Please contact E. B. Davis at for information on guest blogs and interviews.

Author Interviews

8/4 Sherry Harris, A Time to Swill

8/11 Authors of The Fish That Got Away

8/18 Authors of Mutt Murders, To Fetch A Killer

8/25 Alyssa Maxwell, Murder at Wakehurst

Guest Bloggers

8/21 Nancy Nau Sullivan

WWK Special Blogger

8/7 V. M. Burns


Wednesday, August 26, 2020

An Interview with Debra Goldstein by E. B. Davis

When a romantic rival opens a competing restaurant in small-town Wheaton, Alabama, Sarah Blair discovers murder is the specialty of the house.

For someone whose greatest culinary skill is ordering takeout, Sarah never expected to be co-owner of a restaurant. Even her Siamese cat, RahRah, seems to be looking at her differently. But while Sarah and her twin sister, Chef Emily, are tangled up in red tape waiting for the building inspector to get around to them, an attention-stealing new establishment—run by none other than Sarah’s late ex-husband’s mistress, Jane—is having its grand opening across the street.

Jane’s new sous chef, Riley Miller, is the talk of Wheaton with her delicious vegan specialties. When Riley is found dead outside the restaurant with Sarah’s friend, Jacob, kneeling over her, the former line cook—whose infatuation with Riley was no secret—becomes the prime suspect. Now Sarah must turn up the heat on the real culprit, who has no reservations about committing cold-blooded murder . . .

Debra Goldstein furthers the character development of protagonist Sarah Blair in Three Treats Too Many. Far from the na├»ve character in One Taste Too Many, Sarah is once again drawn into a case of murder. But it doesn’t have anything to do with her family or her ex. This time she’s defending a friend from a murder charge with the help of her cat, RahRah, and new puppy, Fluffy. Observing their behavior provides insight to human relationships.

Secondary characters from the first two books make appearances and enhance the cast of characters. Eloise, the older woman whose boss was killed at the bank in the last book, is now a strong councilwoman contending with the aggressive Anne Hightower, now a mayoral candidate. Sarah’s mother, Maybelle, contrasts to Eloise. Jane, Sarah’s ex’s bimbo (her words not mine) finally gets a comeuppance, and yet, she’ll probably survive to be a pain for another day.

The Sarah Blair mystery series is a continuing pleasure to read. My interviews with Debra about her first two books can be found here and here. Stop by our comments page to leave Debra a message or ask a question.                                                                                                      E. B. Davis

In an effort to get commerce in from nearby Birmingham, AL, the Wheaton council rejected an Entertainment district in favor of mixed-use zoning. Jane’s Place restaurant is next to a veterinary clinic. Has the council traded one set of problems for another?

No question about that. In the earlier books in the Sarah Blair series, I promoted the concept of an Entertainment District to introduce the pros and cons of economic development and what might be the driving force behind different opinions on the subject. In Three Treats Too Many, by having the mixed-use zoning concept adopted, I was able to explore some of the problems that may occur when competing interests are involved.

When Jane’s Place opens before Southwind Restaurant, Sarah’s twin Emily and her partner Marcus’s establishment, everyone in the neighborhood goes to the opening. Sarah’s associates are checking out the competition. Have you known those in the restaurant business? Is there friendly competition between them? I’ve heard that it can be a cut-throat business due to low profit margins. So, I wonder if friendly is saying too much.

Birmingham, Alabama, where I live, has become known as a foodie city. Although there is some rivalry and dislike between some restaurant owners, that would probably be the case if these individuals owned similar businesses in another field.  Many of our chefs, at some point, trained under our James Beard winners and then went out on their own. My observation of those individuals, and their subsequent disciples, is that they respect and support each other. In Three Treats Too Many, the days of Sarah and Jane being friends is long gone, but it isn’t only because of the restaurant competition between Jane, Emily, Marcus, and now Sarah.

Because the veterinarians are also in a motorcycle club and they have a parking lot, many members of the club park their bikes there. Wouldn’t they have to get permission to do so from the council to do so?

I don’t think so. Although it appears that a lot of the town belongs to this social motorcycle club,
there are only a limited number of bikes being parked on a pad on the side of the veterinary practice’s building. The riders aren’t congregating, demonstrating, holding meetings or rallies, or doing anything else that would require a permit. They aren’t even taking up space in the actual parking lot. Besides, Wheaton is a small town where the way it is sometimes takes precedence over the way it should be.

Is Birmingham a big biker area?

To my knowledge, Birmingham has its share of bikers, but no more than other urban areas. What it does have, according to Guinness World Records, is the world’s largest motorcycle collection housed at the Barber Vintage Motorsports Museum. Visits to the museum, a friend who also is a motorcycle collector, two teachers I met, who did not meet my stereotyped image of a biker, and a local group that does charity rides sparked me to write the motorcycle club into Three Treats Too Many.

Botts and the first murder victim, Riley Miller, a young chef, have a romantic relationship that seems to be floundering. Sarah sees similarities between them and her puppy, Fluffy, and her cat, RahRah’s relationship. What is it that Sarah sees?

RahRah, like Botts, demonstrates alpha male characteristics. They are both in control, not always kind, and put their own pleasure/desires ahead of the feelings of others. Riley and Fluffy are quite capable, but they become subservient in the hopes of pleasing Botts and RahRah. It is this behavior pattern that Sarah observes. Although she thinks it is amusing watching Fluffy be dominated by RahRah, she finds the same pattern in Riley and Botts disconcerting.

What Sarah sees contradicts what people have told her about Riley, who was a flirt and used men for her own gain. Is Botts more of a user than Riley?

They are users in different ways. Botts is showier and maybe even a little shady, but both are direct in going after what they want.

Sarah is no fan of Acting Chief Dwayne Gerard. She is surprised that her boss, Harlan Endicott, a lawyer, and Gerard act like friends. Is Harland “keeping his friends close and his enemies closer?” Or has Harlan developed a respect and friendship with Gerard?

Sometimes, people who don’t see eye to eye on things still find it is more politic to interact with each other. Harlan is a straight arrow who uses the law to help others. He also, except maybe with Jacob, is a good judge of character. Knowing that Chief Gerard can be a bit lazy or jump to conclusions before all the facts are in, he has learned that he can temper things by using honey rather than coming at Gerard in an attack mode. Harlan also is good at indirectly suggesting ideas that the chief carries out as if they are his own.

The vegan dishes that Riley makes take top honors at Jane’s Place and draws in customers. Is the vegan diet that popular?

Just as there are many people who follow the Keto diet or eat gluten free, a good segment of the population embraces the vegan diet. In this case, Riley’s dishes are a novelty on the menu, but once people sample them, they want more.

Because her friend Jacob is the top suspect in Riley’s murder, Sarah agrees to investigate. Why?

Throughout the Sarah Blair mystery series, the overarching theme is loyalty and caring for family and friends. Jacob is her friend and even though she isn’t sure, especially as different facts come to light, that he is innocent, she won’t allow him to be railroaded if Chief Gerard’s focus is only on Jacob. The other reason she agrees to investigate is because Anne and Eloise ask her to. Sarah feels a loyalty to Eloise and although she doesn’t trust Anne not to manipulate her, she respects Anne’s desire to protect her brother.

Does Sarah always count objects to divert her attention from something ghastly?

If she does, it isn’t a conscious thing. All she knows when she confronts something ghastly is that she must let her mind wander, or the situation will be too much for her to emotionally handle.

What is Rolling Thunder? Do motorcycle clubs still participate or has it been disbanded?

Rolling Thunder is an advocacy organization. It seeks full accountability for prisoners of war and individuals missing in action. The organization has chapters which carry out the group’s mission and do charitable events. In 1988, as a First Amendment protest, the Rolling Thunder event was created. Through 2019, at least two hundred thousand motorcyclists gathered each Memorial Day weekend to ride a designated path from the Pentagon parking lot around the D.C. Mall area. Problems with extra security needs and limitations imposed near the Pentagon led to the ride’s official demise; however, with a different sponsor, the event, or one similar, is planned for 2020.

Do military dogs often end up with PTSD? Is there treatment for them?

A 2011 New York Time article quoted Dr. Walter F. Burghardt Jr., chief of behavioral medicine at the Daniel E. Holland Military Working Dog Hospital at Lackland Air Force Base, as saying:
"By some estimates, more than 5 percent of the approximately 650 military dogs deployed by American combat forces are developing canine PTSD. Of those, about half are likely to be retired from service.” As canine post traumatic syndrome has become more recognized, treatment therapies used include vigorous play, love, downtime, and desensitization counterconditioning. If a dog cannot be rehabilitated at its home base within three months, the dog is assigned to other duties or discharged from the service.
Jacob’s sister Anne is on the Wheaton town council and is running for mayor. Sarah and Anne have never gotten on well. How does Anne manipulate Sarah? How will Sarah defend herself?

Anne manipulates by words and playing on Sarah’s emotions. Highly intelligent, Anne can whip out an idea that Sarah agrees with in principle and before Sarah knows it, Sarah is the one doing the behind the scenes work while Anne gets the glory. When readers meet Sarah in One Taste Too Many, she lacks confidence in herself. She was married at eighteen, divorced by twenty-eight, and the only thing she got out of the marriage was RahRah, her Siamese cat. Although never physically abused, Sarah’s ex-husband mentally abused her to a point that after the divorce Sarah questions the correctness of everything she does. Anne, demonstrating some of the same riding roughshod traits as Sarah’s ex-husband, is able to take advantage of Sarah’s instinctive docile reaction to box Sarah into doing things Sarah really doesn’t want to do, but as Sarah regains her sense of self-worth in Two Bites Too Many and Three Treats Too Many, she finds it in herself to  stand up to Anne or at least to mentally be ready for Anne – up to a point.

Sarah is going out with Cliff. She questions his relationship with Riley. He explains, but he makes a point of saying that he would only justify his actions in this one instance. Does that mean they aren’t in an exclusive relationship? Not sure if this is a good sign for Sarah.

Cliff has issues in his background that make acting in a trustworthy and honest manner important to him. Sarah, because of her treatment by her ex-husband, has problems trusting. Consequently, when she questions his relationship with Riley, her questions come from her inner fear that neither Cliff nor anyone is what they seem, while Cliff reacts as he does because he believes a relationship implies trust. Although both may want an exclusive relationship, their emotions may preclude it from being with each other.

After Riley’s death, Jane asks Grace, Emily’s younger chef, to become a chef at her restaurant. Grace refuses Jane’s offer. Why does Sarah think it could be Grace’s motive for murder?

Sarah tries to find a motive for everyone, other than Jacob, to have killed Riley. Sarah thinks Grace may be too guilty to take the job or have done it, but wants to demonstrate a loyalty to Emily and Marcus so that when she finally takes the job, no one will suspect her hands are dirty.

When Sarah and Harlan walk dogs at the shelter, Sarah finds out the Jacob lied to him. But Sarah lies to Harlan, too. She claims not to have known that Jacob and Riley dated in the past, but Mandy and Grace just told her that they did. Why did Sarah lie to Harlan?

That lie may have been an author mistake or that Sarah believes her conversation with Mandy and Grace had an element of confidentiality to it. She also may believe she can learn more, for her amateur sleuthing, by leaving the door open for Harlan to talk.

Most defense attorneys know that some of their clients are guilty. Why is Harlan so distraught about Jacob being possibly guilty?

Harlan is a small-town lawyer with a big firm brain. No matter what kind of case he is handling, he does the best job he can for his client. But, as I previously mentioned, he is a straight-shooter and he expects that when he deals with other people. It’s not Jacob’s innocence or guilt that upsets Harlan, but the fact that Jacob lied to him.

Is Sarah interested in Dr. Glenn? She seems relieved that Carole turns out to be his sister.

Yes. But Sarah is disturbed by her interest in him because of her relationship with Cliff. She can’t understand how she can be in a relationship with one person but feel excitement about another. 

Is it the other’s smell that repels cats and dogs? I didn’t know that.

In doing research about the relationship between cats and dogs for Two Bites Too Many, I came upon that tidbit and it stuck in my head until it founds its way into Three Treats Too Many. Its true accuracy hasn’t been proven, but it is recommended that a dog and cat be introduced to each other very slowly to give them time to establish a relationship built on smell.

Why does Harlan second guess Sarah? Will she ever tell him off? Will he ever tell her he loves her?

Harlan doesn’t really second guess Sarah, he simply doesn’t want Sarah to get hurt. Consequently, he believes she should leave any investigating to the proper authorities – Chief Gerard or him. Harlan gave her an opportunity to work, recognizing her lack of skills and confidence. In his own way, he helped nurture her personal growth between books 1 and 3, but he doesn’t want to rush her or take advantage of their relationship – again, trust comes into play. When he tries to make the slightest move, she is torn, but her decision not to jeopardize her job overrides any interest in having a relationship while she works for him.

What’s next for Sarah, RahRah, and Fluffy?

I’m excited about Three Treats Too Many and the many opportunities for character growth that it leaves open. I enjoy introducing new scenes and new characters. Book 4 in the series, Four Cuts Too Many, has already been turned in and will be out in June 2021. Still set in Wheaton, it will take a wider look at the Carleton Junior College campus. There will be another book in the series out in 2022.


Jim Jackson said...

Congratulations on your latest, Debra. Sounds like another winner!

Kait said...

Sounds delightful, Debra, looking forward to a fun read!

KM Rockwood said...

Looking forward to re-engaging with this crew. Sounds like a great addition to a series I love.

Annette said...

Congratulations, Debra!

Susan said...

Congratulations on yet another winning entry in this series, Debra.

Margaret S. Hamilton said...

Congratulations on your new book!

E. B. Davis said...

Believable characters are the basis of a credible mystery series. Can't wait for the next, Four Cuts Too Many!

Grace Topping said...

Congratulations, Debra, on another entertaining book. What's coming next?

Debra H. Goldstein said...

Thanks for the detailed interview E.B. Easier to write a blog than answer your questions... you get into the heart of the matter. Jim, Kait, Kathleen, Grace, Margaret, Susan, and Annette, appreciate the congratulations. I'm very excited about Three Treats Too Many being the third addition to the Sarah Blair series. More nuancing of the characters... fun to watch them grow. And yes, the next book, in June 2021 will be Four Cuts Too Many and I'm beginning to write Five Belles Too Many.

Kaye George said...

Thanks for another wonderful interview, Elaine and Debra! Good luck for lots of sales, too!!

Shari Randall said...

So excited about your new book, Debra! I can relate to Sarah - my biggest culinary skill is also doing take out.
Big congratulations and may the new book fly off the shelf. And I love your new author pic!

Debra H. Goldstein said...

Kaye... fingers and toes crossed. Agree Elaine does a complex interview!

Shari ... thank you... we'll have to rendezvous as we pick up sometime. :).