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Cricket McRae was the first multi-published author I met after joining NCW. At the studio, she was editing a soon-to-be released novel (Wined and Died, I think.)

I tried not to stare, all the while thinking “Wow, a real author sitting just across the room.” Since then, Cricket (and Bailey) have released three additional books, with a fourth by KC McRae coming out this September.

Six months later, I had the pleasure to attend Cricket’s workshop at the 2011 NCW Conference. To top off my first conference experience, Cricket later joined the table where I sat and spent the next 45 minutes talking writing, books, publishers, fishing, gardening and more. Okay, maybe I was the one talking fishing, but still it was a great evening. (And I firmly believe it was only Cricket I was talking to, but one can never be to sure!)

In this first ever Free Range Friday interview with a multiple-personali…, I mean multi-authored and very talented writer, I am honored to present all three authors who share keyboard, story telling, cooking tips and brain power: Cricket McRae, Bailey Cates and KC McRae.

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1) Cricket—you started this whole “3-ring-circus” of authorship (You, Bailey Cates and K.C. McRae.) With mystery titles such as “Wined and Died,” “Broomsticks and Brownies,” and “Something Borrowed, Something Bleu” tell us: Which of the three of you is the best cook/baker and can we feel safe sitting at a table served by any of you?

First off, thanks for inviting me to stop by, Dean! And for allowing me to spout off as not only one but three people.

As for any nefarious foodstuffs, I think you can feel safe at any of our tables. I try to keep the books on poison at least one room away from the kitchen. I learned my lesson when my guy caught me reading about how kill someone with deadly mushrooms at the same time I was stirring the risotto (hey — risotto takes forever if you don’t have something to distract you). Out of the blue he decided he was giving up carbs for the evening.

As for the best cook? Well, that depends on what kind of food you like. Sophie Mae, the main character of the Home Crafting Mysteries, is interested in traditional, colonial methods of food production — which happens to turn out some pretty savory fare. Like me, she makes her own cheese and butter, grows and preserves vegetables, makes jams and jellies, comes from a background of some pretty awesome Co-Mex dishes like chili rellenos and killer chili con carne and can slow cook a mean grassfed pot roast that fills the house with good smells all day long. So if you like that sort of thing … Cricket’s your gal.

Sophie Mae’s housemate, Meghan Bly, does the majority of their household baking. And Bailey’s main character, Katie Lightfoot is a professional baker. Like Bailey, who is also me (this gets so confusing), she developed her own sourdough levain using grape skins and tends toward using savory spices in sweet baked goods. Think cumin in gingerbread, sage in buttery cheddar scones, smoked salt on caramel apples. You get the idea. So if you like that sort of thing … check in with Bailey.

And K.C.? Well, her main character, Merry McCoy is a Montana rancher. Her food preferences go back to K.C.’s (my) upbringing in Wyoming and Colorado, and when she’s released from prison she has a list of “Freedom Foods” she’s determined to work her way through as quickly as possible. Among those foods are Moose Drool Ale, Chester-fried chicken, pancakes dripping with chokecherry syrup, cornmeal-fried rainbow trout, and my favorite, a fried egg sandwich complete with melted sharp cheddar, dill pickles, mayonnaise and catsup. So if you like that sort of … I’m starving. Be right back.

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2) Bailey—Your character, Katie Lightfoot manages her Uncle/Aunt’s Bakery in Savannah, GA where there seems to be a magical/witch connection. And you’re okay with that? Are you sure that’s really Boston Creme filling and not “eye of newt” in those Long John doughnuts?

Oh, now, really. You must know that you add the eye of newt TO the Boston Creme filling. Actually, Katie doesn’t go in for the whole blood of a virgin thing in her witchcraft. She’s a hedgewitch, which is what the witches of old were. Healers, really, who lived on the edge of the village by the hedge that separated the community from the big scary forest. The witch would venture into that forest to gather her medicinal herbs and use them to take care of the townspeople. If they’d let her, of course. Any kind of power, even that of healing, can become suspect. And there was also the idea that the “hedge” a witch could cross was another name for the veil between this world and the next.

It turns out that a lot of medicinal herbs are also culinary herbs and many are considered to have magical properties as well. So you can bet your sweet bippy (pardon my language) that Katie and her aunt Lucy lace the baked goods at the Honeybee Bakery with herbs and spices and a bit of magical intention (because intention is really what magic is all about anyway).

For example, medicinally ginger is known to relieve motion sickness and help alleviate headaches — on a magical level it promotes love, money and courage. Turmeric has developed more serious medicinal uses than I can list, things like preventing cancer, treating gallstones and as a powerful antioxidant. So is it any surprise that it also has a reputation among green witches as an herb of protection?

Just sayin’.

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3) Cricket—Your books, set in the Pacific Northwest, revolve Sophie Mae Reynolds solving murders and other mysteries. Do you think the extended periods of cloudy weather and lack of sunshine contribute to the foul play found in all of your books?

It certainly contributed to my being a writer, since I began my career in the Northwest. There’s only so much gardening or hiking you want to do soaked to the skin. Plus, venturing off to other worlds was a good escape from the gray and gloom — even if that fictional world was right down the road from where I lived.

So of course there is bit more sunshine in the Home Crafting Mysteries than there would be in real life. That’s why we call it fiction. At least there’s plenty of sunshine (and heat and humidity and mosquitoes and sand flies) in Savannah where the Magical Bakery Mysteries are set. And western Montana is often sunny, if harshly hot or cold.

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4) K.C. —You get the chance to plan the trip of a lifetime with the following caveat: All three of “you” must go together and there won’t be any murders, dead bodies or mysteries to solve. To make sure everyone gets along, where do you go and why?

We’d get along anywhere — and do. After all, our characters are the ones who encounter the mayhem, not me, er, us. More importantly, the question is who gets to be the one in front of the keyboard at any given time. That’s when the real wrangling starts. (God, I really am starting to sound schizophrenic — thanks, Dean.)

But that makes me wonder about the same question for my three quite different main characters. I think Sophie Mae and Merry would get along well, since Sophie Mae’s husband’s family runs a dude ranch in Wyoming (they got married there), and she grew up in northern Colorado, so she understands the western sensibility. Merry was an English major, as was Sophie Mae, so they could talk books. The fact that Sophie Mae makes so much food from scratch would have Merry shaking her head at all the time it takes which could be better spent on a horse or with a fly rod.

Katie is a bit younger than the other two, but she’s tough in her own way and very athletic. The problem would be that Sophie Mae and Merry would likely have a problem with the whole “witch” thing if they found out. You know — until something happened and some of Katie’s special, not-entirely-hedgewitchy abilities came out to help save the day.

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5) Bailey—word whispering through the pen-name-novelist world is that with only two books out, your character Katie Lightfoot isn’t nearly the slueth that Sopie Mae Reynolds (six books out) deems herself to be. Any chance you’d like to respond to those allegations? Any thoughts of moving the bakery out West to prove your point?

I’m pretty sure my fans would come after me with torches if I moved the Magical Bakery Mysteries from Savannah. The town is charming and historical — and also the most haunted city in the U.S., so perfect for a paranormal mystery series. On one level the setting is like another character in the books.

But don’t you worry: Katie’s going to have a chance to try and catch up with Sophie Mae — though who knows what kind of trouble Sophie Mae is going to stumble into next. (Wait — I’m supposed to know that. Who am I again?)

6) Cricket—After 39 years in the rain-soaked Pacific Northwest, I wisened up and moved to Colorado to dry out and see the sun. Any chance your novels might do the same? I’d hate to see Sophie come down with Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD.)

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In the fourth Home Crafting Mystery, Something Borrowed, Something Bleu, Sophie Mae comes back to her hometown of Spring Creek, Colorado to investigate her brother’s suicide from eighteen years previous. Guess where Spring Creek is? Uh, huh. And that dairy outside of town hiding secrets and murder? It’s based loosely on Windsor Dairy, owned by my friends Meg and Arden who make the most amazing cheeses — including bleu (a difficult thing in the dry hot and cold around here).

So Sophie Mae has already come back here once, and could easily do it again. Her husband is from Wyoming, and Meghan’s parents live in Taos. I didn’t really do that on purpose (okay, I did in the case of Taos), but it does give me some opportunity to move some of the books around. After all, Sophie Mae is toying with “Jessica Fletcher Syndrome” finding all those dead bodies in the small town of Cadyville, Washington. Eventually Ms. Fletcher took to flying all over the world (being such a famous author and all) to escape Cabot Cove. Sophie Mae will definitely NOT be doing that. She’s too much of a homebody for that.

In the meantime, I guess I’ll have to get her one of those special UV lights they sell down on 45th street in Seattle.

Like I had for years. Yay sun!

Thanks again, Dean! And anyone in the U.S. who comments will be entered to win one of any of our (Cricket/Bailey/K.C.’s) books — your choice. Just be aware that K.C.’s Shotgun Moon won’t be out until September.

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There you have it. Three voices, one author. Couldn’t be any more normal than that!

Thanks Cricket, et.al for participating here on Free Range Friday.

Congratulations to Natasha Wing, chosen via random drawing after 2 hours of bickering among the “three authors” about the best way to choose a winner couldn’t reach agreement! 

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