Wednesday, July 13, 2005

Wildfires and weddings descend on Sun Valley

Wildfires and weddings descend on Sun Valley

Deborah Donnelly

Forget Bruce, forget Tom, Dalai who? Sun Valley has officially arrived, being featured as it has, as the location for the hottest new chick-lit novel "Death Takes a Honeymoon."

Deborah Donnelly, the fun and fabulous Boise-based author of this romp through the world of wildfires and weddings in Idaho, will be at Chapter One Bookstore in Ketchum Sunday, July 17, at 11 a.m. to sign copies of the novel, the fourth in her Wedding Planner mystery series.

Previous entries to the series are "Veiled Threats," "Died to Match" and "May the Best Man Die." The series' heroine, Carnegie Kincaid, is a Seattle dwelling wedding planner whose hometown is Boise, where Donnelly herself relocated to from Seattle four years ago.

"Death" finds Kincaid reluctantly drawn into investigating the murder of her smokejumper cousin while simultaneously planning the "wedding of the season"—the marriage of her former friend turned TV star to her former flame.

The Idaho Mountain Express caught up with Donnelly to discuss her depiction of our town the day after she finished her fifth novel, "You May Now Kill the Bride," due on shelves in January 2006.

IME: How many of Carnegie Kincaid's experiences in Sun Valley reflect your own?

DD: Well, quite a bit! We're not skiers, so we tend to go up there in the summer, which is when the book is set—during the fire season. I've eaten at the restaurants she goes to and stayed at the lodge (Sun Valley Lodge), but I was never a waitress at The Pioneer! One thing I hope is clear in the book, however, is that any actions by the police force over there are completely fictional.

IME: What was it about Sun Valley in particular that made you want to feature it as a central character in the book?

DD: What I love about going over there is that it's like a little trip to Europe. When you go to Ketchum and Sun Valley you have this spectacular scenery but you also have these small communities with lots of art galleries and wonderful restaurants and a really interesting population of people. Plus, it's all manageable, you can walk around it. It's a really, really attractive destination.

IME: Sun Valley seems to almost take on a personality in the book.

DD: Yes, that's what I was hoping for, as it is really a major character—the landscape, the town and the people.

IME: So what's your personal take on Sun Valley? In a recent interview you mentioned that you saw it as "a more plausible place for an over the top wedding." What could possibly have given you that impression?

DD: (Laughs) You have to figure I'm writing for a national audience and to say "a fabulous, over the top wedding in Boise, Idaho" wouldn't say much to someone in, say Connecticut. But someone in Connecticut will have certainly heard of Sun Valley.

IME: Did you spend much time here conducting research for the book?

DD: I made a few extra visits. I interviewed a number of wedding planners and florists—I'm not going to name any names because they asked me not to! But a lot of the research I did was with smokejumpers and there is not a smokejumper base in Sun Valley, but I put one there! Actually, the jumpers I talked to in McCall (where there is a base) say they wished there was one there as they think it would be a cool place to be.

IME: Why did you choose to focus on smokejumpers specifically as opposed to other types of firefighters?

DD: Originally I had this wedding that I wanted to go on, the wedding of Carnegie's old friend who's now a big TV star. So, it was going to be a big fancy wedding, but I wanted an interesting occupation for the bridegroom and I wanted something uniquely Western, something out of the ordinary, say for my readers in Connecticut! I thought smokejumping would be interesting, then I started to research it and it kind of took over the book I got so interested in it. I visited the smokejumper base in McCall and read about eight books on them. I just think they're awesome, especially that there are women smokejumpers.

IME: It's an interesting combination, fire and weddings—strange bedfellows—but they both have a lot of drama associated with them.

DD: Yes, and when you throw in a murder, it creates very high drama!

IME: Where did the inspiration for your heroine's occupation come from?

DD: Well, I've been a writer for quite a while and I used to write science fiction short stories, but I had never written a mystery. Some years ago I took an evening class about mystery writing and the very first night the instructor, rather intimidatingly, asked me "who's your detective?" and I just blurted out, "She's a wedding planner!" It just popped out, I think because that year my best friend got married and I helped her with the wedding, and then I got married and she helped me. So, I had bride brain! And I thought I can always change it later. But actually it turned out to be a very fun occupation for an amateur detective to have because there's a changing cast of characters with every wedding and there's always all kinds of emotional high drama going on. To tell you the truth I'd really rather research wedding cakes than autopsies! These books are definitely on the romantic comedy, amateur sleuth side of the genre rather than the hard-boiled dark side.

IME: Are there real incidents those Idaho wedding planners relayed that ended up in "Death Takes a Honeymoon?"

DD: At one point there's a snake that people think is a rattle snake going down the aisle and Carnegie picks it up and gets rid of it, because actually it's a bull snake and she knows that because she's an Idaho girl. That actually happened at an Idaho wedding.

"Death Takes a Honeymoon" is available in bookstores now. Donnelly starts work on the sixth in the series next week and has decided to return to her heroine's home base of Seattle. "I'm going to set it during the World Series, and, as a fiction author you get to do anything you want, so I'm going to put the Seattle Mariners in the World Series! A wedding on the baseball diamond will be very fun!"

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