Promoting literacy in the FACS classroom is a top priority for Fresh FACS. Recipe for Reading, a curriculum based on Chocolate Chip Cookie Murder and Candy for Christmas is one of our best selling titles. Chocolate Chip Cookie Murder is the first novel in the Hannah Swensen culinary mystery series written by Joanne Fluke. Ms. Fluke was kind enough to answer some questions for me about how she develops her novels and the original recipes included in them. I think you and your students will find this Q & A both interesting and entertaining. (This is the second installment in the Q & A with Joanne Fluke. To read the first part of the interview, go to Older Posts.)
FF: Hannah’s investigative talents enable her to solve the crimes that occur in Lake Eden with the skill of a trained detective. Do you have personal experience in law enforcement or do you rely on consultants to develop the mysteries in your novels?
JF: I did work for a detective for a while and even did stakeouts. Actually, that was a lot less interesting than what Hannah gets to do. My husband was a writer-story editor for a number of TV detective shows and he helps a lot. I also have a neighbor who was an LAPD detective for twenty-some years and I call on his expertise (in exchange for cookies!). Do remember that the Hannah Swensen mysteries are cozy mysteries, not police procedurals, so Hannah’s methods are pretty much her own.
FF: Hannah is hired to cater many of the major events that occur in Lake Eden. What skills did you give Hannah that would make her successful as a chef and caterer?
JF: Hannah’s mother, Delores, hates to cook and Hannah took over that job at an early age. She has had years of practical experience, plus her natural talent, behind her. Most of her catering jobs involve desserts of some kind. Hannah and Lisa are often hired to cater light refreshments after a meeting or other event. That’s when they serve coffee and cookies, or tea and cookies.
FF: When you crated the character of Hannah Swensen, did you model her after anyone in particular or is she a composite of more than one person?
JF: Hannah is the best friend I’ve always wanted. She’s so real to me that I sometimes find myself asking her about a recipe! She’s a composite of many bright women I’ve known.
FF: Hannah’s sister Andrea is a busy mom, wife and real estate agent. Do you think she represents today’s typical working mother? How would you evaluate Andrea’s coping and management skills?
JF: I have no idea what counts as “typical” today. Andrea is smart and efficient. She’s a big help to Hannah in her investigations. Andrea doesn’t cope very well with trivial adversity, but Hannah can count on her when the chips are down.
FF: Your description of Hannah’s relationship with her mother and her sisters is very personal and real. Is Hannah’s family dynamics based on your own family on some level?
JF: Not at all! I have no siblings and my mother is nothing like Delores. Like all writers, I have know lots of folds over the years and my characters are all composites…except for one. I did “kill off” my high school ex-boyfriend in one of my books. He deserved it. He dumped me right before the senior prom for a cheerleader.
Read more of our conversation with Joanne Fluke tomorrow!