A Cozy Mystery for the New Year

Susan BookWhen and how did you decide to write a cozy versus another type of mystery? I decided to try my hand at writing a cozy mystery after I read a couple of cozy series by M. C. Beaton. Everything about the cozy I liked, the amateur sleuth, the calm, small town setting that hid wickedly, intriguing secrets. The entanglements, the intricacies that lie in the undersurface of living in that small town, and the focus on the relationships.

The Ginseng Conspiracy is the first of a trilogy. Did you know from the beginning that you wanted to turn your protagonist’s adventures into a series? I planned to have a Kay Driscoll mystery series from the start. When I love a book I never want it to end. And since there are so many means, motives, and opportunities to decrease a small town’s population, a series was inevitable.

Did you have various ideas for plot that you chose from, or did this particulate scenario come to you from the start? I knew what the plot line for The Ginseng Conspiracy was from the beginning drawing on real life experience and as the story materialized I thought of additional plot lines for subsequent books in the series.

Your protagonist is a retired nurse who volunteers at a free clinic. Nursing was your chosen profession and you still volunteer at a free clinic. Besides the similarities in occupation, what other traits does your heroine share with you? Many traits are similar. Kay is down to earth. She’s persistent. She doesn’t give up when she wants something. (That’s probably why I was able to get my book published.) She tries to be a good person and a good friend. She believes in justice: That right is right and wrong is wrong. No matter what, no matter who.

Although your book is not a memoir, were you concerned how friends and family would react when they saw themselves fictionalized in your book? You have borrowed from your own life, have you based some of the characters on people you know? My family knows that Kay’s family is based on them. I don’t think they mind and may even like it. As far as friends, I get inspiration for my writing from real life. I draw from my own experiences and those around me. Whenever someone has a writer for a friend, there is always a possibility that the writer may be influenced by the person.

What was the hardest part about writing this book? At the beginning learning to avoid certain writing traps such as talking heads, info dump especially in dialogue, too much backstory spieled out in the beginning, keeping the character consistent as to what they think, say, or do. A lesson I’ve learned in writing this book is, not to be a prisoner to what “you are supposed to do and not do” when writing. Don’t be afraid to break rules. Creativity shouldn’t be stiffled. If something in your writing is working, go with it.

What gave you the most pleasure? The Ginseng Conspiracy is a mystery first and foremost but there is also a lot of humor throughout the book and series, and that made it fun to write. I was also happy to include some of the things that I love in the story such as art and music.

What advice would you give to other writers who are interested in writing a mystery?  This first piece of advice is for any genre. Once you have an idea for your book, don’t just talk about writing, sit down and write out a first draft. Write anything that comes into your mind, no matter how far out it may be. You will do multiple edits, anyway, so free write.

As far as mysteries, tension, tension, tension. This was your mantra when you co-edited my book. There must be some level of crisis that causes conflict in each chapter.

I know you’re already working on the next two sequels, book two and three, of the Kay Driscoll series. What do you have in mind for your protagonist’s future after the third book? Will you retire her and go on to something else? It all depends. If I become the next J.K. Rowlings, I think Kay Driscoll is in for many more adventures, or maybe not…I’d be too busy travelling…lol to write. If fame and fortune doesn’t come my way, after the third book in the series, I’ll go on to the other mystery novel ideas that I have. I’d like to write a middle grade sci-fi/fantasy/horror story, a take off on a Halloween short story that I had published. Also I have plans to write a mystery that takes place in Manhattan.

How would you compare the creative process, the actual writing, with the process       of finding a publisher for your book? Was one more rewarding than the other?The creative process is always more exciting and rewarding. I’ve discovered that the easiest part of getting a book published is writing the book. Something I never dreamed or expected. And it’s the most fun part as well. I write because I enjoy it. Otherwise I wouldn’t.

Before finding a publisher, I had what I called “Query Monday” when I would query agents and publishing houses. At the time, I found it was tedious. But now that I look back on this, it also was a thrilling time. I never knew what might happen, what could be. I was always hopeful and never gave up.

the Ginseng Conspiracy-mediumThanks again, Lorenzo for giving me the opportunity to be on your blog. I would like to invite you and your readers to follow my online progressive dessert book launch. Please see my website www.susanbernhardt.com for additional details.

January 3rd – Lorenzo Martinez – www.lorenzo-martinez.com– Kay’s Triple Threat: Triple Chocolate Raspberry Truffle Torte.

January 3rd – Marsha West – www.marsharwest.com– Deirdre’s Divine Inspiration: Heavenly mousse au chocolat.

January 6th – Heather Brainerd and David Fraser – drivingblindproductions.wordpress.com– Marissa’s Surprise: Plum Clafouti

January 7th – Helena Fairfax – www.helenafairfax.com– Elizabeth’s Extravaganza: Éclair au Chocolat

Kay’s Triple Threat – Triple Chocolate Raspberry Truffle Torte Recipe

½ cup (1 stick) unsalted butter plus more for preparing pan

1 tablespoon unsweetened cocoa powder

2 packages (8 ounces each) semisweet chocolate morsels

5 large eggs, separated

1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract

¼ cup powdered sugar

1 cup fresh raspberries

Chocolate Glaze

½ cup semisweet chocolate morsels

1 tablespoon butter

Preheat over 250 degrees.

Chocolate glaze:

1/2 cup semisweet chocolate morsels

1 tablespoon butter

Preheat oven 250 degrees. Butter the bottom and sides of a 9 inch spring-form pan. Line the bottom of the pan with a circle of parchment paper to fit exactly. Dust the sides of the pan with the cocoa powder and lightly tap out any excess.

Pour water to a depth of 1 inch into the bottom of a double boiler or a saucepan and bring to a gentle simmer. Place the chocolate morsels and the 1/2 cup butter in the top of the double boiler or in a heat-proof bowl and place over the simmering water Heat, stirring occasionally until the chocolate and butter melt and the mixture is smooth. Remove from the heat, but do not allow the mixture to cool.

In a large bowl, whisk together the egg yolks and vanilla extract until well blended. Gradually whisk in the warm chocolate mixture until well blended.

In another bowl, using an electric mixer set on high speed, beat the egg whites until soft peaks form. Gradually beat in the powdered sugar and then continue to beat until stiff peaks form. Gently fold one-fourth of the egg whites int the chocolate mixture to lighten it, and then fold in the remaining egg whites just until no white streaks remain. Carefully pour the batter into the prepared pan.

Bake the torte until edges are puffed and have somewhat pulled away from the pan sides and the center appears cooked through, about 1 hour. Transfer to write rack and let cool completely in the pan.

Remove the sides of the pan and slide the torte onto a serving plate.

Melt 1/2 cup semisweet chocolate morsels and butter. Spread warm glaze over top of torte. Top with raspberries. Serve at room temperature.

30 thoughts on “A Cozy Mystery for the New Year

  1. It takes a Village. And you and Peter and Dave were all part of that Village and made this happen. Lorenzo, thank you for your endless support and encouragement, sharing your expertise and imaginative suggestions. I appreciate all that you have done for me and for The Ginseng Conspiracy.


  2. What a great interview, Susan and Lorenzo. And the recipe is fabulous! Bang goes my diet 🙂 Wishing you much success with your mystery series, Susan, and a all the best for 2014

  3. Hi, Lorenzo! It’s nice to meet one of Susan’s friends.
    Susan, I’m enjoying your book! Being married to a foodie (and quite loving good food myself), I appreciate the fact that Kay Driscoll often talks and thinks about food. It seems to be one of her passions, which makes your progressive dessert launch so very appropriate. Looking forward to hosting you on Monday!

    1. Thanks for stopping by. If you enjoy food, you will certainly enjoy Kay Driscoll’s adventures. It is full of delicious dishes which Kay and her friends enjoy while working on the mystery of the various murders in town.

  4. Lorenzo,

    Excellent interview with author Susan Bernhardt (my mom!); it was nice to read the Q&A on the writing, editing, and publishing process for some motivation for the aspiring author. I will be looking forward to reading The Ginseng Conspiracy, and now I have a recipe for something to eat while turning the e-pages. Happy New Year!

    Peter Bernhardt

    1. Peter, I know your comment was directed to Lorenzo, but I wanted to say, it’s great to see my two editors conversing. Peter, you are creative and clever and witty. I was incredibly fortunate to have two fantastic editors for The Ginseng Conspiracy.

  5. Hi Susan,

    this was a great interview. It’s nice to learn about what other authors go through in the writing and publishing process…we all seem to be very close in some aspects, and different in others, which makes it all the more interesting. I’m going to buy your book, I don’t seem to have much time for reading any more, but I love cozy mysteries, and this one sounds too good to miss.


    1. Thanks, Mikki for visiting. I’m glad that you enjoyed the interview. It is interesting to see the paths authors take in writing and publishing. I appreciate your comments.


  6. Hey, Susan, Nice to meet you, Lorenzo. Thanks for RTing my blog interview with Susan. I’ll do the same. Susan, you are so fortunate to have your son so involved with your book. Neither of my daughters will read my books. (There’s a bit of sex and some language–not unusual for romantic suspense, but not their cup of tea.) Looking forward to reading your book, Susan. Congrats again. I’m truly excited for you. First of many book birthdays to you!

    1. Thank you, Marsha for hosting me on your blog and for your well wishes here. It is truly an exciting day! I am fortunate to have Peter involved with my book. And my youngest son David and his wife, Nicole have been big supporters on my website and author FB page.

      Best wishes with your romantic suspense novels. I have your book and plan to get started reading it soon.


  7. I loved the interview! It was very informative and fun to read. I know it has been a long journey to get to this point. I can not wait to read your book. I know it will be as fantastic as the author who wrote it! Have a very wonderful New Years !

  8. Thanks for publishing the interview Lorenzo. Not being familiar with the writing process myself, it was interesting to get a in-depth look of what goes on in the kind of an author. The planning process as well as the techniques and strategies. I have my copy, can’t wait to read it.

    1. David, you and Nicole were instrumental with spreading the word on the ginseng FB page and website. I’m glad you learned more about the publishing process in our interview here. Seems like Dad did as well. I hope you and Nicole enjoy the book.

  9. Sue, congratulations. You must be relieved and overjoyed. What an accomplishment!

    I enjoyed this interview – nice insight into the process of writing.

    So much food in your book, it is driving me crazy. I think I will gain weight in the next few days either by succmbing to treats at the bakeries or by making something at home, of which the recipe posted above is definite. The book is very engaging and crisp so far. I am enjoying the life experiences and interests that you have woven into the story – brings back memories of time spent with you.

    I hope the book will do well. I am looking forward to your next work.

    Good Luck and Cheers,

    1. Thanks, Reshma. I always love your comments. Lorenzo had great interview questions.

      You my friend, were such a big supporter of my book and website. And do write from experiences, so lots of that in the book. Glad you enjoyed those, seeing them in the story.

      I’m going to be submitted the second Kay Driscoll mystery mid-January.

      Thanks again.

  10. I will be interviewing Lorenzo on my website January 15th. I hope everyone reading this interview will join us again then at http://www.susanbernhardt.com.

    For those of you who don’t know Lorenzo, he has a fascinating history. Born in Antilla, Cuba, he was part of Operation Pedro Pan (Operación Pedro Pan) a secretive mass exodus from 1960-1962 of 14,000 unaccompanied minors to the United States to escape the Castro regime.

    His memoir coming out soon “What Says the Moon” is a fascinating and deeply emotional story of his journey as a young man coming to the US and afterwards. He is an accomplished author, composer, musician, educator, instrumental in the development and marketing of non-profits. I could go on and on.

    My interview will deal more with his writing. He is a published author and is writing a YA mystery that I love reading. So much to tell, so much to say. So please join us on January 15th.

    Susan Bernhardt

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