Tracy Badua is a Filipino American author of books for young readers, including We’re Never Getting Home and The Takeout. Alechia Dow is a former pastry chef, a librarian, and the author of Just a Pinch of Magic, and A Song of Salvation. We asked the friends and fellow foodies to discuss their new middle grade mystery, The Cookie Crumbles, about a baking competition gone wrong.

Alechia Dow: Hey Tracy, fancy seeing you here! I cannot believe we’re interviewing each other for Publishers Weekly. We’re just like the characters in The Cookie Crumbles, baking cookies and solving attempted murders. Well... maybe not that exactly, but doing unexpected, fun, adventurous things. Remember when we met on Wendy Heard’s Critique Partner Match in 2016? I never would have imagined that eight years later, we’d have written two books together! [A sequel, Their Just Desserts, is due out from Quill Tree in 2025.]

Tracy Badua: To be honest, co-writing a book hadn’t crossed my mind until you suggested The Cookie Crumbles, and it made total sense. As critique partners, you and I exchanged so much work over the years (including many cringeworthy, never-to-see-the-light-of-day novels on my end!), so we were familiar with each other’s writing styles and processes. Recently, we’ve both channeled our love of writing and food into middle grade contemporary fantasies. I had a folk-magic infused Filipino Indian food truck in The Takeout, and your enchanted bakery in Just a Pinch of Magic featured baked goods I so wish were real! Delectable descriptions are definitely a strength of yours.

Dow: Oh thank you, and back atcha! We do love making food a part of our stories. While I have my degree in baking, I simultaneously fell in love with food writing. I enjoy the sensory details, the descriptions of food that make it not only vivid, but leap off the page (and I wish, onto my table). Combining our joint love of it was easy and fun—-but for me, adding in this element of mystery and friendship was really exciting. It was our first foray into mystery.

What did you do to prepare for writing in a whole new genre?

Badua: Writing a mystery was such a fun challenge for me, because there are structures and expectations that come with such a popular genre. To make sure I was getting it right, I devoured every mystery book, movie, and TV show I could find, from the silly to the serious. I even got the family involved, holding some Friday night Scooby Doo marathons. My young kids are far, far less interested in the mechanics of whodunits, but hey, Mommy’s gotta work.

Did you do a lot of research or were you always a big mystery fan?

Dow: I grew up on mysteries. My mom was a huge fan of Murder, She Wrote, Murder by Numbers, Mary Higgins Clark stories, Clue––if there was a mystery show or movie, my mom watched it. And with only one television, it meant I did too, ha! I’m glad I did. That genre was my entryway into reading books. They hooked me. I couldn’t stop reading till I knew the who in whodunit, which made us writing [a mystery] really special. But it also meant we needed to learn how to write it.

Badua: You deserve all the cookies for not fleeing when I got a little overzealous with our tons of docs—full of highlights and comments—and spreadsheets mapping out our characters and all the twists and turns. But that’s how we were able to take everything we’d internalized about writing mysteries, organize our millions of ideas, and set up a framework for our story that still left room for surprises. I think it’s also what helped us write so fast. We split up the drafting of the chapters by character, and we were able to follow the breadcrumbs that we each left. This book came together so quickly because of how much we communicated (overcommunicated?) and how fun the whole process ended up being.

Dow: I also think one of the reasons we had such a blast collaborating was because we included inside jokes we’ve accumulated over the years together. We laughed often while writing (and revising) this, and I hope that joy is felt on the pages. Of course, the risk of having too much fun meant that an editor––and readers––might not see what we were trying to do and laugh along with us. Amazingly, as the reviews have been coming in, it looks like (fingers crossed) they have!

Badua: I still laugh at random lines we have like, “Pineapple on pizza is a crime only a villain would commit.” I can’t wait to see which of our readers come at me with an angry #TeamPineapple. Wait until they see what I say about raisins in book two! I’m just so excited to see our funny, foodie mystery out in the world. Thanks so much for being my partner-in-crime on this, Alechia!

The Cookie Crumbles by Tracy Badua and Alechia Dow. Quill Tree, $19.99 June 11 ISBN 978-0-063254-58-9