Mary Lee Ashford is an award-winning author. In addition to writing the Sugar and Spice series for Kensington Books, she also writes as half of the writing team of Sparkle Abbey, author of the national bestselling Pampered Pets mystery series from Bell Bridge Books. Quiche of Death is Mary Lee’s third Sugar & Spice Mystery.
It all began with cookbooks
“My garage full of cookbooks was the catalyst for the series,” Mary Lee said. “I had a good start on having too many cookbooks and then a friend passed away and left me her collection of cookbooks. There were a lot. She’d been at it much longer than I had. In looking through the cookbooks and trying to decide what to do with them, I realized my favorites were community cookbooks. I have some from church groups, Little League baseball teams, tea rooms, and even a few from writers’ groups.
“What I loved about these cookbooks was two-fold. The recipes were wonderful. Not just run-of-the-mill routine dishes, these were family favorites. Recipes that had often been passed down from generation to generation. Or perhaps, simple easy-to-make meals that had been shared from friend to friend.
“The other thing I found interesting about the community cookbooks were that behind each of the entries was a person. And behind each person was a story. In my mind’s eyes I could imagine the Dusenberry family around the table diving into Grandma Mary’s Corny Casserole. I could picture the monthly book club snacking on Vera’s Hot Crab Pinwheels. Or the office Christmas Cookie Exchange with Aunt Alma’s Easy Sugar Cookies.
“These cookbooks, though they lacked the polish and the fancy pictures of the mass-produced volumes, had a story to tell. And that’s where the idea for Sugar & Spice mysteries was born…”
Mary Lee said that when she thinks about the Sugar & Spice Mystery series, she sees herself making a case for starting over.
“The two characters Sugar and Dixie have had to start over at a point in their lives where things were going according to plan. Until they weren’t. For Sugar that was being downsized out of her editorial job at a big magazine publisher. Suddenly her career was derailed and going back home was not an option. Dixie’s husband had died in a farming accident and she was finding her way through that and figuring out what to do with her life. Starting a cookbook publishing business wasn’t on the radar for either of them—but it turned out to be the perfect solution for them both. So, I might just be making an argument for when life hands you lemons… you make a lemon pound cake.”
The importance of family
“My family is the most important thing in the world to me,” Mary Lee said. “I love to explore the dynamics of family in the stories I write. Whether you have a close-knit family or are distant from your family. Whether your family is large or small. Or whether you’ve created a family because you had no family. Our families and our family relationships shape us.”
Mary Lee considers herself a reader first and foremost. “I grew up in a very small town and there wasn’t a lot to do, but I never minded that because I had books. I never felt the world was small or that my experience was limited because I traveled a lot. Though most of the travel was through reading a book.”
Like most writers, Mary Lee also loves to hear from readers.” Writers don’t write just to put words on the page. We write to share stories. Readers are the whole reason we write.”
Oops, one too many questions
While writing Quiche of Death, Mary Lee attended a technology conference. During lunch, the man mentioned that his wife hunted with a bow and arrow. The man grew increasingly nervous as Mary Lee asked him questions about bows and the types of arrows that could kill a person.
“At some point, in the conversation he began to look at me as if he was very sorry he ever brought up the topic. I think he might have even scooted his chair away a bit.”
Cooking for enjoyment
“I’ve done quite a few crazy things in the name of research. Watched someone get tased, rode in the back of a squad car, attended a Dachshund Dash, interviewed a chef, interviewed a pet shrink. The list goes on and on. But I’d have to say, right now, the most enjoyable thing I do in the name of research is try new recipes. I kind of can’t believe I’m saying that cooking is fun. But this is not the same as having to make a meal for the family. Trying out various types of scones, or biscuits, or quiches is cooking without the pressure. I know that probably doesn’t sound exciting. But for me baking is a bit of an escape, just like a light-hearted mystery is a bit of an escape. And, especially lately, I find that really enjoyable.”
Learn more about Mary Lee Ashford at maryleeashford.coma Rafflecopter giveaway