From the Front Porch: Creativity Interview with author, Susan Bernhardt. Susan writes cozy mysteries, is a follower of this blog, and has been a writer friend for several years. I’m honored to introduce her to you. Welcome, Susan!
Tell us a little about yourself. Perhaps what do you do for a living and where you live?
My name is Susan Bernhardt. I’m the author of The Ginseng Conspiracy and Murder Under the Tree, the first two holiday novels involving amateur sleuth, Kay Driscoll. My hometown in northern Wisconsin was an inspiration for the quaint setting of my mysteries. The Kay Driscoll mystery, Murder by Fireworks, is due out this Fall.
An avid reader of mysteries, I’m a member of Sisters in Crime, Inc. and the Wisconsin Writers Association. My holiday mysteries are listed on Cozy-Mystery.com and Cozy Mysteries Unlimited under Halloween and Christmas.
When not writing, I love to travel, bicycle, kayak, and create culinary magic in my kitchen. I work in stained-glass, daydream in my organic garden, stay up late reading, and eat lots of chocolate.
When are you the most creative?
I’m most creative when out among people. I love to people watch and get inspiration for my writing from real life, drawing from my own experiences and those around me. I love to travel and visit art museums.
What inspires you and why does it inspire you?
Art inspires me. There is art in everything. Nature inspires me. People inspire me.
Share a favorite quote:
“First they came for the communists, and I did not speak out— because I was not a communist;
Then they came for the socialists, and I did not speak out— because I was not a socialist; Then they came for the trade unionists, and I did not speak out— because I was not a trade unionist; Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out— because I was not a Jew; Then they came for me— and there was no one left to speak out for me.”
― Martin Niemöller
What creative project are you working on now or do you hope to work on?
I’m currently writing A Manhattan Murder Mystery and have just finished my first draft. I’m looking forward to self-publishing this novel. My other mysteries are traditionally published.
Share a photo that has meaning to you.
A couple of years ago we took a road trip back to Colorado with my son and daughter-in-law. We used to live in Boulder County in Colorado. This photo was taken during that trip when I am climbing in the beautiful Flatirons.
Name one or more of your favorite books. What do you love about it/them? If they changed your life in any way tell us why.
I met two friends in a writing group who literally changed my life by introducing me to a new world of literature. I had mostly read cozy mysteries books and even though my new interests were still mostly mysteries, they were vastly different. The first book was The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafón. To this day, it is my favorite book and to sum it up in one sentence, it is a novel about the love of literature. I have read other books by this author, and went on to Gabriel García Márquez, Arturo Pérez-Reverte, Donna Leon, and many others.
Name one or more of your favorite songs or pieces of music and tell us what you love about them.
I still love and listen to the music I enjoyed in college: Bob Dylan, the Beatles, Rolling Stones, Cat Stevens, etc. Luckily my husband who is into classical and jazz, also enjoys my favorites. We have many duplicate albums.
Name one or more of your favorite pieces of art (painting, sculpture, etc.) and tell us what you love about them.
I love Edgar Degas’ ballet and bath paintings. I love his focus on the movement of the ballet dancers. They have such life. I talk about Degas’ dancers in my WIP when the protagonist goes to The Metropolitan Museum of Art. His bath paintings are simple, yet beautiful. I also love Vincent van Gogh’s art. Again, the movement, the colors, his genius, the brushstrokes, his art captured me.
What were you like as a child?
I was the youngest of seven children. My siblings would say I was spoiled, but I wasn’t. I think I was incredibly sweet…lol. I loved playing outside with friends and games inside with family and friends. I visited my library on a weekly basis. A pretty normal childhood.
What is your favorite place to be in nature? (In general, and also one or more specific places.)
I love the beach, more specifically Lake Michigan. It’s beautiful. I have many great memories spending time there with family and friends growing up.
Tell us about something you’re proud of having created, participated in, etc. (not your offspring, please! 😉
I’m proud of my Kay Driscoll mystery series.
As a public health nurse, I started the first Health Check in the Home in the State of Wisconsin. I’m proud of that. Also I have been a volunteer RN at our local free clinic since its start, eight years ago.
I work in stained-glass and have made many beautiful lamps, vases, and pictures. I made the inserts for our kitchen cupboards.
Is there somewhere you’ve traveled that has influenced your creative life? If so, tell us about it.
My husband and I have been fortunate to have traveled to many countries in Europe and most of the states in the United States. All these experiences have influenced my creative life and me as a person. Travel opens one’s mind to new ways of thinking.
What are you grateful for? (Today and/or in general.)
I’m grateful for what I have, for being alive, for my life lessons, for laughter, and for choices. I’m grateful for my wonderful husband, family, and friends. I’m grateful for new experiences.
A favorite show on television? White Collar
A favorite meal? A Thai dish.
A talent you wish you had? Playing the piano.
What’s on your nightstand? Book, Kindle, lamp, notebook and pen for jotting down writing ideas.
Susan Bernhardt is the author of the Kay Driscoll mystery series. Her hometown in northern Wisconsin is the inspiration for her mysteries which include: The Ginseng Conspiracy, Murder Under the Tree and Murder by Fireworks coming out this Fall.
Thanks to Susan Bernhardt for giving us such a wonderful peek into her creative life. Below, you’ll find more information about her books and how to connect with her. In the meantime, feel free to comment about what you liked about this interview or ask her questions.
The Ginseng Conspiracy (A Kay Driscoll Mystery Book 1) – http://amzn.to/1oPTsiw – On her way to attend a Halloween Ball, Kay Driscoll, a newcomer to town, witnesses the murder of a local professor. When the official coroner’s report rules the cause of death to be accidental and the community accepts the judgement, Kay decides to uncover the truth for herself. Through her personal investigations, Kay exposes a complex conspiracy, woven deep within the thriving local ginseng industry, that involves some of the more prominent figures and families of Sudbury Falls. With her new friends, the free-spirited herbalist Deirdre and the untamed modern woman Elizabeth, Kay discusses new clues over tea and pastries at Sweet Marissa’s Patisserie, their crime-fighting headquarters. As Kay gets closer to the heart of the conspiracy, additional murders happen in quick succession. Before long, Kay learns that the villains are gunning for her, too. Phil, her musically talented but preoccupied husband, determined to keep her safe, withholds from her the one thing she needs most: the truth.
Murder Under the Tree (A Kay Driscoll Mystery Book 2) – http://amzn.to/1tC5krR – 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!
Your host: Susan Gabriel is the acclaimed southern author of The Secret Sense of Wildflower (named a Best Book of 2012 by Kirkus Reviews) and other southern novels, including her latest comic novel Temple Secrets. She lives in the mountains of North Carolina.