Friday, May 7, 2021

Mia P. Manansala Interview - Arsenic and Adobo

Photo Credit: Jamilla Yipp Photography

Mia P. Manansala (she/her) is a certified book coach and the author of ARSENIC AND ADOBO (Berkley May 4, 2021), the first in the Tita Rosie's Kitchen Mystery series. She uses humor (and murder) to explore aspects of the Filipino diaspora, queerness, and her millennial love for pop culture. 

She is the winner of the 2018 Hugh Holton Award, the 2018 Eleanor Taylor Bland Crime Fiction Writers of Color Award, the 2017 William F. Deeck - Malice Domestic Grant for Unpublished Writers, and the 2016 Mystery Writers of America/Helen McCloy Scholarship. She's also a 2017 Pitch Wars alum and 2018-2020 mentor.

A lover of all things geeky, Mia spends her days procrastibaking, playing JRPGs and dating sims, reading cozy mysteries, and cuddling her dogs Gumiho, Max Power, and Bayley Banks (bonus points if you get all the references).

Mia is quite the joiner, as she is a member of Mystery Writers of America, Sisters in Crime, Crime Writers of Color, Banyan: Asian American Writers Collective, International Thriller Writers, the Chicago Writers Association, and the Chicago Nerd Social Club.

Tell us your most rewarding experience since being published.
I love seeing the excitement that other Filipinos have when they see/hear about my book because we’re so hungry for representation. But more specifically, I recently received a message from an Asian American writer who told me that reading my story made them examine their work-in-progress, which had a White protagonist. They said that my novel gave them the “Aha!” moment they needed to change the character into one that reflected their own cultural background, one that they’d never tried to write before. That message made me realize that although I started writing only for myself, my work has the potential to affect so many others. It’s amazing.

Tell us your latest news.
ARSENIC AND ADOBO was one of the April picks for the Book of the Month subscription service, so if you’d like a hardcover edition, make sure to check it out. Book 2 in the Tita Rosie’s Kitchen Mystery series is titled Homicide and Halo-Halo, with a tentative release date of February 2022. It’s with my editors now and I’m waiting for their feedback. Currently working on Book 3 in the series, as well as some other exciting things, but I can’t talk about them yet.

In your newest book, ARSENIC AND ADOBO; can you tell my Book Nerd community a little about the novel?
Sure! ARSENIC AND ADOBO is a Filipino-American culinary cozy mystery, in which a young woman returns to her small Midwestern town to recover from a breakup, only to have to deal with her family’s failing business, a gaggle of meddling aunties, and her vindictive ex-boyfriend-turned-food critic who has the bad taste to die in her aunt’s restaurant.

  • 1. ARSENIC AND ADOBO was originally sold as Love, Loss, and Lumpia, but my editors (rightfully) said that title didn’t have enough of a mystery feel. I submitted a list of possible new titles and they selected Arsenic and Adobo from it.
  • 2. The town name of Shady Palms is an inside joke between me and a few of my friends. I’d originally put it in as a placeholder name, thinking it was too ridiculous to use, but it stuck. My friend and fellow cozy writer, Raquel Reyes, even helped me come up with a backstory so the name would make sense.
  • 3. I had to do a major rewrite halfway through the book since an important clue and plotline revolved around evidence that would’ve been a HIPAA violation if I’d left it in. Shout out to my beta readers Abby Collette/Abby Vandiver and Robin St. Clare (both writers as well as legal and medical professionals) who caught that major flub and saved me from an embarrassing mistake.
  • 4. The opening chapters of ARSENIC AND ADOBO won the 2018 Eleanor Taylor Bland Crime Fiction Writers of Color Award as well as the 2018 Hugh Holton Award.
  • 5. The opening lines popped into my head, fully formed, while I was riding the train to work one day. Since I first started this story in 2018, those two lines have never changed.
  • 6. The original inspiration for this story came from a conversation between me and my mentor, Kellye Garrett, where we were joking that cozies often followed rom-com tropes. “Cozies are just rom-coms with dead bodies!” I said, and a couple weeks later, the opening lines popped into my head.
  • 7. I’m on my second agent because my first literary agent couldn’t sell my first book after a year and half on submission (ARSENIC AND ADOBO is my second finished novel) and didn’t like my second. I signed with my agent Jill Marsal two weeks after I started querying, and she in turn sold my book at auction within two weeks of going on sub.
  • 8. The Calendar Crew (my protagonist’s godmothers, who are the meddling aunties mentioned in story description) are the most annoying characters yet the most fun to write.
  • 9. Adeena, my protagonist’s best friend, had much more page-time and a bigger backstory in original versions, but I had to trim it down to keep the focus on Lila. It was tough because she has such a strong personality that demanded to be heard!
  • 10. The romance was the hardest part for me to write, but also the most interesting. I like that it challenges me creatively—it’s easier for me to think up murders and motives than it is for me to dig deep and put emotion on the page.
What do you hope for readers to be thinking when they read your novel?
If they’re already cozy mystery fans, I want them to feel like they’re reading something comforting and familiar yet new and exciting at the same time. If they’ve never read a cozy mystery and/or aren’t familiar with Filipino food, I hope they find themselves drawn into a new world, engaging with the characters as they try to figure out whodunit, and that they come away from my novel hungry for Filipino food and more stories from me.

What was the most surprising thing you learned in creating Lila?
That despite all my careful planning before I started writing the story, she was a character with a mind of her own and would expand and grow in ways I hadn’t originally predicted.

If you could introduce one of your characters to any character from another book, who would it be and why?
I’d love to introduce my protagonist, Lila, to Odessa Dean from Olivia Blacke’s debut cozy, KILLER CONTENT. Odessa is a Southern small-town transplant currently living (and solving murders) in Williamsburg, NYC. Odessa is young, sheltered, and just beginning to expand her palate thanks to all the deliciousness New York has to offer. I’m sure Lila would love to take Odessa under her wing and introduce her to the world of Filipino food, and they could maybe solve a couple cases together in the meantime.

What was the single worst distraction that kept you from writing this book?
I started this book early 2018 and my father passed away at the end of 2018. I had to set it aside for a while as I dealt with my grief and helping my family. I wish he could be here for this, but the book is dedicated to him.

  • 1. I taught English in South Korea for over three years.
  • 2. While in South Korea, I was (VERY briefly) a member of a roller derby team.
  • 3. My favorite colors are purple and teal (or peacock colors, as I call them).
  • 4. I love stars and galaxy/space patterns.
  • 5. I’m a certified book coach, and love guiding writers to the best version of their stories.
  • 6. Baking is my love language.
  • 7. Mystery is my favorite genre overall, but Romance is my current favorite (fake dating is the best trope ever)
  • 8. I’m a beginner-level tarot card reader and want to buy ALL the decks.
  • 9. I became obsessed with candles a couple years ago (I light one as part of my writing ritual) and go through two or three a month.
  • 10. I have three dogs, and their names are all pop culture/mythology related.
What is something you think everyone should do at least once in their lives?
Travel abroad

If you could go back in time to one point in your life, where would you go?
From 2011-2014 (and half of 2010), I taught English in a small town in South Korea. I had just graduated from college and had no idea what I wanted to do with my life, but for the first time ever, I was living on my own and experiencing a freedom and lightness that I still think about sometimes. I love my life now, but I owe much of who I am today to those years abroad.

What are 4 things you never leave home without?
Phone, keys, face mask, and small zipper pouch with lip balm, lotion, and hand sanitizer inside (I frequently forget my wallet in a different bag)

What do you usually think about right before falling asleep?
How I should’ve gotten more writing done.

Which would you choose, true love with a guarantee of a heart break or have never loved before?
Despite loving romance in fiction, I’m NOT a very romantic person. However, love has been (and still is) a huge driving force in my life and I’ve learned and grown so much because of it. So even though I’m not a fan of the drama and pain of heart break, I have to go with true love.

The first book in a new culinary cozy series full of sharp humor and delectable dishes—one that might just be killer....

When Lila Macapagal moves back home to recover from a horrible breakup, her life seems to be following all the typical rom-com tropes. She's tasked with saving her Tita Rosie's failing restaurant, and she has to deal with a group of matchmaking aunties who shower her with love and judgment. But when a notoriously nasty food critic (who happens to be her ex-boyfriend) drops dead moments after a confrontation with Lila, her life quickly swerves from a Nora Ephron romp to an Agatha Christie case.

With the cops treating her like she's the one and only suspect, and the shady landlord looking to finally kick the Macapagal family out and resell the storefront, Lila's left with no choice but to conduct her own investigation. Armed with the nosy auntie network, her barista best bud, and her trusted Dachshund, Longanisa, Lila takes on this tasty, twisted case and soon finds her own neck on the chopping block…

You can purchase Arsenic and Adobo at the following Retailers:

And now, The Giveaways.
Thank you MIA P. MANANSALA for making this giveaway possible.
1 Winner will receive a Copy of Arsenic and Adobo by Mia P. Manansala.


  1. "Is there something you've dreamed of doing for a long time?" Yes! Lots of things!

  2. We did it this past year! We sold our house & moved to the beach. Best decision ever!

  3. I really want to do a genealogy trip. I want to complete research and visit some family graves, etc.