Saturday, June 11, 2016
Laura Bradford On Tour - Recap
Laura told the audience she gets her ideas at different places. This one came about because a teenager who needs a job after graduation was visiting, and Laura discovered she likes to bake. The girl likes food trucks, and they kicked around the idea of a dessert food truck. Although the teen wasn't impressed, Laura was inspired to write the Emergency Dessert Squad mysteries.
Winnie, the amateur sleuth in Eclair and Present Danger, has always wanted to bake and own her own bakery. But, her landlord in Silver Lake, Ohio thinks Silver Lake will be the next downtown shopping mecca, and he's raised the rent so high Winnie can no longer afford the space for her bakery. When she hears she's an heir in a friend's will, she hopes she'll inherit enough to keep the bakery open. Instead, she inherits a cat who hates her, and a 1960s vintage ambulance. So, she comes up with names such as Hot Flash Fudge Sundae, and hopes to provide desserts for people with a life emergency that can be eased with dessert. The next book in the series will be Silence of the Flans, out in March. Laura said Tom Clancy is probably rolling over in his grave to know that Eclair and Present Danger's title was inspired by Clancy's Clear and Present Danger. The publishers, who have final say on the titles, are influenced by thrillers.
Laura Bradford also writes Amish mysteries. She started when Amish romances were hot. She's always been drawn to Little House on the Prairie, with that old-fashioned lifestyle.
The Amish are ripe for crime. Although Bradford doesn't write about missing children, the Amish don't take pictures, so there would be no picture of a missing child. They keep their money in the house, not in a bank. They are also pacifists, and don't like talking to police because the police carry guns.
Bradford does a lot of research. She spends a week in Lancaster every year, and go on tours so she can see the houses. The Amish are now in thirty states although they started out near Philadelphia. Their population doubles every twenty years. They have to move because they run out of land to pass on to the sons. Farms go to the youngest sons in the family. Because of the lack of land, if they come up with another trade, such as carpentry, they can stay. In her research, she also learned that many of the horses pulling the buggies are retired racehorses, and she used that in the most recent Amish mystery, A Churn for the Worse.
The Amish come from a sect that is similar to the Mennonites. They were led by Jakob Ammann when they split from a larger group of Swiss in 1693/94. The Amish do not believe in baptism for young children. In the 1720s, they started to come to this country.
Laura also writes The Southern Sewing Circle mysteries under the name Elizabeth Lynn Casey. She uses that name because Penguin owns that series. They wanted a series set in the South, with a group of women who gathered to sew. That's how Bradford broke into the mystery genre. Book eleven in that series, Needle and Dread, came out in April.
Bradford wanted to write since she was ten, and spent time writing books with a friend. She went to college to be a journalist, studying at Xavier University in Cincinnati, Ohio. But, she didn't start writing fiction until she had her daughters, which is why it took her five years to write her first book, ,Jury of One. But, she received an Agatha nomination for her first mystery. She published with a smaller house, World Wide Mystery, and wrote some romances for Harlequin before her mysteries were published by Penguin. She always wanted to be with a New York house.
Most of Laura's characters are not based on actual people. She may use traits of different people. But, in the Emergency Dessert Squad mysteries, Mr. Nelson is based on her Uncle Ray. He was ninety-six, and died that day, on launch day for the book, which sort of took some of the excitement away.
Because Laura had been talking with some of the audience before the program, she mentioned Magan Cum Murder, a conference that used to be held in Muncie, Indiana. That's where it was when Bradford attended her first conference and had an interesting experience. Harlan Coben was one of the speakers, and he heard Laura say that Mary Higgins Clark was the author who influenced her. So, he asked her later if she'd like to talk to Clark. Bradford didn't even know, at the time, who Harlan Coben was. But, he dialed Clark on his cell phone, and Laura had the chance to talk to her mystery idol. She and Harlan Coben have been friends since, and she did read his books.
In answer to a question, Laura said she spends about three months writing per book. It's been a joy to write the Emergency Dessert Squad books, and she's already written all three of the books she's contracted for. They went well. The characters are real people to her. When she hits a stumbling block, it's usually because she's trying to make the characters do something that isn't normal, something they don't want to do.
Bradford said she doesn't outline, but she does know the beginning and end of the books before she writes them. She bullet points a few chapters ahead. Once, she had a problem and none of her characters wanted to die. So, she wrote that story as a romance. She heard about a letter dated 1950, found behind a table at a post office when the table was moved. It intrigued her. How could have that letter changed a life? So, she wrote a story. She wrote four romances, but really feels as if her genre is mystery. She says she tries to write in the morning, but sometimes social media sucks out all the time. And, an author has to use social media to reach readers. It's also important to appear at library events and bookstores.
Laura feels as if her strength is in her characters. She finds them fascinating. With the Amish series, she finds the act of shunning interesting, so she uses it in her Amish series. If a person leaves the Amish sect after baptism, they're shunned, as is her police detective in the book, even if they leave for a valid reason. He wanted to solve a murder within the community. She did say that children are being raised in the Amish tradition. They're not truly Amish until they're baptized. 8 out of 10 or 9 out of 10 stay and get baptized.
She said cozies are about solutions and justice at the end.
While Laura signed books, she and the audience feasted on a wonderful eclair cake made by one of the library staff, just for the Eclair and Present Danger release day. And, my mother was very pleased when Laura led the room in singing "Happy Birthday" for Mom's 80th birthday.
Laura Bradford's website is www.laurabradford.com
Eclair and Present Danger by Laura Bradford. Berkley Prime Crime. 2016. ISBN 9780425280898 (paperback), 292p.