Thank you so much, Lori, for inviting me to blog here today!
Readers always ask about my White House research. I could joke and tell you that I simply base my stories on the crazy stuff that goes on in the real Washington, D.C., but that wouldn’t be the whole truth. I do love the germs of ideas that grow from headlines, but the best part of White House research is digging for those unusual tidbits that don’t always make it to the front page.
I finished writing Buffalo West Wing just about the same time the story of the White House gate-crashers hit the headlines. Rather than cram such a scene in last-minute, or save the idea for the next book, I realized that once the books came out, months later, those gate-crashers would be old news. Instead, I decided to focus on weaknesses in the Secret Service. Buffalo West Wing, then, doesn’t open with people who don’t belong in the White House. It opens with a gift (of chicken wings, natch) that doesn’t belong there. There’s a note tacked to the box of wings that indicates the treat is a gift for the new First Kids. But nobody, not even the Secret Service, knows who left them.
If you’ve read the first three books in the series, State of the Onion, Hail to the Chef, Eggsecutive Orders, you know that Olivia (Ollie) Paras is the first female executive chef in the White House and she’s determined to keep the First Family well-fed. Problem is, she’s often called upon to keep them safe as well. Her tendency to meddle in security issues often puts her at odds with the Secret Service. This time, however, her refusal to serve the wings gets her in hot water with the new First Lady. Even when it’s discovered that the food was poisoned, Ollie isn’t off the hook. Although she tries very hard to stay out of the investigation this time, she’s drawn in, and again finds herself fighting for her life—and for that of someone else as well.
In order to bring Ollie’s world alive I do exhaustive research. Although I stop short of trolling for classified information (I don’t want Homeland Security to come cart me off, after all), I have been able to uncover a lot of interesting details. The best part of research is stumbling upon something unexpected and then using it in a book. For instance, in Buffalo West Wing, thought it would be fun to “show” the White House bowling alley to readers, so I had chief usher, Paul Vasquez, call Ollie in there to have a private conversation. Readers tell me they love getting these little glimpses of life downstairs at the White House. Those comments always make me feel so great, because I love providing them.
If you’ve read anything about the White House over the past year or so, you know that the Obamas brought in their own personal chef, Sam Kass, from Chicago. By all accounts he and the real first female executive chef, Cristeta Comerford, get along very well. But what fun is that? I read all I could about the new assistant chef and I decided that my fictional president, Parker Hyden, would bring in a personal chef, too. The difference is my character, Virgil, believes he deserves Ollie’s position and he’ll do anything to take over.
Now, if that weren’t enough conflict for the poor girl, she’s also having trouble in the love connection department…
I hope you enjoy reading Buffalo West Wing and let me know what you think about this latest installment in the White House Chef Mysteries. I always love to hear from readers!
About the author ~
Over the years, she's acted in community theater productions, appeared in television commercials, and crashed a previously all-male fraternity to become one of the first female brothers in Loyola University's Chapter of Delta Sigma Pi. Julie had dreams of becoming a writer, but family, friends, and frat brothers convinced her otherwise. Having held positions as junior officer at a downtown bank, office manager at an architectural firm, and financial advisor at a prestigious wealth management company, she realizes that the business degree was probably a good choice -- but fiction is truly her passion. Now, with some well-earned life experience behind her, she's delighted to finally be able to make writing a priority in her life.
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Her latest release ~
With a new First Family, White House executive chef Olivia Paras can't afford to make any mistakes. But when a box of take-out chicken mysteriously shows up for the First Kids, she soon finds herself in a "no-wing" situation. After Olivia refuses to serve the chicken, the First Lady gives her the cold shoulder. But when it turns out to be poisoned poultry, Olivia realizes the kids are true targets.
Other books in the White House Chef Mystery Series
Manor House Mystery Series
Grace Interrupted (A Manor House Mystery) (Release date June 7, 2011 - pre-order TODAY)
Other books by Julie (all available on Kindle) ~
Thanks to Penguin, I have two (2) copies of Buffalo West Wing (A White House Chef Mystery) to give away.
GIVEAWAY Rules for entering:
* This contest is open to residents of USA & Canada only!
* Please complete the form below - do not leave information in the comments - it will not count.
* The contest will end on January 22th at 11:59PM EST; 2 winners will be selected and contacted thereafter.
* Once the winners are contacted, they will have 48 hours to respond to my email or another winner will be chosen (make sure to check your spam filters!).
* Book will be shipped directly from Penguin.