Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Dying for Strawberries: An Interview & Review GIVEAWAY TOO!

I'm pleased to welcome Sharon Farrow to Cozy Up With Kathy today. Sharon writes the Berry Basket Mystery Series. The first book, DYING FOR STRAWBERRIES, is being released today!

Kathy: In DYING FOR STRAWBERRIES Oriole Point, Michigan is celebrating its first annual Strawberry Moon Bash. Is this festival based on a real one, or purely a product of your imagination?

SF: The resort towns along the eastern shore of Lake Michigan are filled with year round special events ranging from the Goose Festival to the Whoville Parade. However, there has never been a Strawberry Moon Bash. When I was plotting DYING FOR STRAWBERRIES back in 2014, I needed to come up with a unique strawberry festival. Then the news stations began talking about something called a Strawberry Moon.

I learned that the full moons of the year were given names by many Native American tribes: e.g. Harvest Moon in September and Snow Moon in February. Because strawberries ripen in June, the full moon for that month was known as a Strawberry Moon. But the Strawberry Moon of 2014 fell on Friday the 13th, making it a rare event. June’s full moon would not occur again on Friday the 13th until 2098. Since my fictional village of Oriole Point is smack in the middle of Michigan’s fruit belt, a Strawberry Moon Bash seemed the perfect way to mark the occasion. And given what occurs at the Bash, far more pertinent than anyone could have guessed.

Kathy: I love all kids of fruits, especially strawberries. I remember when I was a kid my mom and I would go strawberry picking and she would make a fantastic strawberry pie along with freezer jam. Do you have any special strawberry memories?

SF: When I was a toddler, we visited my grandmother in New York. My most vivid memory of that long ago visit was the white cloth decorated with strawberries that covered her kitchen table. I fell in love with that tablecloth, and subsequently anything with a strawberry motif. Decades later, I chose a wallpaper dotted with strawberries for my first apartment. And I currently have a crystal strawberry keychain. But my love of strawberries is not purely aesthetic. I had several bouts of tonsillitis as a child. The only good thing about being sick was that I was allowed to eat as much strawberry ice cream as I wanted. From an early age, I associated strawberry ice cream with feeling better. For many years, it was the only flavor ice cream I would eat. I also have similar feelings about orange marmalade. . .but that’s a whole other story.

Kathy: What's your favorite way to enjoy strawberries?

SF: Fresh from the farm market and at the peak of their ripeness. I’ve eaten an entire container of fresh strawberries standing over the sink. Of course, I was at the sink because I only meant to rinse the berries, then put them in the fridge. But I find it impossible to eat just one strawberry. Sometimes only a whole container will do.

Kathy: What first drew you to cozy mysteries?

SF: Trixie Belden and her Bobwhite Club. I discovered the Trixie Belden books when I was eleven and became an instant fan. I can’t count how many times I reread each book in the series. Years later, Miss Marple, Aurora Teagarden, and a host of intrepid female amateur sleuths caught my attention. But Trixie Belden will always have my heart.

Kathy: Do you write in any other genres?

SF: While I currently write cozy and historical mysteries, I’ve been published in romance and fantasy. I spent three years as a staff writer for Natural Awakenings Magazine, and had a one-act play produced off-Broadway back in the 90s. I’m also the editor of the Michigan travel website lakeeffectliving.com.

Kathy: Tell us about your series.

SF: Set in the lakeshore town of Oriole Point, Michigan, DYING FOR STRAWBERRIES is the first book in the Berry Basket series. Named after Jacob Marley by her Dickens’s loving mother, thirty-year-old Marlee Jacob is far nicer than her Dickensian namesake, but has a work ethic just as strong. A former TV producer in NYC, Marlee’s career was cut short by a scandalous murder trial. Now Marlee is back home, surrounded by friends, family, and lots of tourists. And she’s engaged to a handsome orchard grower. Happy to be running her berry themed shop, it all seems lovely – until murder makes another appearance.

Kathy: Do you have a favorite character? If so, who and why?

SF: I enjoy including former Russian beauty queen Natasha in any scene. She’s glamorous, outspoken, superstitious, and often inappropriate. I see her as a combination of Gloria on Modern Family and a Russian version of a Kardashian. And it’s always fun trying to figure out how to fracture her English.

Kathy: Did you have a specific inspiration for your series?

SF: I often visit a shop in the neighboring town of South Haven called The Blueberry Store. Even though strawberries are the focus of my first Berry Basket book, they’re tied with blueberries as my favorite berry. So an entire store filled with blueberry items seems too good to be true. When I first thought about writing a cozy set along the lakeshore, I kept thinking of The Blueberry Store. Only I decided to expand the premise to include every sort of berry and berry product. Blackberries take center stage in Book Two, BLACKBERRY BURIAL, while blueberries get their moment in Book Three.

Kathy: What made you decide to publish your work?

SF: A few years ago, a friend and fellow author Meg Mims and I decided to collaborate on a historical mystery series, which we sold under the pen name D.E. Ireland. However we also had separate writing careers. While having lunch with my agent at a Malice Domestic conference in 2014, he asked what I was working on besides the D.E. Ireland books. When I mentioned the Berry Basket cozy I was writing, he asked, “And why is that book not on my desk right now?” Three months later, it was. Not long after that, Kensington bought the series.

Kathy: If you could have a dinner party and invite 4 authors, living or dead, in any genre, who would you invite?

SF: Ray Bradbury, because he’s been my writing inspiration since I was a teenager. If he was at my dinner table, I’d serve him extra helpings, ask for his autograph, and thank him for every short story and novel he’s ever written. Agatha Christie, because I’d love to know how in the world she came up with all those marvelous plots. And could she please help me with my next book. Jane Austen needs to be there since I think she would be droll and witty and make me laugh and spill food over my dinner party dress.

Finally, I’d be happy to sit next to George R.R. Martin. I’d grill him (nicely) about the world building in the Song of Ice and Fire saga, discuss my favorite Game of Thrones characters, and ask him to please hurry and write the last two books in his series. Then, during our decadent dessert, I’d exact a promise from Martin that he will never kill off Daenerys and Tyrion.

Kathy: What are you currently reading?

SF: I came late to Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander books. But after falling in love with the Outlander TV series, I am now making my way through the novels. I’ve just started DRUMS IN AUTUMN, although I can’t imagine it will top VOYAGER, which is my favorite so far. I’m also reading Julia Buckley’s A DARK AND STORMY MURDER, which has a lovely Daphne du Maurier feel to it.

Kathy: Will you share any of your hobbies or interests with us?

SF: Writing two series and working at a gallery doesn’t leave much time for hobbies. But I do love photographing the beautiful coast of Lake Michigan. I’ve probably taken about 5000 photos of lake sunsets. And don’t get me started on how many lighthouse photos I’ve shot. I also use many of these photos on the travel website I run.

Kathy: Name 4 items you always have in your fridge or pantry.

SF:Almond milk, muenster cheese, frozen blueberries, gluten-free bread. Those items tell you that I stay away from lactose, and gluten makes me feel bad. Also that I love blueberries to such a degree, I stock up on frozen so I can eat them all year. And I assume muenster cheese is a staple in everyone’s fridge. If not, we need to talk.

Kathy: Do you have plans for future books either in your current series or a new series?

SF: I’ve just given my editor BLACKBERRY BURIAL, which will be published in 2017. Now I have to get right to work on Book Three. I also co-author the Eliza Doolittle/Henry Higgins Mysteries under the pen name D.E. Ireland. Those books are based on the George Bernard Shaw characters who appear in PYGMALION and MY FAIR LADY - only we’ve turned them into sleuths. The third book in our Agatha nominated series, GET ME TO THE GRAVE ON TIME, will be published in November.

Kathy: What's your favorite thing about being an author?

SF: Meeting a reader who has enjoyed my books. There’s a lot of criticism and snarky comments on the internet now. But when a person goes out of their way to let you know your story entertained or moved them, it makes all the work and occasional frustration worthwhile. As I mentioned earlier about my dinner party guests, I’d love to have met Ray Bradbury so I could have told him how much his novels and stories meant to me. I wanted to say Thank You. Trust me. That’s all any author hopes to hear.


Sharon Farrow is the latest pen name of award winning author Sharon Pisacreta. Born and raised in Detroit, Michigan, Sharon has been a freelance writer since her twenties. Published in mystery, fantasy, and romance, Sharon currently writes The Berry Basket cozy mystery series. She is also one half of the writing team D.E. Ireland, who co-author the Agatha nominated Eliza Doolittle and Henry Higgins mysteries. Visit Sharon at sharonfarrowauthor.com, on Facebook @SharonFarrowAuthor, or Twitter @SharonFarrowBB.

With seasonal crowds flocking to its sandy beaches, lively downtown shops, and The Berry Basket, a berry emporium with something for everyone, the lakeshore village of Oriole Point is ripe for summer fun—and murder.

Much has changed for Marlee Jacob since she returned to Oriole Point, Michigan. Between running The Berry Basket, dodging local gossip, and whipping up strawberry muffins, smoothies, and margaritas to celebrate the town’s first annual Strawberry Moon Bash, the thirty-year-old hardly has time for her fiancé, let alone grim memories of her old life in New York . . .

But unfortunately for Marlee, Oriole Point is muddled with secrets of its own. First her friend Natasha disappears after an ominous dream. Next the seediest man in town threatens to crush her business. Then an unknown person nearly kills her on the night of the Bash. When she discovers a dead body, Marlee realizes she’ll have to foil a killer’s plot herself—before the past permanently stains her future.



The First Berry Basket Mystery

Trouble is brewing in Oriole Point, Michigan. Natasha, the former Russian beauty queen, has had another vicious fight with her abusive husband and has disappeared. The scandal that led Marlee Jacob to return to her hometown is commemorating the one year anniversary of the event with a new tell all book, which accuses Marlee of being complicit in the murder. And Natasha's husband Cole has just dropped a bombshell on the small business owners of the town. While running the Berry Basket and preparing for the town's first Strawberry Moon Bash, Marlee decides to look into her friend's disappearance-and winds up getting bashed herself before stumbling across a murder victim. Can Marlee find Natasha and solve the murder before someone stops her for good?

Secrets abound in DYING FOR STRAWBERRIES. In fact, everything revolves around secrets, and everyone has them. There are even secrets that I don't even think the characters know they have. It's when the secrets come out that even more trouble erupts. The book makes you ponder-is it worth it to keep secrets? Do you have any secrets you'd do anything to prevent coming to light? How far would you go to keep them hidden?

DYING FOR STRAWBERRIES has a great setting and lots of unique characters. While I get a bit annoyed at Marlee's attitude at times I appreciate what she's trying to do. I love Tess and Natasha is a hoot! I'm a huge berry lover and I particularly enjoyed all the strawberry treats mentioned in the book. I'm eager to read about the future berries features at the Berry Basket...and the future murders.

Recipes included.


The author is graciously offering a print copy of DYING FOR STRAWBERRIES to a lucky reader. Simply leave a comment on this blog post telling us what your favorite berry is! Feel free to share a memory or recipe as well. Add your e-mail address and comment no later than 11:59 pm EDT Thursday, October 27, 2016 in order to qualify! US addresses only, sorry. 


  1. Great interview and review. Thank you for this chance.

  2. My favorite berry would be a toss up between strawberries and raspberries. I'm from Southwestern Michigan, about three miles from Lake Michigan and we get the best strawberries from the strawberry farms in the area. Can't wait to read "Dying for Strawberries". Congrats on your new release.

    1. Thank you, Dianne. And it looks like we are both lucky to live so close to Lake Michigan!

  3. My favorite berry would be a toss up between strawberries and raspberries. I'm from Southwestern Michigan, about three miles from Lake Michigan and we get the best strawberries from the strawberry farms in the area. Can't wait to read "Dying for Strawberries". Congrats on your new release.

  4. I love raspberries.......... had wild raspberries years ago that practically melted in my mouth. MMmmmm! So good.

    karin56381 (at) gmail.com

  5. Vera Wilson
    I love strawberries. Great to make a pie, or a topping for ice cream.

    snoopysnop1 at yahoo dot com

  6. Awesome interview!! Love your questions! Strawberries are my favorite berry!!


  7. Thank you for posting the interview! Blueberries are my favorite :)

  8. Congratulations Vera. You are the winner chosen by random.org. Look out for an e-mail from me.