Amy Pershing is a lifelong mystery lover and wordsmith. She was an editor, a restaurant reviewer and a journalist before leading employee communications at a global bank. A few years ago (with the final college tuition bill paid), she waved goodbye to Wall Street to write full time (and spend more time sailing on the Cape!). A Side of Murder, the first of the Cape Cod Foodie mysteries, is her debut novel.
Gotta Write: How did you come up with the idea for A Side of Murder?
Amy: I’m a big believer in writing what you know. I don’t know a lot, but I do know mysteries, my absolute drug of choice (after grilled cheese sandwiches). And I know and love Cape Cod, having spent every summer of my life there (and spent, I once figured, 1,000 days sailing its waters). I spent two years in New York reviewing restaurants, so I know that world and that job. And a bit about cooking (thanks to a mother who worshipped St. Julia of Child). So I guess it makes sense that my heroine, Samantha Barnes, is a disgraced ex-chef, current restaurant reviewer, reluctant returnee to her hometown on Cape Cod and a dynamite sailor. On the other hand, she is also tall (very tall), brave and an extrovert – three things I know absolutely nothing about! Go figure…
Gotta Write: What are some of your favorite dishes your characters enjoy in A Side of Murder?
Amy: Give me a slow-roasted leg of lamb studded with garlic and rosemary, and I am your friend for life! On the other hand, there’s also Aunt Ida’s clam chowder… and those fried-onion-ring “nests” … and those thin and chewy chocolate chip cookies… (recipes included!).
Gotta Write: What is one of your favorite (non-spoilery) scenes from A Side of Murder?
Amy: It has to be when Sam, who has had an unfortunate encounter with a body in a pond outside a restaurant she is reviewing, changes into the only dry clothes at hand:
I stripped off my sopping clothes, including bra and underpants, and stepped commando into my borrowed finery. Carol’s chef, it seemed, was both much wider and much shorter than I. The jacket flapped around me like a giant pillowcase, and the pants stopped attractively at mid-calf. A pair of men’s black socks, donated to the cause by Miles, completed the ensemble.
At this point, the town’s harbormaster arrives, who turns out to be none other than Sam’s first, disastrous crush, Jason Captiva. There is a moment of shocked silence from them both and then:
His eyes took me in from top to bottom. He seemed to have regained his composure. I wished I had.
“I like the outfit,” he said. “Very fetching.”
He looked pointedly at the soggy bra dangling from my hand, adding, “And so well accessorized.”
“I picked it out specially for you,” I said, grinning at him, although my one overwhelming thought was, Why tonight of all nights did I have to wear my oldest bra?
Gotta Write: What are the top five books on your TBR list?
Amy: I’m really looking forward to Edith Maxwell’s next Quaker midwife novel, A Changing Light, coming out on April 13. I’m currently in the middle (so half is TBR, right?) of Donna Leon’s wonderful Transient Desires, the latest Commassario Brunetti mystery. In the TBR pile on my nightstand, you’ll find James McBride’s Deacon King Kong, A Promised Land by Barack Obama, and the re-release of the great crime writer Dorothy Hughes’ Ride the Pink Horse.
Gotta Write: If you had to write in a different genre, what would it be and why?
Amy: OK, this may sound like it comes out of left field, but ever since my mother gave me Mary Renault’s fantastic series of historical novels set in ancient Greece (The Bull From the Sea, The Persian Boy, etc.) which then inspired me to study Classical Archaeology in college, I’ve wanted to write historical novels set in Italy’s ancient Etruria, the fascinating culture that paved the way for the power that became Rome. In contrast to much of the ancient world, Etruscan culture seems to have been on in which women played important roles. So I’m thinking maybe an Etruscan priestess (who also solves mysteries?) …
Gotta Write: What advice would you give to aspiring authors?
Amy: First, I know it’s a cliché, but write the book you want to read. That’s what makes it fun. I tried to write a thriller once because I thought that was what the market wanted to read. Lesson learned – I am not a “dark” writer. Second, do everything you can to find the right agent for that book. A subscription to Publisher’s Marketplace, though pricy, is very helpful there. You can search for the agents of authors whose books are most like your own and then reach out to them saying why you think they’d enjoy your book. Third, do what your agent tells you. She will probably make suggestions on the book. That’s fine. In fact, that’s great. Everybody needs an editor, especially before they actually have an editor. And fourth, be patient. It takes a very long time to get your book into the hands of the right editor. But eventually, with any luck, the stars will align.
Gotta Write: Where is your favorite place to write?
Amy: At a beautiful old desk once belonging to my mother, who left us two years ago and to whom A Side of Murder is dedicated. She was my favorite “partner in crime,” introducing me to all the classic mystery novelists. As I write at her desk, I imagine her saying “remember, whydunit is as important as whodunit” and “careful, that’s a dangling participle.”
Gotta Write: Do you prefer writing in the morning, day, or at night?
Amy: Mornings and through the course of the day, absolutely. Preferably with a gallon of coffee at my elbow. Never in the evening. As I used to tell my children, “There is no more good mommy after 8 o’clock at night.”
Gotta Write: What is your favorite way to practice self-care?
Amy: Read. Read, read, read, read.
Gotta Write: What can readers expect from you next?
Amy: I’m sticking with Sam and the Fair Harbor gang! Poor Sam, I’m afraid, is going to be falling over more bodies. There’s that not-so-jolly Santa in the holiday season’s An Eggnog to Die For. And a famous chef/cookbook author the following summer in Murder is No Picnic. And, of course, there’s an embarrassing YouTube video or two.
The rest of the gang will be doing their bit – Helene offering her usual no-nonsense response to Sam’s nonsense, Miles making Sam laugh and trying to keep Aunt Ida’s house from falling down, Jillian making up for Sam’s lack of baking prowess, and Jason still causing Sam to go weak at the knees.
Diogi, of course, understands that the series is all about him and will be taking his usual starring role.