Q&A with Paige Shelton
1) It’ll be great to see the Country Cooking
school gang back in action in IF MASHED POTATOES COULD
DANCE! Betts and Gram make a great team-what was your
inspiration for their relationship?
Thanks — I’m very excited for Betts and
Gram’s second story!
I think their relationship is based on a “what
if” scenario. My grandmother died when I was nine.
Though she wasn’t as feisty as Gram, she was as
amazing a cook. Unfortunately, no one wrote down my
“little-of-this-and-some-of-that” recipes. I
wish I would have been aware enough to pay attention or
write them down myself. Forever lost are the secrets to her
delicious fried chicken and her giant chocolate chip cookies
that had a perfectly light and somewhat crunchy outside.
Gram and Betts are probably an exaggerated portrayal of how
I would have enjoyed spending time with my own grandmother
if she’d lived longer. I doubt we would have ever
opened a cooking school, but I bet we’d have spent
lots of time in the kitchen.
2) Betts and Gram encounter the ghost of Sally
Swarthmore, a woman who may have been wrongly accused of
committing multiple murders. Tell us about the research you
conducted to create Sally and her back story.
I’ve always been intrigued by Lizzie Borden’s
story, so I decided to add some facts from Lizzie’s
life and trial to Sally’s fictional version. I started
with the Internet, of course, but then decided to read a
couple books about Lizzie and the circumstances surrounding
her life and the brutal murder of her parents. It was all
very fascinating. Ultimately, I did include some true Lizzie
details in Sally’s story, but Sally’s
personality most definitely took on a life of its own. She
turned into a delightful character to write, even if she was
a convicted ax murderer.
3) Speaking of ghosts-do you believe in them
yourself? What inspired you to write about them in the
Country Cooking school mysteries? Is it a different process
to write a paranormal mystery than it is to write the
Farmers’ Market series?
First, yes, each series requires a very different process
but not necessarily because of the paranormal element. The
Farmers’ Market books have one mystery per book. The
Cooking School books have two, and my goal is to somehow tie
the past and the present mysteries together. Oddly, neither
series is more difficult to write than the other, just . . .
I do believe in ghosts, though not the full-bodied versions
like in the Cooking School books. I guess I think of them
more as disturbances in The Force — flashes of
movement, light, or perhaps thought. When I first began
writing the Cooking School series with IF FRIED CHICKEN
COULD FLY, there was no plan to include ghosts or
anything paranormal in the books. But one day as I was
writing, I sensed that someone was behind me, over my
shoulder. When I turned around, no one was there. When I
turned back to the computer, Jerome, the ghost in the first
book, practically wrote himself onto the page. Was that my
intuition telling me where to go with the story, or perhaps
something else? I’m not sure, but it would have been
nearly impossible to delete him. Fortunately, my editor
liked him, as well as the idea of including ghosts in
4) Both IF FRIED CHICKEN COULD FLY and IF
MASHED POTATOES COULD DANCE have delicious recipes in
them. Do you love to cook? Do you experiment in the kitchen
or stick to the recipe at hand?
I do love to cook — when I know what I’m doing.
I love to create an original recipe, but only if it’s
by changing one or two things from something already
written. I’m not good — yet — at starting
from scratch. I hope to be someday.
5) Can you give us a sneak peek at what you have in
store for Betts and Grams next adventure?
IF BREAD COULD RISE TO THE OCCASION, the third book
in the Cooking School series, will publish in 2013. The
ghost is a teenager who was killed in a bakery fire in the
mid-1900s. The present day mystery begins with Gram and
Betts teaching their new crop of students how to make a
seemingly innocent sourdough starter. Seemingly innocent.
However, 99% of the email I receive regarding IF FRIED
CHICKEN COULD FLY is about the ghost Jerome. I had no
idea he would be so well liked, and I’m thrilled.
I’m also happy to bring him back, which I have done
for the 2013 book. Boy, does he wreak havoc on Betts’
love life. It was so much fun to write.
Thanks to Berkley, and thanks to my readers; you all are
truly the best!