Message From The Author
IN VINO VERITAS -- AND A NEW BOOK SERIES
A TRIP TO NAPA VALLEY WINERIES PAYs OFF FOR DEBUT AUTHOR MICHELE SCOTT
By Renee Bernard
When is murder like a good glass of wine? When it affects the senses, makes you giggle and occurs in a well-crafted tale by Michele Scott.
Ah, the joys of a comedic murder mystery.
Murder Uncorked (Berkley Prime Crime, November) introduces the Wine Lover's mysteries, a three-book series
set against the backdrop of a beautiful Napa Valley winery and featuring Nikki Sands, an amateur sleuth with a penchant for
finding trouble and breaking and entering while on the hunt
for a killer. Nikki's antics will have readers both cheering and
biting their lips as they make their way through this tale.
Just where did Scott get the inspiration to throw murder into a wine barrel? A native of San Diego, she was working part time for a wine sales representative when she took her first trip to Napa Valley. She fell hard for the place where sun and earth give way to grapes and wine. She returned several times and decided that a blend of her two favorite things -- wine and mysteries -- couldn't be bad.
"I've always loved visiting the Napa and Sonoma regions of California," says Scott. "It's such a great setting, and it somehow struck me as the perfect spot for a story. I guess mystery writers are a little more demented than romance writers. I mean, where they see a great place to kiss, we see a fantastic place to stash a body."
Scott's path to publishing has been full of twists and turns, and some of that perseverance is reflected in Nikki's determination to get things done.
"I've been writing since I was 9 years old," Scott says. "I think I wrote my first thriller when I was 12. It was a pretty grim story, but I guess you could say I've always had an interest in mysteries." A communications major in college, she had thought that journalism would be the career for her, but marriage and children took center stage. Still, the dream of being a published author and, of course, the need to tell deadly tales never faded. So she continued to write in her spare time, completing several manuscripts, which were rejected time and again -- until now.
"It's been a long haul, but I couldn't give up," Scott says. "Luck, tenacity and timing were key, but ultimately it was about writing the kinds of stories
I truly enjoyed. I knew I was getting close. I could just feel it!"
And her cheering squad, aka her family, kept her motivated, especially after those initial rejection letters.
"When I said it might be time to put the dream out of its misery, my then-9-year-old son wouldn't hear of it," she recalls. "Children have such a straightforward way of seeing things. 'You can't quit, Mom,' he told me."
A year later, she sold the Wine Lover's series.
Scott is a great ambassador for wine, making something that can be intimidating to the uninitiated fun and accessible. Murder Uncorked is loaded with suggestions for pairing foods with wine, inviting readers to give different vintages a try. "Wines are like dating," Scott jokes. "You have to try a lot
of different ones before you find out what you really like."
Scott intersperses chapters with recipes for dishes like risotto with lemon and basil and Maine diver scallops. That, she admits, was the hardest part of the book. "I love to cook, but I'm the queen of experimentation. No measurements, nothing written down, I just use what I like and have fun. So figuring out exact measurements and exactly what goes in the pan -- whew!"
As for the crafting of her stories, Scott's imagination is
ever ready for the next murder. "Just give me a legal pad and things seem to flow from there -- I doodle ideas, flesh out the relationships and even work on dialogue," she says. "Usually the ending comes to me first, and once I have that visualized and set, the beginning is easier. After all, at this point, I know where I'm ultimately going."
In Murder Uncorked, Nikki follows her nose for wines and meets Derek Malveaux, the brooding owner of a Napa winery. He offers her a dream job and invites her into his world. When his winemaker turns up dead, suspicions are as numerous and ripe as the grapes in the vineyard. Everyone at Malveaux Vineyards has a secret to keep -- or the desire to get their hands on somebody else's. Nikki is the outsider who stirs things up with her moxie.
Scott deftly keeps readers guessing from start to finish, and it's a relief that most people's families don't resemble poor Derek's. The first hints of a potential romance between Nikki and Derek are in the air, but that's one mystery that Scott is keeping close to the vest. "Readers will just have to follow along to the next books to see how things turn out -- and to find out who will win Nikki's heart," she teases. Book two in the series, Murder by the Glass, is set for release in June 2006, and book three, tentatively titled Silence by Syrah, will follow in early 2007.
Scott is also working on a second series, the Equine mysteries, which launches in November 2006 and focuses on the world of horses (see sidebar for details).
As for the future? "For now, I'm enjoying the lighter side of mysteries," she says. "I like the humor, and I'll always have an element of romance in my stories. Relationships are such a big part of what I'm doing. But one day, I'd like to delve into the darker side too. Thrillers are something I'll get back to -- but there's always time. I can't imagine doing anything else except writing. I wake up every day and have to pinch myself."
So whether you have a preferred wine or would like to try one of Scott's favorites -- a Tobin James Zinfandel or Saddleback Cellars Sauvignon Blanc, perhaps? -- pairing it with a good mystery is simply a matter of picking up Murder Uncorked and settling into your best reading spot.
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