Cooking Up a Good Villain

Kate Flora: Yes. You read that right. I’ve often written here, and elsewhere, about the Screen Shot 2015-09-29 at 10.52.24 AMimportance of taking chances and how chance taking can have a surprisingly positive effect on writing and a writer’s career. Sometimes, as in the creation of Beat, Slay, Love, the group novel by the pseudonymous Thalia Filbert, which debuts tomorrow, the process is not just a positive adventure that stretches me as a writer, it is downright good fun. And a big part of that fun was constructing the scenarios in which famous TV chefs are killed, and the apparently invisible villain who is killing them.

Fun, you say? Since when is writing fun? Isn’t writing supposed to be a grueling activity that makes your bottom spread as you spend those endless hours at the keyboard and concentrate until drops of blood appear on your forehead? Well. Yes. That’s part of it. Maybe that’s most of it, a truth that is revealed if I back toward a mirror or swipe at my forehead. But writing can also be a whole lot of fun. Especially if it is done with the right group of people.

Screen Shot 2015-09-29 at 9.33.09 AMHere’s how it all came about. (Though I’m betting each of the five of us who are Thalia Filbert will tell a slightly different version of the story.) One day I got an e-mail asking if I’d like to join some other writers in a blog group. After I got over the idea of cheating on Maine Crime Writers, I said yes. This group is made up of writers I’ve known since my beginnings in this business more than twenty years ago. We’re spread all over the country. I respected them and thought it could be an interesting adventure. Not long after we started blogging together, on a blog called “Views from the Muse,” someone suggested it would be fun to put together a crime story anthology. The result was Dead of Winter

That was a lot of fun and the book was good, so naturally someone asked what we might do next. As we all jokingly now say—the next obvious thing to do was write a group novel. But how could we write a group novel, given the very different things we were writing, and what would it be about?

Here are the players:

Gary Phillips writes hardboiled tales of flawed characters and their pursuit of hollow dreams.  In addition to being part of the Beat, Slay, Love crew, he is co-editor of Occupied Earth, an anthology of life and resistance under the boot heels of the alien Mahk-Ra.

Katy Munger has written fifteen crime fiction novels, including series in the cozy, private eye, and modern noir genres. She was a co-founder of Tart Noir.

Lise McClendon writes mystery and suspense, celebrating 20 years in print last year. Her series include an art dealer in Jackson Hole, a private eye in Kansas City, and a lawyer with five sisters in France. She also writes thrillers as Rory Tate (PLAN X) and co-owns Thalia Press with Katy Munger.

Taffy Cannon has written a mainstream novel, thirteen mysteries, an Academy Award-nominated short film, and The Baby Boomer’s Guide to SibCare.

Kate Flora writes two series—strong, amateur, female PI in her Thea Kozak series and cops in her Joe Burgess police procedurals. She’s published more than fifteen crime stories. She’s been a publisher at Level Best Books and teaches writing at Grub Street in Boston.

Somehow, the topic became a serial killer, traveling the country killing off celebrity chefs,

Bacon, squid ink pasta, and hot peppers!

Bacon, squid ink pasta, and hot peppers!

and our villain was born. Actually, she was more of a Frankenstein creation, with everyone contributing pieces, then written, tweaked, augmented, revised, and redescribed until everyone was satisfied. As motivation, she was given such a backstory of mistreatments and misadventures that she couldn’t help but want delicious revenge on those who had abused her. Imagine, if you can, having not one but five pen pals, and when their letters arrive, they come as chapters in an ever-unfolding adventure. An unfolding serial that we both read and wrote. That was Beat, Slay, Love, a story Charlaine Harris calls “an incredibly sly mystery.”

Oh, and the cover lettering? Real bacon, squid ink pasta, and red peppers. How culinary is that?

Read an excerpt from the book here:

To celebrate we’ve put together a cookbook of party recipes called Thalia Filbert’s Killer Cocktail Party. To get a copy, send a quick note to Thalia (our pseudonymous five-person author) at

Beat Slay Love: One Chef’s Hunger for Delicious Revenge  by Thalia Filbert

Thalia Press     October 1, 2015


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3 Responses to Cooking Up a Good Villain

  1. Diane Schultz says:

    Pre ordered! !

  2. I read the excerpt? Oh my Roasted Peppers. No wonder you all had fun writing this book. Congrats.

  3. Beth Clark says:

    Creative genius. Sounds like fun.

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