Kate lansing is an award-winning news writer. She lives in Denver with her husband, daughter and a tabby cat that naps in a chair named Maple.
Tell us the story of this book. What inspired you to write it? Where does the story / theme come from?
My husband and I have enjoyed wine tasting together for almost a decade and at one point we even dreamed of owning a winery. This story was a way for me to vicariously fulfill this fantasy in combination with one of my other passions: writing mysteries!
Put this excerpt in context. How does it fit into the whole book? Why did you choose it?
Fun fact about this snippet: It was originally the opening of the book. Somewhere in the editing process he (rightly) backed off, but those words will always hold a special place in my heart because of the way they capture my main character’s voice: his desires, his determination and his humor !
Each week, The Colorado Sun and Colorado Humanities & Center For The Book feature an excerpt from a Colorado book and an interview with the author. Explore the SunLit Archives at coloradosun.com/sunlit.
Tell us about the creation of this book. What influences and / or experiences influenced the project before you sat down to write the book?
I started writing this book right after my daughter was born. It was the light escape I needed, a way for me to maintain my creative identity while being immersed in a new family role. And something about being a new parent: you’re always hungry! This is probably why there are so many descriptions of foods.
It was a happy coincidence to find that the tasting of wines that my husband and I had enjoyed together over the years formed a solid research basis for this story.
Once you start writing, has history taken you in unexpected directions? If so, how would you describe handling a story that seems to have its own mind?
There’s something about the writing called the pasty middle, that part of the story that sags between the inciting incident and the decisive confrontation. I try to avoid the mushy middle by adding unexpected twists and turns, one that I particularly remember in “Killer Chardonnay” was the main character’s climbing crash (or non-crash, so to speak. ).
I realized the story needed something exhilarating to keep the reader engaged, so added in a part where Parker’s climbing gear was sabotaged, putting her in danger. Not only did this serve to let the reader guess, but it gave an additional clue to the thriller. I think one of the most exciting parts of writing is when the story takes you to an unexpected place, becomes something all its own.
What were the biggest challenges you encountered or surprises you encountered while completing this book?
“Killer Chardonnay” was my first novel and was unlucky to come out during this pandemic time when bookstores were closed. On the positive side, I have discovered ways to interact with readers in a variety of alternative formats and have learned the valuable lesson of focusing on what is in my control – my creative output.
Did the book raise any questions or generate strong opinions among your readers? How did you approach them?
My cozy mystery series features a millennial amateur sleuth, who is younger than typical protagonists of this genre. It was important for me to appeal to a younger audience, to write the kind of story I wanted to read, even though I had to balance that with the expectations of the genre.
Cozy readers expect certain things: a puzzling mystery, a hook, or a theme – like knitting, home improvement or, in my case, winemaking – a cute pet, a playful tone with violence, or a hot and heavy romance that goes on screen. Yet even in these guidelines, there’s plenty of room for experimentation, to incorporate slang, social media, and other details that make the story fresh.
Explain to us your writing process: where and how do you write?
I’m a morning person, and some of my best scriptures happen early on, before my brain – and the rest of the world – is fully awake. Usually at my kitchen table, which overlooks my garden, at sunrise. There is something about that time and my mindset that fuels productivity.
However, being a mother of a young child, this time is not always available, so I have also learned to write, if necessary, whenever I have a few free minutes, whether to jot down an idea in the Notes section of my phone or add a few words to my manuscript.
Tell us about your next project.
The third book in my Colorado Wine Mystery series came out in October. It’s called “Mulled to Death” and was a lot of fun to work with, set in a quaint (though entirely fictional) ski resort in the Rocky Mountains. More information can be found here.