“Cooking,” wrote American journalist Harriet Van Horne, “is like love. It should be entered into with abandon or not at all.” The same can be said about the craft of writing, and when these two passions come together in a culinary themed mystery, it’s the recipe for a mouth-watering delight that leaves readers hungry for more. Karoline Barrett – today’s featured author – joins the ranks of Ellie Alexander, Miranda Bliss, Christine Wenger and other kindred spirit wordsmiths whose protagonists have a taste for solving neighborhood crimes. In Barrett’s latest release, Raisin the Dead, library director Anne Tyler is a person of interest in a murder, a scenario that compels bakery owner Molly Tyler to step in to help clear her mother’s name.
Interviewer: Christina Hamlett
Q: When did you first know that writer’s ink was flowing through your veins and you just had to do something about it?
A: I’ve always enjoyed writing, but didn’t take it up seriously until I was older (we won’t discuss how much older). My husband encouraged me to take writing classes from an online writing school in Connecticut, where we now live, called Long Ridge Writers Group. They were wonderful and I learned so much. My very first published novel, The Art of Being Rebekkah, started as a short story in one of my classes.
Q: Stylistically, what authors (living or dead) do you feel have had the greatest influence on your own approach to storytelling?
A: Ann B. Ross (author of the Miss Julia series) because of her character portrayals, they’re so very real, and Janet Evanovich because of her humor.
Q: The Bread and Batter mystery series is a clever concept. What inspired it?
A: I was having a hard time thinking of another writing project and my agent asked me what I liked to read. The answer was mysteries. She suggested I write one, and I took her advice. I like discovering new bakeries, so I wanted the series to center around Molly and the bakery she owns with her best friend, Olivia. I’m happy to say it worked out.
Q: Which of your characters is secretly your fictional self?
A: I’m asked that a lot. In reality, my characters come from my imagination. If I had to pick the one I want to be my fictional self, it would be Emily, the owner of Barking Mad books. I’ve always thought owing a small bookstore would be delightful.
Q: Favored baked dessert – a cake, a pie or cookies?
A: Since ice-cream isn’t a choice, chocolate cake with chocolate icing (do you see a chocolate theme here?)
Q: Store-bought or homemade?
A: Homemade. The best kind!
Q: In your daily writing routine, when and where do you feel you are at your most energized?
A: I’m a morning person, so I do well between 7 a.m. and 3 p.m. My writing desk faces a window, so I navigate between that and my recliner when I’m writing.
Q: Do you allow anyone to read your material while it’s still a work-in-progress or do you make them wait until you have typed The End?
A: They have to wait. My work-in-progress goes through a lot of changes between the time I type the first work and the time I type The End.
Q: Which do you feel is more challenging – to pen a short story, to develop a stand-alone novel, or to create recurring characters for a series?
A: I’ve done all three, so I have to say a series. I have to keep each book fresh, make sure all the characters come back with the same names, eye colors, etc. Make sure the town names haven’t changed. It’s also a challenge not to say too much about the previous books in case someone hasn’t read them yet. Then there’s the challenge of keeping all the characters interesting.
Q: Let’s say Hollywood comes calling to turn Raisin the Dead into a new TV series. Who’s on your wish list for casting?
A: I have to confess I don’t keep up on who’s who in Hollywood. I don’t know who the Gilmore Girls are, and I thought The Game of Thrones had something to do with Queen Elizabeth. I’m going to chicken out of this one and say I’d be so thrilled to see it as a TV series, I don’t care who was playing the characters. Although, I’d love to hear from readers on whom they think would be good casting.
Q: How did you go about finding the right literary agent to represent your work?
A: As mentioned, my first novel was The Art of Being Rebekkah. I compiled a list of agents who were looking for women’s fiction. I got a lot of requests for the partial manuscript, and the full manuscript, but no takers. After going through 120 agents, I was thinking about calling it quits. Then, on Twitter, I saw someone discussing Frances Black. She and a partner own Literary Counsel. Okay, I thought. One more time! She loved my book and signed me. The rest, as they say, is history.
Q: What’s your favorite thing about being published?
A: Pleasing my readers and having them ask for more books!
Q: Promoting a new title is almost as much – if not more – work than writing it in the first place. What are some of the activities you’re pursuing in this regard to put your book(s) on everyone’s radar?
A: It really is! I’m a constant presence on Facebook. Both on my author page and personal page. I’ve connected with a lot of other authors, readers, and bloggers. I do a lot of blog tours and giveaways. I love the giveaways, but I make my husband pick winners. I just can’t do it. I’d pick everyone! Since my Bread and Batter series is e-book only, I can’t do book signings, which I’d really like to do.
Q: To celebrate your success, you’ve made reservations for dinner at your favorite restaurant and can invite any three famous authors to join you. Who are they, what are the seating arrangements, and what question would you most love to ask each of them?
A: I’d have Shirley Jackson, Janet Evanovich, and Debbie Macomber. I’d be at the head at the table, so I could see and hear everyone. Shirley’s question would be, “How on earth did you come up with The Lottery? It’s my favorite short story of all time.” For Janet, I’d want to know how she comes up with all the scrapes her characters get in to and how she keeps all her books so funny and fresh. I’d like to talk character development with Debbie. Her books are so character driven, which is what I love about them.
Q: What would readers be the most surprised to learn about you?
A: I want to write a psychological thriller like The Girl on the Train.
Q: What do you do when you’re not writing?
A: Read, shop, spend time at the beach. Think about writing.
Q: Do you typically read one book at a time or have multiple stacks throughout the house?
A: I can handle reading two books at once, but more than that and my brain starts complaining.
Q: What are you reading now?
A: I just finished A Muddied Murder by Wendy Tyson. Time for a trip to the library!
Q: What’s next on your plate?
A:I’m working on book three of my Bread and Batter series, I’m outlining a new series I want to present to my agent, and I also have a romance half-written.
Q: Best advice to aspiring writers?
A: Write what you love, believe in yourself, and have patience, lots of patience.
Q: Where can readers learn more about you and your work?
Q: Anything else you’d like to add?
A: Thank you so much for having me, it’s been fun! Of course, a thank you to all my readers!