Leslie Karst Genre Hops with Justice Ginsburg

News Flash: Dianne Casey is Leslie’s lucky winner! Congratulations, Dianne, and please check your email.

Edith here on the New Hampshire border, looking forward to real spring (come on, New England, you can do it…).

But we don’t need spring flowers and sunshine to welcome foodie mystery author Leslie Karst to our Genre Hopping feature . This time she brings not a crime novel but a foodie memoir you are going to want to scarf down without delay. Pre-order your copy quickly – Justice is Served comes out next week! Read down for a giveaway, too.

I read an earlier draft of Justice is Served. a few years ago. I loved the narrative, and I, among others, urged Leslie to find a publisher. It took a while and more revisions, but she did. Here’s the blurb:

In this true-life Julie and Julia meets Notorious RBG mash-up, former attorney Leslie Karst recounts how finagling her way into hosting an intimate dinner party for Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg sends her on a journey of culinary discovery—and, ultimately, completely changes her life.

Justice is Served is Karst’s light-hearted, earnest account of the journey this unexpected challenge launched her on—starting with a trip to Paris for culinary inspiration, and ending with the dinner itself. Along the way, she imparts details of Ginsburg’s transformation from a young Jewish girl from Flatbush, Brooklyn, to one of the most celebrated Supreme Court justices in our nation’s history, and shares recipes for the mouthwatering dishes she came up with as she prepared for the big night. A heartfelt story of simultaneously searching for delicious recipes and purpose in life, Justice is Served is an inspiring reminder that it’s never too late to discover—and follow—your deepest passion.

I asked Leslie our stock questions for the genre-hopping feature, plus a few more!

What genres do you write in?

Justice is Served is a memoir, but I also write the Sally Solari culinary mysteries, a series I like to describe as “snarky cozies.”

What drew you to writing a memoir?

I hadn’t planned to write a memoir about the events contained in Justice is Served. But on the trip back home to Santa Cruz from Los Angeles the morning after the dinner, as my then-partner (now-wife; thank you RBG!) Robin and I were reliving all the marvelous, amusing, and occasionally downright bizarre occurrences leading up to and including the big night, we both came to the same conclusion: I had to write it all down. Right then, before I forgot the details. So I grabbed a pen and the sheaf of office paper we kept in our truck, and as Robin navigated Highway 5, the two of us brainstormed regarding everything we could remember of the previous nine months—including all the conversations from the night before.

Leslie and Ruth during the Big Night

As soon as I was home, I commenced writing the memoir. The draft was finished within a few months, but then there it sat for years on my computer while I was sidetracked, first by my work as a research and appellate attorney, then by writing and promoting my Sally Solari mysteries. Finally, after much egging-on by Robin, her mother, and various others who knew of the manuscript’s existence, I concluded that they were right. The extraordinary story needed to be out there, for others to read.

So, in sum, I guess the simple answer to this question is: I wasn’t so much drawn to the memoir, as it was drawn to me!

What sets your book apart from what is out there?

When I was asked by my publicist to provide “comps” (comparable titles) for Justice is Served, I laughed out loud. Because as far as I can tell—and my research confirmed this—mine was the only book out there about both food and the law. As a result, I was reduced to offering combinations of books, such as calling my memoir “a true-life Julie and Julia-meets-Notorious RBG mash-up.”

So, yes, I’d have say the book is pretty darn unique.

Do you write a series or stand-alones? Why?

Well, Justice is Served is a stand-alone, because it tells the story of one momentous event in my life, and how it changed me as a person. But my Sally Solari mysteries are a series, with five published so far. And I knew as soon as I completed book one that I had to write more. The family dynamic surrounding the two restaurants—her dad’s old-school, traditional Italian-seafood eatery; and the trendy French-Polynesian place that Sally inherits—involved a far more complex story than could be told in merely one book. Not to mention the fact that I had all sorts of murders up my sleeve for the intrepid Sally to solve!

Mario’s Linguine with Clam Sauce (recipe in Dying for a Taste)

What are you currently writing?

I’ve been finishing up the copyedits for the sixth book in my Sally Solari series, called A Sense for Murder, in which the dining room manager of a restaurant-and-culinary bookstore is found murdered on the night of a benefit dinner, and the primary clue is the simultaneous theft of a boxed set of signed first editions of Julia Child’s Mastering the Art of French Cooking. The book releases this coming August, from Severn House.

What are you reading right now?

I’ve been charged with moderating the “Mysteries Featuring Food and Drink” panel at this year’s Left Coast Crime in Tucson, AZ, so for the past two weeks I’ve had the great pleasure of reading books by all my panelists: Leslie Budewitz’s Peppermint Barked, Emmeline Duncan’s Flat White Fatality, Ed Lin’s Death Doesn’t Forget, and Jenn McKinlay’s Strawberried Alive. Nice work, if you can get it! (Though it does make me awfully hungry….)

What is your favorite deadline snack?

Does coffee count as a snack? If not, then cheesy poofs—the cheesier the better.

Do you have a favorite quote or life motto?

Plan for tomorrow but live for today.

Favorite writing space?

My office here in Santa Cruz. It has a door that I can close for peace and quiet, shelves and shelves of books (along with a lifetime of knick-knacks), and its two large windows let in plenty of light.

What do you see when you look up from writing?

Out the window, I see my Jack Russell mix, Ziggy, dozing in the sun on our Saltillo tile patio. From the way her nose and paws are twitching, I can tell she’s dreaming about chasing squirrels.

How did the process of writing a memoir differ from creating a mystery, a work of fiction?

Besides not killing someone off in chapter one?

But, seriously, it was indeed quite a change. Memoirs are similar to novels in that they tell a story, have a narrative arc, and tend to contain the same elements as their fiction cousins: dialogue, discrete scenes, dramatic highs and lows, and a payoff at the end. But writing Justice is Served felt very different from writing my Sally Solari series. For this story was about me; I had to be honest about myself in a way not required of fiction. No easy feat. It’s scary to put your own personal thoughts, feelings, and emotions out there for all the world to read and to analyze. But, of course, this very personal nature of memoirs is what sets them apart from other genres—and what makes them so very compelling.

I learned so much about Ginsburg, the law, and history from your book. I appreciated how well you wrote those parts, weaving in the law with the food, to keep my interest. Was educating readers part of your goal?

It was. Once I started writing, it became obvious that the memoir concerned not just me. The underlying tale, of course, was about my being tasked with hosting this momentous meal and my planning and preparation of (and angsting and obsessing over) the coming event, as well as detailing the dinner itself. And I also wanted it to be an account of my personal journey separate from the dinner itself—how the experience affected me, as a lawyer, as a romantic partner, as a daughter, as a person.

But it became quickly apparent that this was also the story of the celebrated and iconic Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, which needed to be woven throughout as part of the structure of the memoir. Hence what I term the “interludes,” that occur in each chapter: snapshots of RBG’s life and life’s work, each of which relate back to what was going on at the moment in my own life.

This might be in the book, but what do you think was Justice Ginsburg’s favorite part of the meal you cooked?

Well, I don’t want to give too much away about the dishes served, since how and why I came up with the menu plays a big part in the story, but I will say that she did call the scallops (which are in the title, so no spoiler there) “scrumptious.”

Do you have any other memoirs planned?

No. This one was plenty!

Readers: Have you shared a meal with a role model, famous or not? Leslie will send one lucky commenter an advance copy of Justice is Served.

The daughter of a law professor and a potter, Leslie Karst waited tables and sang in a new wave rock band before deciding she was ready for “real” job and ending up at Stanford Law School. It was during her career as a research and appellate attorney that she rediscovered her youthful passion for food and cooking, and she once more returned to school—this time to earn a degree in culinary arts. Now retired from the law, Leslie spends her time cooking, cycling, gardening, observing cocktail hour promptly at five o’clock, and of course writing.

In addition to Justice is Served, she is also the author of the Lefty Award-nominated Sally Solari Mysteries, a “snarky cozy” culinary series set in Santa Cruz, California. Leslie and her wife and their Jack Russell mix split their time between Santa Cruz, California and Hilo, Hawai‘i. Visit her at LeslieKarstAuthor.com

42 Thoughts

  1. ” Justice is Served” sounds amazing and I can’t wait for the opportunity to read it. What an experience your dinner must have been! I do think it’s exciting to see how a person developed, the paths they took if they followed their dreams and how they ended up years later happy with those decisions. Plus my mouth waters just thinking about all the marvelous recipes.

    Like I’m sure most folks, eating with my Mom grew more precious through the years as I realized how much of a role model she was in aspects of my whole life. Honestly think they became more so after Alzheimer set in, roles were reversed and I was the caregiver. Meals with her were still special.

    On a completely other level, we were fortunate to become personal friends with Emmett Kelly Jr. and dined with him on a few occasions – although I wasn’t the one making the meal since it wasn’t never in our home town. After the passing of our 17 year old daughter and trying to find a way to go forward, finding an Emmett Kelly doll like the one I had as a child was one of our venues of doing that while searching antique stores. In the process and research, we found that Seniors son would be in a location about two hours aways. For the fun of it, we went. Through many such trips and many behind the scene conversations, we because friends with Emmett Jr. Through his life experiences that we learned first hand and through research, I realized we weren’t the only ones that had to pick up and move forward although in completely different circumstances. Meeting Emmett and moving forward lead to us actually becoming clowns – Pepp R Mint Pal and Cook E. Lady. Part of our “schooling” was through Emmett – especially how to entertain a crowd while having fun as well and how to never having the experience from growing old or routine. So yes, I consider Emmett as a role model for us.

    Thank you for the fabulous opportunity to win a copy of “Justice is Served”. Shared and hoping to be the fortunate one selected.
    2clowns at arkansas dot net

    1. Wow, what a great story, Kay! How fun to have known Emmett Kelly, Jr! And yes, I totally identify with your story about your mom and the role reversal, and how important our meals together were.

  2. RBG is a superhero in our house, Leslie, and I’m so happy that you got to have this amazing experience with her! Congratulations on the story’s release!

  3. Mega congratulations on the memoir.

    Several years ago (was it that long ago? I think so) you wrote a blog post about this event and I hoped to be able to read more about it. What a great entry in the diary of your life!

  4. Congratulations, Leslie! I’ve read the book and found it absolutely delicious!

  5. Congratulations on the release, Leslie and welcome back to the Wickeds. I look forward to reading Justice is Served. (Great title, btw.)

  6. I’m so excited the book is finally coming out. Enjoyed seeing you at Left Coast and hearing all about it. May RBG’s spirit and passion for what is right live on in all of us!

  7. Congratulations on your new release, I’m looking forward to reading the book. I’ve never had dinner with any VIPs. My Dad was my role model and I had dinner with him plenty of times.

  8. Congratulations on your new book! My dad was my role model! We always had dinner as a family growing up, so lots of dinners together.

    Thanks for the chance!

  9. Found your mysteries when I looked up ‘Justice Is Served’, read the first one and bought the set. Great stories. Looking forward to ‘Justice…’ and future mysteries.

      1. I was happy to a see a lesbian couple in the Sally Solari stories, makes it much more relatable to myself. And RBG was just an awesome woman, can’t wait to read ‘Justice…’. Congratulations on both fronts and thanks fornthe recipes too.

  10. Justic Is Served sounds incredible. What an amazing experience. Wishing you many sales. Melinda Abraham

  11. This sounds like a once in a lifetime experience and such a treat to share with readers. I haven’t ever had a meal with a famous role model but always enjoyed meals with my first and most important role model-my mom.The older I get the more I realize how fortunate I was to have such loving parents who created a close knit family. And dinner with all of us around the table was something we all enjoyed and did every day.

  12. Congratulations on your new release. Never shared a meal with anyone famous but my mom was my role model growing up, so I am happy seeing her enjoy my cooking like I did hers growing up.

  13. I have never had the opportunity. Thank you so much for sharing. It was nice meeting you. God bless you.

  14. Can’t wait to crack the spine on this one! I’ve enjoyed Sally’s exploits and seeing you on various panels. Always a hoot! I’m currently teaching a memoir class and have encouraged/adjured/hounded my students to get a copy of this book. When It crosses my doorstep I’m going to sit right down with my new favorite potent potable–Tanqueray’s Sevilla Orange gin. Would you recommend a snack to accompany that? And again, congrats on the book launch!

    1. Ha! Love this, Pam! I recommend salt-and-vinegar potato chips to go with that gin (which now I need to go and see if I can find at my local grocery store!). And thank you soooo much! I bet your class is terrific–lucky students!

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