Author Nancy Lynn Jarvis decided to step out of plotting murder for a while and to dabble into what drives all authors (besides coffee, that is): FOOD! Yes, creativity must be fed and not only with murder mystery plots. So Nancy did the next best thing, she brought together 128 mystery authors (including yours truly) and everyone contributed a recipe toward Nancy's new book "Cozy Food".
As a foodie, I couldn't resist but invite Nancy for an interview regarding her latest culinary creation put together with contributions from some hungry murder-and-mayhem-plotting authors.
So, here we go ...
SM: I was really impressed with your idea to publish a cookbook with recipes from 128 mystery authors. How did this idea come about?
NLJ: My Regan McHenry Real Estate Mysteries fall under the category of cozy mysteries, but their book covers and titles are a bit harsh for the category. I was looking for graphics I might use for the next book with a softer feel and happened on the cover graphic for Cozy Food. I absolutely fell in love with it and thought if ever there was a perfect graphic for a cozy cookbook, I was looking at it. So that’s what first got me thinking about a cookbook.
SM: Tell us how you compiled the book. I mean, is it in sections such as starters, mains and desserts? Are there any graphics in it?
NLJ: The cookbook is in sections, each introduced by a cozy mystery writer graphic. The categories cover everything from starters to desserts and all meals from breakfast thru dinner with a Quick, Easy, Quirky, Saucy & Even Pet Treats section for everything else. The final third of the cookbook is devoted to contributing author biographies. In many ways that’s my favourite part of the book because what some of the writers have to say is so interesting and there are a couple of pages of humorous outtakes. I say almost, because there’s that big bulge in the middle of the book for sweet things, which is where my heart is.
SM: I hope none of the mystery authors got carried away and decided to throw in a pinch or a few drops of arsenic in their recipe. Hehehe. We don't want the cops to come sniffing around.
NLJ: Nothing lethal has been reported by any readers...but then, how would we know if eating a recipe killed them?
SM: Exactly! Let's hope the coppers don't catch on. LOL
SM: Did you get any “strange” recipes like bugs on rice or something equally weird?
NLJ: Just a few (can you hear me laughing?) My favourite recipe title hands down is “Mammoth Meat Jerky Adapted for Cro Magnons and Modern Humans.” Some other great titles are: Pimento Cheese For Dummies, Murder on the Orient Espresso Martini, Dispatcho Gazpacho, The Poet’s Recipe for Salad, (which came with an original recipe in verse), Hot Grudge Sundae Cake, and (Don’t Let Lady Macbeth Near The) Lemon Posset.
SM: Wow, there are some excellent names here. I now wish I'd called my recipe for Hazelnut Pesto Tagliatelle something like "The Hazel Nut Scissor Killer Pesto". After all, tagliatelle comes from the Italian word "tagliare", meaning to cut. So my killer would have used scissors to kill his victims--hazelnut scissors! Might as well keep it tasty, right?
SM cont'd: I read Murder House, one of your Regan McHenry mysteries. Would you say Regan is food oriented in the novels? I noticed she likes a fine wine.
NLJ: Regan is definitely a foodie. She has an original recipe for Mysterious Chocolate Chip Cookies (in the book) and keeps dough frozen ready to bake at open houses and to take to friends and clients accused of murder. She has an herb garden and citrus trees in pots so she can pick items for food. Mostly, though, she likes to experiment with recipes. Sometimes she creates great meals, and sometimes they don’t work out well. Fortunately her husband Tom is almost a saint and doesn’t complain; he just drinks more wine with dinner if there’s a flop served.
SM: Well, I was tickled pink when you asked me to submit a recipe. So I did a quick one with an Italian origin as befits my protagonist, Mia Ferrari. She loves Italian food and coffee. But she doesn’t have too much time to cook when she’s out there solving murders. My question here is, did you identify any trends among the recipes submitted by all the authors? You know, like going for pastas and other starchy foods (as these things feed the soul of creative people), or did they go for the healthier trends with loads of salads and vegetables?
NLJ: More writers submitted dessert-type recipes than anything else. I thought that said a lot about cozy writers until I looked through “The Joy of Cooking” and discovered it was heavily weighted there, too. I had to ask for salads and veggie recipes, but I don’t know if cozy writers avoid them personally or worried that readers would because there are many other “healthy” recipes.
SM: I think without coffee and sugar of all kinds we probably wouldn't be as creative. Mind you, I still love my pasta and pizza!
SM: So we established a trend of dessert-type recipes contributed for the book, and we can safely acknowledge authors usually favour coffee, coffee and more coffee, plus chocolate or other sugars for creativity. I definitely fall into this category. But what is your “poison”?
NLJ: My poison is anything salty and spicy. While I love chocolate, if I had to chose between a plate of brownies and a bowl of corn chips and salsa, I’d reach for the chips every time. As for beverages, for me it’s good black tea brewed like my grandfather taught me to make it, which is almost as dark as coffee.
SM: Where is the cookbook available and in what formats?
NLJ: The cookbook is available on Amazon in print, for people like me who want to write in the margins of my cookbooks, and for eReaders like Kindle and iPad. The e-version is priced at only $3.99 U.S. We want to get readers to discover new cozy writers while they cook so it’s priced very reasonably.
SM: Anything else you’d like our readers to know?
NLJ: Writers who contributed recipes have writing histories that are all over the board from multiple-time New York Times Bestsellers to writers doing their first book. There are recipes from writers with big traditional publishers, small presses, and indie authors. I love that everyone contributed and that this is a cookbook full of more than 220 great recipes from all sorts of cozy writers. Oh, and while doing this cookbook, I learned that cozy writers are some of the nicest, most supportive people out there.
SM: Nancy, a big thank you for putting this yummy book together and for being a guest on Sylvia Says--the blog. It's wonderful when so many authors come together and contribute to such a great idea. Those of you who have contributed, you know who you are--but if you've eaten too much chocolate and are in a frenzied state of writing, you will find your name below in this list of contributors.
Buon appetito everyone!
This blog post has been updated due to new regulations introduced by the government in Australia where the age pension has moved up from 65 to 70 years.
When you look down through the ages, girls of 12 years were being married off to men twice or three times their age. At least in those days, the roles played in a marriage were more distinct—women became homemakers and had children; men fought the wars and provided for their family.
This went on until after WWII, when women went out to do the men’s jobs, because the men were fighting the war (which they started in the first place, I might add). And once we returned to peacetime, women discovered they could do a man’s job and then some. Therefore, although they had a very difficult time in fighting for equal rights through the ages, women finally made it—well, mostly.
One thing we didn’t reckon on was the aging factor. Sadly, the likes of Hollywood and the media made it acceptable for a 20-year-old to be paired off with a 50-something actor. Movies such as Funny Face and Sabrina with Audrey Hepburn are a case in point. Having said this, once again, the woman became the homemaker and had the children, while the man provided for her; and because the man was older, it stood to reason he would die off first and leave his family well provided for.
So what happened in more recent years? Men still like the idea of a younger woman—don’t they always gravitate toward someone younger than themselves? Where does this leave the older woman? If she’s lucky, she’s married to a wonderful man who will grow old alongside her until death do them part. If she’s unlucky, she’ll be abandoned by her spouse and must fend for herself.
Okay, I think most women have accepted that at one time or another they will go through a separation or divorce, and therefore, they must fend for themselves unless their ex pays maintenance for them. More than likely, however, the woman will have to work and maintain herself, and the chances of her meeting another man after the age of 45 is almost nil. The reason? Men her age are looking for someone up to 15 years younger! So all of a sudden, older women find themselves in an aging purgatory from which there is no escape.
This isn’t so bad if a woman is successful and financially secure. After all, it’s better to be single than stay in a marriage for all the wrong reasons. The problem comes when a woman is not financially secure. She must earn her living, but cannot find a job if she’s been laid off from work. If she’s age 40 or so, she'll probably just scrape by and find another job, but by age 45+ it’s almost a miracle unless she’s well connected or is prepared to take several steps down from what she used to do and take up some menial job. So much for the Human Rights Commission and all their crappy talk about age discrimination, especially for women.
So what happens now? The official pension age is 65 (and our government has recently increased the qualifying age for pension, and depending what year you were born you may have to wait until you turn 70 before you can claim it). And now we have a late-40s/early-50s woman looking for a job, but she cannot find one because the labour market is like Hollywood: They only want them young.
What does this woman do? How does she survive the next 15 or so years until she can collect her age pension?
There are plenty of famous actresses in Hollywood who are over 45 and still working, and even if they didn’t work, many of them have already made their fortune and can live the rest of their lives in comfort. But come closer to reality and we have a disaster. We have women in their 40s, 50s and 60s who cannot find work, who become invisible to men their own age (and even men older than them! Yes, a 60-something male is still going for the young babes), and who pretty much get ignored by society in general.
I am talking in general here. There are those women who make waves and make themselves heard or who become influential in some way or even famous, but what happens to the majority of us?
I am fortunate to have a bread and butter job in recruitment right now, so I try to help older women where possible. Mind you, I’ve had some tough battles with ex-bosses when trying to convince them to consider an older female candidate rather than a younger one, despite the fact that the younger woman was under-qualified. Nine of out ten, I was overruled, and we had to give the job to the younger female.
My experience with the aging factor and finding work frightens me when I see this kind of thing going on all around me, and I start to think about what is going to happen to me one day. It’s scary to think that if I lose my present job, I may never be employed again.
I am working toward my dream of becoming a full-time author. After all, writing has no age limit, but making it in any kind of creative field is very difficult, and it may be that one day I may have to take up a job walking dogs instead.
It is stressful to see I don’t have the influence I used to when I was in my 30s, and at the top of my career. Meanwhile, older guys than myself still have powerful jobs. It's sad but true when we have to admit that it’s still a man’s world out there.
If you have a story to share about the trials and tribulations of growing older as a female, please share it here.
Author Sylvia Massara's: