I fell in love with The Pot Thief mysteries by J. Michael Orenduff with the very first one. Protagonist Hubert Schuze is a man after my own heart. His common sense view of the world and the confusion that comes with having common sense in this world can make me giggle my way through an entire book. And the Pot Thief books are good for your brain. Each novel has a unique character – the one named in the title. Whether it be the famous chef, Escoffer, the brilliant mathematician, philosopher, and astronomer, Ptolemy, or the anti-hero Billy the Kid, we learn about their accomplishments as well as strange facts and rumors associated with them, usually through Hubie’s conversations with best friend, Suzanna.
We writers love all our characters. Sometimes the most troublesome child can be a secret favorite. Is there one character you find especially troublesome, and are they your favorite? What makes you love them? Or do you wish they had never wriggled into your book?
Yes, troublesome characters can be a writer’s favorites. I love them precisely because they are troublesome. Instead of seeing their quirky behavior as a challenge, I see it as an aid to writing. You know they are going to misbehave, so all you have to do is have their misbehavior do something – give a clue to the protagonist, lead to as funny line, goad another character to do or say something. The proprietor of this blog has many characters because she’s a prolific writer, but my favorite of hers is Edward Harlow. He’s an obstreperous and pompous fellow, but I love him, and I imagine Jackie loves writing his parts. The closest thing to him in my books is Albuquerque PD Detective Whit Fletcher, a former Marine and now old-school, and politically incorrect cop. I wouldn’t want to be arrested by him, but I love writing him.
Can you give us an example of a piece of research for a book that you especially enjoyed doing? Why was it so much fun?
I have a confession to make. Research is not my favorite part of writing. Maybe it’s because I spent many years doing research as a professor. Or maybe it’s because I enjoy writing so much that I don’t want to devote time to research. Or maybe it’s because I don’t have as much need of it as more adventurous writers who decide to set their book in Bulgaria and spend a year learning all about that country. “Write what you know” is an adage I follow. My books are set in New Mexico because I love the state, and know it well. But of course there is always some research, and my favorite kind is research done by my wife. She’s an art historian. So when I wrote, The Pot Thief who Studied Georgia O’Keeffe, she provided everything I needed to know about one of New Mexico’s iconic figures.
What is one trait or habit your character has that would drive you crazy in real life?
Drinking a margarita at a cantina every day. I prefer a martini at home with my wife.
Everyone loves to laugh. Can you share your favorite joke?
A woman walks into a library and asks the librarian at the desk, “Can you tell me where the self-help section is?”
“Yes,” The librarian replies, “but doing so would defeat the purpose.”
Many books, especially cozies, have recipes. I, myself, have bought mysteries for the recipes! Do you have a favorite recipe that you can share with readers? Especially one that character would love to make or eat. Extra points if it’s under five ingredients. (Note: I have been nagging the author for years to write a cookbook based on his books!)
Truchas en terracotta (trout in clay in English) is a simple and elegant dish. The ingredients are:
- Whole small trout that have been gutted but otherwise unprocessed. They don’t need to be scaled for this dish because the skin is ingeniously removed when they are served.
- Green peppercorns
- Shelled piñon nuts
- Grape leaves
You also need clay, but it is not an ingredient, so I’m under the 5 ingredient limit.
Stuff the cavity of the trout with the green peppercorns and piñon nuts. Wrap them in the grape leaves. Encase each trout in a thin layer of pottery clay. Bake at 400 degrees or until the clay hardens and you see a few small cracks. Truchas in terracotta is delicious to eat and showy to serve. Strike the clay with the back of a spoon, and it will fissure. As you lift the clay, the grape leaves and trout skin will come away with it, leaving the succulent flesh which has cooked in its own steam.
What piece of advice would you give your character when everything seems hopeless? Advice you would give your best friend.
Free up your imagination and think of what would have to happen to make everything NOT seem hopeless. Then figure out a plan for making that happen.
If you could hang out with one of your characters, which would you choose, and what would you do?
I’d hang out with my protagonist, Hubie, because he’s a reader, and I enjoy the company of readers.
What is your favorite word or phrase that serves as a substitute for swearing?
Out of the books you have written, which is your favorite, and why?
This is tough; it’s like trying to decide which of your children you like the best. There is no answer. But even though you love them all equally, you might think one of them is more of a risk taker, one is more artistic, and a third somewhat more studious. Same with my books. So here is what I like most about each of them:
- The Pot Thief who Studied Pythagoras: My firstborn.
- The Pot Thief who Studied Ptolemy: Inspired by a wonderful man.
- The Pot Thief who Studied Einstein: Won the Lefty Award
- The Pot Thief who Studied Escoffier: My wife’s favorite
- The Pot Thief who Studied D. H. Lawrence: The best locked-room mystery every written
- The Pot Thief who Studied Billy the Kid: Best captures everything about New Mexico
- The Pot Thief who Studied Georgia O’Keeffe: Most intricate plot.
- The Pot Thief who Studied Edward Abbey: Received a starred review from Publishers Weekly
- The Pot Thief who Studied the Woman at Otowi Crossing: The most personal one
- Thief who Studied ______?______ I am open to suggestions
Thank you, Mike, for letting us get to know a bit about you. You can order the latest Pot Thief mystery below.
The Pot Thief Who Studied the Woman at Otowi Crossing
Hubie Schuze makes his living illegally digging up and selling Anasazi pots. But when DNA shows that a John Doe found in Albuquerque’s Old Town is related to Hubie, he needs to dig into the past to uncover a long-buried family secret. Hubie’s attempt to identify his unknown relative and discover whether the puncture wound that killed him resulted from an accident or a stabbing becomes a journey of self-discovery that threatens to change Hubie’s life. And in a bizarre final twist, a link between fictional Hubie and the real author who created him is revealed.