Sunday, March 1, 2015

In the hotseat....author Leslie Budewitz!


Meow! My guest today is author Leslie Budewitz!

 

 



 

Leslie Budewitz is the only author to win Agatha Awards for both fiction and nonfiction—the 2013 Agatha Award for Best First Novel, for Death al Dente (Berkley Prime Crime), first in the Food Lovers’ Village Mysteries, and the 2011 Agatha Award for Best Nonfiction, for Books, Crooks & Counselors: How to Write Accurately About Criminal Law & Courtroom Procedure (Quill Driver Books). She lives in northwest Montana with her husband, a musician and doctor of natural medicine, and their cat Ruff, a cover model and avid bird-watcher.

 

 
RUFF-Leslie's supervisor!


  • Welcome to the blog, Leslie! Tell us a little about your background

Thanks ROCCO!  Well, I started writing at age 4, on my father’s desk. Literally---I didn’t yet grasp the concept of paper. Happily, my parents were amused and my mother, who is 89, still gives me notebooks and pens for Christmas.

After college in Seattle and law school at Notre Dame, I practiced in Seattle for several years, then came back to my native Montana. I still practice law part-time for a small firm, primarily in personal injury and business litigation, with some criminal, insurance, and employment work. My husband, a singer-songwriter and a doctor of natural medicine, is also a Montana native, and we live in the woods in the NW corner of the state, on the road to Glacier National Park. Although we had dogs for many years---Border Collies and a Remoyed (a Samoyed and Retriever mix)---we are currently supervised by a ten year old Burmese cat.

  • Tell us a bit about your Food Lovers Village series. Where did the idea come from?

After that early experience on my dad’s desk, it took me another three decades to decide I really did want to write seriously, and more than fifteen years before I held my first book in my hands. In the interim, I wrote several unpublished manuscripts, although a few were agented and came close, and published half a dozen short stories. After my nonfiction guide for writers, Books, Crooks & Counselors: How to Write Accurately About Criminal Law and Courtroom Procedure (Quill Driver Books, 2011) was published, I decided that as much as I love helping other writers get the facts about the law write—er, right—I wasn’t through telling my own stories. I love the light-hearted subset of traditional mystery sometimes called the cozy, and decided to try that genre. Foodie fiction is popular, and I love to eat and cook, so I created a village obsessed with food—in Montana, of all the unlikely places. Erin Murphy manages Murphy’s Mercantile aka the Merc, a specialty regional foods market in her family’s hundred-year-old building in the village of Jewel Bay. The village is inspired in part by the town I live in, and while there are even more great places to eat on the page than on our streets, it’s actually not too far from the mark! Happily, the locals have embraced the books.

As a college student, I fell in love with Seattle’s Pike Place Market. Later as a young lawyer working downtown, I tried to eat my way through the Market at least once or twice a week. I’d start at the front entrance with a slice of pizza from DeLaurenti’s walk-up window, browsing the covers of the magazines at the First & Pike Newsstand— eyes only until my hands were clean! I’d sip a sample cup of tea at Market Spice while watching the fishmongers throw salmon and amuse the crowd with their comedy routine, pick my produce and cheese for the week, and end with dessert—a hazelnut sablĂ© from Le Panier, the French bakery, or a Nanaimo bar from a now-departed shop in the warren off Post Alley.

So naturally, when I thought about setting a mystery series in Seattle, the Market beckoned. I created my own spice shop, influenced by the ones that exist there and shops I’ve visited in other regions, but with a flavor all its own. Pepper Reece is the poster child for the adage “life begins at 40.” After thirteen years of marriage, she discovered her police officer husband and a meter maid—she still can’t say “parking enforcement officer”—in a back booth in a posh new restaurant practically plugging each other’s meters when he was supposed to be working an extra shift. She moved out and bought an unfinished loft in a century-old downtown warehouse. Then the law firm where she’d worked in HR, managing staff, imploded in scandal and took her job with it. She tossed her office wardrobe, cut her hair, and bought the Spice Shop, a forty-year-old institution that had lost its verve.

In ASSAULT AND PEPPER, first in the series, she finds a homeless man dead at her shop’s front door---and a trusted employee is charged with murder. The investigation forces Pepper to confront the limits of her own judgment and her ability to work with other people. In the process, she learns new skills and draws on internal resources she didn’t know she had. Ultimately, we read to explore human experience, and I hope reading about Pepper as she meets those challenges—something we all face—is satisfying as well as entertaining.

  • How do you “get to know” your characters before and while you’re writing the books?
  • How do you construct your plots? Do you outline or do you write “by the seat of your pants”?
  • Which do you consider more important, plot or character?

These questions all blend together for me. The heart of every story is the characters. Even in a mystery or a thriller, where plot is critical, the characters are the key. When someone raves to you about a book, they don’t say “it’s about a bomb ....” They say “it’s about a woman who ....” When readers fall for a series, they remember the characters as much as the individual plots—sometimes even more.

It is the characters’ choices and decisions that create the plot. Plot unfolds when one character acts and another responds. So, for me, it’s crucial to get to know my characters before I start writing their story. I ask my story people to tell me what they most want out of life. To show me their struggles, internal and external. To reveal how they respond when someone stands in their way. I do that by delving into the characters, asking how they would behave in a particular situation. When Pepper does something that threatens to expose the killer---whether she realizes it or not---the killer will respond. Another suspect may also respond, and they’ll all keep on acting and responding, driven by their desires, their fears, their behavior in the face of obstacles.

Generally, I write an outline---a paragraph or two for each chapter, sometimes with snippets of dialogue I think will occur. But it doesn’t always work out that way. I’ve just started the third book in the series, and while I know who the killer is and I think I know the final confrontation, I don’t know much about what happens in the second half of the book. That’s okay---a running outline is good enough to get me going, and I’m making notes for those later chapters as more becomes clear.

In the planning phase, I sometimes struggle until I identify the core conflicts between the victim and the killer—but also between the victim and other characters who fall under suspicion, and between the sleuth and those who would stop her. It’s a messy, ever-moving process. It’s also a lot of fun. I hope that it flows on the printed page, that it keeps you reading and asking questions. I hope my stories introduce you to a cast of folks you want to know, who show you a little something about life—and character.

  • What is the biggest challenge you’ve faced as a writer and what inspires you and keeps you motivated?

Motivation is---or was---the biggest challenge for years. Not because writing is hard, though it is, but because I was going through a period in my life where nothing seemed to come to fruition. Ultimately, in my writing life, I broke through that barrier with the short stories and my nonfiction book.

Staying motivated day to day isn’t hard at all. Writing is the thing I most love doing. To paraphrase Gloria Steinem , it’s the one thing I do where, when I’m doing it, I don’t think I should be doing something else. Joseph Campbell said “Never underestimate the value to the Universe of a fully realized life.” This is mine, and that’s motivation aplenty.

I’ll confess though, that right now, I’m starting a new book, waiting for edits on another, and launching a new series, and staying focused is a challenge!

  • You are also a lawyer, which career is the bigger challenge?

They’re so different---they both have their own challenges. I do appreciate that in mystery writing, I can kill people without going to prison.

  • What are you working on now and what are your future writing plans?

 I’m looking forward to the publication of the third Food Lovers’ Village Mystery, BUTTER OFF DEAD, in July, and the second Spice Shop Mystery, GUILTY AS CINNAMON, in December. And I’ve just started writing the third Spice Shop Mystery, tentatively titled A THYME TO KILL. Pepper’s mother Lena returns from her home in Costa Rica for a visit, and the past comes roaring back. I hope to keep writing both series, as well as another project that at the moment is progressing mainly in my mind.

I’m also serving as vice president of Sisters in Crime, and will become president this fall. Eventually, unless I fall totally flat, I’ll be named a Goddess, and who doesn’t aspire to that?

  • What is a typical workday for you and how many hours a day (or week) do you devote to writing?

Alas, at the moment, there is no such thing as typical---not with three books at different stages and several law firm projects in progress. Generally, though, I write ten pages a day, five or six days a week, and fit in promotion when I can. During the run-up to launching a new series, though, that sort of flips for a few weeks! But I don’t want to let the new story get too far away from me, so I try to get in some writing time every day. Even half an hour will give me a few paragraphs or a page, and keep the story moving in my head.

  • If you could take only three books with you for a year-long writing retreat in a gorgeous setting with no library, which three would you take?

I have no idea!

  • What advice do you have to offer to an aspiring author?

 Read, study, write, repeat. Join a writers’ group and learn from other writers. Focus on the craft first---might not be a bad idea, if you’re working on a novel, to finish your first draft before you start delving into the publishing business. Only then can you understand the options and the many paths to publications, decide on your goals, and begin making choices.

  • What’s the craziest thing you’ve ever done?

  Carrying a 60 pound backpack 60 miles over the Continental Divide, on an eight-day trip with my husband and brother through the fabulous Bob Marshall Wilderness in Montana’s Northern Rockies. Also the most amazing trip I’ve ever taken and the greatest physical challenge.

  • What’s one thing your readers would be surprised to find out about you?

 Probably that I don’t view any of my characters as based on me, even though I try to give them some of my own experiences----what they do with them is up to them!

  • Where can we learn more about you and your books?

I’ve got a lovely new website, www.LeslieBudewitz.com,  a seasonal email newsletter, and a blog called Law and Fiction that blends fun stuff for readers and info for writers who want to get the law right in their fiction.

Just for Fun:

Night or Day?  Day

Dog or Cat? (answer carefully)  Yes.

Beach or Pool?   Mountain lake or stream

Steak or salad?  Medium rare, balsamic vinaigrette

Favorite Drink?  A wine to go with the food---or stream

Favorite Book?  One look at our bookshelves and you’d know I can’t possibly pick just one!

Favorite TV Series?  We just started watching Buffy the Vampire Slayer on Netflix and we’re having a blast.

Favorite Movie?  Casablanca. Or Bladerunner. Depends on my mood.

Favorite Actor: Hmmm…

Favorite Actress: Meryl Streep

Dirty Martini or Pina Colada? You drink mine and pour me another glass of wine. But if we’re on a deck by that mountain lake and we’ll be here a while, mix me up a Negroni.

Hawaii or Alaska?  Montana J

Finish this sentence:  If I could meet anyone in the world, past or present, it would be ___________________ I’d say Emily Dickinson but I’’d probably scare her half to death, poor soul.

If I had just one wish, it would be_________________________________________ An end to the divisiveness that is tearing us and our planet apart.

If I could trade places with anyone in the world, it would be _______ I wouldn’t---I love my own life too much!

 

Thanks for a great interview, Leslie! Folks,  here are all the places you can find out more about her:


 


 

Thanks to Berkley Prime Crime, we have a copy of ASSAULT AND PEPPER to give away to one lucky commenter! 

To enter, leave a comment on this blog post with your name and email address (entries without email will be disqualified). For extra entries, you can do any or all of the below:

 


* Follow my blog (+ 1 point)
* Follow me on Twitter (+ 1 point) (Link: https://twitter.com/RoccoBlogger)
* Tweet about the contest (+ 1 point)
* Friend me on Facebook (+ 1 point) (Link: https://www.facebook.com/ToniLotempio)#!/

* Mention the contest on Facebook (+ 1 point)
* Mention the contest on your blog (+ 1 point)

 

Winner will be chosen at random using random.org.  Don’t forget to mention all you’ve done in your comment. Good luck! Contest ends midnight, March 5!

 

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

An Important Guest Post from Traci Hohenstein!

ROCCO here!
Traci Hohenstein has always been one of our favorite authors; as a matter of fact, I reviewed her very first Rachel Scott novel for Night Owl!  Traci asked if she could guest blog today, because she has a very important announcement to share with all of you

So...here's Traci!



The End of a Series or Just a New Beginning?

Traci Hohenstein

 


When I started to write the first Rachel Scott book I had no idea where it would take me. I hadn’t planned on making it a series. I actually wrote Burn Out first – although the order of books is Asylum Harbor, Burn Out, Cut & Run and Deceptive Measures. All I had was an idea of a missing firefighter and a strong woman who turned her life around when her daughter had vanished. I had no idea that readers would love the story and come to care about Rachel Scott and if she would ever find her daughter. I started writing a second book, Asylum Harbor, when agents and publishers came knocking wanting to represent me and buy the books. I signed a four-book deal with Thomas & Mercer to include Burn Out and Asylum Harbor. It was then that I knew something special was happening. Readers couldn’t get enough of the missing person’s investigator and her team at Florida Omni Search. So I followed up with the third book, Cut & Run, which took place in New Orleans and featured a missing family.  After the success of that novel I knew I had a decision to make. Where to take the last book?

 
Deceptive Measures, the final Rachel Scott novel, was the hardest to write. I knew there had to be some kind of closure with Rachel Scott and her missing daughter. I just wasn’t sure where to take it. I hated to end the series, especially when so many people enjoyed the books. It was after I had finished Deceptive Measures I realized that it didn’t have to end. I could continue to write about missing person’s investigations with a new protagonist.

 

Starting this summer I will be releasing a new series, this time featuring Stacy Case, a member of the Florida Omni Search team. Stacy was a secondary character in the first four books, but now it is her turn in the spotlight. She takes over as lead investigator along with Red Cooper, who is another beloved character and they will continue to search for missing persons. The first book, yet to be titled, features a missing teenager from Alabama. The book is being edited now and slated for release sometime in June 2015. 

 

I hope you will enjoy the final and fourth Rachel Scott novel as much as I enjoyed writing it. And I hope you will continue with the series, featuring Stacy Case as the new lead character. Who knows? Maybe Rachel Scott will make a few appearances.

Monday, February 23, 2015

In case you missed it....PRINCESS FUZZYPANTS!



FOR THOSE WHO MIGHT HAVE MISSED OUR JANUARY INTERVIEW....
PRINCESS FUZZYPANTS!

My Special Guest Today-
Facebook’s own PRINCESS FUZZYPANTS!
I am SO pleased to welcome my very special guest to the blog: Facebooks’ own Princess Fuzzypants!  She’s taken FB by storm and she’ll steal your heart too!
A bit about the Princess:
I am two years and four months old and am a Classic Red Tabby Maine Coon.  That is unusual for a girl and a Maine Coon.  While the mating of my parents gave meow my beautiful colouring, it also gave meow hip dysplasia. Oddly, this ensured that I was able to adopt my family.
My sister, Sammi, mom's first kitty, died suddenly at the end of November 2012. My whole family was devasted, especially mom.  Sammi didn't want to leave but she made sure that everypawdy was ok.  Mom never would have looked in Kijiji if Sammi hadn't made her and there she found meow, looking right back at her with one paw raised.
What made this even more unusual is Mom has volunteered at the Humane Society since 1998 and she has bugged my daddy about all sorts of kitties she wanted to adopt.  Giggle.  When Sammi left for the Bridge, there was not one kitty whom Momma wanted to adopt badly for maybe the very first time.
Momma contacted the lady who bred meow and despite lots of other people saying they wanted meow, she chose Momma.  Then they did an x-ray and discovered my hip dysplasia.  The lady was devasted.  She said she would understand if Momma backed out.  She said I was the first kitten who had the problem.
Instead of backing out, Momma said it made her happier to give meow a good home.  I would be an only kitty and I would be given all the comforts and if my hips got worse, I would have a family who would take care of meow.  It made her feel less guilty that she didn't adopt any of the shelter kitties.
Mommy, Daddy and my brother picked meow up on December 13, 2012, my gotcha day.  I have had them wrapped around my paws ever since.
When Momma retired, I decided that to start a Facebook page.  I wanted to meet other kitties and humans who love animals.  I wanted to help homeless animals find their furever homes.  I wanted to give humans and animals a smile and make them happy.
I wanted to share with others.
On New Year's Eve, Facebook deleted my page.  My crime was being a kitty.  Pfft,
Neither Momma or meow believe in giving up so I borrowed her page, which she never used, to get the word out.  I also started a Community Page https://www.facebook.com/Princessfuzzypants2012
so that my furriends and I could share and not be harassed by trolls.  It is only a week since it started but I have connected with so many old furriends and made so many new ones, I cannot stop purring.  It only proves what we already know:  never quit and never surrender.
Purr, trill, coo, warble and chirp.

Rocco here! The minute I looked over my human’s shoulder and saw posts on FB from the captivating PRINCESS FUZZYPANTS, I knew I wanted to have her as a guest on my blog!  The Princess is a beautiful long haired tabby who has captured the hearts of all her FB followers, moi included!  Might be worth a trek to Canada just to meet this fabulous feline!
However, (sigh) in the meantime I shall have to adore – and interview – her from afar!
R: for all our interested readers out there – particularly the feline ones  – describe a typical day in your life.
Princess: A typical day for meow starts early.  I usually sleep right on top of my mom so it's purrty easy to nudge her awake.  If she and my daddy are slowpokes, I will demand that they get up.
All meals have an order of importance.  Kitties get fed first and I love my dollop of stinky goodness(Fancy Feast) that mom puts on top of my Maine Coon kibble.  I usually chat with everypawdy and demand some play time as well as the tap turned on so I can drink.  I do not drink out of a bowl.  Yuck!  I want fresh water from the tap. After everything is cleaned up, I position myself in the sink to purrform my sink lion duties.  If they are slow in clearing up, I will voice my concerns.  I also like to announce when I have made a deposit in the bank of Missi (my real name).  I like everything to be just so.
I am quite vocal and I am around my people most of the time. I follow Momma around the house.  If for some reason I lose track of my humans, all I have to do is yowl and someone will answer meow
I love looking out the windows both front and back although it's better when it's not winter.  There is so much more to see.  I had all sorts of toys and while I am quite prepared to play by myself, I do purrfur interactive play.  I like to run around the house but everypawdy is careful that I do not injure my hips.
Naps and cuddles are an important part of my day.  It is usually  the afternoon nap in which I will curl up with mom and we will read books, do reviews and catch up on our correspondence.
Momma is an inveterate pawpawrazzi.  The camera is always at the ready.  I do furbear most of the time but confess to being less than cooperative at times.  She should not take meow for granted. (Don't mew agree, Rocco?)
After dinner, we settle down to do power watching of movies or streaming.  We love Netflicks and Amazon Prime.  I now start on my brother's lap, if he is home,  and then move to Momma's.  We have a fun routine for bed time, including Momma taking my three mousies up to her bed, having my  drink of water and my insistence for everypawdy to go to bed.
Momma will try to groom meow either when I am on her lap or when I am helping her get ready for bed.  Sometimes I like it...so far.  Other times she calls me a stink pot.
After we have read for a while and the light is turned out, I will  settle on top of Momma and we will go to sleep while she pets and says she loves meow.
R: How did you feel about getting your on page on Facebook?
Princess: I was so excited when I got my FB page. By the time they zapped meow on New Year's Eve, I had almost 2500 furriends.  Luckily Momma had a page she never used so I could borrow it to get the word out.  Now, I have my community page-https://www.facebook.com/Princessfuzzypants2012
and I am excited again.  I am getting all sorts of likes, many of my old furriends have found meow and I am meeting a ton of new kitties.   I don't know why FB doesn't like kitties when all we want to do is entertain and make people happy.
R: Tell us about some of the books you and your human Susan have read recently. What ones stand out?
Princess: Momma and I have read books together since our first days but since Momma retired, we do it lots.  My favourite books, of course, are the ones with kitties.  I loved your book, MEOW IF IT'S MURDER.  I am particularly fond of cat mysteries with strong feline characters so I love mew and Hamlet in the Bookshop Mysteries and Diesel in the Cats in the Stacks.  I also adore Leann Sweeney's books and the Magical Kitties..  Momma first got into cat mysteries when she read the Midnight Louie series.  She then found Mrs. Murphy and then Joe Grey.  Can you say hooked?  Giggle.  (R: Sounds like my human –only she found Mrs. Murphy first and then Midnight Louie. I don’t think she has read Joe Gray, but she and your human appear to have similar tastes, meow!)
We also enjoy Clea Simon's Pru Marlowe books and thought her recent one was one of the best.  We also really liked Miranda James' spin off Bless Her Dead Little Heart.  We are big fans of Shannon Hill's Lil and Boris series and have her fifth one at the top of our  TBR list
R:  What do you love most about Susan?  Dislike most?
Princess: What do I love most about Susan? She's Momma and she adores meow.  I love how close we are and how she is comfy and warm when we snuggle.  I have her well trained so life is purrty sweet.  She is just a big softie.
What I don't like is when she goes away.  I thought this retired gig would mean she would be here with meow all the time.  Pfft.  Also when she grooms meow and we hit a snag, I don't like that or when I have to go and get my claws clipped.  
R: What’s the story behind your name?
Princess:   Princess Fuzzypants is my nickname that Momma called meow when I first arrived.  She loved my plumage and my fluffy pantaloons.  I have several other nicknames but when  we set up my page, there was no doubt what my moniker would be.
I am just surprised that some humans got the very wrong idea that it meant something else.  Yuck.
R:If you could change one thing about your human  what would it be?
Princess: What would I change about my humans?  Hmmmm.  Probably that they never would go away on powders.  I like things the way they are.
R: Your humans travel a lot – how do you amuse yourself when they are gone?
Princess: My parents do travel...a lot.  Luckily my brother stays home almost all the time and if he goes, I have a very dear furriend who moves into the house and takes care of meow.  When my parents are away, we do FaceTime.  It is weird when they are in that little box.  I can entertain myself with my toys and the world outside my windows and naps until a human comes home.  I can zoom around the house if I need some exercise.  My brother and my furriend are  almost as well trained as my mom.  I still get lots of love and attention, just not Momma.
R: Do you have a boyfriend? Would you be open to the idea of a handsome tuxedo courting you from afar?
Princess:  I do have a boyfurriend. His name is Prince Buddy Peters and he is also a very handsome tuxedo.  We travel the world together and he posts it on our pages.  Sometimes we go with furriends but we have a wonderful time.  However, I am most happy to be a special furriend with mew too Rocco. One can never have too many furriends.
R:  Just for fun…
Catnip or scratching post?  : Since I do enjoy nip but don't go bonkers, I will say Scratching post.  Nothing feels quite so good as a good scratch.
Tabbies or Tuxedos? Well, I am a tabby but I confess I do have a soft spot for Tuxedos or cats with black on them.  My sister Sammi, to whom I owe everything, was a beautiful black house panther
Fish or Steak?  Hmm- maybe I should put this as something I would change.  My daddy insists that I eat only cat food so I have never tasted either in the people food arena.  However, the way my daddy makes a steak, I think I would choose that.  Mind mew, he makes good fishy smells too.
Shakespeare or Stephen King?: While we both love the classics and histories, I would probably choose Stephen King.  Nothing better than curling up together and reading something that grips mew.  It gives us an excuse to cuddle closer.  Giggle.
Thank you for a wonderful interview, Princess!
Folks, the Princess will be guest blogging occasionally for meow over the year!  PURRRRRRR
If you haven’t liked her page, you can do so here: https://www.facebook.com/Princessfuzzypants2012
Princess is right – one can never have too many furrends!

Monday, February 16, 2015

Our guest today...FETA ATTRACTION author Susannah Hardy!


Meow! My guest today is author Susannah Hardy!




Susannah Hardy thinks she has the best job in the world: making up stories and inventing recipes to go along with them. A native of northern New York, where she attended St. Lawrence University, Susannah now lives in Connecticut with her husband, teenage son, and Elvira the Wonder Cat.

R:  Welcome Susannah! Tell us a bit about yourself and how you became interested in writing.

 Thanks Rocco! I grew up in northern New York State, but I now live in Connecticut. I love living in New England! I’ve worked a number of different jobs, most recently as an independent editor of indie-published novels. (I still take an occasional job, if a book interests me).

 I’ve always been a reader, and I made a few attempts at writing when I was younger—mostly short stories and some truly dreadful poetry, as well as a poorly drawn comic strip about a biology-loving superheroine who saved the world from marauding Protozoans and an Evil Overlord who looked a lot like my high school biology teacher. Over the years, I started several novels but never got past the first chapter or two. It was only when I (a) admitted to myself that if I never finished a novel—and I only meant “finished,” because selling a novel was not even on my radar at the time—I would regret it on my deathbed; and (b) found another writer who was at the same point in her own journey and supported me, and I her, that I was able to get out of my own way and write the first draft of the novel that would become FETA ATTRACTION. Now I’m a full-time writer, under contract for several mysteries, and I could not be happier!


R: What drew you to the cozy mystery genre?

 I’ve always read cozies—from the stripped-down version in Encyclopedia Brown, to Nancy Drew, to Agatha Christie, and now to the modern cozies. I love everything about them:

  • the emphasis on community, friendships and family
  • the fact that cozies don’t need to rely on anything graphic to make the story interesting
  • the Play-Fair promise that all the clues and suspects necessary to solve the murder are contained in the book, even though they’re hidden
  • the ability to revisit the characters (at least the ones who survive into the next book, LOL!) and the setting over and over, because cozies come in series;
  • the gorgeous cover art, and punny titles that appeal to my cornball nature; and
  • the guarantee that justice will be served at the end of the book


R: Tell us about your series, the GREEK TO ME MYSTERIES. How did you decide on that for a setting?

 The GREEK TO ME MYSTERIES are set in my old stomping grounds, the Thousand Islands area of New York State, on the St. Lawrence River, on the Canadian border. My heroine/sleuth, Georgie Nikolopatos, isn’t Greek, but she married into a Greek family and manages the family restaurant. Greece is made up of mainland and islands; so is northern New York State. It seemed like a natural fit. Plus, Bonaparte Bay, where Georgie’s restaurant is located, is a (fictional) tourist village, and that means lots of people coming and going—people who really ought to be careful, because you know what often happens to outsiders in a cozy mystery town! So there are plenty of opportunities for lots of interesting things to happen over the course of the series.


R: Do you have any favorite Greek recipes you’d like to share?

 Sure! Here’s a recipe included in FETA ATTRACTION for Greek-Style Roasted Potatoes, which you can serve with pretty much any type of meat, or with just a big Greek salad for a lighter meal, or even for breakfast:


Greek-Style Roasted Potatoes


Serves two (recipe is easily doubled).


3 medium potatoes (Yukon Golds are delicious, but all-purpose spuds are fine too)

1 onion, peeled and sliced

2 T. olive oil

Pinch of sea salt

A few grinds of black pepper

Chopped fresh flat leaf parsley


Preheat oven to 425 degrees.


Wash and peel potatoes. Cut each potato in half lengthwise, then cut each half into 3 wedges. Dry with a paper towel. Place in a bowl along with the onion slices, and pour the olive oil over the top. Season with sea salt and black pepper and mix to coat the potatoes well. 


Line a shallow rimmed baking sheet with foil. (You will not get good results if you use a baking dish with high sides). Spread the potato mixture in a single layer on the baking sheet.


Bake for 35 minutes, or until potatoes have a nice crispy golden crust.  Check on the potatoes once or twice during the baking process to be sure they’re browning evenly and the onions are not burning. Give them a stir if necessary. Sprinkle with chopped flat leaf parsley. A sprinkle of crumbled feta on the hot potatoes is also delicious.


R:  Do you have a “how I got my agent” story you’d like to share?  How did you feel when you got the call your first novel had sold?

I had been pitching the novel that would become FETA ATTRACTION for a couple of years, off and on, to agents and editors at conferences. But in retrospect I can see that I was very unfocused at that time, trying to tailor my pitches to the agents and editors based on what I thought they were looking for, rather than what the book actually was. I tweaked and retweaked the first fifty pages of the book. In my attempt to get it “perfect,” I finally realized that I was spinning my wheels, and I wasn’t working on other projects, either. So I sat myself down and gave myself a talking-to. I set a deadline of six months to get an agent, or to sell to a digital-first press. If that didn’t happen, I would self-publish the book. Whatever happened, it was time to move on.

But I did have a plan, and I did some research. I went to Barnes and Noble to the cozy mystery section and I looked at the acknowledgements in every single one of them, making a list of agents who’d been thanked by their clients. This gave me a list of professionals I knew could sell a cozy mystery. I started querying, a few at a time. I got a few rejections and several requests for partial or full manuscripts, so I knew my query letter was working.

Now, about two months into this process, I attended a conference, and a friend introduced me to her agent. I submitted to him, and he ended up making me an offer of representation. However, I did some research and realized that he had never sold a cozy mystery. (Not that he couldn’t, just that he hadn’t yet) Several of my first-choice agents hadn’t responded to my query yet, so I politely followed up and let them know that I had an offer from another agent but hadn’t signed. Several of them got back to me right away, but the first time I talked to the agent I eventually signed with, I knew we were a great match. We put together a proposal for a three-book series, and two weeks to the day I first spoke to my agent, we had a deal with Berkley. So it took a long time to get the ball rolling, but once it did, it happened very, very fast. And I still had two months left on my deadline!

I got the call that we had a deal on my husband’s birthday. And I burst into tears, then we went out to dinner.


R: What’s a must have for you when you are writing? What aids the creative process?

 Depending on the time of day, I usually have coffee, herbal tea, or ice water sitting next to me. Writing is thirsty work, LOL! I also have a supply of Ghirardelli chocolate squares because, you know, chocolate is brain food. At least that’s what I tell myself.


R: If you had access to a time machine, which historical moment would you travel to and why?

 Hmmm. This is a tough one, picking just one thing. Because I’m a huge history nerd. This will not come as a surprise to anyone who reads FETA ATTRACTION, which is based on some real Bonaparte history. Right now (and this answer would change based on what I’m reading about or thinking about day-to-day), I’d like to travel back to 1815 and ask Napoleon why, after being defeated at Waterloo, he didn’t go through with his plan of escaping to America, but instead chose to surrender and be forced into exile. I mean, what did he have to lose? Why not take a chance on freedom?


R: What is one thing your readers would be most surprised to know about you?

 That despite having had a book traditionally published by a New York publisher, with several more books in the queue, I still don’t really think of myself as an author. Even though this is my full-time job now, it all still feels a bit like it’s happening to someone else. But I do recognize that I’m living my dream—maybe that’s the part that’s hard to believe!


R: What is the craziest thing you've ever done? 

Oh, gosh. If I tell you the actual craziest thing I’ve done, I’m afraid my son will read this blog and think it’s okay to do stupid stuff, LOL! But I can admit that when I got out of college, my bestie and I backpacked through Europe for two and-a-half months, with very little money (I mean, when she and I landed back in the U.S. after this trip, I had $10.00 in my pocket!). It was an amazing experience and honestly, I’d like to do it again—but with more money this time, in case of emergencies and so I could eat more than once a day.   


R: What do you hope readers will most take away from your writing?

I hope readers will love and root for my characters as much as I do, and want to come back to see what happens next.

R: What are you working on at the moment / next?

Right now I’m working on the first book of a new cozy mystery series, as well as a short story anthology project with a number of other cozy authors. I’ve also got a much darker, decidedly non-cozy story I want to tell, based on a murder that happened in my own family a hundred years ago. Not sure when I’ll have time to work on that one, but it’s a story that’s been taking up room in my writer-brain for a while.

R: Are you a plotter or a pantser?

FETA ATTRACTION was one hundred percent pantsed. I started at the beginning, and I just kept writing, and the plot unfolded to me as I went along in an almost magical way. I don’t know any other way to describe that, and I know that doesn’t help other writers, LOL! But as I was writing books two and three in the series, I did have to do a little plotting, in order to keep characters consistent and to make sure that while each book stands alone, it also incorporates the bigger story arc that spans the three books. But for the most part, I’m a pantser. Most of my writer friends are plotters, by the way, and these days most of them are using large plot boards and various Post-it notes to plan out their stories. I admire the pretty colors, but I can’t bring myself to build one. I’m pretty sure that would take the magic out of it for me, and I’m learning to trust my own process, which has been working so far.

R: What do you do when you’re not writing? Any hobbies or party tricks? :)

I love to troll the Internet and cookbooks for recipes (big surprise, for a culinary cozy writer, eh?), as well as research obscure bits of history and my own genealogy. I also love to do needlework—sewing, knitting, and crocheting—and to go for long walks, with an audiobook playing on my phone. That way I get some exercise and don’t feel guilty about listening to a story when I think I should be doing other things. I’m also teaching myself to be a gardener, because I have a vision in my head what I want my yard to look like, but it’s not there yet. This year I’m going to add some vegetables beyond my traditional couple of tomato plants. Wish me luck!

R: Do you have any advice for beginning writers?

 Ooh, advice! One of my favorite things!


  • Don’t be afraid. You don’t ever have to show your writing to anyone else if you don’t want to.
  • Don’t get caught in the Susannah Hardy Trap of Perfectionism. Before you sit down to write, tell yourself, over and over if necessary: It doesn’t have to be perfect. Because it’s never going to be perfect. So just get the words on the page and you can revise later.
  • Do join a writers’ group. There may be one at your local library, or you can check online sites such as Meetup.com to find a group in your area. No matter what genre you’re writing, you can probably benefit from joining a Romance Writers of America (rwa.org) chapter. They are the best professional organization I’ve found for nurturing beginning writers, teaching about craft, and explaining the business side of writing.
  • And when you join a writers’ group, be friendly and open. Writers’ groups often have matching services for mentors-mentees and critique partners. Take advantage of this. Because this can be a tough business, and you need a partner in your corner, someone who has your back. I’m fortunate to have a number of writer friends, more than my fair share, really, not that I would give up a single one of them, all of whom I can count on for just about anything—and that support has been the greatest single factor in my getting from that first Chapter One I ever typed to having a book on the shelves at Barnes and Noble.
  • And finally, keep the faith. There are many paths to publication now, and many choices open to you. So don’t quit, if this is your dream.


Just for Fun:

Night or Day?  Day.

Dog or Cat? (answer carefully) Cat, tuxedo if possible (Yes, I own a tuxedo cat, Rocco! Elvira saw your picture and thinks you’re kind of cute.) (R: MEOOOOOWER!  (blushes)

Beach or Pool?   Beach

Steak or salad?  Salad

Favorite Drink?  Fancy coffee drinks

Favorite Book?  Depends on the day, but I never grow tired of Pride and Prejudice or Jane Eyre

Favorite TV Series?  I Love Lucy

Favorite Movie?  It’s A Wonderful Life, even though I want to slap Uncle Billy silly every time he’s on screen.

Favorite Actor: Robert Downey Jr. (swoon!)

Favorite Actress: Meryl Streep (she’s a genius)

Dirty Martini or Pina Colada? Dirty Martini

Hawaii or Alaska? Hmmm, both are on my bucket list. Since it’s January, I’ll go with Hawaii!

Finish this sentence:  If I could meet anyone in the world, past or present, it would be: Margaret Mitchell. Because I can’t stand not knowing whether she planned a sequel to Gone With The Wind and whether she planned to get Rhett and Scarlett back together. I’m hoping there’s an authors’ lounge in heaven where I will someday get to meet her (maybe over a dirty martini?) and find out.

If I had just one wish, it would be: Robert Downey Jr., sitting across the breakfast table from me, gazing longingly at me with those big brown eyes? But on a more global note, I wish for tolerance, understanding, and peace on Earth. I know that sounds all Miss America or John Lennon but my heart breaks every time I read or hear about the hatred humans heap on each other.

If I could trade places with anyone in the world, it would be: Mrs. RDJ? No, seriously, I wouldn’t trade places with anyone. I have everything I need and most of what I want.


List all the places readers can find you:


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Thanks for a great interview, Susannah!

Folks, Susannah is giving away a copy of FETA ATTRACTION to one lucky commenter. Contest is open to residents of the U.S. and Canada only and ends at midnight on Feb. 19!


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Winner will be chosen at random using random.org.  Don’t forget to mention all you’ve done in your comment. Good luck!