Key West, Where Reality Trumps Imagination by Lucy Burdette

Hi! Today the Wickeds welcome our friend, mentor and all-time great cozy author Lucy Burdette back to the blog to celebrate the release of Killer Takeout, the seventh book in her Key West Food Critic Mystery series.

Take it away, Lucy!

Two Zombies
Two Zombies

Some writers hate being asked where they get their ideas.

I don’t hate that question at all: I need only to step outside the door in Key West and the characters and plot snippets come raining down like an old-fashioned New England nor’easter. Let me show you a little about how this works. Killer Takeout, the seventh book in the Key West foodie mystery series, is out today. This book takes place during Fantasy Fest, the ten-day adult themed costume party leading up to Halloween. In some ways, the book came close to writing itself. (Although I’m surely repressing months of whining about the fact that I had no story at all…)

boys in tutusCostumes. John and I of course had to attend the festival for background research. We went so far as to get our faces professionally painted for the zombie bike ride, and I ordered handmade tutus for us and our friend Steve, and for Tonka, so we could attend the tutu party. (Absolutely no admittance without that costume element.) I skipped over the scenes that would not fit into a cozy mystery (e.g., the Adam and Eve foam party. Don’t ask.)

Big Chef by Matt Brown
Big Chef by Matt Brown

The heat of the kitchen. Since my heroine is a food critic, I needed a restaurant angle in this book, too. As I was writing, I fell into watching an amazing back-and-forth on Facebook about a restaurant popular with the local residents that had been bought and refurbished by an outsider. Although the local chef was initially slated to continue running the kitchen, there was some kind of fracas between him and the owner, and he left. Fired or quit, according to whose story you believed. The locals were outraged about this turn in the chef’s fortunes. As a friend reminded me, spurned islanders can behave like middle schoolers, growing cliquish and vindictive. This is understandable if you look at it from their perspective – newcomers fall in love with the island and think that no one has discovered it before them. You can imagine that I ran with this story, twisting and tweaking along the way of course.

Courtesy of NASA Goddard Space Flight Center
Courtesy of NASA Goddard Space Flight Center

A force of nature. I added another element of conflict for good measure—an impending hurricane. If you look at a map, you’ll see that the keys consist of a fragile string of island pearls, with Key West at the very end. There are 3 ways out—boat, plane, or single-laned Route 1. Do any of them sound like a good option in a major storm? And what to do with the 90,000 people who’ve descended on the island primed for a week of parties? They’ve paid a lot a of money to be there. On the other hand, the authorities are responsible to keep everyone safe. Conflict? You bet!

So now you know one of my secrets—I love weaving reality into my fiction. For writers: How do you feel about including real places and people in your stories? For readers, do you prefer settings to be real or imaginary?

About Killer Takeout: It’s Fantasy Fest at Key West, and food critic Hayley Snow is ready to celebrate. But a killer seems intent on crashing the party…

Killer Takeout-1Every year, Key West’s weeklong Mardi Gras–style festival has tourists and locals alike lining up for costumed revelry and delicious eats. Key Zest magazine has assigned Hayley to write a piece on the fest’s grab-and-go food, so she’s planning on hitting up the mobile eateries while checking out the party preparations.

Hayley’s office mate, Danielle, recently elected Queen of Fantasy Fest, is also buzzing between festivities and fundraisers. But when her former royal rival gets taken out, Hayley needs to put down her party hat and her pen and figure out who served up a side of murder—before Danielle gets crowned a killer.

Praise for the National Bestselling Series

“Lucy Burdette writes evocatively about Key West and food . . . [a] charming series.”—New York Times Bestselling Author Diane Mott Davidson

Killer Takeout is available wherever books are sold:

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20 Thoughts

  1. My copy should be arriving today, Lucy, and I can’t wait! I’ve fictionalized a town in two serie, because I wanted to be able to place made up streets and restaurants in it. But if you know the town, you’ll recognize it. In another series I made up a town from scratch, but my protag travels to two well-known real places. And in my new historical series, I use all real places – because it takes place in 1888!

    1. Making up the new place was fun, but harder, because I have to keep remembering where everything is in relation to everything else. And yes, I’ve done a rough map. With real places there are so many real anchors, as you know! But you must make up restaurants and streets, too?

  2. Lucy, I love the costumes!

    As a writer, I like real places as long as I can take some liberties with addresses and restaurants – stuff like that. As a reader, I like reading about places I know, but I also love exploring fictional places that are so well written they ought to be real.

    1. If a writer does it well, she can choose either way and end up with happy readers. Key West is so distinctive, it was hard to imagine making it up.

  3. Lucy–I have been loving the quotes from this book you’ve been sharing on Jungle Red and Facebook. Cannot wait for this one.

  4. What a great post! With each of your books it makes me wonder why I haven’t been to Key West yet! I mix real with fictional in the Sarah Winston books.

  5. I love going to Key West while I read each of your books in this series and I enjoy reading the recipes – cannot wait to try the mango hot dog on hubby! Congratulations!

  6. Love Key West and looking forward to reading
    this new adventure. In my Witch City Mystery series I use as much of the real Salem as possible, mentioning streets, restaurants, attractions, but make up some stuff too. There really isn’t a TV station WICH-TV there, but shouldn’t there be?

  7. As always, this book made me wish I could really visit Key West while making me feel like I had. I enjoy this trips so much.

    (Yes, I’ve read it, and if you haven’t, you’re in for another great read.)

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