the island is totally gorgeous, dotted with tropical foliage and surrounded by turquoise water. But underneath its fashion-model looks, magical, whimsical, bizarro Key West has many layers, reaching from the richest of the rich at one end to a significant homeless population on the other. There are folks who were born and raised on the island and lots of others who come to party or who come because they don't quite fit into a traditional lifestyle but find they feel comfortable here. There's a thriving artistic scene, great food, and a fabulous literary history.

So when I was thinking about pitching a new series, Key West chose me. Naturally my other books were set someplace—golf courses for Cassie Burdette's series and Southern Connecticut for the advice column mysteries. But Key West doesn't lay back as scenery--the island insists on becoming a major character.

Has Hayley met Mr. Right?

This search has been so hard! She arrived in Key West because she was impulsive about a man--that didn’t work, but it got her to the island, which she feels is her destiny. In each book, I thinkI’ve discovered Mr. Right, but she shows me that isn’t true:). She has some things to work out in her family history and then the right guy will fall into place. (I should say—yes she’s met him!)

Do you try Key West restaurants as part of your research? Are the restaurants real? The entrees served?

Luckily, in the Key West mysteries, the more I write about food, the happier is my editor. And to write about it, I have to cook and eat and try new restaurants. And that makes my husband happy. It’s a hard life, but Hayley and I are willing to do it! So short answer, yes, most of the restaurants are real places. And the food Hayley eats is the food I have eaten. Why not share the places I love? There is one caveat--maybe two: If it’s a bad review, I make the restaurant up. And if someone were to be poisoned in a restaurant, ditto.

Do you believe in self-determination or fate?

Wow, that’s a big question! I guess I must believe in self-determination because I work hard and try to be kind and generous--as though my future depended on all this...

A perfect day on the beach would include?

Some shade, a great book, and a wonderful sandwich. Maybe a Cuban mix with lots of pickles and mustard.Thanks so much for inviting me to be a guest on your blog! 

If you’re sick of the winter weather, vacation in Key West with Lucy Burdette. Here’s her link for Amazon, and visit her online.


Warren Bull said...

I admire your work effort in keeping three series going. Thanks for sharing on WWK.

Gloria Alden said...

Welcome, Roberta. I've never been to Key West, but from reading your books, I feel I have been there because you make a sense of place so real to the reader. I'm looking forward to reading your latest book in this series.

carla said...

Thanks for sharing with us, Roberta. I'd love to read about Key West right now-- since it's sleeting like crazy in South Carolina!

Sarah Henning said...

Hi, Roberta/Lucy! Thanks so much for spending time with us. All this talk of food has made me hungry! And I do love a good Cuban sandwich (I lived in West Palm Beach for a few years.)

Jim Jackson said...

Isn’t it great when your work encompasses things you like doing?

Thanks for joining us on Writers Who Kill, Roberta/Lucy. One question that Elaine didn’t ask – do you have any plans for something different?

~ Jim

Paula Gail Benson said...

Roberta/Lucy, I love reading your short stories. Thanks for joining us at WWK!

Lucy Burdette aka Roberta Isleib said...

Thanks Warren--I've never tried to keep more than one series going at the same time--that's some really hard work!

Gloria, thanks so much for saying that. I do love the island and I'm happy if the descriptions shine through!

Lucy Burdette aka Roberta Isleib said...

Sleeting in SC Carla? hasn't this been the most ridiculous winter? Better get a dose of Key West:)

Sarah, it's my pleasure to be here. I love a good Cuban mix, always making myself hungry too!

Lucy Burdette aka Roberta Isleib said...

Jim, thank You--I'm delighted to visit.

Plans for something new? I have so many projects on the back burner, including a kid's book, a suspense novel, another cozy series...not enough hours in the day. LOL

And Paula, thank you so much for the warm welcome!

Kara Cerise said...

Welcome, Roberta! I’d love to curl up in front of the fireplace and read about Key West (and food) during tonight’s snowstorm.

E. B. Davis said...

We're expecting 8-14 inches around D.C., Roberta. I hope you're in Key West! Love the series. Thanks for the interview (and keep them coming!).

Shari Randall said...

Roberta, thank you for the visit and for turning our thoughts to beautiful Key West - because we are about to get clobbered with snow here in the DC area.
I've enjoyed your advice column series and am looking forward to your new one. Will your (potential) children's book be a mystery?

KM Rockwood said...

Key West sounds wonderful! So does the food. I'm just hoping the electricity stays on here so we can have heat and cook.

I admire your ability to keep those series going. You're an inspiration to all of us.