I'm pleased to welcome Susannah Hardy to the blog today. Susannah writes the Greek to Me Mystery series, the first of which, Feta Attraction, will be released this coming Tuesday.
Kathy: The Greek culture is an amazing one filled with philosophy, mythology, and food! In addition to delicious recipes and home cooked meals, it seems as if being restaurateurs is in a lot of Greek blood. In Western New York, at any rate, there is a multitude of successful family run Greek restaurants. In fact my favorite burger joint is run by a Greek couple and if I'm lucky I can get freshly made baklava with my bacon cheeseburger! What is it about Greeks and restaurants?
SH: Well, I’m only guessing here, but I would think that when Greeks began immigrating to the U.S. in the early part of the twentieth century, making and selling food was a way to make a living at something they do extremely well, even if they couldn’t yet speak English. I think food is the universal language, even before love, LOL!
Kathy: I enjoy eating Greek food. Baklava is hands down my favorite dish. What is your favorite Greek dish?
SH: With all the amazing and mouthwatering dishes the Greeks have given us, you are going to think I’m super weird (maybe I am!) or a big health nut (I wish!) when I tell you what my favorite Greek food is. I absolutely love gigantes, which are extra-large beans, cooked in an olive oil and tomato sauce. Just so simple and delicious with a side of feta. But I definitely like to follow that up with some buttery baklava, dripping with honey and nuts!
Kathy: Ghost Squad, the paranormal investigators Spiro contacted, have marked similarities to TAPS. Are you a fan of Ghost Hunters and/or other paranormal investigator shows.
SH: Yes! I love paranormal investigator shows like Ghost Hunters and Finding Bigfoot, as well as shows like Curse of Oak Island, or basically anything about treasure hunting, archaeology or solving ancient mysteries. I also like Ancient Aliens, which stars one of my favorite Greeks, Giorgio Tsoukalos and his amazing hair. Do I believe in this stuff? Not really (although Giorgio’s hair does seem to be real—and spectacular), but I do try to keep an open mind about our world, seen and unseen, and I would listen if credible evidence were put in front of me. But does this stuff entertain me endlessly, while I’m knitting and working out plots in my head? Absolutely!
Kathy: I live in Western New York and always enjoy reading books set in nearby locations. How did you decide upon upstate NY as the setting for your series?
SH: This one’s easy. I grew up near the Thousand Islands and worked in a resort town there during my college summer vacations. There’s nowhere more beautiful than the St. Lawrence River in the summer, and it seemed like a natural place to set a mystery series. All those big houses and people coming and going, somebody’s bound to end up dead for one reason or another…
Kathy: What first drew you to cozy mysteries?
SH: You probably get this answer a lot--Nancy Drew! As a kid I just loved her titian hair (I felt so smug, actually knowing what “titian” meant, not to mention how to say it!) and her cool car and her fun friends Bess and George, and of course her boyfriend Ned. She had such freedom motoring around the countryside and getting into dangerous situations while she solved her mysteries. Later, as a teenager, one summer I read every Agatha Christie story our small library had to offer, and I was hooked. The thing I love most about cozies, other than feeling like I’m part of the community and catching up with old friends, is that justice is always served, and that is just so satisfying.
Kathy: Do you write in any other genres?
SH: Right now cozy mysteries are keeping me pretty busy. I’m working on a proposal for another series, which I’m really excited about! But I have a romance in a file on my computer that might see daylight sometime, with a lot of revision. And I have a couple of darker historical stories I’d love to tell if I can find the time.
Kathy: Tell us about your series.
SH: The Greek to Me Mysteries, set in the Thousand Islands area of New York State, features Georgie Nikolopatos, who solves mysteries while keeping her Greek restaurant running. Greek (and other) recipes included!
Kathy: Do you have a favorite character? If so, who and why?
SH: Hmmm. This is like asking me to admit that I have a favorite child! (Assuming I had more than one, which I don’t in real life, LOL!) But truthfully, Brenda Jones, the Dumpster Diva, is probably my favorite character to write. Brenda has hidden depths and a fascinating backstory—which I don’t actually know that much about yet. She hasn’t told me everything, but I’m hoping some day she will sit down with me over a wine cooler and some Hot Pockets and spill some of her secrets.
Kathy: Did you have a specific inspiration for your series?
SH: Confession: I’m a big history nerd. Huge. And growing up, I was always fascinated (still am!) by the real history of the Bonapartes in America, especially the ones in New York State’s North Country. I combined that with my own experience working in a restaurant owned by Greeks (and yes, the very sweet owner had a very good-looking son!), and the story and series began to take shape. The history behind the Bonaparte House is real—there really was a house (gone for a hundred and fifty years) built for Napoleon in the village of Cape Vincent, New York. Everything else is made up.
Kathy: What made you decide to publish your work?
SH: Once I found the courage to actually finish a manuscript (I tried for a long time, before I found a group of writing friends to encourage me), I realized that if I didn’t at least try to get it published with a New York publisher, I would regret it, because my dream was to see my book on the shelves of a bookstore. Not that I wouldn’t have happily self-published the book if I couldn’t sell it to New York. I was fortunate to get an offer from a top notch literary agent. We put together a proposal for a three-book series and two weeks after I first spoke to him on the phone, we had a deal with Berkley. My book is now on the shelves at Barnes and Noble, and I’m still pinching myself!
Kathy: If you could have a dinner party and invite 4 authors, living or dead, in any genre, who would you invite?
SH: Shakespeare, because I would want to ask him if he really wrote his own plays so I could be the one to put that controversy to bed once and for all. Stephen King (see next question and answer), because I would hope some of his brilliance and writing and publishing mojo might rub off on me. Margaret Mitchell, because I would want to ask if, assuming she didn’t die in a tragic accident, she was going to write a sequel and whether Rhett and Scarlett would get back together. Dame Agatha, because, well, I bet she served a heck of a fine High Tea.
Kathy: What are you currently reading?
SH: Stephen King’s Revival. There’s a reason this man is at the very tippy-top of the writer game. Even on his worst day, he’s amazing.
Kathy: Will you share any of your hobbies or interests with us?
SH: Sure! I love to cook, obviously. I also love to knit and sew (making handbags is a favorite pastime). I’m working on my gardening skills—my flower gardens do not yet match the visions I have for them, LOL! And I love, love, love to do research, whether into my own genealogy or slogging through old newspapers just for the heck of it. True story: I love research more than writing. My son is very active with FIRST Robotics, and we travel to various competitions around New England and go to the world championships in St. Louis every year.
Kathy: Name 4 items you always have in your fridge or pantry.
SH: Peanut butter. Chocolate chips. Eggs. Wine.
Kathy: Do you have plans for future books either in your current series or a new series?
SH: Yes! Two more books are coming out in the Greek to Me Mysteries, and I have lots of ideas for more mysteries for Georgie to solve after those are released in the next couple of years. I’m working on a proposal for another series now, which is so much fun!
Kathy: What's your favorite thing about being an author?
SH: You mean other than that I get paid to cook, make up stories, and play on social media, pretty much whenever I want? These things are true, and they’re awesome, but more importantly I feel like I uncovered something that had lain dormant in myself when I began writing seriously. I am doing my absolute dream job, and I could not be happier about it. And I love all the people, both other writers and readers, I’ve met during this journey. What a gift I’ve been given. I’m grateful every single day.
Feta Attraction by Susannah Hardy
The First Greek to Me Mystery
Georgie Nikolopatos is the manager of a Greek restaurant owned by her
mother in law which is rumoured to be haunted. Her husband has gone
missing (unfortunately, not a rare occurrence) and in addition to
running the restaurant, Georgie has to deal with the unwanted attentions
of their biggest competitor and the ghost hunting crew her husband
contacted to investigate Bonaparte House. Then she discovers a dead body!
It's complicated enough being married to a gay man while living and working in a historic home turned restaurant with your mother in law, but now Georgie has to deal with a missing husband, a murder, ransom demands for a treasure she doesn't believe exists, and the fear that she'll have to leave the restaurant she loves.
Who can you trust? For Georgie Nikolopatos that's a difficult question to answer. She can't trust her husband, but can she trust his lover? She can surely trust her good friends Liz and Keith, can't she? What about her feelings for Keith, can she trust them? And what about the good looking Captain Jack? He can't be a real captain, can he?
Susannah Hardy spices her debut mystery with Greek flavor and fun as well as fascinating historical facts. She includes characters with quirky traits from Dolly, the cook who channels Dolly Parton, to Inky, the flamboyant tattoo artist, and all manner of characters in between-including her Greek mother in law Sophie. Hardy manages to combine fun and downright silly exploits (driving a boat-easy, even if you've never done it before) with curiosities about Napoleon Bonaparte and his plans in New York to create this big fat Greek mystery!
Greek Recipes are included.
Susannah Hardy is generously giving away a $10 Starbucks or Dunkin Donuts gift card (winner’s choice) to one lucky reader. Simply leave a comment on this post telling us your favorite thing about Greece. Leave that comment no later than Wednesday, January 7th at 11:59 pm EST along with your e-mail address, so that I'm able to contact you should you win. Opa!