Meow! My guest today is author Rosie Genova!
A Jersey girl born and bred, Rosie Genova left her heart at the shore, which serves as the setting for much of her work. Her new series, the Italian Kitchen Mysteries, is informed by her deep appreciation for good food, her pride in her heritage, and her love of classic mysteries from Nancy Drew to Miss Marple. Her debut mystery, Murder and Marinara, was selected as a Best Cozy of 2013 by Suspense Magazine. An English teacher by day and novelist by night, Rosie also writes women’s fiction as Rosemary DiBattista. She lives in central New Jersey with her husband and two of her three Jersey boys.
R: Welcome to the blog, Rosie! Tell us a bit about yourself and how you became interested in writing.
Thanks ROCCO. I have always been a writer—I have lots of bad poetry to show for it—but it wasn’t until about ten years ago I got serious about starting and finishing a book. I began writing romantic comedies that were modern updates of Shakespeare plays. It was the submission of the first one that got me my agent. Those books are currently unpublished, but still in the works (as Rosemary DiBattista).
R: Tell us about your Italian Kitchen series and how that came about? Have you always had an interest in cooking?
My agent and I “cooked up” the idea of a series set at an Italian restaurant. I’ve always loved the Jersey shore and food, so it seemed like a natural fit for me. I do love to cook, but I’m not a fancy chef. I’d call my style rustic—regional Italian foods with pretty basic ingredients like pasta, beans, sausage, Italian greens, polenta, and of course, tomatoes.
R: What writers in your genre would you say have made the greatest influence on your writing?
For me it would be the Golden Age mystery writers, particularly Agatha Christie and Dorothy Sayers. I also love Josephine Tey and Ngaio Marsh. My modern favorites are Anne Perry, Elizabeth George, PD James, Deborah Crombie and Louise Penny—those women are in a class of their own!
R: Tell us about your upcoming release, The Wedding Soup Murder.
Victoria gets put in charge of helping to cater a big Italian wedding at the upscale Belmont Country Club. The club’s president is an unlikeable snob who gets on the wrong side of a number of people, and one of them shoves her over a sea wall after the reception. When a family friend comes under suspicion for her murder, Vic reluctantly gets involved.
R: How much of yourself would you say is in your character, Victoria Rienzi?
Well, she’s much younger and has much better legs than I do. But I would say we share some definite characteristics: we adore our families but sometimes feel the need to run away from them; we love good food; we have a weakness for tall, dark guys; we’re both writers, and we’re both scared of boardwalk rides!
R: Love the recipes in your book. Are they ones that you yourself have tried, or have they been handed down through your family?
Thanks! A little of both. The three in Murder and Marinara were ones I came up with. In The Wedding Soup Murder, I’m including my grandmother’s recipe for iced ricotta cookies I make every Christmas. Anise is the secret ingredient—yum!
R: You are also a teacher. Which career is your favorite, teacher or writer and why?
Ah, not a fair question! I am honored to be able to call myself a writer and a teacher. Each of those careers feeds different parts of me. I love interacting with my students and seeing the light bulbs go off in those moments of understanding. But writing serves my solitary side, the part that needs to go off and be alone to think for a time. I can better answer which job is harder though—hands down, it’s teaching.
R: Do you have an “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?
As I mentioned, it was one of the Shakespeare stories that caught the attention of Kim Lionetti at Bookends. But though we came close a couple of times, those books weren’t picked up by publishers. It wasn’t until we submitted the mystery proposal that I had offers—three, in fact! But I’d been with Kim five years before it happened. It was very surreal to finally get that call.
R: What’s a must have for you when you are writing? What aids the creative process?
I need quiet. I know lots of writers who work to music, but I would find that very distracting. I love my office, and I’m inspired every time I sit down to my desk. It’s a secretary style that used to belong to my great aunt.
R: If you had access to a time machine, which historical moment would you travel to and why?
I’d love to have been in the middle of Time Square on V-J Day when the peace was declared at the end of World War II. I have always been moved by the famous photo of the soldier kissing the nurse, and I love hearing stories my mom tells about growing up during the war. Everything about that era, from the clothes to the music, the cars and the movies, holds a fascination for me.
R: What is one thing your readers would be most surprised to know about you?
I’m a Jersey girl who does not have big hair.
R: What is the craziest thing you've ever done?
I don’t do crazy. “Caution” is my middle name.
R: What do you hope readers will most take away from your writing?
If I can make readers laugh, keep them guessing, and strike a tender chord or two, I will consider my work done.
R: What are you working on at the moment / next?
I’m working on Book 3 of the Italian Kitchen Mysteries, and in my “spare” time, a contemporary romance inspired by Twelfth Night called “Twelve Nights.”
R: Are you a plotter or a pantser?
I’m a pantser in plotter’s clothing. I work best when certain scenes unfold in my head, but mysteries require outlines and tight plotting. So I force myself to plan, even though I’d rather fly by the old seat.
R: What do you do when you’re not writing? Any hobbies or party tricks? :)
Well, I’m a voracious reader. When the weather’s good, I like to get out walking every day. I love snooping around antique stores and I love to sew when I get the time (which is hardly ever). And of course, visiting the Jersey shore!
R: Where can we find out more about you and your work?
Just for Fun:
Night or Day? Dusk!
Dog or Cat? (answer carefully) Dog—sorry. I had a fox terrier I adored, and we had to say good-bye to her last fall. (Meow – I forgive you, I know how tough that can be)
Beach or Pool? Beach, for sure.
Steak or salad? Can I say pasta?
Favorite Drink? Charles Shaw California Chardonnay (I’m a cheap date)
Favorite Book? Pride and Prejudice
Favorite TV Series? Downton Abbey
Favorite Movie? Classic: Bringing Up Baby/ Contemporary: Sleepless in Seattle
Favorite Actor: James Stewart
Favorite Actress: Katherine Hepburn
Dirty Martini or Pina Colada? I like Pina Coladas. (But not walks in the rain.)
Hawaii or Alaska? Is this a trick question? Hawaii, of course.
Finish this sentence: If I could meet anyone in the world, past or present, it would be ___Jane Austen________________
If I had just one wish, it would be A house at the beach___ ______________________________________
If I could trade places with anyone in the world, it would be _Ginger Rogers, for at least one film with Fred Astaire______
Thank you for a great interview, Rosie! Folks, Rosie will give away two copies of Murder and Marinara to commenters selected by moi! To enter, leave a comment with your email address below! For extra entries, you can do any or all of the below:
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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.
Contest ends midnight, April 16! Good luck!