If your reading habits alternate between curling up with a good mystery or with a good cookbook, you ought to know about Joanne Fluke.
Fluke is the best-selling author of the Hannah Swensen mysteries – a series that falls into the genre of “cozy mysteries,” which combine murder with domestic arts, such as cooking or scrapbooking. Fluke’s books weave recipes into the sleuthing of her cookie-baking heroine.
Fluke’s main character, Hannah Swensen, is a 30-something owner of The Cookie Jar bakery and coffee shop in the fictional town of Lake Eden, Minn. Lake Eden is an idyllic setting except for the crimes that give Swensen something to do during her non-baking hours. In the latest installment, Swensen gets help from her two G-rated love interests – a detective and a dentist.
Fluke has just released the 16th book in the series, “Red Velvet Cupcake Murder,” and will appear in Charlotte this week. In a phone interview, Fluke talked about her culinary beginnings as well as her start as a writer.
Like her heroine, Fluke grew up in a small town in Minnesota called Swanville (population 217), two hours north of Minneapolis.
Her mother and grandmother were excellent, resourceful cooks – relying on the root cellar more than the supermarket, which was 17 miles away. And both women excelled at baking. In fact, many of the cookie recipes that appear in the Hannah Swensen mysteries are her mother’s.
Fluke tries to pick simple, accessible recipes for her novels. She has plenty of material, and has even published a cookbook, “Joanne Fluke’s Lake Eden Cookbook.”
Fluke didn’t start out writing cozy mysteries. She had written a couple of Regency romances – a subgenre of romance novels set in Britain during the early 19th century – and several psychological thrillers. While writing those suspense novels, Fluke said that she would get so involved with the characters that she would wake up screaming in the middle of the night. Finally, her husband suggested a change.
“After the ninth book, he said, ‘Why don’t you do something else?’ ” Fluke said.
And the Hannah Swensen series was born, eventually landing her on The New York Times’ best-sellers list.