Tuesday, January 15, 2019

Meet Judge Debra H. Goldstein, author of 'One Taste Too Many'

Judge Debra H. Goldstein is the author of One Taste Too Many, the first of Kensington’s new Sarah Blair cozy mystery series. She also wrote Should Have Played Poker and 2012 IPPY Award winning Maze in Blue. Her short stories, including Anthony and Agatha nominated “The Night They Burned Ms. Dixie’s Place,” have appeared in numerous periodicals and anthologies including Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine, Black Cat Mystery Magazine, and Mystery Weekly. Debra is president of Sisters in Crime’s Guppy Chapter, serves on SinC’s national board, and is president of the Southeast Chapter of Mystery Writers of America. Find out more about Debra at www.DebraHGoldstein.com .

Mayra Calvani: Please tell us about One Taste Too Many and what compelled you to write it.
M.C.: What is your book about?
Author: For culinary challenged Sarah Blair, there’s only one thing scarier than cooking from scratch—murder!

Married at eighteen, divorced at twenty‑eight, Sarah Blair reluctantly swaps her luxury lifestyle for a cramped studio apartment and a law firm receptionist job in the tired town she never left. With nothing much to show for the last decade but her feisty Siamese cat, RahRah, and some clumsy domestic skills, she’s the polar opposite of her bubbly twin, Emily—an ambitious chef determined to take her culinary ambitions to the top at a local gourmet restaurant.

Sarah knew starting over would be messy. But things fall apart completely when her ex drops dead, seemingly poisoned by Emily’s award-winning rhubarb crisp. Now, with RahRah wanted by the woman who broke up her marriage and Emily wanted by the police for murder, Sarah needs to figure out the right recipe to crack the case before time runs out. Unfortunately, for a gal whose idea of good china is floral paper plates, catching the real killer and living to tell about it could mean facing a fate worse than death—being in the kitchen!
M.C.: What themes do you explore in One Taste Too Many?
Author: In One Taste Too Many, I explore family relationships – the loyalty and defense of humans and with animals, economic development, and cooking conveniently.
M.C.: Why do you write?
Author: Although it may sound trite, I write because writing is a passion. When I graduated college, I gave myself eight months to accomplish two goals: find a job in publishing and become a Jeopardy contestant. In case things didn’t work out, I job hunted during the day and submitted law school applications at night. I accomplished my goals during the eight months and decided to go to law school. Using my law degree, I became a litigator and then a judge, but, except for party skits, my writing was limited to boring briefs, motions, and opinions. I kept talking about writing and after my family and friends challenge me to do it, I began writing in my spare time. The result was 2012 IPPY Award winning Maze in Blue, a mystery set on the University of Michigan’s campus in the 1970’s. When my second book, Should Have Played Poker sold, an incident in my courtroom made it clear to me that I couldn’t keep my two careers separate. I opted to give up my lifetime appointment and follow my passion – and I haven’t looked back.
M.C.: When do you feel the most creative?
Author: My body clock is such that I’m the most creative between midnight and four a.m.
M.C.: How picky are you with language?
Author: Language is a funny thing to discuss. Unlike a few friends whose works are always literary masterpieces, my goal is to make word choices that allow readers to read quickly while understanding and enjoying my books and stories. I use language to express plot and voice because that is what is going to engage my readers.
M.C.: When you write, do you sometimes feel as though you were being manipulated from afar?
Author: When a story or a passage I’m writing works, I’m in another zone. I lose track of time, meals, and am so focused that nothing distracts me. It isn’t manipulation so much as the voices of the characters taking over and guiding me in the right direction.
M.C.: What is your worst time as a writer?
Author: From a literal standpoint, the worst time for me as a writer is in the morning. Even when I was a lawyer, staff members knew that my out-box and sent e-mails would be heavy when they arrived, but these things would be steady or slow until lunchtime. After lunch, my outbox and out put needed to be addressed on an hourly basis. My worst experience as a writer is whenever the words I consider to be my darlings are rejected.
M.C.: Your best?
Author: Overall, the best time for me is when the words flow or when a piece is accepted, but this year I had an ongoing best time. I wrote a short story, The Night They Burned Ms. Dixie’s Place, which was published in the May/June 2017 issue of Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine. Having my first submission to AHMM accepted would have been enough for me to happy dance for weeks, but then I received word the story had been named as one of the five finalists for the Agatha Award. I was so excited! Although it didn’t win the Agatha, I was just coming down from being on a special Malice Domestic Agatha panel and being asked to read the story for a podcast when I was notified it was an Anthony finalist and I would be on a designated Bouchercon panel. The story was short, but the memories of the associated “best time” will be forever.
M.C.: Is there anything that would stop you from writing?
Author: I’m a sporadic writer, so I am easily distracted by family events, lunch with friends, or my weekly Mah Jongg game, but I always feel drawn to open my laptop and start writing again. The only time there was a long delay was when I was about halfway through One Taste Too Many and my mother died. It took about six months before I felt the urge to write again.
M.C.: What’s the happiest moment you’ve lived as an author?
Author: The happiest moment was putting my first book in my mother’s hands to prove that I’d accomplished what I’d long talked about. She was as excited as I was, especially when she looked at the picture on the back cover. It was the best picture that has ever been taken of me. In fact, I had a copy of it in my suitcase to give her later during my visit. My mother stared at the picture and asked “Could you get me a copy of this for my fire place. If not, I’ll just put your book up there backwards.”
M.C.: Is writing an obsession to you?
Author: Writing is not an obsession for me. It is a passion.
M.C.: Are the stories you create connected with you in some way?
Author: Although a phrase I heard or a personal occurrence or experience may find its way into one of my stories or books, I don’t write anything verbatim from life. In many instances, I write the opposite of what I know. For example, the truth is my mother loved me and very much wanted to have me. I grew up in a two-parent home where they worked together to encourage me to try new things and become whatever I wanted. Not very interesting for fiction. Consequently, when I wrote Should Have Played Poker, I reversed my boring life story and wrote what I didn’t know.
M.C.: Ray Bradbury once said, “You must stay drunk on writing, so reality cannot destroy you.” Thoughts?
Author: Ray Bradbury’s drunk on writing quote can be interpreted in many ways. I choose to avoid the abundance of liquor related state of mind interpretation in favor of creating a world that the naysayers and downers can’t take away. Continuing to write and living and breathing it as a passion preclude reality destroying the confidence of an individual.
M.C.: Do you have a website or blog where readers can find out more about you and your work?
Twitter: @DebraHGoldstein
Find out more about One Taste Too Many:

Books-a-Million: https://www.booksamillion.com/p/One-Taste-Too-Many/Debra-H-Goldstein/9781496719478