Q & A With Fiction Author Patricia M. Muhammad (New Mystery/Detective Novel)

Posted September 24, 2021 by permissionsp

Multi-genre fiction author Patricia M. Muhammad answers a few questions about her upcoming mystery/detective romance novel, Sweet As Murder.

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE — United States, 2021-August 24-/PRFree/ —-Multi-genre fiction author Patricia M. Muhammad answers a few questions about her upcoming mystery/detective romance novel, Sweet As Murder.

Q. You chose a baking competition as the scene of the crimes though most of the women do not seem to be typical housewives. What were your thoughts in doing this?
A. The competitors are typical in the sense that they all bake, but other than some of the outer dimensions usually associated with housewives of that time, they do exhibit some of their own personality traits. Being a housewife can be a full-time job and if the reader accepts some of the bakers actions from this vantage point, than their conduct throughout the contest is a bit easier to understand. In a typical job there is competition, the vying for a supervisor's approval which would hopefully result in an increase in pay or a higher ranking position. The Society's annual baking competition boasts of prizes, and more than one would normally expect. It, as well as those who have participated before, emphasized that the declared winner would receive more than a blue ribbon and boasting rights. The Society is a prestigious social institution among the coloured elite. What they offer is an elevation in social status and a sort of protection from others who could never be among the chosen ones. The bakers covet this award because it has long-lasting implications in likely every facet of their lives. Thus, the pressure to win the baking competition elicits the vicious nature that so many women believe they are capable of hiding. They use slander, falsehoods and libel to progress forward, and sometimes they use violence. When the competition is ended, they realize that all they have put forth was for naught, because the Society not only assesses the obvious, it observes their behaviour to see who they truly are. This is why winning the baking competition does not necessarily mean that person has won. The Society within the hierarchy possesses the final vote as to who would be the 'chosen one' each year. Sometimes it coincides with the obvious competition, but this is not always the case.

Q. This novel is filled with colourful characters. At times, the reader can easily assume that nearly everyone participating in the baking competition is a bad guy. Was this your intention?
A. As I wrote the characters, I wanted to demonstrate what people are capable of when they are presented with the potential for what appears to be unlimited success. Some of the bakers have entered the same contest years prior and have not one once. These are the older entrants. Others may follow the lead of the old guard and unwittingly fall into the social trap of being eliminated by the Society before the baking competition has actually ended. There is a form of manipulation happening throughout the competition and it isn't just among the participants. A few of the characters I wrote as obviously nefarious. These influence others, yet each is responsible for how they treated their fellow bakers and how they presented themselves throughout the contest.

Q. Sweet as Murder takes place in 1950s Atlanta, Georgia, USA. Is there a particular reason you chose this time and place as the setting for your new mystery novel?
A. I decided after completing my first mystery/detective novel to set each one in a different era, this would help define what transformation, if any the detectives would have to undergo in the time they were present, but also how it contrasted with who they were personally. For instance, in The Speakeasy Murders, Helen Williams is a demure, shy, but capable detective. She is trained in defense techniques and quite intelligent. However, she is conservative and her dress reflects that when she goes to work each day at the station house. When a detective goes undercover, they usually have to put on a mask to conceal their true identity. Here, Detective Williams transforms from her usual persona to that of a flapper, keeping one thing that may give her away, her cardigan. Yet, in Sweet As Murder, Wilhemina Dankworth is already a wife which is typical for someone her age during the 1950s. Most housewives do not work full-time jobs, take particular care of the home, cook and bake as their primary daily duties. However, the detective is not a great cook and she definitely isn't a baker. She dons the fluffy dresses of the housewives, rather than her skirt suits and uses the bake shop as the agent to provide her confectionary entries at this year's competition with the Society.

Q. You have included quite a different element for a mystery/detective romance novel set in the 1950s. Why did you add magical realism to Sweet As Murder?
A. In academic discourse regarding the mystery/detective genre, researchers explain that most mystery/detective novels have a formulaic approach. The detective is presented with a crime and backtracks from the decedent or scene of the murder using clues as well as witness statements in order to find the perpetrator. The investigator relies on his natural senses and a bit of footwork to progress towards his intended goal. My first two mystery novels are more straightforward in following this approach. However, Sweet As Murder, to an extent, deviates from this pattern. Although Detectives Wilhemina Dankworth and Arthur Dobson go undercover to investigate a previous murder, the story does not wholly focus on that homicide. While they are undercover two additional people die. Dankworth is a witness as the rest of the bakers but she stays away from the decedent in order to preserve her identity as a baker. She knows the killer is still present at the baking competition. Since Delilah's murder was unexpected, there is no method in which any law enforcement can directly trace the source of the killing, especially when elements of magical realism are involved. The use or manipulation of light by one of the young bakers, Marceline, and that of the President of the Society while on the grounds where the competition takes place indicate that there is a greater force at play—and may be the direct cause of these deaths. There are a couple of reasons why I incorporated magical realism to Sweet As Murder. The first is that I am a multi-genre author. I have written historical fiction-romance, contemporary romance crossover, mystery/detective romance and sci-fi/fantasy romance novels. Just as mystery/detective romance fiction was the latest genre I wanted to try, I also wished to write magical realism. However, from what I understand, this genre is usually a part of new adult and young adult fiction that takes place in the present. So I thought it would be a different approach to use magical realism with mostly adults set in the 1950s, a realistic time, yet not the present. The second reason I incorporated this element was that mystery/detective stories intentionally places other variables in the readers' path, causing them to make detours in their understanding of the storyline and preventing them from successfully resolving the crime. I though magical realism, that is the harness, use and wielding of light in this story's context, a different sort of "detour" to provide the reader.

Q. Charles and Wilhemina have a special relationship, however you make their marriage a subtle point of contention in one scene demonstrated by Sarah's comment. What was the reasoning by including this?
A. Wilhemina and Charles have this unparalleled affection for one another. They are so close that sometimes neither wants to leave the house to do anything else but to be in each other's company. For them, their marriage is normal. Yet it is the 1950s. Charles is an Anglo-Brit and Wilhemina is a "coloured" woman. What they share is special and unadulterated between them, but it also stirs the hatred and envy of others. So throughout most of the novel, I write Charles and Wilhemina having interactions that any other husband and wife have. They prepare meals, engage in jest and intense intimacy with one another. It is only to those who harbour a blind hatred and a distinct dissatisfaction with their own lives that causes Wilhemina and Charles to be the offputting subject of Sarah's comment. From there, I present how much Wilhemina and her husband increase in their unique and exclusive bond by their use of light to communicate with one another in a heightened form of intimacy. Thus, we navigate from Charles and Wilhemina as the normal husband and wife, to the subject of verbal vitriol to a manifestation of a pure bond that others including those among the elite observe.

Q. In your mystery/detective novels, the female detectives usually have strong-willed and protective husbands. Do you think this detracts from a strong female lead in your novels?
A. Not at all. A woman can be strong and feminine. She can be intelligent, but vulnerable. In each of my mystery/detective novels, the protagonist is married. She had her counterpart in "real life", that is her husband. She also has her counterpart on the job, which is her station house partner. The detectives' work and home life are both distinct elements, and within each aspect, the female characters are able to display their balancing traits at the appropriate time and place.

Q. Can you provide a glimpse into Sweet As Murder and share an excerpt?
A. Sure. This portion is one of the times the protagonist, Wilhemina, presents her entry from the bakery at this year's competition:
However, some of the intellectuals of the coloured elite did not ignore the call of this ideology. This controversy which only enhanced what had already complicated race matters among coloureds and with their white counterparts. Yet, there was a portion of this dogma that the Society could readily see as beneficial to them, rather than threat. It was the goal of helping their fellow man through common interests and ensuring the benefit of others as well as themselves. This would yet be an oxymoron for those who reflected. How could they use others to accomplish their aims, especially those they claim to share in common when, if others within the same social strata who do not wholeheartedly agree with their methodology are easily tossed from their mount in this social hierarchy, or even worse, killed. Whether Delilah believed or followed what Dorothy accused of her was now becoming less relevant to Dr. Tate. He had his instructions from Arnold. Francis' duty was to prevent the death of an innocent, a young woman he had yet to identify.
Dankworth locked the driver's side of the car door. She smiled briefly when she reminisced about the moments she shared with her husband last night and this morning. The sun beamed down at her watch, reminding her that she is nearly late. She looked over at the plate of cookies, sitting there, waiting for her to scoop them up and present these baked goods as if they were her own. “Too neat.” She looked at the way the cookies were wrapped and decorated with a near perfect bow. “That bakery is just a little bit too good.” She removed the ribbon and stuffed it in the glovebox. Wilhemina then flattened the hard plastic. “This looks homemade.” Her shades sat still on the bridge of her nose. The detective sensed that someone was watching her. Dankworth slid her silk scarf further towards the center top of her head. She wondered if anyone saw her remove the ribbon. “Fresh cookies, all for you three judges.” She slammed the passenger side of the door and held onto the plate with secure grip. The detective began to slow. She could see all who was near, but perceived there was someone else. Someone was lurking. Suddenly a large shadow appeared from her left. A tall man appeared with a determined look across his face. He nearly knocked the cookies out from under her. Wilhemina gasped. She narrowed her eyebrows. This man couldn't tell. Her shades were quite large and covered
most of her face. The detective wished to yell a retort. There was no time. 'I have to get these
cookies to the judges,' she thought.
“Pardon me,” Dr. Tate said. “Please allow for me to—”
“No time. Apology accepted. Watch your step next time, please.” Dankworth had already began to walk away from him. Francis stared. He could only see the back covering of her head. 'You are fortunate that my husband was not present,' she thought. Dr. Tate heard.
“I don't think it is her that needs protecting,” He said to himself. A couple of other women crossing the street saw the incident.
“She is feisty,” One said.
“…and married!” The other woman said. They both giggled. Francis had no idea whether they were mocking him or demonstrating their ill-fated attempt to flirt with him. When he looked back towards the direction the detective was walking towards, she had disappeared. “Wow, you really do—”
“No, I don't. Ladies, if you will excuse me.” Francis nodded once and walked away. He intended to enter the property from the opposite direction. Those cackling hens were sure to continue prodding to conjure trouble if he continued the same route as Dankworth.

Q. Will you leave Sweet As Murder as a standalone or make it part of a series?
A. The way Sweet As Murder ends, it provides an opening for a sequel. I have yet to decide whether there will be one. If so, it would be my first mystery/detective romance series. It is an exciting option to consider.

Q. If Sweet As Murder was made into a movie, who would you have play its characters?
A. I am unsure. So far the only two people who come to mind are Zoe Saldana and Eddie Redmayne.

Q. You are a multi-genre author, was mystery/detective writing a planned part of your literary career?
A. No, mystery/detective writing was not a planned part of my writing career. I initially thought most of my books would be sci-fi/fantasy romance and historical romance. So far these genres outnumber any of the other books I have written, but I never thought I would write mystery novels. It was a pleasant surprise when I took a chance on this genre.

Q. Is there a mystery/detective movie that stands out for you, and why?
A. I think Michael Clayton starring George Clooney was an outstanding movie. It was probably more mystery/thriller than detective, but that is the one that comes to mind. The storyline was full of action, twists and had a lot of suspense.

Q. What is your favourite mystery/detective television show?
A. Growing up my favourite mystery television program was probably Murder She Wrote with Angela Lansberry. As an adult it was the original Law & Order series starring Sam Waterston.

Sweet as Murder* is set to be published as an ebook later this year:

About the Author: Patricia M. Muhammad is a multi-genre fiction author. She writes in science-fiction/fantasy, fantasy, contemporary romance crossover, historical romance and mystery/detective romance genres. Patricia often includes multi-racial characters and interracial relationships in her books. She has written 21 novels. Patricia is based in the United Kingdom.

Connect with Patricia:
Social Media: @pmmuhammadbooks
Press: [email protected]

* CONTENT WARNING: This book is a work of fiction. However, the author intended to create characters and settings historically accurate to the era it takes place in, the racially tumultuous 1950s. Certain terms used as racial descriptions now considered archaic, outdated or even offensive are used to reflect the past usage by both black and white Americans of that era. Particular themes regarding race, references to certain crimes such as murder included as part of the fictional plot. The author provides this content description for any potential reader who may determine any of these subject matters or references too sensitive to consider.
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Last Updated December 24, 2021