Welcome, Mary Jane Clark!
Mary Jane Clark's novels have appeared on the New York Times, USA Today, Publishers Weekly and other national bestseller lists. Her books have been published in 23 languages. The Associated Press called her “a literary magician”…. "Her novels are like Agatha Christie's whodunits, but they have a hard, contemporary edge that enhances the fear factor. They are so addictive, in fact, that her readers would surely suffer withdrawal symptoms unless they kept coming on a regular basis…She is one of the most talented story tellers around."
Mary Jane spent three decades at CBS News' New York City headquarters... where she began her career as a desk assistant after graduating with degrees in journalism and political science from the University of Rhode Island. She worked her way through the ranks to become a producer and writer. Her first books came from that experience. She developed KEY News, a fictional television new world where the characters go out into the world to cover their stories and get involved in mystery and suspense. Those twelve novels, include Do You Want to Know a Secret? Do You Promise Not to Tell? and many more. To Have and to Kill and The Look of Love are the first books in Piper Donovan/ Wedding Cake Mystery series. The daughter of an FBI agent, Mary Jane is the mother of two grown children and splits her time between in New Jersey and Florida.
~~~ Take it away, Mary Jane! ~~~
I started to think about the possibility of developing a series featuring an actress/part-time baker who gets involved in mystery and suspense as she makes wedding cakes. Each book would have a different bride and groom, different family, friends and characters who populate the different wedding location in a part of the United States that would be a perfect place for a wedding and, of course, a different mystery.
But, you have to write what you know, right? I had a handle on the actress part. My daughter is one. But cake decorating? I quickly signed up for the Wilton course. By the end of my lessons, while I wouldn’t be able to go make wedding cakes for a living, I knew enough to be able to write about them.
The first Piper Donovan/Wedding Cake Mystery is TO HAVE AND TO KILL, set in New York City at Christmastime. The second is THE LOOK OF LOVE, taking place in January in Los Angeles, land of sunshine, palm trees and beautiful people. Amidst the glamour, The Monastery of the Angels, a cloistered convent, sits nestled on a side street. From one angle, the famous Hollywood sign appears directly above it. The juxtaposition of physical and spiritual beauty intrigued me. I wanted to know more.
I visited the convent and said a prayer in the chapel, sitting in the part of the church that is open to the public. I could hear the hidden nuns praying on the other side of a screen behind the altar. It was both eerie and comforting.
Afterwards, I made a stop in the small gift shop that the sisters run to make money to support the monastery. The discovery of their convent-baked pumpkin bread was a revelation. It’s wonderful! That bread ended up inspiring Piper’s wedding cake and one of the (imaginary) nuns becomes a murder suspect in THE LOOK OF LOVE.
Here’s the recipe as printed in the Los Angeles Times:
MONASTERY PUMPKIN BREAD
3 1/2 cups sifted flour
3 cups sugar
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
4 eggs, beaten
1 cup oil
2/3 cup water
2 cups cooked and mashed pumpkin
Sift together flour, sugar, baking soda, cinnamon, nutmeg and salt. Combine eggs, oil, water and pumpkin, mixing well. Stir into dry ingredients.
Turn into 3 greased 9x5-inch loaf pans and top with several walnut pieces. Bake at 350 degrees 1 hour or until cake tester inserted in center comes out clean. Cool before slicing.
Makes 3 (1-pound) loaves.
Bread freezes well and tastes best slightly warm, spread with butter. I like it just fine at room temperature with absolutely nothing on it.
Thank you, Mary Jane. Your books sound phenomenal. The pumpkin bread delightful!