Author Spotlight: Mary Jane Clark

We ask the best-selling mystery writer about her first novel set in Los Angeles, The Look of Love

Photograph courtesy Verlyn Larson

Do cakes go well with murder? “I think cakes go well with pretty much anything,” jokes Mary Jane Clark, the best-selling author of the Piper Donovan/Wedding Cake Mystery series. Piper’s a young actress who designs wedding cakes by day to pay the bills. Clark got the idea for the series while watching Martha Stewart on TV promoting her own book about wedding cakes. “Each cake was so beautiful, such a mini-masterpiece,” Clark says. “And many times it was keyed into the location of the wedding.” In Clark’s just-released second Wedding Cake Mystery, The Look of Love (one of our Reading List picks for January), Piper travels to Los Angeles, where a bloody murder spoils the fun. It was the first time the author set one of her books—this is her 14th—in our city. 

Why did you set The Look of Love in L.A.?
My daughter is an actress, so now I’ve spent some time out here. She lives in West Hollywood. It was the combination of having her out here and my main character being an actress who makes wedding cakes—and also, staying at the Chateau Marmont put me in this mood of wanting to write one [book] that took place in Los Angeles. 

How does the setting play a role?
It’s interesting. You always think of Los Angeles and Hollywood and the glamour and the glitz and the palm trees. But there’s also another part to the book, and that was inspired by the Monastery of the Angels over in Carmen Avenue—that’s a cloistered convent. From some angles when you look at it, it sits right below the Hollywood sign. That juxtaposition of the glamour of Hollywood and the spirituality of the nuns really interested me. In the book, Piper stays at a very exclusive spa and plastic surgery center, where she’s making wedding cakes for one of the owners, but you also get to read about the Monastery of the Angels. I have a fictional nun character in the book, and I have Piper making the wedding cake from the pumpkin bread that the nuns make at that monastery. 

What was your experience of researching the book?
There’s a bakery in Santa Monica called the Butter End Cakery. We went there, and the woman who owns it, Kimberly Bailey, was really helpful. And just general driving around L.A. Everywhere you look, there’s an idea. 

Will future books be set in Los Angeles?
The one I’m working on now takes place in Sarasota, Florida. In this new Wedding Cake Mystery series—I hope there will be 12 of them—each book takes place in a different part of the country, in the month that it would be a really good place to have a wedding. The first one was New York City in December, at Christmastime. This one is January in Los Angeles, and the next one will be February in Sarasota. So I don’t know if there will be another Wedding Cake Mystery in Los Angeles, but I think there very well could be another KEY News mystery. I also have this other series based on my years at CBS News.

Mary Jane Clark is currently on the Southern California leg of her book tour. Catch her on one of her stops.