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A Conversation With Beate Boeker

March 20, 2018

Author_Picture_Beate_Boeker_at_waterBeate Boeker is a USA Today bestselling author with a passion for books that brim over with mischief & humor. She writes sweet sophisticated romantic fiction and cozy mysteries, many of them set in beautiful Italy.  While ‘Boeker’ means ‘books’ in a German dialect, her first name Beate can be translated as ‘Happy’ . . . and with a name that reads ‘Happy Books’, what else could she do but write novels with happy endings?

As with so many of my author friends, I met Beate via the internet when we were both writing for Avalon Books. Since then, we’ve become good friends (emphasis on the word good). Not only is she a fine writer, she’s a generous friend who never passes up a chance to help a fellow teller-of-tales. I had the pleasure of a face-to-face meeting when she visited New York a couple of years ago.

You can learn more about Beate at her website www.happybooks.de

Enough from me. Let’s hear from Beate.

CODY:   I love your Temptation in Florence series. What inspired you to write about this crazy Italian family? Did you know it would be a series?

BOEKER:   The Mantonis sort of happened. I knew I wanted to write a cozy mystery series with a romantic relationship that spans over several books, but I didn’t plan the Mantonis! At first, I needed some more suspects, so the murderer wouldn’t be too evident, and then, they simply refused to leave. They grew on me and amused me, and I honestly don’t know what they come up with when I start a book. I do know the murderer, and the culprit, and one to three red herrings – and the rest just develops as I write.

Temptation in Florence

CODY:    How much of yourself is in Carlina? Is her family like your family?

BOEKER:   Carlina is more serene than I am – I know I would frazzle at the edges if I lived in close contact to my family. I am several hundred miles removed from them and see them once or twice a year — and then, I have the necessary distance and can laugh about things. And yes, of course I borrow some things from real life. My father, for example, was a perfectionist and had a tendency to be a fanatic. He had these “phases” in life that I borrowed for the first book (though I changed them for the book). He also had the “health food phase” that I gave to Fabbiola in book no. 3 – and we really did wash corn to get rid of little, black beetles! I still have to laugh when I think about that. The funny thing is that all the things I invent sound totally possible, but whenever I put something in my books that’s based on real facts, then people start to frown and say “I think you’re going overboard on this.”

CODY:   In the first book, Carlina hides her grandfather’s dead body, so her cousin’s wedding can go as planned. How do people react to that?

BOEKER:   About fifty percent of the readers find it totally acceptable – and the other fifty percent find it hard to swallow. That’s one of the things I based on real life. A good friend of my grandfather lost two brothers in the war. When her third and favorite brother was killed, the news came during her engagement party. Her parents learned about it but didn’t give out the information until the next morning. Something similar happened to my grandfather. My grandmother’s brother and sister wanted to come to my grandmother’s birthday party and got killed in a road accident on the way. The police came to the door while the party was in full swing, and he kept the news to himself until the next day.
They decided to keep the terrible news, so the beautiful moments would not be destroyed. I found that heroic and incredibly strong, and I admit I was a bit surprised that many people can’t relate to Carlina’s decision at all. It’s not even a question of upbringing or culture – my sister thinks it’s a terrible decision, while I find it perfectly viable.

CODY:    Are you planning more Temptation in Florence books? (Please say “yes”)

BOEKER:   Yes, I am. The Mantonis are so real to me that I can’t imagine giving up on them. I wish I’d reach a still larger audience, so I could spend more time writing and be quicker. As it is, I’m happy if I manage one new volume per year. I also spend quite some time on translating them into German. The first three have come out in German so far, and I try to keep both the English and the German readers happy with the output.

CODY:   The books are full of details about places and customs in Florence. How much research is necessary to make sure they are accurate?

BOEKER:   I visited Florence several times, and I have Italian friends I ask for help when I get stuck. For example, in book 6, I wrote in the first draft that the undertaker took the body away right after the murder, and my Italian friend was horrified. There has to be a wake, of course! I quickly corrected that. And then, thank God, there’s the internet that can bring up the most amazing details. It helps that I speak Italian. For book no. 7, which takes place in Milan, I booked an extra trip and spent several days trying to soak up details and the spirit of the city. It’s never enough, and I wish I could go and live in Italy for longer stretches of time . . . it’s one of my dreams!

CODY:   We’ve talked a lot about the Temptation in Florence series. What else have you written?

BOEKER:   I write sweet sophisticated romance, 10 full length novels so far. My personal favorite is “Mischief in Italy”, which is a romantic comedy set at the lake of Garda. The idea for this book (a personal ad with a twist) was born while I was sitting on a boat, enjoying the blue lake and blue sky and sunshine on lake Garda. I started to scribble the first chapter that evening in front of our tent, and it made me laugh as much as the Mantonis do.

CODY:   You’ve put together bundles with other authors in the past. Can you tell us something about how this works and how it benefits you?

BOEKER:   The bundles are called Sweet Christmas Kisses, and more than ten authors take part in each volume. I published short stories in 3 of the 4 that were published each year so far (and I’ll also be in volume 5). Each of us writes a short story with professional editing, and then, we publish it together, using a distributing company. It makes a bit of money, but the more important part is that it gets our names better known, so that readers can look us up and read our other books if they enjoyed the short story. I have decided to throw in the Mantonis this time, even though the hero and heroine are not Stefano and Carlina, as in the mystery series. The preliminary title is “Christmas with the Mantonis” – but I might rename it “Christmas with the poker group”. It’s almost done.

CODY:   What are you working on now?

BOEKER:   I have to finish the short story “Christmas with the Mantonis”; I’m currently translating book no. 4 from English into German; and I’m plotting (so far, only in my head) book no. 8 in the series in English. I think this time, Lucio, Emma’s husband will get into trouble (Emma is Carlina’s cousin). I always try to get some personal emotional crisis connected to the murder, and as Emma will have a baby, we have plenty of potential for difficult situations.

CODY:   What do you do when you’re not writing?

BOEKER:   I work in marketing. And I sleep (really quite a lot). Of course, there’s my daughter and husband, who come up with crazy ideas all the time, so I can put them into my books. I’ll never forget the day when we tried to find out if you can strangle someone with panty hose (a fact I needed for book no. 2). We wanted to try with a teddy bear but simply didn’t have the heart to do it, so in the end, we strangled a cushion one day during breakfast.

CODY:    Do you have a favorite writer who inspires you?

BOEKER:   I love Georgette Heyer because she has such a knack of describing people with their weaknesses. I love her hidden irony, and the characters she created. I’ve re-read her romances so many times that her characters are almost real to me.

CODY:   Did you always know you wanted to be a writer?

BOEKER:   Not really, but I’ve always loved to read. My mother says I was an impossible child, always up to mischief, but that I settled down the day I learned to read. I also had a diary, and I soon started to make up stories in my head. I did write a book about horses and friends when I was in my teens and found it so embarrassing that I lost it. When it came to choosing a profession, I did think about writing, but I knew I didn’t have enough experience in life — and I felt the need to earn good money and be completely independent. That’s why the next novel only came into life after my studies, when I was in my late twenties. I found my day job too boring and needed something to distract me. Once I’d written that novel, I realized I needed to learn some skills to write a really good book. It’s not something you have or don’t have. It’s a craft. I sound found out that the US has a huge network for beginning authors, and so, I decided to write in English in spite of the fact that I’m German. I found a professional editor, she recommended Avalon Books as a possible publisher, and that’s how my first book got published – in 2008.

Beate, thanks for so much for telling us a bit about yourself and your books. As always, it’s a pleasure to spend time with you.

A reminder of Beate’s website www.happybooks.de

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