Interview with Tracy Badua and Alechia Dow, Authors of The Cookie Crumbles


Welcome to Smack Dab, Tracy and Alechia! Please tell us a bit about The Cookie Crumbles.

Hi, and thanks for chatting with us! The Cookie Crumbles is a middle grade whodunnit, featuring two best friends––one a stellar baker, the other a budding journalist––as they navigate a high-stakes cookie competition and an attempted murder. It’s Knives Out meets Great British Bake-Off.

You both have so many interests–and your professional backgrounds go far beyond the world of literature (baking, the law, etc.) What brought each of you to writing?

Alechia: We do have such wild professional backgrounds––isn’t that wild? To be honest, I always wanted to be a writer, I just never thought it was something I could pursue. Growing up, there was this pervasive belief that you had to have money to make art, so I never thought it was for me. But I always wrote and when I went to pastry school, I decided to concentrate on food writing. One thing led to another, and eventually I tried my hand at fiction. It was one of the best choices I've ever made.

Tracy: Similar to Alechia, my upbringing involved some heavy “hey, you should get a steady job and healthcare” influence. Fast forwarding a few decades, I rediscovered my love of fiction after law school. Fortunately, many of the skills I’d developed in the legal field served me well as I tried to get published: forcing myself to sit and get my thoughts down on the page, breaking down complex issues into digestible bites for different audiences, expecting to revise and revise again, dealing with rejection after rejection, and so forth. I love all the different ways I’m able to flex those writing muscles (but writing for kids is much more fun. Shh – don’t tell the other lawyers). 

I’m fascinated by writing partnerships. How did you two start writing together?

Alechia: Tracy and I have been friends and critique partners––we read each other’s books and offer feedback––for eight years. When it came to writing together, it felt really natural.

Tracy: Author Wendy Heard used to do some informal critique partner matchmaking and she emailed both Alechia and me with “You two seem like a good match.” Smart cookie, that one.

What was the process like? Do you have similar drafting styles (plotter, pantser)? How did you stay on track?

Alecia Dow

Alechia: Writing The Cookie Crumbles was such a fun experience! We have very similar styles of drafting and are very goal-oriented plotters with a pinch of pantsing. We did chapter by chapter summaries, spreadsheets, and stayed in constant communication. At the time of writing, I was in Germany, Tracy was in California, which meant a 9-hour time difference. So one of us would be writing while the other was asleep. We could get two chapters––and edit the other’s chapter––in a day because of the time difference.

Why MG? Did the two of you start out knowing you wanted to do an MG, or did the idea for the book demand it be written for the MG audience?

Alechia: We both write middle grade books. Tracy wrote Freddie vs. The Family Curse, The Takeout, and the upcoming Thea and the Mischief Makers (October 15, 2024). I wrote Just a Pinch of Magic. However, we weren’t sure what to make of this particular story. I think we started it as young adult, but then after feedback, we aged down to middle grade. Honestly though, we both agreed it made a better middle grade anyway. It lent itself better to the themes annnnd it was finally fulfilling a dream for me. I read a ton of mystery middle grade books growing up, so it’s an honor to be a part of one now.

Please tell us a bit about your main characters. I can’t tell you how much I love the idea of making one of the MCs a suspect! It really ties in some strong conventions of the traditional cozy mystery, but it also brings in a strong story of friendship, which is probably the most important relationship in any MG-reader’s life. How did all of this come about?

Alechia: Tracy and I split the story in half; I wrote Laila, the confident baker and yet, an insecure friend who is afraid of how people view her and her relationship with Lucy. Middle grade is such a fantastic age group that lets you explore big and new emotions, friendship, and family, which you can’t always do in young adult anymore as it skews a bit more adult.

Tracy Badua

: I wrote Lucy, a newscaster-hopeful who really wants to prove her journalism chops. Having friends who believe in you is important, no matter the stage in life, and I loved seeing how Lucy and Laila served that role for each other (spoiler: mostly!) in the book. 

The storm hurls what might be the worst catastrophe at the girls–stealing access to their phones! Again, I love the cozy-mystery feel of taking away access to tech. Any bigger issues here that brought you to taking the girls away from their screens?

Alechia: The best mysteries cut you off from the outside world. With middle grade especially, if we didn’t isolate them, they could have just called their parents and left. This way, they’re forced to solve a mystery and confront their feelings about friendship, family, and the future. There’s no help here, they have to prove themselves and hone new skills––which really added to their character growth.

One of the toughest parts of writing for most authors can be the hook or setup. Those early pages are so important and so tough to nail. But your first line and first page is incredible - “Cookies don’t kill people.” Where’d that come from?

Alechia: I definitely believe in hooking readers right away. As a cookie lover and chef, I thought the funniest way to start the story was with this line, and Tracy agreed. It offers a great setup for a baking mystery. Also, generally speaking, cookies really don’t kill people––it’s the contestants you have to look out for.

Mysteries are probably the hardest genre to write. Any tips? Did you have the answer to the mystery planned out before you started writing?

Alechia: Always know the end before you begin. You need to know the who in the whodunnit so that you can sow the seeds early on while not being too on the nose. From there, you have to throw in a lot of red herrings.

Tracy: Stay organized! That doesn’t mean you have to painstakingly detail every single action and risk draining that joy of discovery out of writing: you can even create a rough outline after the fact so you can get a larger idea of how you’d put all the pieces together. I say this because I feel like co-writing a mystery proved even trickier than plotting out a solo book because Alechia and I had to fill each other in on those seeds we may have too cleverly planted along the way. Our early drafts were full of highlighting and comment boxes, and the spreadsheets and constant communication we mentioned before was key in staying organized and making sure we didn’t drop any threads or contradict each other.

What’s next? Do the two of you have another book in the works?

We do! The second in the series, Their Just Desserts, is coming out next year! We can’t say much about it yet, but all you need to know is that this time it’s a reality baking show mystery, and it’ll keep you guessing till the very end.

Where can we find you?

You can find us online!

 Alechia: My website is, you can find me on facebook as Alechia Dow, instagram as @alechiadow, and TikTok as––you guessed it––Alechia Dow!

Tracy: I’m at and most often on Instagram at @tracybaduawrites and on X and TikTok as @tracybwrites.