Leslie Budewitz loves her native Montana. She hikes, gardens and “adores” living near Bigfork. She is also a lawyer who practices civil litigation and employment law.
But according to Budewitz, “It’s a lot more fun to kill people.”
On the page, that is.
Budewitz is the author of the murder-mystery series “The Food Lovers’ Village Mysteries.” The first book in the series, “Death al Dente,” was published in 2013 and went on to win an Agatha Award for best first novel.
It was not her first award.
In 2011 she won an Agatha Award for best nonfiction for her book, “Books, Crooks and Counselors: How to Write Accurately about Criminal Law and Courtroom Procedure.” Her 2013 win makes her the only author to ever receive Agathas in both fiction and nonfiction categories.
“It was amazingly fun to win those awards,” Budewitz said. “Pretty exciting.”
Budewitz was born and raised in Billings. She attended college in Seattle and graduated from Notre Dame Law School. She practiced law for several years in Indiana and Seattle before returning to Montana in 1992. She and her husband, Don, and their cat Ruff now live in Bigfork.
Writing has been a lifelong love for Budewitz, who began penning stories just for fun as a young child. She took a serious look at fiction writing about 20 years ago.
“I didn’t think I could write a novel,” Budewitz said. “I thought you had to have the ending figured out before you could begin, but that’s just not true.”
Following a string of rejections from publishers, Budewitz took a step back to refocus. Friends who were writing often came to her with questions about law and court procedures. “Who is Miranda and why are we always warning her?” Budewitz joked.
So the idea was born to write a book for authors on the topic.
“Books, Crooks and Counselors: How to Write Accurately about Criminal Law and Courtroom Procedure” was the result. Though she was happy with the book’s success, she said she “wasn’t through telling my own stories.”
She was given the chance to tell her stories with a three-book contract from Berkley Prime Crime, a publisher with Penguin Random House.
Her first novel in “The Food Lovers’ Village Mysteries” series is “Death al Dente.” The second in the series, “Crime Rib,” was released in 2014, and the third and final piece, “Butter Off Dead,” will be released in July.
“Cozy mysteries are a lot of fun to read and write,” Budewitz said.
The series combines crime and food in a unique and fun way for the reader, according to Budewitz. All the recipes in the series, which are essential plot points, are also real recipes that readers can make for themselves.
“I’m very fond of eating,” Budewitz said, laughing. “I wanted the recipes in the stories to be really accessible; something readers could look at and say, ‘I could make that.’ It was a lot of fun to weave that in.”
Budewitz had a busy year in 2014.
In addition to the release of “Crime Rib,” she taught several workshops at conferences locally and around the country and was also elected to serve as vice president of Sisters in Crime, an international organization supporting female mystery and crime writers.
“I’m very excited,” Budewitz said of the new position. “Sisters in Crime is an important organization. We’re small but we accomplish a lot.”
The mission of Sisters in Crime, which includes about 3,600 female and male members from around the world, is to “promote the ongoing advancement, recognition and professional development of women crime writers,” according to the organization’s website, www.sistersincrime.org.
Budewitz said she still has a lot to learn about Sisters in Crime, but hopes to use her time on the board of directors to focus on outreach to younger writers, chapter support, continuing to expand library initiatives, and providing craft education to authors everywhere.
As for 2015, Budewitz has landed a contract for a new series, “Spice Shop Mysteries.” The new mysteries are set in a fictional spice shop in Seattle’s Pike Place Market.
“I enjoyed taking the trip there on the page,” Budewitz said.
The first novel in the series, “Assault and Pepper,” will be released in March, and the second is tentatively scheduled to come out in December.
Budewitz’s books are available for purchase locally at Frame of Reference Gallery and Roma’s store in Bigfork, The Bookshelf and Think Local in Kalispell, and Bookworks in Whitefish. They can also be found online at www.amazon.com.
For more information about Budewitz and for upcoming local event information, visit www.lesliebudewitz.com.
Entertainment editor Stefanie Johnson can be reached at 758-4439 or ThisWeek@dailyinterlake.com.