Tuesday, January 22, 2019

Interview with Judge Debra H. Goldstein, Author of the Cozy Mystery 'One Taste Too Many'

Judge Debra H. Goldstein is the author of One Taste Too Many, the first of Kensington’s new Sarah Blair cozy mystery series. She also wrote Should Have Played Poker and 2012 IPPY Award winning Maze in Blue. Her short stories, including Anthony and Agatha nominated “The Night They Burned Ms. Dixie’s Place,” have appeared in numerous periodicals and anthologies including Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine, Black Cat Mystery Magazine, and Mystery Weekly. Debra is president of Sisters in Crime’s Guppy Chapter, serves on SinC’s national board, and is president of the Southeast Chapter of Mystery Writers of America. Find out more about Debra at www.DebraHGoldstein.com

Tell us about your book! What is it about and what inspired you to write it?

One Taste Too Many is the story of culinary challenged Sarah Blair, for whom there’s only one thing scarier than cooking from scratch—murder!

Married at eighteen, divorced by twenty‑eight, Sarah Blair reluctantly swaps her luxury lifestyle for a cramped studio apartment and a law firm receptionist job in the tired town she never left. With nothing much to show for the last decade but her feisty Siamese cat, RahRah, and some clumsy domestic skills, she’s the polar opposite of her bubbly twin, Emily—an ambitious chef determined to take her culinary ambitions to the top at a local gourmet restaurant.

Sarah knew starting over would be messy. But things fall apart completely when her ex drops dead, seemingly poisoned by Emily’s award-winning rhubarb crisp. Now, with RahRah wanted by the woman who broke up her marriage and Emily wanted by the police for murder, Sarah needs to figure out the right recipe to crack the case before time runs out. Unfortunately, for a gal whose idea of good china is floral paper plates, catching the real killer and living to tell about it could mean facing a fate worse than death—being in the kitchen!
Because I love cozy mysteries, those were the fun type of books I instinctively wanted to write. My first two efforts were published, but orphaned. Frantic, I talked with agents and editors who all advised me to “write something new.” The problem was what? My skills and familiarity with the usual cozy crafts or food topics was lacking. I decided to write what I knew - a cook of convenience who prefers making easy recipes like spinach pie using Stouffer’s spinach souffle and believes Peg Bracken’s “The I Hate To Cook” cookbook is the Bible.
Tell us about your publishing process. What was it like? Did you go indie or the traditional way?
My publishing process always began the traditional way. The new Sarah Blair series is completely traditional. When Maze in Blue was orphaned, I still had almost six months of speaking engagements lined up. In order to continue having print on demand books for these events, I republished the book through Create Space.
For me, the traditional manner of publishing, where I write the book and handle a lot of the pr, but turn over most of the details of the publication process, worked best. My decision was made after weighing the time limitations created by my job, volunteer and family obligations, and the learning curve it would have taken for me to acquire and coordinate the details necessary for indie publishing.
How did you choose the title for your book? Did it come to you right away, before you started writing it, or did it come later?
I’m usually horrible at titles, but in this case, One Taste Too Many was a natural because a mean character dies in the first few pages after having a taste of rhubarb pie.
Tell us about the cover design process. Did you have a basic idea of what your book cover would be like?
Kensington designed the cover (and I think they did an excellent job). When they asked for my input, I told them I wanted something simple that featured RahRah, the Siamese cat who is a major character in the book. Rather than an entire room design, I preferred open space on the cover. They nailed it.
Who is your cover designer and how did you find him/her?
Kensington has an art department. They asked for my suggestions, but then handled all the details of designing the cover.
How was your experience working with the designer?
Although I didn’t see the cover until it was finished, the process with Kensington was a pleasure. They listened to me and did an excellent job translating my wishes into an inviting cover.
What has been the readers’ response to your cover?
Readers’ response to the cover has been overwhelmingly positive. Many have told me the cat on the cover is a ringer for their own pets. I think the simplicity, plus the intriguing nature of the cat, combine to attract readers’ eyes to the cover.
What tips would you give to authors who are looking for a cover designer?
Although I didn’t have to seek out a cover designer, I would tell authors to ask friends who did their covers and to get references and prices before handing over the job. I also think it is important to have an open dialogue with the designer about the main themes in the book in case the designer fails to read the manuscript.
Years ago, I saw a well-designed cover that used a stock photo depicting the book’s setting. Anyone glancing at the book, immediately recognized the setting and the book sold well. When that same book was given a new cover after its mass market rights sold, the designer got hung up on a word I the title’s pun. The outcome had nothing to do with the book.
Anything else you’d like to say about your book?
One Taste Too Many is meant to be a fun read. It is the type of book one can enjoy at the beach, on an airplane, in the bathtub, during lunch hour or at night reading before bed. The protagonist, Sarah Blair, her cat, RahRah, and the other characters in One Taste Too Many are designed to become friends the reader will look forward to seeing evolve through the additional books in the series.

Books-a-Million:  https://www.booksamillion.com/p/One-Taste-Too-Many/Debra-H-Goldstein/9781496719478

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