In her debut novel, Flies in the Punch Bowl (Wynkoop Press, 2019), indie author Erika Simms writes a humorous tale of three art lovers from Seattle, who tap into their inner sleuths to solve a series of high-profile art thefts in the Pacific Northwest. Below, the author speaks of her inspiration for the novel and lifelong passion for the arts.
How did Flies in the Punch Bowl come about?
The idea of writing a novel inspired by my experiences exploring the Seattle art scene had been bumping around in my head for a while. I had envisioned three sleuths with an affection for the arts stumbling into a series of art crimes, and then embarking on a martini-soaked adventure to nab the culprit. I imagined these curious sleuths mixing with a zany cast of suspects from the mad world of the upper crust while navigating a series of interesting settings ranging from an exclusive art gallery to a prohibition speakeasy. Then one day, I decided to write down these ideas, and two years later, Flies in the Punch Bowl was published.
When did you become interested in the arts?
My interest in the arts began in my childhood, when my parents made exposure to literature and the arts a priority. On the wall of my childhood bedroom hung a poster of Andy Warhol’s Campbell’s Soup Cans next to a crayon owl I drew in art class. On my bookshelf sat a copy of John Steinbeck’s The Pearl beside Dr. Seuss’s Green Eggs and Ham. Mozart played on the stereo when the Muppets took a break. These were gifts my parents gave me that shaped my lifelong passion for the arts.
Did you want to be a writer when you were young?
When I was twelve, I started writing short stories about a young girl who runs away from home to live in an art museum. My family had become members of the Seattle Art Museum months earlier, and we spent hours wandering its halls. I became enamored with the images, the colors, and the textures, and wondered what it would be like to live in a museum. My short stories captured those childhood musings.
Which writers inspire you?
Martin Walker, author of the Bruno, Chief of Policemystery series, inspires me with his clever plots, charming characters, and colorful descriptions of French culture. When I read his novels, I can practically taste the truffles and hear the corks twisting from the wine bottles, but I can never figure out the culprit until the very end. Peter Mayle, a travel writer, also inspires me with his humorous, sometimes quirky writing style.
What do you enjoy reading?
Both fiction and nonfiction have a place on my nightstand. Currently I’m reading The Body in the Castle Well, which is the latest mystery from the Bruno, Chief of Police series by Martin Walker. I’m also reading Short Nights of the Shadow Catcher by Timothy Egan, which is a biographical account of the life of photographer Edward Curtis.