An interview with author Gale Deitch

Fine DiningI’ll remember 2014 as the year several writer friends I know and respect published or republished great books. Mark Willen’s smart and poignant mystery, Hawke’s Point, Cindy Young-Turner’s republication of her engrossing fantasy, A Thief of Hope and the second book in Gale Deitch’s popular culinary cozy mystery series, Fine Dining.

Gale Deitch developed an impressive fan base after her first book, A Fine Fix, was published last year. Her readers have been asking for more in the series, and now they finally have it.

The star in Deitch’s kitchen-centric stories is Trudie Fine, a caterer who loves brightly colored clothes, is growing accustomed to a new boyfriend in her life in the form of a handsome detective, and whose loyalty for a close friend lands her in the middle of a murder investigation.

This time, Fine Dining centers around, Maybeline and her New Orleans themed restaurant. If you read the first book in the series, A Fine Fix, you’ll recognize this spicy character who always had time to listen to Trudie’s troubles and provide sage advice. This time, it’s Maybeline who needs the help when she becomes the prime suspect in a murder. Trudie isn’t only a friendly ear. She and her detective boyfriend, Daniel Goldman were in the restaurant at the time of the murder, making them both witnesses in an investigation that could land Trudie’s best friend in jail for a very long time.

The rich cast of characters in this mystery make it difficult to figure out the solution to the puzzles but, like a long meal of multiple courses, you’ll gladly keep with it until the sticky, gooey desert.

Like A Fine Fix, Deitch closes out the book with several recipes supplied by the chef at restaurant Blue 44 in Washington D.C., James Turner. Each recipe features a dish highlighted in the book. The recipes are like an added little treat to the nourishing story that will gratify any mystery lovers craving.

I was curious about a few things so I begged Gale for answers and she was kind enough to spend a few minutes answering them.

Q: Tell us about Fine Dining and where the ideas behind the story came from.

A: First of all, as a continuation of book one A Fine Fix, I wanted to show the status of Trudie’s relationship with Daniel Goldman. So I set the first scene as a romantic dinner at her friend May’s restaurant. Secondly, I wanted to bring forward a couple of minor characters from the first book. May is such a rich character that she needed to be fleshed out. Also, I had given only a wink to attorney Alan Bernstein in book 1 and planted the seed of his interest in Trudie. The idea of bringing him to the forefront of book two to keep Daniel on his toes intrigued me.

Q: This is your second book. Is writing the second one a different process than you used for the first?

A: Actually, I used a similar process in creating Fine Dining. I had ideas in my mind about the direction I wanted to go and wrote consecutively from page 1 to the end. As with book 1, I wasn’t sure who the murderer would be until I was well into the book. So of course, when I finished the first draft, I had to go back to the beginning to make changes and plant some red herrings along the way.

Q: How do you think the quality of your writing has changed from the first book to the second?

A: I think with every writing project, I grow in ability. I am particularly proud of the Potomac River scenes near the end of the book and my use of active verbs to put the reader right in the boat and in the water with Trudie.

Q: Now that you’ve finished publishing your second book, what things did you learn the first time that made this process easier?

A:  I’ve actually realized that this may not be the best process for my next books. Although I will write the book in sequence as before, I will plan my story and actually choose the murderer before I begin writing the book.

Q: Unlike a lot of people, you didn’t waste any time looking for an agent or a publisher. You just went indie right away. Why was independent publishing the right thing for you?

A: If this was a literary novel, I would by all means look for an agent to represent me and find a publisher for my book. At some point, I may opt to go that route.

But this is a cozy, culinary mystery series. I had a vision for this series. I knew my protagonist and the name of the series. I knew the titles I wanted on my books. I had seen other published cozy mysteries and did not want the ever-present cartoon-like cover art a publisher would use for my series.

I wanted complete control and complete freedom as well as to keep all my royalties.

Q: Often times, authors have a hard time knowing when a project is finished and ready for publication. How do you determine that your book is ready for the world?

A: I had a goal to publish the book in the fall, specifically in November, before the holidays. I worked very hard to finish the book by the end of the summer, edit it in September, send it out to beta readers with a deadline date for feedback and then edit the whole book again. I received my proof copies from CreateSpace and had more edits before I was finally ready to release the book to the world. Even now, I think of things I would have liked to change, but there comes a time when you have to let it go. By the way, I didn’t make my goal. Technically, it did release in the fall, but not until mid-December.

Q: You included recipes again. Tell us about the testing process and working with James Turner.

A: James Turner is an amazing chef who’s been wonderful to work with and generous with his time and knowledge. When I finish a book, I send him a list of dishes from the story, and he chooses which ones to he wants to provide recipes for. James likes me to test the recipes to make sure the ingredients and instructions work. As I do this, I often ask him questions like, “Do I simmer the gumbo covered or uncovered?” or “What size can of crushed tomatoes?” This way, I can ensure that each recipe can be followed by any home cook.

Q: You still work with two writing groups. How does that help your process?

A: My critique groups are an important part of my process. They are my readers; my audience. They tell me whether or not a scene is working or how it might work better. Often, as we discuss a chapter I’ve submitted, someone says something that really clicks, and a new scene is born. I take all the critiques from my last submission and make any necessary changes or additions before I move on to the next chapter.

Q: Do you have any writing resolutions for 2015?

A: I definitely plan to publish book three, “Fine Arts,” in 2015 (shhh, don’t tell anyone…you’re the first to see the title).

 Q: Is there anything else you’d like to add?

A: Publishing book one, A Fine Fix, was a major accomplishment after working on it for so long, and I was astounded at all the people who actually bought the book. Completing book two, Fine Dining, and publishing it in less than a year and a half, has given me the confidence that I can do it again…and again. And I hope to bring many more Trudie Fine stories to readers of cozy, culinary mysteries.

Mary, thank you so much for inviting me to interview for your blog.

We’ll be looking for Fine Arts…oh, was that supposed to be a secret? Until then, Gale is working on the release of the first book, A Fine Fix in audiobook format. You can pick up both books at most online retailers and in just about any format you need. Good luck Gale and thanks for your time.

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