Author Interview with Ellie Alexander
I’m super excited to feature one of my favorite authors on the blog today. As I told you last week, the sixth book in the Bakeshop Mystery Series, A Crime of Passion Fruit, by Ellie Alexander is now out.
I recently had the chance to pick Ellie’s brain and ask her a few questions. I hope you enjoy!
This is such a great series! What is your inspiration behind Jules and the Bakeshop Mystery Series?
Thanks so much for having me, and for the kind words about the series. My inspiration came from my family. Baking and reading was an integral part of my childhood. My mom was a prolific mystery reader and introduced me to the classics—like Agatha Christie—at a young age. She worked as a counselor and loved to bake. We always had homemade cookies and pies waiting for us when we came home from school, and she had this way of offering up one of her delicious sweets and getting my friends and me to talk about our teenage angst. Her baking wasn’t beautiful, but it was always infused with love. My dad, on the other hand, was a master at crafting a gorgeous eight-layer torte. He taught English and had me quoting Shakespeare at a young age. I weaved both of their baking styles and reading into the series.
Jules is a pastry artist so has my dad’s talent to make her creations look magnificent, but she also believes in the idea that food is a love language and her customers are like family. Her mom, Helen, is based loosely on my mom, and the Professor shares some attributes with my dad, like his ability to quote Shakespeare on a whim. I also love getting to write about a real place, Ashland, Oregon. Ashland is themed in old Elizabethan style and the home to the world-famous Oregon Shakespeare Festival. It’s the perfect setting for a mystery series because there’s a constant flux of tourists coming from all around the globe and an eclectic group of locals, many of whom are artists, writers, and playwrights. It wouldn’t be out of the ordinary to see someone dressed as a court jester walking around the plaza in Ashland. That might seem very out of place in a different setting. I like getting share real touches about the town in the books, like the smelly sulfur fountains bubbling in the center of the plaza and the region’s abundant recreation options.
You take Jules “on location” in this book. How did you decide to take Jules back to sea?
I know, I know! I’m already anticipating reader email demanding that she return to Ashland immediately. No spoilers, but I promise it’s just a temporary gig. Actually, I knew from the beginning of the series that Jules was going to have to go back to the ship at some point. In Meet Your Baker, she leaves her husband, Carlos, and her life working as a pastry chef for a boutique cruise ship behind and returns to her beloved hometown of Ashland. Jules is a romantic at heart. She blames this on her name—Juliet Montague Capshaw and the fact that she grew up in Ashland. A big part of her growth throughout the series is the idea of home and what it means to come home again. She’s fallen in love with Ashland, and yet has this longing for Carlos. I knew it was going to be important for her to return to the ship to be able to compare her vastly different lifestyles. The series is meant to be light and escapism reading, but I want the characters to feel rich and real. Life isn’t always black and white. Jules is stuck in this gray area—she loves her life in Ashland and she loves Carlos. Both can be true. Both might even be right for her, but it’s all about timing.
What was your favorite part about writing this book?
Research! I spent hours and hours researching and touring cruise ships. I was even able to interview former crew members about their experiences at sea. I’ve only been on one cruise and that was about ten years ago. At the time, I was happy to enjoy the tropical sun and sandy beaches and never thought about setting a book on a ship. The cruise industry is like a foreign world. It’s so interesting. The staff tends to be international and there’s often a hierarchy of where crew members can go on the ship and who they can interact with. The world below deck is separate from what goes on above on the passenger decks. It reminded me a bit of Downton Abbey. I also had to taste a lot of tropical treats for the sake of research. As fate would have it I was writing this book in the middle of a dreadful stretch of soggy rain here in the Pacific Northwest, so escaping in my kitchen to tryout recipes for coconut sponge cakes and pineapple mango cookies was a happy distraction.
I know you spend a lot of time writing, but what are you currently reading?
Reading is my first love! I read everything and anything I can get my hands on. When I’m working on a manuscript it’s hard to read other mysteries (unless they’re historical) because I don’t want someone else’s voice to accidentally seep into my writing. I read a ton of narrative non-fiction, literary fiction, sci-fi, you name it. Some of my favorite recent reads include: The Little Paris Bookshop, The Truth According to Us, The Curious Charms of Arthur Pepper, and All Our Wrong Todays. I just finished A Front Page Affair, last night. It was fantastic!
What is next for Jules and the Torte crew?
Jules is returning to Ashland where work on Torte’s expansion will continue. The next book in the series, Another One Bites the Crust, comes out in January. I’m having so much fun with the plot because Lance, the artistic director at the theater and Jules’s good friend, is going to find the body. Lance tends to be a bit over the top and likes to make fun of the murders that Jules has become entangled with. I think that might change when he’s the one who stumbles upon a body! The other exciting news is that wedding bells might be ringing soon for someone at Torte. Although I won’t tell you who…
Thank you to Ellie for chatting with us today. It is always a pleasure.
Have you read any of the books in this series? Let me know your thoughts on it in the comments below.
Note: I am proud to be participating in the Great Escapes Virtual Book Tour for this book. I was given a complimentary copy of the book in exchange for my honest review. All thoughts and opinions expressed are mine. This post also contains affiliate links. Any purchases you make through a link, a small portion goes back to support the blog, for which we are very thankful.