I’ve hosted literally hundreds of author chats when I worked at some online sites in the past. Many readers and want-to-be writers attended these chats to ask published authors about their books, how they get inspired to write, how they promote their books, and quite a few other questions.
Jerri Cachero, host of the Facebook group, Cozy Mystery Corner, invited author Susan Bernhardt to be the first author in Jerri’s new cozy author chat series. The group had a great time discussing Susan’s latest two mysteries, PARADISE CAN BE MURDER and A MANHATTAN MURDER MYSTERY. The discussion lasted 1.5 hours and I’m thrilled to be able to share excerpts of the event.
I hope by reading Susan’s group discussion readers and writers can learn a little about Susan and how and why she’s a writer. Don’t forget to visit Susan on her Facebook page. She loves hearing from all her fans.
To see my reviews of all of Susan’s books please visit Susan’s page on my blog.
Q – It’s always interesting to learn what our favorite authors do when they’re not writing! Tell us a little bit about yourself.
SB – I have many interests. I work in stained glass and especially enjoy the design aspect of my projects. I’m into photography and gardening. I have a beautiful four year grandson that I love being around. I love to travel. My husband and I came back from Eastern Europe a few months ago. I love going to art museums, to the theatre, doing the treadmill in the winter while watching Drop Dead Diva…lol.
Q – How did you create the characters of Kay Driscoll and Irina Curtius? They are both very different and complex in their own way. Are they based on actual people?
SB – Kay Driscoll is actually based on me and her family is based on mine. You always hear, write what you know. Many of the people in the stories are loosely based on people I know. I write using real life experiences. In Murder by Fireworks when Kay almost loses her life in a kayaking accident, I almost drowned in a kayak accident the year I was writing the book. I told my friend, the woman who saved my life, I didn’t know how to thank her. She said write me into a book and I did.
Saying the above, Irina isn’t anyone that I personally know. But she has the same ethnic background as I do. She is a retired ballet dancer who teaches young children in her studio. I am a fan of ballet. I also love NYC. I wrote the book on my interests, what I love, and made the story into an exciting and thrilling mystery. It takes place in Manhattan, but Irina’s world is in a cozy community on the Upper West Side.
Q – Let’s start with Kay Driscoll first. What a force of nature! Certainly not shy and retiring! How did you come up with the idea of sending Kay, Phil and company on a cruise in Paradise Can Be Murder? Probably a good idea since Phil is behind in “romantic gestures” points!
SB – You’re right!! Phil is definitely behind in his romantic gestures. 🙂 I thought it would be fun, for Kay, Phil, and friends to get away from Sudbury Falls and go on a vacation together. I researched this book on a number of cruises. I spoke with the ship’s officers, medical personal, and other crew. Also I experimented with some of the shenanigans that Kay did on-board to make sure they were real.
Q – In Paradise Can Be Murder, there is a sad occurrence in Sudbury Falls. Was it a real life event that inspired you to write about it in the book?
SB – Besides a murder mystery on a cruise ship, Paradise Can Be Murder deals with racism and intolerance. There is racism in America and I thought it important to address this. What I included in the book was not from a real life event that I’ve experienced or read about, but I’m sure similar occurrences happens often. The topics, I believe in this book are important and dealt with well, especially the part by a twelve year old Janey. She has become a beloved character in the later Kay Driscoll mysteries.
Q – Okay, let’s talk about Irina Curtius in A Manhattan Murder Mystery which is set, in the Spring, in New York City. Irina is a very different character than Kay however, they share the same kindness and curiosity about life and sleuthing. How did you create the character?
SB – I wrote about a character that I would find interesting who lives in Manhattan. Irina is kind, good hearted, smart, ambitious, a great sleuth, and a friend to many. She’s someone who loves life and makes the most of it. When writing a book, I “live” my character, much like an actor playing a part, who “becomes” their character. I enjoyed being Irina…lol..the year that it took to complete the book.
Q – Why did you decide to set the book in New York City? Is it a favorite city?
SB – I do like NYC. It’s an exciting and vibrant city with much beauty. I once wrote an article about where my favorite places to write would be. I mentioned looking out of my second floor palazzo window onto the Grand Canal in Venice, Italy with a glass of Prosecco beside my desk pounding away on my keyboard. Among the places I wrote about was NYC, working in an upstairs Upper West Side Brownstone where I could practically touch the tree outside of my window. And in between paragraphs, I’d watch the activity on the street below with the only things on my mind being my novel and trying to decide which neighborhood eatery I would try that evening: Indian, Thai or Italian. I did a lot of research when writing A Manhattan Murder Mystery.
Q – I loved the fact that there is a “mystery inside of a mystery” in your Manhattan Murder Mystery. It shows the complexity of Irina and also her strength. Can we hope we’ll be reading more about Irina in the future?
SB – Thank you. I live complexity in my characters and in my stories. For me, the more complex the better. I’m currently writing the fifth Kay Driscoll mystery. When that is completed, I will begin Manhattan 2. 🙂
Q – Back to a few personal questions – What types of books do you enjoy reading? Have you ever considered writing in other genres?
SB – I was recently asked if I would consider writing in another genre. My response was “No”. However, I did write a science fiction/fantasy middle grade short story for an ezine that I always intended to make into a full sized novel. I never attempted the project because I couldn’t come up with a feasible way to promote it.
I do enjoy some science fiction and fantasy, but what I usually read are mysteries, both cozy and regular mysteries. Some of my favorite authors are: Sue Grafton, Dorothy Gilman, Donna Leon, Carlos Ruiz Zafon, Arturo Perez-Reverte, M.C. Beaton (her earlier mysteries) and many others.
Q – What’s your favorite thing about being an author? Least favorite?
SB – It’s great fun for me to write mysteries. I have said this before and readers say they can see that I have a lot of fun writing. I try to give my readers a thrill, some excitement, but my stories also have a lot of humor in them. Often times I’m laughing as I write different scenarios my unique characters are in.
It’s hard to promote books, especially if you are a relatively unknown author. Most people who read my books enjoy them. I’m always posting reviews, what readers are saying about my books to try and attract additional readers.
Q – Anything else we haven’t covered that you’d like to share with Corner members?
SB – Every book that I write takes over a year to complete. I do a lot of research for each book. None of my books are cookie cutter books. I don’t follow a template or a formula. Each is unique, and I think exciting and fun.