I think the most common questions I get as an author are those about characters. How do I come up with my characters? Are they based on real people? Do I come up with characters or plot first? The answers, of course, always different for every book.
Years ago, when I first started writing, I worried about my characters because they never wanted to follow directions. I’d create someone to be shy and demure. She’d turn out to be loud and brassy. I’d set a story in the winter. The protagonist would climb up on his roof to replace shingles following a summer storm—and refuse to get down.
For a long time, I thought this was a sure sign that I’d never be a “real” writer and I nearly despaired of having a writing career. And then one day I read an article on characterization written by a multi-published mystery writer (one I particularly admired) in which she mentioned that her characters did the same thing. I read that article at least twenty times and finally started to think that maybe my headstrong characters might not be proof of failure after all.
Since then, I’ve tried to give my characters free rein to be just what they are. I think my favorite books are those in which the author merely tells the characters’ truth, whatever it is. And that’s what I did in The Cakes of Wrath, the fourth outing for Rita Lucero, the protagonist in my Piece of Cake mystery series.
In the fourth book in the series we meet up again with Rita and spend time with most of the recurring characters in her world. Miss Frankie (Rita’s almost-ex-mother-in-law and business partner) is on the scene, as are the cake artists on staff at Zydeco Cakes: Ox, Isabeau, Estelle, Dwight, Sparkle and Edie. Gabriel Broussard from the Dizzy Duke makes an appearance, as well.
Speaking of recurring characters, I never planned for Ox to challenge Rita’s position at Zydeco, and I never know what he’s going to do next. Edie’s announcement at the end of Arsenic and Old Cake came as a complete surprise to me. I found out when the rest of the Zydeco crew did. In this book, I learned a few things I didn’t know about Sparkle.
We also meet a cast of new characters in The Cakes of Wrath. The story began to take root when I began to imagine a woman named Aquanettia Fisher. Several months before I began writing the story, I heard her first name in casual conversation. It grabbed my imagination and wouldn’t let go. For months, I wondered what someone named Aquanettia would be like. She could have been anyone, but in Rita’s world Aquanettia turned out to be the single mother of two adult sons, Isaiah and Keon. Both of her sons appeared in my imagination fully formed after I met their mother. Aquanettia runs a thrift shop called Second Chances, and she’s acting head of the Magnolia Street Small Business Alliance, of which Rita is a reluctant member.
Other members of the alliance include the much-tattooed Moose Hazen, owner of the nearby Chopper Shop, and his wife Destiny, a woman with more problems than a person can shake a stick at. Destiny is the first person I “met” in the Hazen household and the moment I saw her in my imagination I knew she battled addiction. I’ve known a number of people who struggle with addiction over the years, so I recognized the tell-tale signs the instant she opened her mouth. In the beginning Moose was just a big guy with lots of muscles, but then he showed up for the alliance meeting and revealed all those tattoos. I was surprised at first, but that’s who Moose was, so I just stepped aside and let him go.
This time out we meet Miss Frankie’s cousin, Pearl Lee Gates. Yeah, I know her name is a little odd. I honestly didn’t plan it that way. She walked through the door at Zydeco and introduced herself, and that was that. There’s no arguing with Pearl Lee, as you’ll discover when you meet her for yourselves. Along with Pearl Lee, we meet her “special” friend, Scotty Justus, a retired commercial fisherman who also happens to be Destiny Hazen’s father.
Also showing up is Zora Rappaport, owner of the Feathered Peacock yoga studio. I expected her to be a yoga enthusiast, but she set me straight soon enough. She hasn’t actually practiced yoga in years. Edgar Zappa from EZ Shipping is also a member of the alliance. He insisted on defending Destiny when others turned against her, but he wouldn’t tell me why for a long, long time. And then there’s Sebastian Walker, the neighborhood pharmacist. He’s a friendly guy who bears a completely unexpected resemblance to Will Ferrell.
I hope you’ll come and meet everyone in The Cakes of Wrath and that you enjoy getting to know them as much as I did.
About This Author
The Cakes of Wrath
(A Piece of Cake Mystery)
4th in Series
A Berkley Prime Mystery (September 3, 2013)
The Berkley Publishing Group
Published by The Penguin Group
Cover Illustration by Chris Lyons
Cover Design by Diana Kolsky
Mass Market Paperback: 304 pages
E-Book File Size: 721 KB
Miss Frankie has decided Zydeco needs to join the local small business alliance and Rita needs to represent the business in addition to everything else she has to do. It should be a great way to meet more people in the neighborhood but the meetings seem to drag on forever with the members arguing over silly details.
After one heated meeting Rita and Moose, the owner of Chopper Shop, are discussing an upcoming project when a van comes speeding at them. Moose’s quick reaction saves them both from being hit by the van but Rita is pretty bruised up from hitting the ground and most of Moose landing on top of her. The doctor prescribes some pain medication but the next day when Rita really needs them she can’t find them anywhere. She remembers Destiny, Moose’s wife, being in her office the day before. Destiny has a history of drug use so Rita decides to track her down. She is too late. When she arrives at the Chopper Shop she finds Destiny dead with the pill bottle in her hand. Suicide or murder? The detective on the case decides right away that Rita is involved and refuses to believe anything Rita or anyone else tells him. She needs to find the truth herself before she is baking cakes behind bars.
Jaclyn Brady has baked up another tasty mystery!
I love these characters. Rita, Miss Frankie, Ox, Edie and Sparkle are joined by some very crazy characters in this installment. Pearl Lee, Sonny, Moose, Zora, Aquanetta and more. What a group! Pearl Lee just cracked me up. Edie has her own drama with her parents not very happy with her situation and Miss Frankie gets right in the middle of everything. Add to this a busy cakery, a neighborhood clean-up project and a dead body and you have everything you need for a great cozy mystery.
The author really had me puzzled with this one. A couple of suspects really stood out and then the clues started to stack up just like cake tiers and it all made perfect sense.
I really enjoy the subplots that continue from book to book. The surprises at the very end that leave you wanting the next piece of cake…um…next book…right now!
Thanks to the people at Penguin I have 2 copies to give away!
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Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. Receiving a complimentary copy in no way reflected my review of this book. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”