by Pamela James
MM: Janel give us the backstory on your writing career?
I decided that I would like to be a writer when I was in the fifth grade, after my classmates asked our teacher to read my story about a talking car to them a second time. I was hooked! It wasn’t until 10-years ago that I decided to actively pursue those dreams. I began my career by designing and writing beadwork patterns, which were published in major beadwork magazines.
After a few years of success in that realm of publishing I decided to try my hand at my first writing love: fiction. I began writing flash fiction stories and was delighted when some of them found their way into anthologies and even online magazines. Eventually I accomplished one of my bucket list items, writing a culinary mystery. “Pies & Peril” was published in July of 2014 as the first book in my Culinary Competition Mystery Series.
MM: Tell us about your latest book/s?
“Fudge Brownies & Murder” was released on December 17. It is the fourth book in my series. The main character, Amy, is trying to help her best friend through the last month of a difficult pregnancy. While she’s helping make meals and calm frazzled nerves, Amy is also trying to solve the murder of a restauranteur.
MM: What is your writing schedule and where is your favorite place to write?
I get up at 6 a.m. with my teens during the school year. After they leave for school I check my email and social media as I drink my coffee. I usually begin writing mid-morning then try to continue writing, for the most part, through the afternoon. One of the beautiful things about writing is the flexibility, so on busier days I fit writing time in around errands.
My usual writing spot is a recliner in the living room, where I get to watch geese and deer in the field across the road. If I want more privacy, I have a rolltop desk in my bedroom which I can use.
MM: Do you ever reread any favorite books?
I do reread non-fiction books. I have a huge collection of cookbooks. Some of those are like old friends to me. It’s comforting to sit down and read them. Also, self-help books are often on my reread agenda because sometimes they have so much information that I feel like I need to go over it all again to absorb everything.
MM: If you were going to sit down with five authors that you admire. Who would they be and what would you ask them?
The authors would be: Diane Mott Davidson, Joanna Carl, Barbara O’Neal, Judi Hendricks and Erica Bauermeister. They all write culinary fiction in some form, either mysteries or women’s fiction novels. I would ask them where they get the inspiration for the food they mention in their books and about their writing process. I am fascinated by how other writers write – do they outline, do months of research beforehand, etc.
MM: Now for a few get to know you questions. What is your favorite movies/s? What is your favorite meal, dessert, songs, place to vacation, favorite shows to binge watch and favorite person who always had faith in you?
Movie: Frida, about the life of artist Frida Kahlo, starring Selma Hayak.
Meal: A shrimp ceviche tostada with a grapefruit Jarritos soda pop from my favorite food truck, Tony’s Tacos.
Dessert: A tie between cheesecake and tiramisu.
Songs: I’ve been listening to Damien Rice, Hozier and Adele a lot lately.
Places to Vacation: I love the mountains in Tennessee and North Carolina.
Shows to Binge Watch: Eat St., Super Soul Sunday, Destination Truth, any cooking show starring Nigella Lawson or Rachel Khoo.
Favorite People: My husband and children have stuck by me and been understanding throughout all of the ups and downs and sometimes craziness of my publishing career.
MM: Tell us about where you live and be our tour guide on why you love your life?
I live in a rural, agricultural area in central Michigan. The nearest town has two stoplights and the high school mascot is an ear of corn, because the school was built on a former corn field. While I love visiting bustling, larger cities, I adore living in a small town.
MM: What would you like to say to your readers?
I adore my readers! When someone takes the time to post on my Facebook wall or send me an email I can’t help but smile. It’s like getting a warm, virtual hug.
MM: Do you have any hobbies or a collection of anything?
I do several crafts - beading, knitting and crocheting, although I don’t have a lot of time to do those now. Every night I turn off my computer and wind down by reading. My house and ereaders are full of books, so that would be my biggest collection.
MM: What would your protag tell us about you?
Amy would say that I should take the time to cook more, because my life can get crazy and cooking is her favorite way to calm down.
MM: Break down how you write your books. Does it start with plot, character, setting or a situation?
I always begin with an idea for the murder victim. I write notes and scene ideas on index cards. As I begin to fill in the story I come up with a culinary competition and decide on the characters, old and new, who will star in that book.
MM: They say it takes a village to write and publish a book. Who is in your village?
My husband and kids, who put up with a messy house and lots of take-out meals when I’m on deadline. My publisher, Gemma Halliday, who is such a wonderful, kind person to work with and for. And my friends who are also writers. Even though most of them live too far away to meet in person, there’s nothing like daily check-ins with someone who knows exactly what I’m going through to keep me going.
MM: How do you stay focused on your book?
Noise-canceling earbuds and Amazon Prime streaming music. While I can write while in the thick of family stuff, squeezing in a paragraph or two here and there. When I really want to get some serious writing in I turn on music.
MM: Okay what are your favorite conventions, writing retreats, bookstore, conferences?
I’ve been going to the Kerrytown Bookfest in Ann Arbor, Michigan for years, as a spectator. It is all about books, so you can find everything from authors, to small presses and artists who handcraft books.
MM: What makes you laugh and do you have a favorite artist, comedian and if your books were going to be a made for television movie. Who would you want to play your protag?
My Golden Retriever, Cooper, makes me laugh every day. No matter how bad of a mood I’m in, his antics make me smile.
I think Megan Hilty would be the perfect actress to play Amy in a television movie.
MM: Lastly, give us a favorite quote? Also a quote by your protag and share with us how, when and where we might buy your book?
My favorite quote is: It’s never too late to be what you might have been. – George Eliot
A quote from Amy from Fudge Brownies & Murder: "I guess she has a big personality, to match her big hair."
Fudge Brownies & Murder, the 4th book in the Culinary Competition Mystery Series, was released on December 17th. It is available at Amazon and many other online book retailers.