Wednesday, March 11, 2020

An Interview with Agatha Nominee Kaye George by E. B. Davis

In the picturesque tourist town of Fredericksburg, Texas, Tally Holt has opened a new candy store with a vintage twist . . .but there’s no sugar-coating a nasty case of murder . . .

Tally Holt has poured her heart, soul, and bank account into Tally’s Olde Tyme Sweets, specializing in her grandmother’s delicious recipes. Tally’s homemade Mallomars, Twinkies, fudges, and taffy are a hit with visiting tourists—and with Yolanda Bella, the flamboyant owner of Bella’s Baskets next door. But both shops encounter a sour surprise when local handyman Gene Faust is found dead in Tally’s kitchen, stabbed with Yolanda’s scissors.

The mayor’s adopted son, Gene, was a handsome Casanova with a bad habit of borrowing money from the women he wooed. It’s a sticky situation for Yolanda, who was one of his marks. There are plenty of other likely culprits among Fredericksburg’s female population, and even among Gene’s family. But unless Tally can figure out who finally had their fill of Gene’s sweet-talking ways, Yolanda—and both their fledgling businesses—may be destined for a bitter end…

Kaye George has been nominated twice in the short story category of the Agatha Awards. We’ll see if this May brings Kaye an Agatha. (See our marquee above.) She’s been nominated also in the Best First and Best Historical categories. And that was one reason I was disappointed to see that only one book was listed in the front of Revenge is Sweet as previously written. The fact is, Kaye’s been nominated twice for two books in two different series. The Vintage Sweet Mysteries is the fifth series Kaye has written (one under the pseudonym of Janet Cantrell) plus many short stories.

The main character in the Vintage Sweet Mysteries, Tally Holt, is a likeable character. She’s an experienced candy maker who previously had a bakery shop in Austin, Texas, but returned to Fredericksburg, Texas, where she grew up, and opened Tally’s Olde Tyme Sweets. Her best friend, Yolanda, owns a basket shop next door. Kaye presents both Tally and Yolanda’s perspectives as the storytellers. When a young man is found murdered in Tally’s shop both women are implicated in the murder.

Please join us in discussing Kaye’s new series!                                                                           E. B. Davis

Fredericksburg, TX, is a real place. Why did you decide to set your series there? And please tell our readers a bit about the town.

I’ve visited Fredericksburg and had wonderful times there. I was casting about for a cozy town for a new series and lit on this one. There are lots of shops, it’s a small town, and has some unusual features due to its unique history. It was settled by Germans, and the ones who farmed the surrounding area built small two-story houses, called Sunday Houses, which they used when they drove to town for church on the weekends and stayed overnight. Many of them are still standing. It’s located in the Texas Hill Country, which contains a lot of vineyards, so wineries abound in the area and tasting rooms in the town. You can also get authentic German food in the many restaurants. It seemed like an excellent place, not only for a small shopkeeper, but for one dealing with edibles.

When I read the description of Tally’s Whoopie Pies, I gathered there are similar but different treats in various places in the country. In my home state of Pennsylvania, they are big soft fat chocolate cookies with a vanilla buttermilk filling. How are Tally’s so different?

The fillings I’ve encountered are more marshmallowy, so hers are that way, too. Not very different at all! The recipes she works from were handed down from her New Jersey grandmother, who loved to recreate the store-bought treats of her time with original, home-made versions.

How did Tally come to grow up in Fredericksburg?

Her parents started out there, so she lived with them. When they later decided to go on the road, performing, she and her brother, Cole, were looked after by their grandparents, who had moved there to follow the children.

How have Tally and her brother, Cole, made different lifestyle decisions?

They both wanted to avoid the stage where their parents made a living. At young ages, they were both used in the acts the Holts created. They were sensations, well-received, but, as children often do, they rejected the choices of their parents, although both ended up involved with creative endeavors. Cole is a sculptor of large-scale, expensive pieces, and Tally creates comestibles.

How does Tally’s relationship to her parents differ from Yolanda’s?

Yolanda’s father, especially, treats her as a child and smothers her. He insists on financing her project, Bella’s Baskets, even though he wishes she would go into real estate, his field and the one her sister works in also, and the field that made him rich. He doesn’t understand people who don’t want to be rich.

Tally’s parents are much more hands-off, and have been ever since Tally and Cole began to live with their grandparents.

How did Cole end up with Maine Coon cat, Nigel?

Cole goes through women pretty regularly, never getting attached to any of the females who fall for him. In this book, one who moved in decided to leave him, but didn’t take her cat with her. Since he’s on the road installing his sculptures much of the time, he can’t keep the cat either. He brings it to Tally, who isn’t at all sure she wants a pet, at first, since she’s never had one. Nigel, however, quickly wins her heart.

I was surprised when early July was described as early in the tourist season because here on the
east coast, early tourist season is April or May. How is July early?

I researched this to get the information. The main tourist season is summertime and, for this town specifically, holiday shopping is the focus.

Yolanda seems immature compared to Tally. Have her parents interfered in her development? Why are they still so “hands-on” when she and Tally must be close to thirty-five?

The fact that Yolanda’s father foists money on her, keeps her in his debt. She needs to resist this, but it’s hard, when she really does need the money, and enjoys the things it buys. She loves the expensive Sunday House he bought for her, for example. Yes, they are about 35. Yolanda has also never left home and Tally went to Austin to start her own business with bank loans, which she managed to pay off herself.

How did Tally come by her recipes for vintage sweets? What are some of the sweets Tally sells?

When her grandmother passed away, she had arranged for her little metal recipe box to be delivered to Tally after her death. Tally was delighted to receive it, because she remembers making many of the recipes beside her grandmother. Some of them that Tally markets are her grandmother’s versions of Mary Janes, Mallomars, Clark Bars, Whoopie Pies, even Twinkies.

What are “rhomboid” patches?

You are referring to the light thrown onto the pavement from shop windows at night. Since the windows are rectangular, and the light shines out obliquely, the shapes cast are rhomboids.

Allen, one of the repairmen who services Yolanda and Tally’s shops, attracts Tally. She goes out with him for a few dates, but then she decides she doesn’t want to see him anymore. Why? And how does Nigel’s interaction confirm Tally’s feelings?

She doesn’t see much future with Allen. He has no interest in staying in one place very long. She foresees a broken heart if she gets too attached and he pulls up roots and leaves. She is also alarmed at his temper and wonders if he’s the person who killed Gene, since he was his co-worker.

Allen is rather dismissive of Nigel’s awesomeness, to Tally’s chagrin, although Nigel likes Allen. When Nigel rubs against Allen’s leg, Allen pushes him away.

I was surprised that Tally cleaned up the blood and gore from the murder in her shop’s kitchen. Why
didn’t she call experts to do the job?

She wouldn’t even think of doing that. She’s a Texan woman through and through who takes cares of things herself.

Mrs. Gerg is a hoot. Will she continue to be helpful or problematic (or both) to Tally?

Oh yes, both!

Yolanda and Tally are both the oldest sibling. Has their birth order affect their affected their thinking and behavior?

I think they get along with each other well because they are both the older child. They do have very different relationships with their parents and their families are quite different, but they bonded as young children going to school together and have always gotten along.

What is a Sunday House? Is Fredericksburg the only place they exist?

I explained those above and that’s the only town I’ve ever seen them in, which doesn’t mean they don’t exist in other places. They probably have a different name and are not the same distinctive architecture. The ones here were built so the men would sleep on the first floor and the women and children on the second floor. They had an outside staircase, so the second floor was decidedly more inconvenient, which tells you something about Germans of that era.

What is Jaeger Schnitzel (and brats)?

The former is my favorite German food. They are delicately breaded pork cutlets served with a mushroom gravy. Brats are…brats—bratwurst.

Is Enchanted Rock a real formation? Does it have legends or did you create them?

It’s a fantastic park right outside town that I’ve hiked. I didn’t make up a thing. It has enough lore of its own. I haven’t been there after dark (it’s supposed to be closed then), but there are lots of stories.

Why does Detective Rogers say he’d like to take Tally out after the investigation is over, and then ask her out during the investigation? No willpower?

Or a strong attraction. They are drawn to each other, after all.

Can people adopt a child and then have the adoption annulled?

Yes, it can happen. The rules are strict and, ideally, it has to be in the best interest of the child for that to happen.

Are you owned by a cat, Kaye?

I’ve been owned by many. The cat bed is empty right now, but will probably not stay that way.

Will we learn more about how Tally became an experienced baker/candy maker in subsequent books?

I hadn’t planned on going into it, other than that she learned from her grandmother. It’s an idea, though.

The next book in the series is Deadly Sweet Tooth. Can you give us the jacket copy?

No cover yet, but here’s the copy. Thanks for asking!

In a darling tourist town like Fredericksburg, Texas, a vintage sweet shop offering delicious old-fashioned favorites is a perfect fit—until someone decides to debut a recipe that’s lusciously lethal…

With Tally’s Old Tyme Sweets finally—well, almost—turning a profit, Tally Holt is taking one busy Saturday off to host a grand party for her parents, traveling performers who spend most of their time on the road. Tally’s counting on the publicity and free treats to attract new customers. And the event is a sweet success—at least until Fran Abraham, the town’s foul-tempered theater director, drops dead after a bitter confrontation with Tally’s mother.

Murder was definitely not on Tally’s menu, but it’s clear that Fran’s death wasn’t natural. The list of possible culprits includes not just Tally’s mom, but her protective dad too. Relying on Yolanda Bella, her best friend and the proprietor of Bella’s Baskets next door, for help, Tally will need to unwrap the sticky pasts and unsavory presents of everyone from her own parents to her new hires before Fran’s death sours everybody on her fledgling shop….

Thanks so much for having me here. I love interviews with you!


Margaret S. Hamilton said...

Congratulations on your new series! Looks like a winner.

carla said...

Wow. Congratulations on your success, Kay!

Shari Randall said...

Congratulations on your new series, Kay! Revenge is Sweet is a perfect title.

E. B. Davis said...

Romboid patches! Never heard of that one. Where do you come up with this stuff? PS--Thanks for the interview and the fun read!

Kaye George said...

Thanks, Margaret, Carla, and Shari! It feels good to have a new book out. It's been a while. E.B., I took high school geometry! I think I've needed rhomboids for crossword puzzles, too.

Thank YOU for all your hard work and for helping me get the word out, E.B.!

judyalter said...

What a wonderfully complex and yet consistent world you've created. You talk about your characters as though they lived with you--which of course, they do. I envy Tally the Maine Coon--I'm not a cat person but the one cat I loved was part Maine Coon. Good choice for Nigel. Hope this launches a gangbuster series with many titles.

Kaye George said...

Thanks for the kind comments, Judy! I hope so, too. My son's family had a wonderful Maine Coon. It's an awesome breed.

KM Rockwood said...

I love Kaye's books, and I'm sure this one will be no exception.

Kaye George said...

Thanks, KM!

Paula Gail Benson said...

Hooray, Kaye! Congratulations on this new series. Looking forward to reading it!

Kaye George said...

Thank you so much, Paula!