A cozy mystery is defined as a subgenre of crime fiction in which sex and violence is downplayed or treated humorously, and the crime and detection takes place in a small, socially intimate community.
Montana author Leslie Budewitz follows this formula in her Food Lovers’ Village Mysteries. Her mysteries are set in the tiny town of Jewel Bay, Montana, a lakeside resort community on the road to Glacier National Park. If this sounds like Bigfork, you are correct. At a recent book signing at the Mineral County Library in Superior, Budewitz said her latest series in based on the town and some local characters in Bigfork, where she currently lives.
“A friend of mine asked if I would kill her in one of my books,” she explained to the small gathering of around 16 people. “But I think she had a hard time relating to it once the book was written.”
Her latest book in the series, “Treble at the Jam Fest,” is about a murder at a jazz festival and is due out in June. Other books in the “Food Lovers’ Village Mystery” series include “Death Al Dente,” “Assault and Pepper,” “Crime Rib,” “Guilty as Cinnamon,” “Butter Off Dead,” and the book she was promoting during her visit, “Killing Thyme”.
“Leslie actually asked if she could come here,” said library director, Guna Chaberek, “because she noticed that we have a lot of cozy mystery readers.”
Budewitz is also a lawyer and in 2011, she won the Agatha Award for Best Nonfiction with her book, “Books, Crooks and Counselors: How to Write Accurately About Criminal Law and Courtroom Procedure.”
“It (the award) was a little black teapot with a tea bag and the tag had a red skull on it. Every year the award looks different,” she said.
Budewitz also won the 2013 Agatha Award for Best First Novel, “Death al Dente.” Making her the first author to win the Agatha Award for both fiction and nonfiction.
A Montana native, she lives with her husband and a Burmese cat, who sometimes models for the cover of her books. During her library visit, she casually talked about experiences as a writer and where she comes up with her ideas.
Regarding her nonfiction law book, she said it started with a newsletter because writers kept asking her law questions. She explained there are other similar books out there including forensics, and police procedures.
“Writing cozies are fun,” she said. But there was a delay in the series because her publisher, Penguin, merged with Random House and her series was dropped. From there, she found a new publisher, Midnight Ink. Her first series was the Seattle Spice Shop Mysteries, where most of the action takes place at the famed Pike Place Market. The ideas spawned from when she was a student in Seattle and later a lawyer. She would visit the market at least once or twice a week and felt it was a perfect setting for her murder mysteries.
As the name and series implies, there are actual recipes in each book. The recipe is represented in the title and is something that her character’s enjoy.
“I keep a sketchbook to help me create my characters and the plot,” she explained. “Visual images are very important to the writing process. Some writers use bulletin boards or other aids. The story comes from the character. You need to know the basic characters when you’re doing a series. If you’re lucky enough to do it well, the characters will develop and will go into more series.”
There are three books in the Montana series and three in the Seattle series and they will soon be available as audio books. After her talk, Budewitz answered questions from the group and then did a book signing. There was also a cake featuring the cover of her new book printed into the frosting, along with other refreshments.