Interview with Cleo Coyle

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Welcome! I am so thrilled to have Cleo Coyle here today to talk to us about the Coffeehouse Mystery series, which is one of my personal favorite Cozy Mystery series.

DEAD COLD BREW, the sixteenth book in the series just came out. What can you tell us about what’s going to happen in this book?

We’re happy to, and thank you so much for inviting us to join you today. Dead Cold Brew is an important book in the ongoing stories of our Coffeehouse Mystery characters. Our amateur sleuth sheds tears of joy over a surprise marriage proposal from her longtime boyfriend, NYPD Detective Mike Quinn. Unfortunately, the vintage coffee diamonds Mike slips on Clare’s finger open a Pandora’s box to a cold case of murder—one that occurred sixty years ago in the stateroom of the SS Andrea Doria, an Italian ocean liner that tragically sank off the coast of Nantucket in 1956.

The mystery uncovers a shocking inheritance, a decades-old family scandal, a charming jewel thief, and a deadly adversary for our sleuth—single-mom and coffeehouse manager Clare Cosi. For those of you who are new to our series, don’t hesitate to pick up Dead Cold Brew. We always do our best to fill in new readers on background elements, so every book can be read as a stand-alone, and if you like it, you have 15 more to enjoy.

Would you like to share your writing process with us? Who does what?

We develop the general outline together. We then write the scenes and sequences independently, in our own heads, at our own computers. Along the way, we get together often and go over each other’s work before moving forward again.

By the way, there is no sexism in our process. A writing week for Alice might involve male and female characters, an action sequence as well as cooking scene. The same holds true for Marc, who writes female narratives as well as male. The great advantage we have as a wife and husband writing team is in the revision process. We do our best to check and balance each other with a goal of keeping the narrative as smooth, authentic, and entertaining as possible.

How do you begin the process and develop your stories?

Our sparking idea always comes from an actual crime or real life event. Our first Coffeehouse Mystery, On What Grounds, began with our discussion of the tragic death of a dancer here in New York City. Our thirteenth, Billionaire Blend, was a result of our fascination with Smartphone culture, tech-whiz billionaires, and the 2010 car bomb planted in Times Square. Last year’s bestseller, Dead to the Last Drop, involved a Washington politician and missing emails—which turned out to be far more timely than even we thought at the time we wrote it.

Our latest title, Dead Cold Brew, sprang from a few ideas, including the real-life murder of a beloved Greenwich Village jewelry designer and the tragic sinking of the SS Andrea Doria. We linked the two events, dropped them into our Coffeehouse Mystery world, and grew the story from there.

Once we latch onto an interesting and timely theme, we’ll talk it over for days—over breakfast, over dinner, on long walks through the city. We use a digital recorder to recall our discussions as we expand the basic story with subplots and character arcs.

We like to challenge our characters, dropping them into difficult situations to see how they’ll cope. In fact, one of our favorite characters, the octogenarian owner of our Village Blend coffeehouse, has a saying that applies, especially for Clare, our amateur sleuth: “Survive everything. And do it with style.”

If and when conflict arises, how do you handle it?

Dueling pistols at dawn! (Kidding, kidding.) Honestly, we have a healthy debate. The fact is nobody survives 17 years of marriage without developing conflict resolution tools—and, as often as not, our open discussions yield a third solution, one neither of us considered.

You tend to have a lot of layers in your books where different things are happening at one time. How do you like to keep track of events like this?

When we’re writing, we live through the eyes of our cast of characters. Consequently, it’s easy and fun for us to keep track of what’s going on in each character’s life.

Think of your own life. You are aware of your own narrative, so to speak—your goals, worries, daily routines. But that’s not where your awareness ends. You are also aware of other lives around you—your friends and family, your boss, a neighbor. Each of these people has a “track” and you might be concerned about your father’s surgery that morning and your best friend’s blind date that night.

When we’re writing a story, a character’s life doesn’t stop when he or she walks off the page. We think about each character’s “narrative line” through forward moving time, which makes keeping track of their various storylines (on and off the page) an easy task. They intersect for you, the reader, when we frame them for drama, and this is one way we strive to give our work richness and verisimilitude—that feeling of being dropped into an actual, multi-layered life.

Do you have a favorite book in the series? If so, which one is it and why?

Our favorite book tends to be the one we’re working on—after about halfway through. Starting a new book can be thrilling but also frustrating. There are always setbacks, snags, and worries. By the middle, we’ve worked out many of the problems. The story kicks in and we’re rolling. That’s when it becomes our favorite book.

How would you describe DEAD COLD BREW in three words?

Engagements are murder.

Who are some of your favorite authors to read for fun?

We’ll give you two…

From Alice: I enjoy reading Raymond Chandler, a writer who started in the pulps and ended in the Library of America. Chandler didn’t publish his first story until the age of 45, after he lost his executive position in an oil company during the Great Depression, so it’s no surprise his characters are world-weary. Yet his work displays a dry wit that’s hard to resist, and his stories make it clear that he had a keen sense of justice and regarded basic goodness as a higher virtue than status or wealth. I feel the same, which makes him an author with whom I never regret spending time.

From Marc: Many writers can point to an author who inspired them, but not many can point to a specific story. For me it was “The People of the Black Circle,” written in the 1930s by Robert E. Howard. That story had everything: adventure, a strong hero, a determined heroine, evil sorcerers, violent action, palace intrigue. Many cite this as one of the finest adventure stories of the last century, and it was authored by a twenty-seven-year old, self-educated man from rural Texas with no literary background. Today Robert E. Howard is widely considered the greatest pulp writer in “The Whole Wide World,” which is the title of the movie about his life filmed in the 1990s.

What’s next for Cleo Coyle?

We’ve begun development on our 17th Coffeehouse Mystery with our longtime publisher, and we’re now finishing up a new entry in our Haunted Bookshop Mystery series. After five books, we put that one on hiatus for several years, but the “spirit” was always with us (so to speak), and we look forward to getting Ghost and the Bogus Bestseller into readers’ hands next year.

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Available Now!

[new-release title=”Dead Cold Brew” author=”Cleo Coyle”]
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READING ORDER & BUY LINKS

Click on the covers to buy the books

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About Cleo Coyle

Cleo Coyle is the New York Times bestselling pseudonym for Alice Alfonsi, writing in collaboration with her husband, Marc Cerasini. Under the name Cleo Coyle, they've written 15 Coffeehouse Mystery titles, including the latest, DEAD TO THE LAST DROP, which was chosen as a Baker & Taylor Fall "Trends" Pick, a "Most Wanted" selection of the Mystery Guild, and honored with four Best of Year list picks, including the Examiner.com's Best Mystery Books for Book Clubs.

With well over 1 million books in print, Cleo Coyle has gained an enthusiastic following. The first in their bestselling Coffeehouse Mystery series is now in its 20th printing; two entries have earned starred reviews, including BILLIONAIRE BLEND, which was honored with a Kirkus Star and called "a highly satisfying mystery" by Publishers Weekly. Every book in the series has hit national bestseller lists, including HOLIDAY BUZZ, which was a Top-10 New York Times bestseller.

Cleo also writes a mystery series set in a New England book shop. THE HAUNTED BOOKSHOP MYSTERIES are published under the name Alice Kimberly. There are five books published thus far with more under contract. The first book in the series, THE GHOST AND MRS. McCLURE, is now in its 12th printing and all of the titles were national bestsellers.

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Amy R

Thanks for the post, I was able to get my library to purchase these after UTC started posting reviews.

Staci Mellinger

So excited that there is another book! I have read all of them and they all make my heart smile.
staci..

Yugi

I always wait for the next book to come out–it’s so hard to wait for the next one!

Timitra

Great interview!

Elizabeth

This was such a great interview! Very informative.

Alex Van Schuylen

A great interview that was friendly and informative…and full of good cheer.

Alex Van Schuylen

A great interview that was friendly and informative…and full of good cheer! avans

Dianne

Enjoyed the interview and recipes. dbahn

Jamy

I love your books. They might even make a coffee drinker out of me someday. jokan

Lisa Brown

I enjoyed the interview; all the covers are so nice; thanks for the chance 🙂
secret code: lisa.b

Judy R

Enjoyed the interview…love all your books
Secret code: jr064

Kathi D.

Awesome interview! Love the Coffeehouse Mystery series and the recipes included are an added (delicious) bonus! kjdug

Betsy Wallwork

Great interview! Sounds so wonderful to stroll around New York chatting with your loved one as part of your job! bgwal

SandyG265

My Mom and I really enjoyed Dead Cold Brew.
sgide

Anita

This is my all-time favorite book series! I feel like I’m reading about my friends, and I devour these books the day they are released. Keep writing, Cleo!!

Anita

I have a secret code thst I forgot to reference in my above comment. (I haven’t had enough coffee this morning. ?).
anita

Diane Hollister

This was fascinating–love to learn more about the ‘behind the scenes.’ Can’t wait for the next one, either! 🙂
profh

Debra Guyette

Great interview. I enjoyed learning.
debby

Gale

I love this series. craft

Kathleen Kendler

Interesting interview. so glad you guys can work together.
kcken

Vonnie Jeffers

Wonderful!! Thank you for sharing!

Marjie Phillips

I love, love, love the Coffeehouse Mysteries! I look forward to reading the next one before I finish the last page. I feel like I’m visiting old friends. Thank you!
mspdi

Diane Erno

I have been reading this series from the beginning. I love the characters, but I also want to
know more about the writers! Thanks for this info. Why not add more Q & A about both of you?

Roseanne Sabol

This is my favorite series – whether I have the books in hand or listen on audiobooks, I love this series! Thanks for such a great read! rvsab

Patti Smith

I love this series. It just gets better and better. Thank you for writing it! patti

Cathy Gonsowski

My sister introduced me to the series. I have enjoyed every title and
look forward to the next one. If my local law Brady doesn’t have a copy,
I am able to request it from another library. Keep them coming!

Deanna Spencer

Just finished reading “Dead Cold Brew.” It was a delight to meet old friends again and see what is happening in their lives.
I have been a reader of this series since the first book and the books just keep getting better.

Marihelen Ligon

I love this series and reading about your process and how you work together was very interesting. chett

Rebecca

Loved the interview! Rebecc

Esther

I particularly appreciated your remark about conflict resolution after 17 years. Me, too! Esoli

Margo Sue Bittner

Thanks for sharing! Enjoyed reading it. cheer

Penny

I love all the books in the Coffee house mystery series.

I just finished Dead Cold Brew, It was a wonderful story. I do remember the sinking of the Andrea Doria. itspe

Kimberley

I always look forward to reading each book and go through a moment of sadness when I’ve finished only because I want to read the next one! Latte

Jean

I am reading through the your series in order. It is so hard not to jump to the latest book. The interview was really informative and enjoyable.

Marie Laue

My favorite series! I always enjoy learning more about the great people behind the books!! l.mar

Connie

I’ve learned a lot about coffee-making and drinking from your books. I even acquired a burr grinder! Many thanks,

cbrau

Julie

I truly enjoy this series–thank you! jhuel

Tracy Haynes

First of all, I LOVE the Coffeehouse Mysteries! They’re one of the best cozy mystery series I’ve laid eyes on. I think it’s wonderful that the two of you can write the books together and the characters still stay who they are with no weird divergences from one writer to the other. I hope the series never ends!!! Thanks for so many good reads. wagmo

pam wilson

I love cleo coyle; also I love coffee!

Taryn Lee

Lovely interview, its such a wonderful series. I can’t wait to read this newest edition!!!

Jane

I love this series. Cannot wait for the next book to come out. jh.lu

Karen Carter

I absolutely love this series, can’t wait to read them all!

Lis

I totally LOVE your coffeehouse series! I also love the wonderful recipes! LisaM

sue

this is such a fun series and i so enjoy the recipes thank you.meamo

Betty W

I enjoyed the interview! I also enjoy your newsletter with all the book updats and great recipes:) woodr

Katherine

I’m not an author but I enjoy reading about author’s processes, thank you. And thank you for your great stories and recipes. kathy

Kathy Downey

‘The Coffeehouse Mysteries’ was my very first induction into the genre of Cozy Mysteries and I’ve never looked back. It is, by far, THE best series to date. I just picked up the latest copy ‘Dead Cold Brew’ from my library on Friday and can’t wait to sink my teeth into it. Thanks Cleo for giving everyone a fantastic series. kdblu

Debbi Shaw

i want to read these books, deband

Melody Ryser

I cannot wait to get my hands on a copy of this book!! I love the coffeehouse series and this interview was wonderful. Melfre

Kimberly Hastings

I’ve read every single book in your series and always preorder the next one coming out! Keep up the good work. knhas

Michael

Awesome Interview

Michael

Great information….First 5 of the email
bromi

Ann McCarthy

I love the series and great interview! Annie

Jennifer Chambers

I like that you give us a clue (pun intended) about how you work so well together! jenni