Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Julia Buckley Interview by E. B. Davis

I happened upon Julia Buckley’s Pudding Up With Murder after reading a particularly violent mystery, giving me incentive to read a cozy, a necessary antidote. Julia’s main character, Lilah Drake, is a caterer and TV chef who moonlights by making dishes “undercover” to those who want to present Lilah’s dish as their own, which is why the series is deemed “Undercover Dish” mysteries. Pudding Up With Murder is the third in this Berkley series.

One of Julia’s writing talents is making secondary characters alive and differentiated from others. In this novel, we are introduced to the family of the victim, who had married three times and had multiple children amongst his three wives. At first, I had trepidation that I’d never keep the characters straight, but the problem never arose. I knew each character without pause, an event that rarely occurs, making it a seamless read.

Julia writes another series for Berkley, The Writer’s Apprentice series. I found a commonality between series—dogs! Lilah Drake has a lab named Mick who is also memorable for his congenial nature with humans and other dogs. He also possesses an endearing mannerism—he nods—a concurrence that never fails to bolster his owner’s faith in herself. Don’t we all wish we had a canine to cheer us on?

Please welcome Julia Buckley to WWK.                                                                            E. B. Davis

First—the dogs. Why do both of your Berkley series feature canine friends? Do you have a dog? Is Mick a yellow, black, or chocolate lab?

I do have dogs, and really always have had them in my life. My childhood dog, Buffy, was a beautiful and gentle creature, a mix of Beagle, Norwegian Elkhound, and German Shepherd.  A truly lovely animal with a plumey tail and wonderful coloring. She was my companion from about the age of three until I was in high school, and I still dream about her sometimes.

I didn’t get another dog until my oldest son was about six and campaigning hard for a canine. We finally settled on little Simon, a sweet Beagle/Russell mix. Everyone in the neighborhood knew him, and he lived a very long time—until my son was twenty years old.  Then we said no more dogs, but guess what happened? I wrote the Undercover Dish mysteries and fell in love with my own creation—Mick the Dog!  So when Simon died, and my sons started murmuring about how empty the house felt without a canine companion, I started lobbying for a Lab. We ended up getting a rescue dog, a Lab mix, and naming him Digby. He can’t nod like Mick the dog, but he is incredibly sweet and loyal.

What is Pine Haven, IL like? Is it very far from Chicago?

Pine Haven, like all of my settings, is fictional but based on various suburbs of Chicago. It’s far enough away to feel a bit rural, but close enough that Lilah can travel to the city. I imagine it being about forty-five minutes from Chicago.

Pine Haven is a mixture of all sorts of towns—the western suburbs that I drive through each day, but also the far south suburbs where I grew up. Every town is distinct, but all towns have enough in common that we can see our own hometowns in the ones we read about in fiction.

Lilah’s friend Ellie, who also happens to be the mother of her boyfriend, Jay, suffers from arthritis and can no longer cook like she used to do. Are most of Lilah’s clients in the same sort of predicament? Why do people want to take credit for Lilah’s dishes?

That’s a great question, because although I’ve hired caterers before, I can’t imagine telling people that I made the food. Most of Lilah’s clients are motivated by pride. Her friend Pet wanted to have a claim to fame at church events; another of her clients wants to have a recipe that his children will always remember him for, but he can’t cook; still another is a Boy Scout leader who wants the kids to think of this food, made with love, as being made by him. It’s nice, really, because it means that people want to show love through food, but they don’t have the talent to make that food memorable. That’s where Lilah comes in.

Lilah’s relationship with boyfriend Jay can be rocky. They’ve had jealousy issues. Don’t they talk enough or do they make too many assumptions about each other?

I think you’re right, and that this book shows Lilah and Jay need more communication. They innately love and trust each other, and there is obviously a strong physical attraction, but they have spent a lot of time brooding about one another instead of just hashing things out. They need to spend more time together, learning about each other and themselves. This book gives them a good start in that direction (although as you said, jealousy does rear its ugly head).

How has Ellie dealt with Lilah during those rocky times?

Ellie is wise, in that, aside from trying to get them together in the first place, she focuses on her individual relationships: she loves her son, and she loves her friend Lilah. Whether the two of them work out as a couple or not, Ellie knows that she will keep both of them in her life.
Marcus Cantwell dies of an allergic reaction to nuts during his birthday celebration. He also suffered from Achenbach’s Syndrome. I have Achenbachs in my family and never heard of the problem. What is Achenbach’s Syndrome?

I discovered this ailment through my mother. I think it comes from German lineage, because my mom was born in Germany and I have only ever found good articles about it written by German doctors (and of course its name is German). Basically it means that once in a while a blood vessel will burst in either a finger or a toe, and that digit becomes purple and bruised-looking. It does not affect the other fingers or even the fingernail.  It’s painful and makes the finger feel like an overstuffed sausage. I know, because it first happened to me at the age of forty, and it’s happened every couple of years ever since—always different fingers, and sometimes a toe. I remembered that my mother had it, and that’s when my research began. Now my brother has started to show symptoms, as well.

Luckily, it seems to not be related to strokes or any serious illness—just a weird little inherited malady that I decided would be an interesting detail to help describe Marcus.

Why does Lilah decide to hire Wade Glenning, the photographer the Cantwells hired for Marcus’s birthday celebration?

Lilah has never had professional photos taken of herself, and would normally not even consider getting them, but she wants to impress Jay and perhaps also make him even more attracted to her. She thinks these professional images might make him look at her in a new way.

Peach, a little granddaughter of victim Marcus Cantwell, reads Miss Moxie books, a children’s mystery series. Is this series real? Miss Moxie says in one of the books, “When something looks too black and white, you can be sure it isn’t right.” Do you agree?

Miss Moxie is fictional, but she’s based on books that my sons read when they were small. I love children’s literature, from the wonderful illustrations to the imaginative storylines and plucky main characters. I wanted Lilah to have a wise voice in her head, and wisdom often comes from children like Peach—or from the literature that inspires them. If Miss Moxie books were real, I would buy them.  J

Throughout the book, Lilah has lyrics running through her mind—anything from Green Day to the Beatles. She knows a lot of music from different eras. Is her subconscious mind bringing the lyrics to mind or is this something she does while cooking to lessen the tedium of some tasks?

The music is totally from Lilah’s subconscious, and if you’ve read the other two books you know that this is an essential part of Lilah—the music in her head. Lilah has always been a big fan of “retro” music, especially stuff from the 80s, which she likes to listen to with her landlord Terry. But she likes current stuff, as well. On any given day, it’s just about what her subconscious sends up, sort of like a Magic Eight Ball of music.

Why do people make assumptions about others? Is it a case of thinking to type or assuming they know more than they actually do?

I think all assumptions are made with the confidence perhaps all people have that they are smarter than most other people.  J  This over-confidence can lead people astray, because they’ll go a long way to prove that they’re right, or that their instincts are correct.

You’ve written other books/genres than the two cozy mystery series for Berkley. Tell readers about your previous writing.

Thanks for the opportunity! Most of my other books are only available on Kindle. I have a very early cozy series, The Madeline Mann Mysteries, which were orphaned by a publisher but received nice reviews from Kirkus and Library Journal.

I have a first in what I called the Teddy Thurber mysteries, about a high school teacher who solves the death of a former student. This isn’t entirely cozy, but readers have given it high praise.

I have a few stand-alone suspense novels and one YA novel called Ginevra Bond, about a psychic girl who must help the FBI.

What book will be your next release, Julia?

Pudding Up with Murder comes out in September, and after that I have one final Writer’s Apprentice novel under contract (possibly with more on the horizon), and I don’t know if that will come out before next summer. It’s called A Dark and Twisted Path.

On vacation, would your choice be beaches or mountains?

I’ve been to both, and love both, but I’d probably choose beaches. I grew up in the Midwest so I’m essentially a Plains girl, drawn to big skies and tall prairie grasses. There are lots of beautiful lake regions that combine forest, plains and water, and these places feel like a great combination to me. That’s how I ended up creating Blue Lake, the setting of the Lena London books.

Thank you so much for the interview and for reading the new book! I hope readers will enjoy it, as well.

They can visit me at my website (, my Facebook page called Julia Buckley Mystery Novels, Twitter (@juliabucks), Instagram (jellenbuckley), or Pinterest under Julia Buckley.



Grace Topping said...

Thanks, Julia, for joining us at Writers Who Kill. I've read books in both of Julia's recent series, and they are delightful--even if a murder occurs. What's not to like--one about food and the other about books.

Shari Randall said...

Great interview, EB and Julia. The books sound like fun!

Margaret S. Hamilton said...

Elaine, excellent interview spanning several series. Julia, look forward to reading your latest.

Warren Bull said...

Another book for the to-be-read pile. Great interview.

KM Rockwood said...

Sounds like an awesome series! With cooking and dogs, how can it go wrong?

Gloria Alden said...

Julia, I'm adding another series to my TBR list I'm a dog lover, too.

Kait said...

These books sound like great fun. And a nodding dog - gotta get one - a book, not a dog. Not even a nodding dog!

E. B. Davis said...

Thanks for the interview, Julia. Your characters are wonderful--which is hard to master and are compelling for readers. I hope for many more books to come in this series.

J.R. said...

Thank you so much, everyone!! I apologize for being late with my comments. I am back teaching, and the work is distracting me, but what a joy to come here and visit and see all your kind words.

I'll be back momentarily to comment individually.

J.R. said...

Julia here again. Grace, thanks so much for your kind words. I have really enjoyed writing these series for Berkley and hope I will have the opportunity to write more!

Thank you, Shari! I hope you'll check one out when you see it at the library or your local bookstore. :)

Margaret, thanks! I hope you enjoy the read.

Warren, I'm thrilled to think I'll end up in anyone's TBR pile. :)

KM, it's true--writing these books has made me realize how many dog lovers there are in the world. And as you said, what's not to love?

Gloria, I write with love when I write about dogs. They're so generous and loyal.

Kait, fair warning--my book made ME want to get a dog. :)

Thanks for the interview, EB!! It was fun.

And thanks to all of you for reading our discussion and leaving fun comments.