Being a huge cozy mystery fan, I’m very excited to have fellow-mystery writer, Susan Bernhardt here to talk about her new release, Murder Under the Tree.
Aren’t we all looking for a new writer? I’m happy to introduce you to one of my favorites. Welcome Susan!
JC: I know you began your career as a nurse. Tell us about your journey from nursing to writing.
SB: I’m a registered nurse and volunteer at my local free clinic. I started writing as a challenge to myself. I always was competitive in my younger years and as I got older I challenged myself in many things. I loved to read cozy mysteries and after reading many cozies in a series, I thought I could write a decent cozy. My challenge was to write a cozy, that would be traditionally published, and to see my mystery on Amazon. Also I wanted to sell a certain number of books that I have exceeded. I’m happy to say that my initial criteria was met.
JC: Congratulations for meeting your goals. Now, you have new goals. You indeed sound like a person who likes to stretch herself. How has nursing played a part in your writing?
She also volunteers at a free clinic. I draw from my own experience when describing the settings, Kay Driscoll’s activities, etc. I have scenarios that take place at the free clinic in The Ginseng Conspiracy and in Murder Under the Tree. However, the Kay Driscoll series is not a medical mystery series by any means.
JC: Yes, drawing from your experiences is a great way to write a compelling book. I know you said you like cozy mysteries, but my guess is you also read many other kinds of mystery–police procedural and detective stories. What made you decide on the cozy sub-genre?
SB: My love for the cozy played into my decision. It’s exciting and fun to write a mystery about a small town that holds wickedly, intriguing secrets and to have an amateur sleuth.
Everyone in a small town is right there. They can be watched, observed, questioned. Sudbury Falls in my mystery series is a charming, insular town where secrets, assumptions, and the relationships of the people are intense.
JC: Sudbury Falls sounds wonderful. Tell us about your delightful character Kay Driscoll and how you created her.
SB: Thank you, Joan. Kay Driscoll is actually based on myself, and her family is based on my family. You always hear, “Write what you know.” And that’s what I did.
Kay Driscoll is a newcomer to Sudbury Falls. She can take in the city with fresh eyes and sees things differently, from the people who live there. To quote a review, “Kay’s sweet, tough, vulnerable, and reckless in her sense of justice. She continues her pursuit for the truth, even when her life is in danger. “
JC: And, so would you pursue the truth even when your life is in danger? 🙂 You don’t have to answer that one! Speaking of your reviewers, you have had some great reviews on Amazon. Many talk about the wonderful town of Sudbury Falls. Does your second mystery, Murder Under the Tree take place in the same town?
The town’s population just keeps decreasing. 🙂 Sudbury Falls is inspired by the insular town in northern Wisconsin in which I live. I could give tours of Sudbury Falls, (and actually have) where the murders and other events from the mysteries take place.
JC: How cool of give tours of Sudbury Falls. Maybe you’d return to my blog and do that one day?
Writing a series takes a certain amount of finesse–not tell too much but making sure each book is a stand-alone. What have you found to be some to the biggest challenges to writing a series?
SB: I think it’s easier to write a series than not. In subsequent novels, the author already knows the main characters, the town, the homes and other places, like in my mystery, Sweet Marissa’s Patisserie, the crime fighting headquarters of The Ginseng Conspiracy.
The author needs to know when to end the series and move on to something new. After many novels, it would be difficult to keep up the level of excitement.
JC: I think after many novels it would be difficult to keep up with a lot of things. I don’t know how people like Martha Grimes do it. I know my readers want to hear more about your new release
While Kay attends a Christmas tea at Hawthorne Hills Retirement Home, a beloved caretaker dies from an allergic reaction to peanuts. When the official coroner’s report rules the cause of death to be accidental, a small group of residents suspect foul play and call upon Kay to investigate.
Kay uncovers sinister plots of fraud, revenge, and corruption at the Home. During this season of peace on earth, good will to men, additional murders occur. Despite multiple attempts on her life, and with the support once again of her best friends, Elizabeth and Deirdre, Kay continues her quest for bringing justice for the victims.
Kay’s first Christmas in Sudbury Falls is an unforgettable one, with equal amounts of celebration and danger. Tis the season to be sleuthing!
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