Wednesday, June 08, 2011

Robin Allen Interview - If You Can't Stand the Heat - a Poppy Markham mystery

Interview by C.L. Phillips

Robin Allen, your debut mystery is out - If You Can't Stand the Heat.  Tell us about Poppy Markham.  What makes her remarkable?

The first book in the clean, humorous Poppy Markham: Culinary Cop mystery series was released on May 8, 2011 by Midnight Ink. It’s available both as a paperback and electronically on the Kindle, Nook, and eBook.

Oh, that Poppy. She loves rules and regulations, lists and procedures, things that are black and white. Her t’s must be crossed, her i’s dotted, and her clothes arranged by type and color in her closet. Poppy is a planner. She likes to know every little detail about every little thing in advance. When she enters a restaurant’s walk-in refrigerator, she likes to know that she’s going to find milk, eggs, and cheese stored at the proper temperature, not a flock of unplucked pheasants filled with buckshot hanging from the shelves. But if she does find that, she knows what to do because there are procedures.

Poppy cannot abide people who try to get away with something, whether it’s a cook trying to hide his infectious case of pinkeye, a litterbug flicking a cigarette butt out his car window, or a killer trying to frame Poppy’s territorial stepsister for the murder of a horrid little French chef. Poppy wants justice for all. She also doesn’t want to get sucked back into Markham’s, so there’s that incentive.
What's your next project?  Is Poppy getting in more trouble?

In the second book, Stick a Fork In It, Poppy is doing a food permit inspection on a new restaurant with an unusual theme. From the beginning, the inspection is anything but routine, but she’s handling it—until someone dies. Was it murder or suicide? Poppy has to know.  
When you go in a restaurant, what's your biggest fear?

Health inspectors perform two surprise inspections every year. I’m always wondering if they just got inspected or if they’re due. Restaurants are usually on their best behavior after an inspection, but a few months down the road? No so much.
Now that you've been through the publication process, what do you know now that you wish you knew at the beginning?  What would you do differently?

Like Poppy, I like to know the rules and expectations, so I did a lot of research before I started the process. I asked this same question of several published friends and listened to their answers, and I read several author and agent blogs. Here’s what I learned: There are no do-overs. You have one chance with an agent, editor, or reader. One. Make it count. Don’t be in a hurry with anything. Take your time to get everything exactly, perfectly right—your book, your query, your synopsis, your agent contract, your publishing contract—because you’re going to live with the results for the rest of your life.

Also, agents and editors don’t really care if you use adverbs in your prose.

If I could do things differently, I would publish under a pseudonym and have an extrovert with a PhD from Toastmasters give radio interviews for me. I would also use adverbs more liberally and regularly. 
Who is your writing hero?  What other authors do you read?

As the ultimate creator and storyteller, God is my hero, and I love His bestselling book, the Holy Bible. There are also several human authors I look forward to reading. I love Ben Rehder’s Blanco County mystery series that features a Texas game warden, David Liss’s complex historical mysteries, Reginald Hill’s British Dalziel and Pascoe British police mysteries, Donald E. Westlake’s Dortmunder capers, Pete Hauptman’s gambling stories, and Arthur Conan Doyle’s brilliant Sherlock Holmes adventures. I also enjoy the Spanish author Arturo Pérez-Reverte (in translation), Anthony Bourdain (in moderation), and Peter Mayle. I’m drawn to off-center characters with any sort of DSM-IV-inspired personality disorder. My second-favorite book is John Lanchester’s The Debt to Pleasure, and my very favorite book is John Kennedy Toole’s A Confederacy of Dunces.

Like Poppy, I’m a fan of the Coen brothers’ movie, The Big Lebowski, and drop little Easter egg references throughout my books.

Thanks for having me! I’m happy to answer any questions your readers leave in the comments.


PatRemick said...

Welcome Robin! And good luck with the book. It sounds like a lot of fun. I work for a city and the health inspectors always have lots of interesting tales to share so I'm sure your series will go on for a long time!

Joyce said...

Poppy sounds like a great character. The next time a visit a restaurant, I may have to ask when they were last inspected before I order!

C.L. Phillips said...

What I love about Poppy is she's a take the bull by the horns kind of gal. Best of luck Robin.


Jenna said...

Welcome to the Stiffs, Robin! Sounds like a fun book. Best of luck with it.

Robin Allen said...

Thanks everyone! I had a lot of fun with all the characters in HEAT and am so glad most of them will be back for two more books.