We’re thrilled to have here today Sally Solari from Leslie Karst’s new culinary mystery, A Measure or Murder. Sally Solari is a 39-year-old restaurateur/ex-lawyer living in Santa Cruz, California.
It is a pleasure to have her with us today at Beyond the Books!
Thank you so for this interview, Sally. Now that the book has been written, do you feel you were fairly portrayed or would you like to set anything straight with your readers?
I’m aware that years ago Leslie Karst waited tables for a couple of years and then worked at the student-run restaurant during her stint as a culinary arts student, but I have to say her portrayal of me as a restaurateur is not one hundred percent accurate. The real-life grind of running a restaurant is far less glamorous than she makes it out to be in the book. Yes, we do occasionally have fun testing out new recipes and yes, working the hot line can be an amazing rush when all the cooks are in sync and the kitchen is sending out perfectly plated entrées at a whirlwind rate. But the work I do at Solari’s (my dad’s restaurant, where I run the front of the house) and Gauguin (the restaurant I inherited from my aunt) is more often a drudgery than it is a thrill.
In Leslie’s defense, however, an honest, true-to-life book about the inner workings of a restaurant would be pretty darn boring and tedious. After all, who wants to read about someone standing all night long over a hot stove flipping salmon fillets and stirring sauce pots? Or chopping up cases of onions and chicken parts? So I guess it’s for the best that she spiced up my life a tad and cherry-picked the more interesting events that have happened of late at Solari’s and Gauguin (and there have indeed been quite a few!).
Do you feel the author did a good job colorizing your personality? If not, how would you like to have been portrayed differently?
Part of me would like to pretend that I’m not nearly as sarcastic as portrayed in the book, but the realist in me is well aware of my affinity for snark.
What do you believe is your strongest trait?
Stubbornness (which is really just another way of saying perseverance).
If you could choose someone in the television or movie industry to play your part if your book was made into a movie, who would that be (and you can’t say yourself!)?
Funny you should ask this, because I had this exact conversation with my ex-boyfriend and current bestie, Eric, just the other day. I couldn’t come up with anyone, but he suggested Jennifer Garner. Who would be a terrific choice, by the way—she’s an awesome actress and gorgeous, to boot. But the fact that Eric has had an enormous time crush on Jennifer Garner ever since she starred in Alias makes me a tad worried that maybe this is his way of hinting that he still kind of carries the torch for me.
Do you have a love interest in the book?
Not unless you consider Eric’s possible desire to rekindle our past relationship to be a love interest (see answer to previous question).
Oh, wait… Come to think of it, maybe there is an eensie-weensie attraction on my part that occurs in the book. But you’ll just have to read it to see what you think.
At what point of the book did you start getting nervous about the way it was going to turn out?
That happened right away—on page three, during my audition for Eric’s damn chorus. I’m still mad at him for suckering me into that traumatic experience. And then later, after that tenor fell to his death on the church courtyard, I had a pretty strong hunch that the whole thing might have been a very bad idea.
If you could trade places with one of the other characters in the book, which character would you really not want to be and why?
Perhaps this is too obvious, but I would definitely not want to trade places with the tenor who falls to his death. Not only is he barely even in the book (since he’s dead by chapter two), but from what I’ve since learned, although the guy had the voice of an angel, he had the personality of an arrogant jerk. I may have my snarky moments, but I would never want to be that gal who, if murdered, everyone would say of them, “Oh, well there were so many people who would have had a reason to do her in.”
How do you feel about the ending of the book, without giving too much away?
I’m elated to have finally sung the glorious Mozart Requiem, relieved that the Gauguin kitchen was not burnt to a crisp by a crazed murderer, and happy that the Gauguin bar stayed open late enough on that last night for us to celebrate both of these things.
What words of wisdom would you give your author if she decided to write another book with you in it?
Leslie’s been writing this series in the first person, even though we are, of course, completely different people. So it’s always a little strange for me to read the books, especially the parts where she purports to understand my innermost thoughts. But I have to admit she does tend to get me right. It’s almost as if she has some kind of secret key to my soul. Weird, that.
So I guess my primary words of wisdom would be these: Keep doing what you’re doing, and don’t stress too much about what I may think of the book, trying to ensure that every tiny piece of the story is absolutely accurate. I get that you have to take a certain amount if artistic liberty in depicting me and my stories. As long as the essence rings true, that’s truly all that matters.
Thank you for this interview, Sally. Will we be seeing more of you in the future?
I happen to be privy to the fact that Leslie has now completed book three in her Sally Solari mystery series—based on events that occurred in my life only last year. It recounts how, inspired by the eye-popping canvases of Paul Gauguin, for whom my restaurant is named, I convince Eric to enroll in a plein air painting class. But the beauty of the Monterey Bay coastline is shattered during one of our outings when my dog, Buster, sniffs out a body entangled in a pile of kelp on the beach.
This next book focuses on the Italian fishing community in Santa Cruz, including the food and cooking favored by the “original sixty families” who emigrated there from Liguria in the late 1800s. It’s entitled Death al Fresco, and will be published in early 2018.
The daughter of a law professor and a potter, Leslie Karst learned at a young age, during family dinner conversations, the value of both careful analysis and the arts—ideal ingredients for a mystery story. Putting this early education to good use, she now now writes the Sally Solari Mysteries (Dying for a Taste, A Measure of Murder), a culinary series set in Santa Cruz, California.
Originally from Southern California, Leslie moved north to attend UC Santa Cruz (home of the Fighting Banana Slugs) and after graduation, parlayed her degree in English literature into employment waiting tables and singing in a new wave rock and roll band. Exciting though this life was, she eventually decided she was ready for a “real” job, and ended up at Stanford Law School.
For the next twenty years Leslie worked as the research and appellate attorney for Santa Cruz’s largest civil law firm. During this time, she rediscovered a passion for food and cooking, and so once more returned to school to earn a degree in culinary arts.
Now retired from the law, she spends her time cooking, gardening, cycling, singing alto in her local community chorus, reading, and of course writing. Leslie and her wife and their Jack Russell mix split their time between Santa Cruz and Hilo, Hawai‘i.
Title: A Measure of Murder
Author: Leslie Karst
Publisher: Crooked Lane
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