What a joy to see Leslie Budewitz again, even if the meet-up is virtual. In addition to being a former president of Sisters in Crime, Leslie is the first author to have won Agatha Awards for both fiction (Death al Dente) and nonfiction (Books, Crooks & Counselors: How to Write Accurately About Criminal Law and Courtroom Procedure; yes, Leslie is a lawyer). Today, though, we’re talking about The Solace of Bay Leaves, which in these odd times is out now as an e-book and audiobook and will come out as a paperback in October. However you prefer to read, this fifth Seattle Spice Shop mystery will add some flavor to your life.

Tell us about your book!

Thanks, Clea! The Solace of Bay Leaves is the fifth Seattle Spice Shop mystery. When her life fell apart at age 40, Pepper Reece never expected to find solace in bay leaves—a comment she often makes and the source of the title. But her impulsive purchase of the Spice Shop in Seattle’s famed Pike Place Market turned out to be one of the best decisions she ever made. Between selling spice and juggling her personal life, she also discovers another unexpected talent – for solving murder.

And she loves the tasty turn her life has taken. But when evidence links a friend’s shooting to an unsolved murder, her own regrets surface. Can she uncover the truth and protect those she loves, before the deadly danger boils over?

It’s a book that celebrates my love of the Market and Seattle’s historic neighborhoods, explores the great joy and occasional pain of long-time friendships, and digs into the choices people make to get what they think they deserve. And, soup. 

Are you working on anything now? Is your process or routine different?

I’ve just turned in Bitterroot Lake, my first stand-alone, scheduled for April 2021 from Crooked Lane Books. When a young widow returns to her family’s lakeside Montana lodge in search of solace, murder forces her to reconnect with estranged friends and confront everything she thought she knew about the tragic accident twenty-five years ago that tore them apart. 

Writing a book on a deadline in the middle of a pandemic is pretty much guaranteed to induce a pressure-filled panic, and sure enough, it did happen. I’d experienced a similar freak-out with Solace, when I realized halfway through the first draft that I didn’t know what the book was really about. Fortunately, my subconscious did know, and once it told my conscious mind that the key to Solace was Pepper’s relationship with Maddie Petrosian, an old friend gravely wounded in a shooting, and her discovery of secrets in Maddie’s family history, the book practically finished itself. The same was true of Bitterroot Lake, and the knowledge that I had written my way through a similar previous experience was the push I needed.

But after that, I thought it wise to give my poor brain a bit of a summer break. I’m writing short stories and working on a new series proposal, and spending as much time as I can with the cat on my lap and a book in my hand. 

Do you think your writing will be changed by this crisis?

I hope so. Why waste a good crisis, right? What I mean is, we should all hope that difficult experiences change us, for the better; that they remind us what’s important and what matters most. I write stories about women’s lives, with crime, and I hope that this time will help me dive even deeper into the sweet, frustrating, astonishing, disappointing, heart-warming and heart-breaking world—on the page. 

What’s the first thing you’re going to do when we’re free to be social again? 

Go to a reading or a gallery opening! I miss readers and book people, artists and art lovers. I miss sitting or standing with them listening to a writer or painter talk about their work, inviting us into their secret lives, then buying a book to be signed or drooling, from a safe distance, over a painting. Art illuminates, and time with artists, of all media, inspires.  

Thanks for letting me visit with you, Clea! 

Thank you, Leslie!