Genre Hopping with Author Lucy Burdette

by Barb enduring the rainiest New England summer evah!

Today, I’m welcoming to the blog Friend of the Wickeds, Lucy Burdette. However, Lucy’s not here to talk about one of her Key West Food Critic Mysteries. She’s here for our monthly Genre Hopping feature with her latest release, The Ingredients of Happiness, which is–gasp–not a mystery!

Welcome, Lucy.

Barb: How do you characterize The Ingredients of Happiness? Is it women’s fiction or what? (I think of it as Book Club Fiction because it gives people plenty to talk about afterward, which is the key to a good book club read, in my opinion.)  

Lucy: I love your description, Barb, book club fiction it is! It could also be categorized as women’s fiction or contemporary women’s fiction. I think my agent once described my writing as upmarket fiction written in a commercial voice, LOL. One thing that means for sure is that I am not a literary fiction writer, and I am fine with that. As Popeye and Barbara Ross would say, I am what I am.  

Barb: The Ingredients of Happiness is a departure for you. You’re known for your cozy mysteries, especially the Key West Food Critic series. What was the impetus to write The Ingredients of Happiness?  

Lucy: There are authors who declare their books arrived in their minds whole cloth, almost like a movie unspooling—their challenge was to write fast enough to get all the ideas and plot twists on paper. Not The Ingredients of Happiness! This book has been a labor of love, with years and years of revisions and new ideas and old ideas brought home again. But the thing that has never changed is the presence of the basic character, Dr. Cooper Hunziker. I’ve always had the idea of writing about a happiness expert who is not happy in her own life; I just had to figure out how to dig deeper, to understand who she really was and why she was that way. I enjoyed weaving in my favorite parts of writing a cozy series—a network of close friends, and lots of food.  

Barb: Each chapter in the book begins with an epigraph from the book that the main character, Cooper Hunziker has written. How was it to work with this book-within-a-book? How hard was it to write the epigraphs? Did you have to write Cooper’s book before you could write your book? What was the process like?  

Lucy: Oh lordy, no, I certainly did not write the book that Cooper was writing! For years, I have been collecting quotes from research psychologists about how to be happier, so it wasn’t too difficult to sort through them, and find one to fit each chapter. However, it was challenging to work with the British publisher Severn House on this, as they are much stricter about using quotes in books, even with proper attribution. So I had to take each of the quotes that I borrowed from real happiness research, and translate them into what I imagined would be Cooper’s language.  

Barb: Was it hard to write a book without the lovely elements of murder, sleuth, suspects, and red herrings to hang the plot on? How did you find the plot for this book?  

Lucy: This was SO hard! I suppose it shouldn’t have been because I read a lot of women’s fiction, but the mystery skeleton is so familiar and the plot points and suspects so welcome. Luckily, at one point my wise agent mentioned that I should not forget to use my mystery chops in the women’s fiction book. There can be mysteries without bodies!  

Barb: That is wise! You are a psychologist like your main character. How much of this book is taken, not from your life, but from things you’ve observed or heard about?  

Lucy: There are things from my real life that I used in this book. For example, Cooper’s research started out as my dissertation from graduate school. Luckily, my writers group kept encouraging me to cut back the academic jargon. No one wants to read that much about attachment research in a novel! Also, I spent three years at Yale, doing my internship, and two post-doctoral years. So I enjoyed weaving in the Yale backstory, though the bits about the Yale psychology department are complete fiction. I think I always bring the psychologist’s perspective to what I write, wondering what in a person’s background brought them to this extreme moment today. The answer can often be found in family drama and angst, at least in my books!  

Barb: What are you working on now? More specifically, you released a thriller in 2021 and now this book. Are you gone from the cozy mystery world forever? Will there be another Cooper book? Will there be another woman’s fiction book? Will there be another thriller? Inquiring minds want to know.  

Lucy: Oh no, not at all finished with the cozy world! A Clue in the Crumbs, Key West food critic mystery number 13, will be out on August 8. And I am very busy tackling the last quarter of the 14th book which is due September 1. It doesn’t have a title yet, but it has two timelines, one from the present, and one from the 1970s when a fictional girl disappears from a commune on Big Pine Key and is not heard from again. One of the other campers has returned to the keys to try to sort out what really happened. Of course, Hayley Snow’s assistance is requested.   When I finish that, I am hoping to work on another women’s fiction book based on one of the more minor characters in The Ingredients of Happiness. (I envision Winifred going to Paris to track down her biological father, a well-known French chef, for those who wonder.) After that, book 15 in the Key West Series will clamor to be written! That’s about as far out as I can think…  

Thanks so much for inviting me to be a guest with the lovely Wickeds! I hope you will enjoy Happiness and look forward to your questions and comments.  

Readers: What do you think about the idea of happiness? Is it something that happens, something you make or somewhere in between?

About the Ingredients of Happiness

Thirty-two-year-old ‘happiness guru’ Dr Cooper Hunziker has it all – a dream job as assistant psychology professor at Yale University, a soon-to-be published self-help book, The Happiness Connection, and the perfect guy. But there’s a problem. Cooper isn’t happy.

Of course, it doesn’t help that she’s facing cut-throat competition for her tenure at Yale, an accusation of plagiarism that could cost her everything, or that her new book has irritated the department chairman, who assigns her to co-lead a happiness group at the New Haven library.

As her friendship with the other ladies in the group flourishes, Cooper finds herself questioning her choices. Forced to face a life-changing betrayal, a gargoyle’s wisdom, and her own traumatic past, can she navigate her own path to happiness?

About a Clue in the Crumbs

A Clue in the Crumbs, #13 in the Key West food critic mystery series, Coming August 8th!  

Food critic Hayley Snow and her pal Miss Gloria are overjoyed to welcome Violet and Bettina Booth, aka the Scottish Scone Sisters, to Key West. The sisters will host The UK Bakes!—Key West Edition. But the same day they arrive, the bed-and-breakfast hosting the sisters is torched.   The contest begins the next morning featuring three local bakers. One is the inn owner’s wife, Rayna, who is not only the most talented chef of the group but now a person of interest in the fire. The next night, a dogwalker discovers a body near the bed-and-breakfast. The victim appears to be Rayna’s husband, and the murder weapon points directly to the Scottish Scone Sisters.   But the show must go on. In between filming sessions, the three elderly ladies and Hayley must search for clues to the brutal murder in order to find out who wants to force them out of the kitchen. But as they draw closer to the answer, the threats from a murderer grow closer too. Are they now in danger of getting baked off?  

“Food lore, island delights, and mystery provide something for everyone.” —Kirkus Reviews  

“But how many new ways can an author concoct for the protagonist to find a dead body? I needn’t have worried – and neither should fans. This Key West murder mystery has twists, turns – and cake.” –Cathy Salustri, The Gabber   Order the book wherever books are sold:  

About Lucy Burdette

Clinical psychologist Lucy Burdette aka Roberta Isleib is the author of 23 mysteries, including A CLUE IN THE CRUMBS (Crooked Lane Books.) Both the twelfth book in her Key West series, A DISH TO DIE FOR, and the tenth, THE KEY LIME CRIME, won the Florida Book Award’s bronze medal for popular fiction. Her first women’s fiction title, THE INGREDIENTS OF HAPPINESS and her first thriller, UNSAFE HAVEN, have been published by Severn House. Her books and stories have been short-listed for Agatha, Anthony, and Macavity awards. She’s a past president of Sisters in Crime, and currently president of the Friends of the Key West Library.  

23 Thoughts

  1. I’m excited about both your new books, Lucy!

    I often feel happy. I think part of that is my nature, but part is being open to letting those times happen.

    1. Thanks Edith! I do think some of it is nature, some is luck (bad or good), and part of it might be things we can change, at least in small ways.

  2. Someone once said that you are as happy as you make up your mind to be…maybe that is the secret.

    1. I, too recently switched genres. My mother spent a summer in California in her early twenties, and left letters, photographs, and scrapbooks.
      I wrote a novel. Such Stuff As Dreams, with her story as a springboard. Found it very liberating to leave the genre, but tried to pay heed to conflict, suspense, plot turns, etc. It is set in the twentie (last century,) and was so much fun to write.
      Now for the past 5 years I’ve been working on another woman’s fiction book, and thus one has been a long trek, but I persevere. There is a murder, but it’s not the main event. Doubt I’ll ever write another mystery
      Except for short stories.

  3. Thank you for the great post!

    I think happiness is a combination of things – looking for it, working towards it and relishing it. Unless you expect it to happen, happiness never appears. If you aren’t there, then it’s up to you to work towards it. No one is going to dump it in your lap or it show up and just wham your happy. When you are happy, then relish it – enjoy it to the fullest – and share it with others sort of like spreading the joy. That’s the best way to have it stick around I think.
    2clowns at arkansas dot net

  4. Congratulations, on the new book, Lucy! I’m so glad you didn’t give up on this book — that makes me happy. When I was young I thought happiness was this endless high of laughter and fun. But now I think of it as being content with where I am.

  5. Congratulations, Lucy! I definitely think happiness is something you have a hand in making – it doesn’t just happen to you. I know lots of people who have everything who are miserable, and folks who have very little who are happy. So to me, it’s definitely not about “things.”

  6. I think happiness is a combination of things. Although I do think some people have a head start by being blessed with an optimistic attitude.

    I am always amazed at authors who write in more than one genre.The Ingredients of Happiness sounds like a fun read and I hope my library has it. If they don’t, I will definitely request it.

  7. Yay! They have 4 copies so I can read it after the book I am working on now.

  8. Genre hopping could be an Olympic event, and if it were, you’d be bringing home the gold. <3 Brava!

  9. Congratulations on your new book. I believe that happiness is a choice. We can chose to find gratitude and happiness in our days or we can be miserable. Thank you for sharing. God bless you.

  10. This was a great interview.
    I think happiness is something you have to notice. Some people who think it’s “out there” can miss it when it’s right in front of them.

  11. I don’t know how to define happiness, but I can tell when I feel good. Luckily there are many ways to feel good and I relish them. I think I’ll be happy reading your new books!

    When I lose track of time painting…or when I used to lose track of it in an orchestra rehearsal, that’s probably a clue that I’m happy. Making things, be it art, food, stories (sometimes!) … just the doing part, is happy making.

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