I’d like to welcome B.R.A.G. Medallion Honoree author, EM Kaplan, to talk with me about her book, The Bride Wore Dead. EM was an 80s kid, spoon-fed on six channels of a VHF dial TV. She grew up reading Agatha Christie and Edgar Rice Burroughs in rural Arizona where there were no sidewalks but plenty of tumbleweeds. A former wannabe spy, trombonist, toilet-cleaner, beginner ninja, and subversive marketer, she currently lives in the frozen north with her husband, author JD Kaplan, kids, and dog.
How did you discover indieBRAG?
The wonderful Virginia King, author of The First Lie and a BRAG Medallion Honoree herself, read The Bride Wore Dead and was certain I should submit it.
First, I’d like to say, I LOVE your book title! Please tell me about your book The Bride Wore Dead.
Thank you very much. The Bride Wore Dead is the seminal Josie Tucker story and the best introduction to her grouchy, snarky character. The book opens with Josie in an uncomfortable spot—she’s the last-minute bridesmaid in a big wedding, taking the place of a girl who can’t fit into the dress anymore and abruptly won’t attend.
Josie, an unrepentant tomboy—but with a tender, soft spot—agrees to fill in on the big wedding day. A couple of weeks later, the bride dies on her honeymoon at an Arizona spa. Freak accident or murder? Josie wants to know, and the young couple’s family has deep enough pockets to help Josie find out.
How did you decide on your main character to be a food critic?
That’s 100% from me. I love food—writing about it almost more than actually eating it. I started doing the holiday baking for my family when I was still in grade school and my first entrepreneurial aspiration was to open a store called Fat Em’s Bakery. Age 10, I think that was. I started watching food shows then, too, and both my sister and I could do a mean Julia Child impression. I’d thought about going to culinary school instead of college, but my father asked me not to. He came from a restaurant family, so he knew what he was talking about when he said it was a hard life.
What is one of the challenges Josie faces in trying to discover the truth of how the bride dies?
In her poking around, Josie comes up against people’s reticence to talk about the dead woman. Clues in the bride’s history might have prevented her death. In a way, history repeats itself. But no one openly speaks about it until Josie arrives in town and with her ready ear and strangely disarming manner—for a misanthropist, she is an unfortunate people-magnet, but she uses this contradiction to find the truth.
You could tell your audience what Puerta-the town your story takes place in- means?
The Spanish word “puerta” means “door.” It’s not a direct in-and-out correlation in terms of the events of the story. But in a way, Josie enters Puerta a normal person and emerges more of an experienced investigator by the end.
Is this story based on any factual relevance?
The actual events of the bride’s death are complete fiction. The kernel of the story, the climactic scene in the desert, is based on a story I heard from a friend of a friend. That part is real. I can’t really say much more. For several reasons.
What are Josie’s strengths and weaknesses?
Josie’s true strength is her hunger. Throughout the book, she asks several people what they think their driving force is—their main compulsion that propels them through life. It’s a dinner party question that she tosses out now and then, but it reveals each person’s true nature. One man answers that his is the quest for intellectual stimulation. But Josie’s is hunger, both physical and emotional. She hungers for the truth. That’s what drives her to find answers in this case. Her weaknesses are great and numbered. Pig-headedness. Grouchiness. The unwillingness to rely on others for help. Feelings of abandonment from losing her parents at a formative age. So, so many.
What do you like most about writing in this genre and subject?
I’m so much more relaxed writing mysteries than fantasy. Maybe it’s because I spend less time worrying about building a world in one than the other. People have suggested Josie is me, and while that’s not true, she’s a lot closer to my own natural voice than my fantasy character, Mel.
How did you come up with the title for your book?
I had several working titles that were more serious, more ominous, but I wanted something catchy and evocative of the Wild West because the book is set in Arizona mostly. This title popped into my head at the last minute.
Who designed your book cover?
I designed my own cover. The inside joke is that the purple and gold are my high school colors. And also the saguaro cactus behind the car appears to be flipping the middle finger.
A message from indieBRAG:
We are delighted that Stephanie has chosen to interview EM Kaplan who is the author of, The Bride Wore Dead, our medallion honoree at indieBRAG. To be awarded a B.R.A.G. Medallion ®, a book must receive unanimous approval by a group of our readers. It is a daunting hurdle and it serves to reaffirm that a book such as, The Bride Wore Dead, merits the investment of a reader’s time and money