Saturday, May 07, 2011

Avery Aames & Kate Carlisle for Authors @ The Teague

It was so much fun to host mystery authors Avery Aames and Kate Carlisle for Authors @ The Teague. Kate is the author of the Bibliophile mystery series. And, Avery is the author of the Cheese Shop mysteries. Avery just won the Agatha Award for Best First Novel for the first in the series, The Long Quiche Goodbye. Kate was in on the secret that I had a surprise for Avery, but she didn't know what it was. I do know that Avery can't eat wheat, but I still baked a cake so we could share it with the audience after the program. I really wanted to present this cake to Avery. It has holes cut out of it so it looks like Swiss cheese, and it said, "Congrats, Avery! The Big Cheese."

After the presentation, Avery kicked off the program, acting as moderator. She said she and Kate had been traveling for ten days together. They discovered their books were coming out on the same day, so they decided it would be fun to take their song-and-dance show on the road.

Kate Carlisle writes the Bibliophile series featuring bookbinder Brooklyn Wainwright. Brooklyn does rare book restoration, and there's a different book featuring in each mystery. Kate said she's a little slow. It took her until the third book to realize she had to work with the book selected for restoration. That book provides the catalyst for the plot itself. Brooklyn also has an interesting relationship with a British intelligence agent.

Avery asked what books were the focal point of the books. In Carlisle's first book, Homicide in Hardcover,  it was Goethe's Faust. In If Books Could Kill, Brooklyn went to the Edinburgh Book Fair. That centered on a book of Robert Burns' poetry, and whether or not it was authentic. The Lies that Bind dealt with Oliver Twist. It included a band of thieves and a Twisted Festival. In Kate's new book, Murder Under Cover, it's the Kama Sutra. Brooklyn's best friend, Robin, brings her a copy of the book, a rare one in French, to be restored and evaluated. Kate assured us the mystery is rated PG. No bodies are shown, except dead ones. She said it's actually pretty tame, although her editor had fun with it. The cover line is, "What dangers lurk between the sheets...?"

Avery Aames writes the Cheese Shop Mysteries. The first one, The Long Quiche Goodbye, just won the Agatha Award. The books are set in Holmes County, Ohio, in the fictional town of Providence. It's a beautiful section of the state, with rolling hills, cows and goats and sheep. Holmes County has a big Amish population, bigger actually than Pennsylvania. Avery wanted to ground the story in something earthy.

Charlotte Bessette owns the Cheese Shop, Fromagerie Bessette. She's dating a single, mysterious, handsome farmer who produces cheese. She took over the Cheese Shop from her grandparents. She has twin nieces, and a cousin who lives with her. Her cousin runs the wine annex attached to the shop. In the first book, Charlotte's beloved grandmother is accused of murdering a landlord.

Lost and Fondue, the second book, was just released. Avery told us she has cheese titles, or cheesy titles. In this one, Avery's friend, Meredith, wants to throw a fundraiser at a local winery. Some people in town are against it. Meredith brings in a group of artists, and one is killed in the cellar of the winery. Meredith's niece is accused of the murder. Since Avery babysat for the niece, and Meredith begs her, she investigates. She's an amateur sleuth, snoopy, who goes where she's not wanted. Amateur sleuths want to see justice done. That's why someone who wouldn't normally goes into a dark cellar does so. A personal stake drives them to investigate.

Next, Avery asked Carlisle if she has quirky characters in her books. Kate said Brooklyn is actually the straight man in the series. She was raised in a commune in Sonoma County. Kate said then she'd have to go to wineries in Sonoma County to do research. Brooklyn's parents were old hippies who met each other following the Grateful Dead. They bought land to be near their guru, grew grapes, and established a winery. Now, they're rich ex-hippies. In the first book, Homicde in Hardcover, Brooklyn's mother is a suspect. Brooklyn's mother is like Kate's mother in one way. She has what Carlisle calls a "sunny bunny face." It's the expression on her face when she refuses to talk about something again. She uses her face as a shield.

She also has a quirky character named Gabriel, a dark handsome stranger. He may be a thief and a scoundrel. For a while he took over, but Derek spoke up and said no. Aames pointed out that Carlisle's characters talk to her. Avery said that's not unusual to hear from authors, that their characters pop up and tell them something. That makes the authors sound quirky. The characters will say, I don't like that name you gave me. The characters almost become real. Authors and actors have that in common. Almost all authors talk about it.

Avery Aames' next book, Clobbered by Camembert, will be out in January. The characters drive Charlotte to do more. There's going to be more of Tyanne in that book. That's a character who needed a name change. Therese just didn't fit her. She's named for a friend of Avery's. Tyanne has a Southern accent, and has been asking for a bigger role.

Avery asked Kate if any of the characters in her books were fashioned around anyone she knows, and do they know it. She answered that Minka, Brooklyn's archenemy is, but, no, the woman doesn't know it. Avery said one of her characters is taken from a friend who can be snarky, saying things like, "You know that color doesn't look good on you," but, again, she doesn't know it. Kate said she does use a lot of dialogue she overhears. She has four brothers, and she uses a lot of what they say. She steals their best lines, because they say some really tacky things. She uses people's words a lot, but her characters are usually amalgamations of personalities.

What is Kate Carlisle's writing day like? She writes every day, at least six days a week. She starts early, and she's easily distracted by email, so she tries to stay off the Internet. She writes by word count since her editors want 75,000 to 80,000 words. That's a 300-320 pae book. If she gets 2000-3000 words a day, that's ten or twelve pages. It's dialogue heavy, and that fills more pages. Kate writes for 5 to 6 hours a day,a nd does business stuff, a lot of promotion.

Avery said she writes in scenes. Sometimes, she'll just write dialogue, and then add the rest later. The dialogue drives her story. Asked if she writes that way because she was an actress, she said, yes. She was an actress first, and wrote screenplays. Those aren't heavy on inner thought. They're very visual. But, a writer is the director, actor, and screenplay writer for a book. Dialogue works well for her. Carlisle agreed, saying when she gets stuck sometimes, she will just write dialogue back and forth between her characters. She doesn't have time for writer's block.

Aames pointed to Robert B. Parker as a writer who used dialogue. Most of his scenes were conversations between two people. He seldom wrote "he said." And, he very seldom set the scenes. The dialogue made his books fast-paced, and the reader picked up speed reading them. But, readers of cozies want detail in their books.

Kate has an old friend who is a papermaker, and her next book is going to involve lots of papermaking. It uses the book Beauty and the Beast. It comes out in February under the title One Book in the Grave. Carlisle's books have been released every eight months, but then it will move to every six months. She has already seen the cover artwork for it.

Aames remarked that her Clobbered by Camembert comes out sooner, in January, and she's still waiting to see the artwork for it. She has contracts for the fourth and fifth books in the series. The fourth book will be called To Brie or Not to Brie. She does research on cheeses and recipes because her books are culinary mysteries. She has to have a new recipe each week. With Brie, she wanted a recipe for ice cream. She saw a recipe online for Brie Blueberry Ice Cream, and then she played with the recipe to make it her own. With Lost and Fondue, she came up with fondue recipes. She is one of the authors who blogs at Mystery Lovers' Kitchen, and this week she had a recipe for a goat cheese fondue. Avery has to eat gluten-free, so she often adds white pepper to recipes or changes them from flour recipes.

So, Avery Aames does cook with cheese, but Kate Carlisle isn't a bookbinder. She said it's a fun hobby. She's taken classes in it her whole life. When she was a child of five, she took the cardboard from the laundry, and made them into books. She didn't write books; she made them. She collects books, and buys them at auctions and book fairs. She's fascinated by books. Kate met a friend, a master bookbinder, who has bound priceless 14th century books, taking them apart and repairing them in the style of the age. It's an art and a skill. Carlisle takes classes in San Francisco, where there are classes for book geeks. The classes are specialized, Master Bookbinding for 17th century books, or 18th century books.

Do they know the plot ahead of time? Avery likes to think it out. She knows who did it, and why. She knows at what point in the book the bodies need to drop. In the first book, the publisher wanted the body to drop by the end of the third chapter. Then, 2/3 of the way through, there's a twist. Aames starts plotting the story, and runs it together. She does a complete outline of all thirty chapters. Her editor has to approve it. She considers all of that as she writes.

Kate plots it carefully, and knows who did it, but she's flying by the seat of her pants as she writes it. She'll do one chapter straight through, then it's sent to her critique partner. When she's done, it's a clean copy.

Avery said her plots may change. It's like a road map. There are diversions, but she'll come back to her original plan. Kate said sometimes she discovers someone has to die that she didn't plan to kill. Then, you have to add the other elements, relationships, and other characters. Carlisle said readers who read series like to visit with Brooklyn's whole world and the recurring cast of characters. In her second book, set in Edinburgh, she had to find reasons to bring her characters there. So, Brooklyn may never get to travel again. Kate does plot it out, but some authors don't even do that, saying it spoils the book. Avery said even though she plots it out, the story is still fresh to her as she writes it because things change from the original outline.

People move in and out of the Cheese Shop. It's a little town, and Aames put a map of it on her website to keep people oriented. Kate said she has to write with a timeline, not a map. Avery agreed, saying a timeline was important. In her books, the twins are in school. She has to remember not to have them in school on Saturdays or holidays. And, clothes anchor them. Readers notice if the clothes change.

Asked if they recommend that people read their books in order, they both answered that fans like to read the books in order. Avery said she tries to write them so people can read them as standalones, though. Kate said she likes to read books in order. One thing to remember is that relationships develop in the course of a series. Carlisle said her mysteries are standalones, except for the personal relationships.

We ended the program with cake in my office for all the audience. Then, Avery, Kate and I headed out so they could grab something before their flights. Perfect ending to a fun program. I wish everyone could have joined the three of us for that conversation. We killed off characters, created a whole new cozy mystery, and laughed a lot. Maybe Avery Aames will share that cozy scenario on a future blog.

Avery Aames' website is

Lost and Fondue by Avery Aames. Penguin Group (USA). ©2011. ISBN 9780425241585 (paperback), 312p.

Kate Carlisle's website is

Murder Under Cover by Kate Carlisle. Penguin Group (USA). ©2011. ISBN  9780451233516 (paperback), 304p.

Left to right - Avery Aames, Lesa Holstine, Kate Carlisle (Photo by Bette Sharpe)


Elizabeth Spann Craig/Riley Adams said...

I love the cake and the pictures! And I love hearing more about Kate and Avery's writing processes. Thanks for sharing the details of the event, Lesa. :)

Booklady said...

What a wonderful post! Thanks for sharing. Sounds like a wonderful evening. I love both Avery's and Kate's books. Reading about your evening with them was not only informative but entertaining as well.

Lesa said...

Thanks, Elizabeth. Avery & Kate did a terrific event, so it was easy to summarize for the blog. The audience looked like they enjoyed it.

Lesa said...

Thanks, Booklady. It was a fun day, so I'm glad that came across.

Liz V. said...

Enjoyed Long Quiche Goodbye but the Bibliophile series was new to me until reading Thursday's blog. Thanks for introduction.

Lesa said...

You're welcome, Liz. It's always a pleasure to introduce readers to new series.

Avery Aames said...

Thanks, Lesa, for such extensive coverage. You captured everything. Still hoping my girlfriend won't catch on. LOL


Lesa said...

She isn't going to read my blog, Avery, and I actually cut out your direct quote. (grin)

Janet Rudolph said...

Wow.. wish I could take such good notes and remember to write up the story... thanks for posting. cake and writers are wonderful

Lesa said...

Thank you, Janet, but everything you do is terrific. And, when you host the events, it's at your house, so you really need to be the host.

My pleasure. You're right the authors are wonderful. The cake was fun.

Roberta Isleib said...

What a great event--did they plan the red dresses:)?

Lesa said...

I don't know if they planned them, or not, Roberta. But, knowing they were touring together, they could have. It was a fun event!

Kris said...

What a fun idea for the cake! I bet it tasted great too.

Lesa said...

It did taste great, Kris, and one of my staff members made the ultimate sacrifice and ate the last piece so he could wash it for me.

Pamela Keener said...

Ok I had to order The Long Quiche Goodbye & Homicide in Hardcover. Please Lesa No more recommendations *wink*
Love & Hugs,

Lesa said...

OK, Pam. I'll try to back off on the recommendations for a while so you have time to catch up on your TBR pile, and your wallet.

Hugs back!