Welcome to author Jessica Thompson – we had to drag her away from her gardening and cooking hobbies but it was worth it!
How many unpublished and half-finished books do you have?
Right now I would say I have four. One is a novella that is so short and off-brand that it will never see the light of day. Another is a half-written cozy mystery with two empty-nester moms as the main characters. The one I am editing now is a classic-style mystery that is a retelling of Agatha Christie’s story Death Comes as the End, but set on a modern-day Texan family ranch. And lastly I am putting together an anthology of spooky short stories from my writing group that I hope to have published next year.
What comes first for you, the plot or characters?
Definitely the plot. I think of the who, why, how, and where, then pick characters to serve the plot.
How do you select the names of your characters?
Mostly the names are ones that I like but couldn’t use for my children for one reason or another. Or they are inspired by real people. Or you know how some people just look like they should be named something? Like my Bette Midler character in A Caterer’s Guide to Holidays and Homicide just looks like a Sandra to me, but my Oprah character is named Gayle after Oprah’s real-life friend.
Can you hear your characters talking?
Definitely. That helps me a lot if I can model them after someone I have heard speak. That’s why I cast all my characters with people I know, celebrities, or characters from shows or movies.
What kind of research do you do for a book?
Luckily my setting is contemporary and local, and I know a fair bit about catering, hand-to-hand combat, and poisons, so most of my research is seeking out locations and asking my nurse friends about the physiological details and implications behind my murderous schemes. Like, what kind of injury would put this character in the hospital, unconscious so they can’t answer questions, maybe intubated, but we know or are pretty sure that they’re going to be okay? Or, how long would it take to bleed out from a shotgun wound to the chest from close quarters?
What would you say is your interesting writing quirk?
My writer friends think it’s kinda funny how much I plot. I’m a plotter in the extreme, so I guess that’s kinda quirky, but it’s probably just because I write mysteries. I have to know who did it, how they did it, why they did it, how they tried to hide it, how each other person looks guilty, who is going to be the longterm red herring, why each person couldn’t have done it, the exciting midpoint thing, the final twist, a final confrontation, the first line, the last line, all of it.
What was the best money you ever spent as a writer?
I think my first freelance editor, Whitney McGruder. I had other people read my work before that, but I needed someone that I didn’t know to read it and be honest about whether I was anywhere close to being ready to try to get published. She was able to give me things to improve, but mostly I cherished the fact that I didn’t need any major rewrites. It was the gift of confidence to start showing my work to people that weren’t people that already liked me.
What do you like to do when you’re not writing?
I love to garden and cook, which I think are extensions of each other. My house is all front yard and almost no backyard, so everything I’m planting in the front yard is somehow edible. From saffron crocuses to peach trees to herbs, everything is edible. So then I cook with it and write the recipes that go into my books, like zuppa toscana with whatever greens I have available outside and peach macarons with peach buttercream filling made with the peach jam that I made last summer.
Do you ever Google yourself?
I did about a year ago, but it wasn’t great. There are TWO other authors named Jessica Thompson (which there were not when I started writing, but there were once I was ready to publish.) So when I google myself my results get tangled up with the Jessica Thompson that writes religious and self-help books and the Jessica Thompson that lives in London.
If you could tell your younger writing self anything, what would it be?
I think I would tell her to reach out to the writing community earlier. I took a long time to come out of the writing closet because I was worried that I couldn’t run with the big dogs or that I would be judged for having such lofty and unrealistic aspirations.
How did you choose the genre that you write in?
Since I already loved mysteries and cooking, it was a no-brainer when I realized that mysteries with recipes were a thing! It also helps that cozy mysteries don’t wax poetic or get really deeply philosophical. They’re fun, clean, and perfect for me!
When Jessica discovered mystery novels with recipes, she knew she had found her niche. As an avid home chef and food science geek, Jessica has won cooking competitions and been featured in the online Taste of Home recipe collection. She also tends to be the go-to source for recipes, taste-testing, and food advice among her peers.
Jessica is originally from California, but now has adopted the Austin, Texas lifestyle. She enjoys living in the suburbs with her husband and young children, but also enjoys helping her parents with their nearby longhorn cattle ranch.