I have a really good friend (who incidentally happens to be an actor) that recently discovered just how much I adored mysteries–much to his chagrin, I must admit, but that’s another story. Regardless, I have fancied mysteries from the time I fell in love with Hamilton Burger, the district attorney from the old Perry Mason series. From there, I transitioned to Columbo, Matlock, Murder, She Wrote, and you probably get the idea. I am an Earl Stanely Gardner and Agatha Christie reader (I used to have quite the collection), and my guilty pleasure is definitely a cozy mystery book. Recently, I stumbled upon the writer Daryl Wood Gerber, and although I have had her books on my Goodreads shelf for years, I never thought to look her up. When I approached her for an interview, she quickly responded, and she easily holds the record for lightning speed interview response turnaround!
RH: Why did you decide to pursue the path of acting? What are a couple of your favorite moments from that time?
DWG: I acted as a girl and often in high school. I performed as a dancer. I sang whenever I could. When I got the opportunity to audition for the Civic Light Opera in Los Angeles, that changed my world. I was going to become an English teacher. But the opportunity lured me to Los Angeles, and I quickly found success as a commercial actress. I studied hard – voice, dance, and acting – and soon found more success on stage, touring with the musicals Seven Brides for Seven Brothers and Bells are Ringing, as well as working on television and a few small films. I had a wonderful opportunity to work opposite Angela Lansbury in Murder, She Wrote. She was a consummate actress as well as a gracious woman. I also became the “Wonder Bread Woman” – singing and delighting children in the value of Wonder Bread’s vitamins. 🙂 Some of my happiest moments were starring in a few stage productions after my family moved to Charlotte, NC. Lend Me a Tenor, Nine, Accomplice and more.
At first, I was an actress, working in Hollywood. I tried my hand at screenplays and found some success (in TV), but then my family and I moved across the country to Florida, and “taking meetings” in Hollywood became difficult. Because I enjoyed writing the long-form, I decided to try my hand at mysteries. Back when I was a girl, I’d fallen in love with Nancy Drew Mysteries and even tried to write one then. That never saw the light of day. I took classes and joined the Sisters in Crime online group called Guppies, found a critique group, and the rest is history. I worked hard to learn the craft.
What was your first published novel? What’s the story behind publishing it?
The Long Quiche Goodbye, the first Cheese Shop Mystery. It won the Agatha Award for best first novel. My agent loved my writing, but she was having a hard time getting my book published. She asked if I would be interested in writing a work-for-hire. At the time, Berkley Prime Crime was coming up with ideas that they wanted to promote and looking for appropriate authors. The Cheese Shop Mysteries was the one my agent suggested. I wrote three chapters and submitted them to her. She loved them and passed them along to BPC. They loved them. They offered me a viable contract, and the rest is history. That is why I’m Avery Aames when writing the Cheese Shop Mysteries. I am Daryl Wood Gerber when I write the Cookbook Nook Mysteries and the French Bistro Mysteries and my stand-alone suspense novels.
At this point, you have several different book series going. Please tell us what they are called, the genre and a little about each series.
The Cookbook Nook Mysteries are cozy mysteries, set in the fictional seaside town of Crystal Cove, California. Jenna Hart, a former advertising executive, returns home to help her eccentric aunt open a culinary bookshop and cafe. Jenna loves to read and is a real foodie, but she doesn’t know how to cook. She quickly learns. She also realizes she has a curious nature that helps her as an amateur sleuth.
The French Bistro Mysteries are also cozy mysteries (or culinary mysteries), set in the fictional town of Nouvelle Vie, California (in Napa Valley). Mimi Rousseau, a chef in San Francisco, after learning her deceased husband bankrupted her, returns home. With the help of a benefactor, she opens her own restaurant and the bed-and-breakfast next door. As a chef, Mimi likes to pick apart recipes to find out what comprises them. As an amateur sleuth, she uses this talent to uncover the killer.
Girl on the Run is set in Lake Tahoe. When a fairytale night becomes a nightmare, Chessa Paxton must run for her life, but will the truth set her free? Chessa is an event planner and former costumer at a casino.
Day of Secrets is set in the San Francisco Bay Area. A mother he thought he’d lost; a father he never knew; an enemy that wants them dead. Chase Day is a history professor at a boutique university. He served in the Navy.
Many screenwriters don’t write novels and vice versa. What do you see as the difference between screenwriting and writing novels? Do you have a preference? How do you tackle each?
As a screenwriter, I really learned story structure. That helps me as a novelist. I see the novel as a “film” in my head. I then flesh out the emotional underbelly of the story. In a novel, you need to describe the feelings, the surroundings. In a film, since it is a visual medium, that is the job of the director and art designer. The emotions are the job of the actor. They don’t want the screenwriter telling them what to feel or how to act. So the two are completely different as to “content.” As a former actress, I enjoy doing both.
The next book coming out is A DEADLY ÉCLAIR, the first in the French Bistro Mysteries, from Crooked Lane Books, November 2017.
I will have another Cookbook Nook Mystery out in 2018. Date and title pending.
I will have another stand-alone suspense ACCIDENTAL MURDER come out in 2018. Date pending.
The second French Bistro Mystery, SOUFFLÉ OF SUSPICION, comes out in 2018, too. Busy year!
Why do you write using two different names?
As explained above, for the work-for-hire for Berkley Prime Crime, I needed to have a pseudonym. As a promotional gimmick, I came up with a name that would show up first in programs, library lists, and bookseller lists: Avery Aames (two A’s in Aames). When I started writing ideas that were entirely mine, I was able to use my real name, Daryl Wood Gerber.
Why the mystery genre? What are the benefits and challenges of writing in this genre?
I have always loved mystery. I grew up reading Nancy Drew, Agatha Christie, Edgar Allen Poe. I graduated to mystery, suspense, and thriller as I reached my teens and into adulthood. I love reading Coben, Gardner, Connelly, Child, and so many others. The challenge to mystery is coming up with a good plot and believable characters and motives. The benefits are that there are lots of readers who are passionate about this genre.
Because I started with the Cheese Shop Mysteries, I focused on the food aspect. That somewhat established me as a “foodie” mystery author. My fans expected food to be part of the platform. When I entered a culinary bookshop in Occoquan, VA, for a book signing, I knew I’d found my second theme. I set my culinary bookshop in California, and it took off! Who knew, as an author, that I would need to cook, but luckily, before becoming an author or even an actress, I worked as a caterer, a short-order cook, and I managed a restaurant. I’ve always loved food.
Any chance your books may be optioned for TV/movies?
Oh, I wish! Are you talking to Hallmark? I think Angie Harmon would be perfectly cast as Jenna in the Cookbook Nook Mysteries. I’m trying to envision who I want to play Mimi in the French Bistro Mysteries. Think about it – the Cookbook Nook Mysteries are set on the beautiful coast of California! Heaven. And the French Bistro Mysteries are set in the heart of picturesque Napa Valley. And they feature food! Also, to my credit, I have to say that I like the pace of my mysteries. Because I’ve written suspense, I really like to have “pace” in my books. I believe that would appeal to a TV/movie director.
What do you see as the greatest challenge for authors in today’s society?
Keeping the work fresh. Keeping one’s spirits up when the sale doesn’t happen. Finding a publisher who really believes in your work and wants to help you promote it.
Any other hobbies/activities you pursue outside of writing?
I swim, golf, cook, read, love to go to movies, and I walk my darling Goldendoodle – Sparky.
I cannot tell you how exciting it is to hear Daryl’s perspective on writing and the fact that she was/is an actress who understands the business makes it even more thrilling for me. From the moment I saw her books, website, and read her exhilarating biography(on her site), I couldn’t help but think Hallmark Movies & Mysteries Network. While I don’t work for the network (there are times I wish I did, I must admit), I cannot help but think that Daryl’s books would be an ideal fit. Hallmark is consistently optioning new cozy mystery series, and the fact that Daryl’s series have the food connection makes this almost a no-brainer, at least in my opinion. Daryl has learned to delete the fluff and concentrate on the meat of the story because of her experience in the entertainment world. Furthermore, she is a focused, vibrant, inspirational woman who is continuing to pen best-selling mysteries which in turn, garner devoted fans. Based on her experiences and style alone, I cannot think of a more deserving author whose work I would relish seeing featured on this amazing network. Nevertheless, until that time comes (I am convinced it will happen for her one day), thank goodness we have her wide array of books to savor. I invite everyone to check out her links below and consider picking up one of her books the next time you’re in the market for a new mystery read. Actually, I’m preaching to the choir, so to speak, for I have yet to read one myself. But never fear, I will be taking my own advice very soon, and I am hopeful that each one of you will follow my example!