Killing Thyme? Read this month's spotlight



Award-winning author Leslie Budewitz has had a busy year. She finished her term as the 2015-2016 President of Sisters in Crime, and the third book in her Spice Murder series, KILLING THYME, was published in October by Berkley Prime Crime. 

Leslie's passion for food, great mysteries, and the Northwest are highlighted in her two light-hearted mystery series: the Spice Shop Mysteries, set in Seattle, and the Food Lovers’ Village Mysteries, set in northwest Montana. Her books focus on strong women who share her passions, and have a talent for finding trouble!

Leslie is also a lawyer. Her guide for writers, BOOKS, CROOKS & COUNSELORS: HOW TO WRITE ACCURATELY ABOUT CRIMINAL LAW AND COURTROOM PROCEDURE, won the 2011 Agatha Award for Best Nonfiction, making her the first author to win Agatha Awards for both fiction and nonfiction.

A true believer in the power of writers helping other writers, Leslie is president of Sisters in Crime (SinC) and a founding member of the Guppies, the Sisters in Crime chapter for new and unpublished writers. She is also a member of Mystery Writers of America, the Authors of the Flathead, and Montana Women Writers.

Where are you currently writing?

I’m in my home office, a sweet second floor room with windows to the woods outside that give it a bit of a treehouse feel. It’s a warm, welcoming place where my characters can sit in the red leather chair or pace the floor and talk to me. A bookcase holds my craft books, and on top sit image boards for my two series. Hanging above them is a clothesline pinned to the wall, holding notes readers have sent me and bookmarks from shops where I’ve read or signed.

From my desk, I can gaze at two ladder-style bookcases, one filled with poetry and books on literature, the other with resources for my books, and dotted with small pieces that inspire me – a beautifully decorated gourd, a small pottery bowl by BFF made, mementos from my year as president of Sisters in Crime.

I’m a great believer in the power of the bits and pieces we gather in life – one windowsill holds my collection of hearts and heart-shaped objects. The line between a collection and clutter can be fine -- and dusty! Occasionally, projects pile up on the floor, but I try not to let them stay there – for the feng shui of it! It’s a working space, and I love it. 

What project are you currently working on?

A psychological suspense novel set in Billings, Montana, from 1976 to the present. 

What was one of the most surprising things you learned working on your most recent writing project? 

In the WIP, I’m learning that while I do have a plan – not exactly an outline – my instinct and intuition can tell me a lot about where the story is going. I’ve always been open to changes my characters want to make – a different killer, or a different motive, for example – but I’m experiencing it on a deeper level. Lots of trust required. And editing. 

What do you consider your biggest writing success right now, at this very moment? 

That readers are waiting for the next book, that they want to take another trip to Seattle or Montana with me. That readers connect with my stories, people, and settings constantly amazes me, and is deeply gratifying. They inspire me. 

“I think of the books that have inspired me, and take great solace in knowing that they too were
written one word at a time by
writers struggling with the same doubts.”

What challenges or fears do you face in your writing routine and what steps have you taken--or do you take--to overcome them?

I’m working on something new, in a subgenre of crime fiction that I haven’t been published in yet, and it’s a little daunting. I’m stretching – which is the point, isn’t it? 

But I worry sometimes that my reach may exceed my grasp. And so, I think of the books that have inspired me, and take great solace in knowing that they too were written one word at a time by writers struggling with the same doubts.

I take my characters for a walk – literally – or take a few deep breaths and remind myself that I do have a story to tell, even if it’s not yet perfectly clear. And I remind myself of the old line that books are not so much written as re-written.

“I attended BONI-HR in 2012, and it
changed my writing life.”

What were the highlights of attending a Free Expressions workshop? How would you describe its overall effect on your professional/creative trajectory?

I attended BONI-HR in 2012, and it changed my writing life.

I went with a contract, and a ms more than 50% complete, and a feeling that I was on track to meet my deadline.

I came home and started over, because I had learned that while I knew the critical character motivations and emotional conflicts, my main character wasn’t driving the story. I had not used language or what I knew about her to full effect.

But I learned how to plan my revisions – planning creates the space for intuition to really bloom. I recommend Free Expressions workshops regularly, and hope to attend again. 

What does your dream writing retreat look like?

A cabin on a lake or by a river, with other writers nearby, each of us working independently, getting together when we need to. Great food, no distractions, and at least three days to write uninterrupted. 

“Any creative work spurs more creativity.”

What outside hobbies or interests feed your writing?

I love to cook, paint, garden, and hike, and each of those feed me – some quite literally! Any creative work spurs more creativity. The cooking also spurs the characters in my cozy mysteries, who are as passionate about food as I am!

Fast Facts

  • Currently reading: THE DAY I DIED by Lori Rader-Day, to be published next spring, and the audio book of MESSENGER OF TRUTH, the fourth in Jacqueline Winspear’s Maisie Dobbs series.  
  • If you could enter the world of any novel, which would it be?
    As a teenager, I’d have said PERSUASION by Jane Austen, which I find the most romantic of her novels, but then I realized they didn’t have indoor plumbing. 
    Perhaps the Harry Potter series, for the endless sense of wonder and curiosity they evoke. Or THE SCHOOL OF ESSENTIAL INGREDIENTS by Erica Bauermeister, for the magically sensual food. 
  • Do you write to music, or do you prefer silence?
    Silence. Otherwise, I get distracted by the music. Or I start singing, which upsets the cat. 
  • Are you a coffee, tea, or booze-fueled writer?

Please visit Leslie at for details on her books, including excerpts, and her blog, Law & Fiction, on her website, where she talks novels, dishes on the writing life, and share tidbits about ways writers can use the law in their fiction.