Liz Mugavero is the author of the Agatha Award-nominated Pawsitively Organic Mysteries Kneading to Die, A Biscuit, A Casket, and The Icing on the Corpse. Her latest release is Murder Most Finicky, in which a gourmet getaway sours when a famous pastry chef ends up dead and another goes missing. Despite the fact that these books are cozy mysteries, Mugavero says they revolve around some serious issues.
“In all my books,” Mugavero said, “addressing issues affecting animals is very important to me. Along with the main theme of organic, healthy food and good nutrition, which I believe is the basis of both human and animal health, animal rescue is a major theme in these books.”
A two-decade veteran of animal rescue, Mugavero said her experiences definitely work their way into her books. “I’m passionate about being a voice for our four-legged friends and educating humans who can help make their lives better. When I started to write novels, I wondered how I’d be able to combine these two loves, writing and animals, and when the opportunity to write this series knocked on my door, I knew it was the universe talking!”
The protagonist in Mugavero’s series is Kristan “Stan” Connor. Mugavero said Murder Most Finicky came about because Stan met a quirky, famous pastry chef named Sheldon Allyn, otherwise known as Mr. Pastry, in the first book. “He takes an interest in her business and wants to make her a star, but things ultimately don’t work out. Sheldon’s character stayed with me and I knew eventually I’d bring him back—he definitely had a story to tell.”
I spent years as a journalist, which was invaluable experience. It helped me hone my craft and become a better writer.
In addition to the pastry chef, Mugavero had another story to tell. “I also thought a ‘reality TV’ type story with a peek inside the cutthroat world of cooking would be a fun one. So I sent Stan out of town to give Frog Ledge a break, and created a weekend retreat for a bunch of chefs who all had secrets and problems galore. The group comes together to cook a meal for potential investors in high-end Newport, Rhode Island. Stan’s role is to feed the Siamese cat belonging to one of the investors.”
With pastries and secrets on the menu and a collection of investors all in one place, Mugavero set up the perfect situation for a murder mystery. However, she said she also wanted to use a location she loves. “I had a lot of fun writing this book. I love Newport and spent many summer days there on the beach, shopping, just soaking up the atmosphere. One of my favorite activities there is walking on the Cliff Walk, which is a lovely path winding behind the famous Newport mansions, overlooking the sea.
“It’s romantic and wonderful and a perfect place to incorporate into a mystery. Think about it—you’re on a cliff above the sea! When I was writing the book, I went back to walk it again, as I hadn’t been there in a few years, and saw the city had made some improvements. During the walk, I was scoping out the best place to have someone fall off the cliff. The people out for an innocent walk had to be suspicious hearing the conversations I was having along the way!”
Mugavero began her career by working in PR, marketing, and journalism. Today, she says the lessons she’s learned in those fields are very helpful. “One thing I’ve learned—promotion is just as important as writing a good book, and I’m able to use my day job to help me promote my writing, and vice versa.” But, before the promotion can begin, there first needs to be a good book, which is where a journalist-turned-novelist have an advantage.
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“I spent years as a journalist, which was invaluable experience. It helped me hone my craft and become a better writer. I learned to be concise, succinct, how to write for different audiences, how to boil down complicated concepts into plain English. I also learned how important deadlines are, which has been a lesson that’s remained top-of-mind ever since. AP Style is also burned into my brain—every time I’m writing, I hear the voice of my former editor over my shoulder, so big thanks to Marilyn Comrie for always keeping me honest!”
Learn more about Liz Mugavero on her website at lizmugavero.com.