Discussion With Author Susan Bernhardt on her books PARADISE CAN BE MURDER and A MANHATTAN MURDER MYSTERY

Discussion With Author Susan Bernhardt on her books PARADISE CAN BE MURDER and A MANHATTAN MURDER MYSTERY

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.


paradise can be murdermanhattan-murder


Too Big to Die by Sue Ann Jaffarian

Too Big to Die by Sue Ann Jaffarian

Who would leave their dog locked in a car during 90 degree weather during the summer in California? Rich and famous ex reality star, Marla Kingston would. Does she even care about her poor canine? No, why should she when her husband, Kelton Kingston, is rich and famous and does whatever he wants. So of course she feels she can do whatever she likes too even if that means locking a dog in a car. But Odelia Grey and her husband Greg Stevens love dogs and when they saw the poor pooch in the steaming car barking and trying to get out Greg could do only one thing, break the car’s window and save the animal.

Marla was not happy when she saw what happened to her car and since there was a crowd of people videotaping the whole thing she was even angrier and humiliated. When she told her husband, Kelton, about the event he went out of his way to make things miserable for Odelia and Greg.

Kelton discovered that Odelia worked for the law firm, Templin & Tobin, that represents him and demanded that Odelia be fired from her job. Since Kingston is a huge client the law firm put Odelia on leave, with pay, until they decided what to do about the situation.

But things started to get crazy.  A man who was helping Greg break Kingston’s car window was murdered. A few days later when the man decided to talk to Greg about something he was shot and killed in front of Greg’s store. Then other people around the peripheral circle of the Kingstons had some odd things happening to them. Since Odelia believes that there’s no such thing as a coincidence she and Greg start to do some investigating on their own and discover that Odelia might have a bigger problem on her hands than just losing her job.

It’s a good thing so many people have their phones ready to videotape everything that happens during the day and with the help of a video blogger Odelia finds out what’s really going on with the Kingstons.

“Too Big to Die” is the latest in Sue Ann Jaffarian’s Odelia Grey mystery series. Yes, I’ve read all of the books. Odelia is a plus sized woman of a certain age who is not afraid to eat when she’s hungry. I like that in a woman. She’s also smart, well loved, and has a positive look on life.

All the mysteries in this series are fast paced and have intelligent plot lines. But I have to say this book is the best one in the series. Odelia goes through lots of different things, both good and bad, and fans will be rooting for her.

Author Sue Ann Jaffarian writes a few different series and yes, I’ve read them too. In fact, a true fan will notice characters from one series making guest appearances in another series. I kind of like that.

The author is a wonderful writer with a great imagination and her books will please all murder/mystery lovers. The murders aren’t dark and gruesome so no need to try to cover your eyes expecting to see the worst. Her books are funny, witty, and written with a good sense of humor.

Do yourself a favor and pick up any book in any of this author’s series and prepare to have a good time.

To read more reviews of books by this author please see Sue Anne’s page on my blog.
too big to die

Paradise Can Be Murder: A Kay Driscoll Mystery (A Kay Driscoll Mystery #4) by Susan Bernhardt

Paradise Can Be Murder: A Kay Driscoll Mystery (A Kay Driscoll Mystery #4) by Susan Bernhardt

Kay Driscoll  has been told by her friends and family that she has lots of surprises coming her way in the near future she just doesn’t know what they will be. Surprises are fun, right? But right now she is concentrating on a cruise she will be taking with her husband, Phil. They are off for a romantic vacation cruising the Caribbean. The fact that Kay’s best friends, Elizabeth and Deirdre and Deirdre’s husband Mike will be cruising with them won’t stop the romance that Kay hopes for.

A huge bon voyage party was planned but all the joy of it was gone when their friends, Neelam and Dinesh’s, Gupta’s New Delhi store, was vandalized. Vandals spray-painted the words “We don’t want your kind here. We don’t need your kurry. This is America.” Both Kay and Phil were horrified at how their little town of Sudbury Falls had people like that living there.

Even though Kay felt terrible about leaving their friends in a crisis she and hubby Phil went off on their cruise with Elizabeth, Deirdre, and Mike. The ship was beautiful featuring lots of delicious foods and plenty of fun things to do during their ten days aboard. But what Kay seemed to like best was looking at the other travelers. One couple really got her interest. They ate at their own table and were always arguing. The husband, George, constantly criticized his wife, Sybil, which humiliated her and brought her to tears.

Kay, Elizabeth, and Deirdre spoke to Sybil one day and she said that George used to be part of the CIA but was transferred to another state and now she wasn’t really sure what he did. The friends felt bad for Sybil and tried to talk with her whenever they could.

But when one of the couple was found dead by the pool and it looked like the murder was done by the spouse ,Kay knew that something fishy was going on with the ship.

Kay is an old hand at helping to solve murders so she and her friends, against husband Phil’s advice, decided to find out if the spouse was the real murderer and if not then who did it and why the murder happened.

“Paradise Can Be Murder” is the fourth in the Kay Driscoll Mystery Series by Susan Bernhardt. I’ve read all of Ms. Bernhardt’s books and each one is better than the previous and that is especially true in this case.

With each new novel the author seems to become more confident in her writing abilities adding a lot of page-turning tension in her writing style. There’s one terrific scene where Kay gets herself in some deep trouble and had to get out of it before things took a deadly turn. Of course all mysteries have the protagonist getting into life-threatening situations but Ms. Bernhardt did a spectacular job of making sure readers held their breaths waiting to see how would Kay untangled herself.

And there are lots of surprises in store for Kay, some are great, some not so great, but all are fun.

Every book in the Kay Driscoll series are fun, filled with lots of food talk, and lots of love. The novels can be read by anyone and each can be read by itself even though I do suggest starting with the first in the series.

Take a ten-day cruise with Kay and her friends and see what ship-board life is like on the open seas.

Read all my reviews of Susan Bernhard’s books by going to Susan’s page on my blog.

paradise can be murder


Eggnog Cream & Murder: An Oceanside Cozy Mystery – Book 12 By Susan Gillard

Eggnog Cream & Murder: An Oceanside Cozy Mystery – Book 12  By Susan Gillard

Christmas is swiftly approaching Oceanside, Florida and a secret Santa is giving out gifts to some members of the community. No one knows who he is but the gifts are wonderful except for the gift given to grouchy old Ben Grimes. Ben received a set of candlesticks but there was poison on them so when he cut his hand on the sticks’ sharper areas the poison got into his bloodstream and killed him.

Heather Shepherd and her best friend, Amy Givens, were asked to help solve the murder because of their P.I. status. The dynamic duo has a lot of suspects to deal with.

Ben Grimes was not a likable man. During this Holiday Season he was basically a Scrooge. No one cared him especially his neighbors. The house on one side of him couldn’t even be rented because he made life so miserable for anyone who dared to live there. The home on the other side of him was inhabited by Mrs. Kurtshed who did her level best to ignore her neighbor.

But someone offed Mr. Grimes so Heather and Amy go to the Key West Key News office to speak with reporter, Hope Penwell, who was writing articles about the Secret Santa. Hope agreed to let the P.I.s see all the information she gathered.

Things start to get scary when Santa gives a gift to Heather, a pair of slippers that she asked for in her donut shop. Who would be listening to her conversation about what she wanted for Christmas except for all the customers who were eating there?

After investigating some more Heather discovered that everyone who received a gift from Santa received the gift that they wished for. The card that came with the gift was lovely but had squiggly lines on them which was really a map leading to where they would be when they received their gift.

Okay, this was getting strange. Who killed Ben Grimes? Was it the Secret Santa; was it one of Mr. Grimes’ many haters; was it the woman who owned the dog that Ben Grimes bit when the the dog walked on his lawn; was it his next door neighbor; was it a reporter; was it one of Heather’s donut loving fans who visited her donut shop every day? No one knows at this point but the murder will soon be solved because Heater and Amy are on the case with a yummy donut in each hand,

“Eggnog Cream & Murder” is the 12th book in the Oceanside Cozy Mystery Series by Susan Gillard and it’s a good story with the Christmas/Holiday Season approaching.

This series is rated PG so the whole family can indulge in a good mystery. The characters are all likeable and friendly, except for the murderer of course, and reading the books will always make you yen for a donut.

So snuggle up in front of a fire with some hot chocolate and a donut and enjoy this new installment to this fantastic series.

To see more reviews of Susan Gillard’s books please go to Susan’s page.


Hardcore Twenty-Four (Stephanie Plum #24) by Janet Evanovich

Hardcore Twenty-Four (Stephanie Plum #24) by Janet Evanovich

Don’t be afraid everyone, everything is under control … I hope. Zombies are in Trenton, New Jersey. I always knew the zombies were coming and they’re now on the East Coast. Battle down the hatches, folks, but have no fear, bounty hunter, Stephanie Plum is on the job.

Stephanie and her trusty sidekick, Lula, have their hands full. They’re trying to find two men who skipped on their bail and the duo also have to feed Ethel, a boa constrictor, owned by Simon Diggery, a professional grave robber. Simon also jumped on his bail and would only let Stephanie take him in if she promised to care for his snake. Simon felt safer in jail because zombies were roaming the woods where his trailer was parked and he wanted nothing to do with them.

Then headless bodies started appearing. And then with bodies were found with holes in their heads where the brains were sucked out. See, I told you there are zombies out there.

Now Stephanie has to find her two bail jumpers, feed and care for Ethel the snake, and avoid the zombies who are after her. Things are never easy for Stephanie.

“Hardcore Twenty-Four” by Janet Evanovich,  is the 24th installment of the popular Stephanie Plum series. I used to really like this series but each book is turning into the same ol’ same ol’ to me.

Stephanie is still fooling around with her long-time heartthrob detective Joe Morelli, trying avoid the bed of the hot Ranger, and now the mysterious Diesel is back in town trying to bed Stephanie as well. This is getting a little old to me. It was bad enough with Morelli and Ranger chasing after our hero but when Diesel was added to the list of men a few books back the whole thing became tiresome and boring.

I do like Grandma Mazur, Stephanie’s mom and dad, and Lula. They add a lot of fun to the books but I am getting weary of the love/sex portions of it. It’s very soft porn and not offensive just over done.

There are still lots of laughs and it’s easy enough to get through this novel but I just wish Ms. Evanovich would do something different with all the men in Stephanie’s life. I really don’t think they’re all needed in the series.

Spiced Maple & Murder: An Oceanside Cozy Mystery – Book 11 by Susan Gillard

Spiced Maple & Murder: An Oceanside Cozy Mystery – Book 11  by Susan Gillard

Amy Givens is kind of tired of just helping Heather Shepherd in the donut shop and helping to solve murders. She’s a little restless and wants to do something for herself. Being a great best friend, Heather agree to help Amy find her true calling with the help of some yummy donuts.

Amy always liked art and drawing so she found an art studio where she could draw and do some sculpturing. The owner, Kendall Dakwa, seems like a nice woman and Amy hopes that Kendall can be her mentor.

A fight between two artists breaks out at the studio each accusing the other of stealing material they needed to make a sculpture. One of the artists, Tricia Mollins has to look for another item to use as s her sculpture so Kendall agrees to keep the studio open for her to continue working once she finds something she can use. But the next day Tricia is found murdered in the art studio. She was impaled on the top of a Christmas tree sculptor. Some was strong enough to throw her on to it and kill her but who? Could it be Ray, the man she was arguing with earlier in the day or possibly Kendall. Kendall was supposed to meet Amy the night of the murder and never showed up.

Now Heather and Amy are helping to investigate and readers of this series know that these two P.I.’s always find the bad guy.

“Spiced Maple & Murder” is the eleventh in author Susan Gillard’s Oceanside Cozy series. Like all the others it’s a fun, easy read filled with lots of action and love between all the characters. Another book not to be missed.

See other reviews of Susan’s book on her page.

Y is for Yesterday (Kinsey Millhone #25) by Sue Grafton

Y is for Yesterday (Kinsey Millhone #25) by Sue Grafton

After 35 years author Sue Grafton’s Kinsey Millhone series is coming to a swift end. There’s only one more book left and I feel bad about that. I’ve read most of this series twice and a few of the books I’ve read three times. I’m not sure I can let Kinsey go and I hope that Ms. Grafton will somehow continue with the alphabet series and maybe turning it into a numerical one. I can do with lots more of Kinsey.

“Y is for Yesterday” is not an easy book to read. I don’t mean that it’s too complicated or the words are too long and hard and you need a dictionary by your side. I mean the book is pretty dark and disturbing with a story that involves stalking, rape, murder, bullying, and violence against women.

Private Investigator Kinsey Millhone’s new client wants to find out who is blackmailing her family for $25,000. Ten years earlier the client’s teen-aged son was at a party where a girl was killed. The son went to a youth prison for the death of the girl and has recently been released and then a tape was sent to his family. The tape showed the gang rape of a girl at the same party he attended ten years earlier and the son was very much involved in the abuse. The blackmailer threatened to show the tape to the police if the family doesn’t cough up $25,000. If they refuse to give the money their son will go back to jail for rape.

The book travels back and forth between 1979 when the rape and murder happened and then to 1989 when Kinsey is asked to investigate. While investigating that case Kinsey is also being stalked by a man who almost killed her in the previous Millhone novel, “X.” The murdering man in “X” is back where his main and only objective is to kill Kinsey.

Two separate story lines packed into 500 pages and I have to admit I did like “Y is for Yesterday.” I liked it a lot. But not everyone agrees. I have a Facebook friend who was looking forward to this book as much as I was but when she started to read it the novel made her uncomfortable with all the stalking and what happened at the teen party. My friend put it down. She was also a little angry and I think she said she put a note in the library book copy warning the next person who borrowed it about the darkness of the novel.

Look, my Facebook friend was right. “Y is for Yesterday” is a tough one to get through and I’m sure it made a lot of women very uncomfortable and if that happens while reading a book then you should put it down. While at first I was taken a little aback by the subject I continued on because author Sue Grafton’s books are not happy, and sparkly,  filled with unicorns and rainbows and I expect a certain amount of darkness in her novels. Kinsey’s character is very troubled and has had, and still has, her share of problems. All 25 books in the series never backed away from this. Through the course of 35 years fans of this really terrific series has seen Kinsey at her worse and have read about some terrible people she investigated and had contact with. Some books just take on the darker sides of life.

The Kinsey Millhone series is well written. Sue Grafton has a way with telling a good story and creating some wonderful characters who have been with Kinsey all these years which is why I continue to look forward to each installment and I make sure I read it.

I do recommend “Y is for Yesterday” but like my friend who put a warning note in the library copy of the book I will warn you that this 25th novel can be very uncomfortable but bear with it if you can because the story is amazing.

Y is for Yesterday