C03On my holiday to Goa in India, I was disgusted to find that almost every restaurant served curry. I don't like spicy food.”

Well, then bring along some Fritos.

***

Last time I talked about my basic day-to-day schedule, but my eating schedule has also changed since the move. I've been trying (somewhat successfully) to be more aware of what I eat. Trying to cut back on the carbs and the fat and the sugar and eat more protein, fruits, and veggies.

But my eating schedule and my diet has never been the best because of my work schedule. Since 1999, for the most part, I've worked from 11p-7a. Sometimes I'll have a real breakfast after work, but most times it's been something quick from the convenience store to suffice until the afternoon. Usually, I only eat once a day, with maybe a few snacks throughout the night. This has continued up to the present. On days off, I may get a few more meals in per day, but nothing on a regular schedule.

As I mentioned, I've been trying to watch the diet and not binge on sugar or sweets or chips although I may have some tortilla chips and salsa which shouldn't hurt because usually salsa is fat free. I'm not sure if the Slim Fast or Walmart's or Hy-Vee's equivalent is doing any good, but a glass when I get home usually keeps my stomach from growling until I wake up.

When I created Mallory Petersen, I wanted her to enjoy a lot of the same foods I do but have a much better exercise regimen. She still enjoys sandwiches, Swiss cheese, hamburgers, pizza, but I think her metabolism is such that she can absorb these without suffering too much weight gain. Plus, she exercises a lot more often than most women. She's not obsessed with it (I recently read an article where one woman claims to exercise two hours before work, another hour at lunch and at least a couple hours after work...every day) but she does take care of herself and she eats the foods in moderation. Yes, she drinks soda (Dr Pepper) which is essentially empty calories, but again, not to extremities. (I know a couple who have Diet Coke bottles all over the house, in the basement, in the garage, in the shed, in the car. They're still cool people, though.)

Part of the fun in writing characters is I can infuse them with my own personality, but not have them become a replica. I've mentioned in interviews when asked how much of me is in Mallory, that she has similar likes and dislikes, is better looking, and a better taekwondo instructor/student.

As for Harry Reznik and Lori Campisi, I haven't delved into their diets too much. In Night Shadows, Harry eats the cheeseburger while Lori stays with a healthful salad. Harry also likes his Pop Tarts but can make a mean omelet. (By the way, my family longs for the times when I make my mean omelets for them.)

At the time of this writing, I'm editing for submission a new novel with a stereotypical noir type of private eye – smokes, drinks, bad diet, sloppy, drives a crappy car. When I set out to write this character's story, I wanted him nothing like Mallory. So, just as when they turned Hulk Hogan into a baddie for awhile, they went over the top to have his character be 'believable', I wanted to do something totally different from the characters I had previously created. I temper my private eye, named Sabastian Habeck, with a caring nature toward his ex wife and reluctantly, toward his clients and those he speaks with on his investigation. Now, that is not to say he isn't harsh when needed. (In one scene I have him slugging a smart aleck drug using teenager. Of course the punk deserved it since he hit his aunt.)

I think food plays an important role in writing characters. I enjoy some of those cooking/food related mysteries because you usually get spicy (pun intended) characters full of fun. Many times food or dinners play an important role in getting close to the characters. Caleb Carr's The Alienist and Angel of Darkness feature hours long dinners late into the night. However, many books don't mention food or the fact that anybody eats, or else the eating is skimmed over, which, in some cases is bad because I think food is important in character development.

How do you relate food and eating in your stories?

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Comment by Stephen Brayton on January 18, 2015 at 2:19pm

Yes, I always enjoyed Nero Wolfe dinners.

Well, I exercise, but Mallory is still in better shape. In fact, when I am exercising, and I get tired and fell like quitting, I think about her and that helps me keep going. It's like I'm exercising to get her approval. lol

Thanks for reading.

Comment by Stephen Morrill on January 18, 2015 at 12:52pm
  •  . . . I think food plays an important role in writing characters. I enjoy some of those cooking/food related mysteries because you usually get spicy (pun intended) characters full of fun. Many times food or dinners play an important role in getting close to the characters. . . . 

Rex Stout's Nero Wolfe stories had so much detail about cooking that there was once a Nero Wolfe cookbook, and Robert B. Parker's Spenser books often had considerable detail to reveal that he was a gourmet chef. You're right; it adds to the character development — if done well.

I did a private eye once (and I'll soon spiff it up and see if I can make a series of it) where I sort of parodied Parker, going into long detail about how my guy opened a can of soup, then added water, then heated it. Made me laugh to write it but it was entirely pointless and I doubt that any reader would get the joke. In Mangrove Bayou, a mystery series I'm working on now, I did have the police chief be a typical bachelor guy. He buys only food in little frozen boxes, then microwaves them on the 'popcorn' setting because he doesn't understand the instructions for the microwave.

  • When I created Mallory Petersen, I wanted her to enjoy a lot of the same foods I do but have a much better exercise regimen.

Ouch. Sounds as if you, like most writers, spend too much time on your butt and not enough time exercising. Typing doesn't burn too many calories.

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