Kathy: In MURDER IN TRANQUILITY PARK Alberta Scaglione and her granddaughter Jinx stumble across a treehouse hidden in the trees with a dead body underneath it. I've always loved treehouses, and had one...well more like a tree platform...when I was a kid. Do you enjoy treehouses? At least ones without dead bodies underneath.
JDG: I am fascinated by treehouses, but unfortunately they weren’t part of my childhood since I grew up in Hoboken, New Jersey, which at that time was a very urban city. And since I’m not particularly good at building things, I marvel at how someone could build a structure with four walls, a ceiling, and a floor in between random branches and leaves. To me a treehouse is the perfect melding of man and nature.
Kathy: Alberta has a black cat named Lola. I love cats, and am partial to black ones. In fact 2 of my current brood are black. Is Lola based on a real cat, or is she purely fictional.
JDG: Lola is complete figment of my imagination. I don’t have a cat of my own, but I have fond memories of one and only childhood pet – a cat that was originally called Morris, until we found out Morris was a girl so we switched its name to Princess. I love the sleekness and regal look a black cat has, but I made Lola a black cat because it typically indicated bad luck and I thought it would be a fun connection to how Jinx got her nickname.
Kathy: Jinx's culinary fare runs to healthful tofu sausages and gluten-free pasta, while Alberta enjoys more traditional cuisine. Which are you more apt to eat?
JDG: I am team traditional all the way! Bring on the real pasta and the high-calorie sauces and meat dishes. Don’t get me wrong, I like to maintain a healthy diet and have recently gone non-dairy and thanks to a friend who must adhere to a gluten-free diet, I’ve added some of those items into my diet and they’re not bad at all. However, when it comes to Italian cooking I’m a traditionalist all the way.
Kathy: Do you enjoy cooking?
JDG: I think the real question is do others enjoy my cooking? Sadly, the answer is a definite sometimes. I describe myself as an efficient cook, not too adventurous, but also not that basic, I do just enough to get the job done. Growing up in an Italian family and having lots of friends of all nationalities who are amazing cooks, I never felt the need to learn how to cook on my own. Let’s just say that when I have dinner with friends and family I bring my own Tupperware containers to take home leftovers.
Kathy: What first drew you to cozy mysteries?
JDG: My editor was really the person who introduced me to the idea of writing cozy mysteries. I knew of the genre and had read some – I even stumbled across a series whose protagonist had the last name of Griffo! But it wasn’t until he suggested I write some that I took a deep dive into the genre. At first I wasn’t sure I could pull it off, but then I realized that cozies are just like soap operas and if I know anything, it’s a soap opera. What I love most about them is that I get to write a continuing saga of a group of characters that live from book to book. It’s both fun and challenging to keep the characters fresh and show new facets of their personalities and backstory with each mystery.
Kathy: Do you write in any other genres?
JDG: Yes, under the name Michael Griffo, I’ve written two young adult supernatural trilogies – The Archangel Academy Series and The Darkborn Legacy. I’m currently working on some adult paranormal fiction as well. And I’ve also written many plays and screenplays.
Kathy: Tell us about your series.
JDG: The Ferrara Family Mystery Series can be described as The Golden Girls meets Nancy Drew with an Italian twist. Alberta, her sister Helen, and her sister-in-law Joyce team up with Alberta’s granddaughter, Jinx, to solve murders in the idyllic lakeside community of Tranquility, New Jersey. It’s all about fun, family, murder, and of course, lots and lots of food.
Kathy: Do you have a favorite character? If so, who and why?
JDG: That’s such a hard choice to make, but if I had to choose one, I’d say Alberta. Now that I’m into the third book of series I’ve come to know all the characters quite well and I really like Alberta’s journey. She did not have a great life, her marriage was unsatisfactory, her relationship with her daughter, Lisa Marie, seems to be irreparably damaged, and her future looked like it would be as uninspiring as her past. But thanks to some twists of fate, Alberta is like a butterfly emerging from a cocoon. She’s been brought back to life thanks to her granddaughter, Jinx, and the rest of her family. It’s been a beautiful transformation to witness and to write and I am excited to explore Alberta’s next journey.
Kathy: Did you have a specific inspiration for your series?
JDG: When I was trying to come up the essence of my cozy mystery series I knew that I wanted it to be intergenerational. I like intertwining old and young, there’s an interesting push and pull that can be explored and one side always gets to learn something new from the other. From there, I naturally gravitated toward family and since I’m very close to my large Italian family, it was a ‘no brainer’ that I would have an Italian family at the core of my series. So there wasn’t one person who inspired me, but rather my many, colorful relatives.
Kathy: What made you decide to publish your work?
JDG: When I got serious about my writing, I knew that the only way to see if I was any good and if I had something to say that people wanted to read would be to get published. Ironically, while I write a detailed outline for each novel complete with almost every beat of the story, I am far less prepared and far more reckless in other aspects of my life. So once I made the decision to get published, I didn’t think of all the rejection I’d face, all the heartache, all the endless submissions I’d have to send out. It was something I was determined to make happen so I kept at it until I achieved my goal.
Kathy: If you could have a dinner party and invite 4 authors, living or dead, in any genre, who would you invite?
JDG: Shirley Jackson (I love all her twisted stories), Charlotte Bronte (Jane Eyre is my all-time favorite novel), Henry Slesar (who was the headwriter of my all-time favorite soap opera, The Edge of Night and a prolific mystery writer) and Agatha Christie (because she’s the queen of the mystery.)
Kathy: What are you currently reading?
JDG: I recently finished Behind Her Eyes by Sarah Pinborough and I absolutely loved it. You will never, ever guess the ending. And I’m about to start No Adam in Eden by Grace Metalious who wrote Peyton Place. I didn’t realize she wrote more than just that blockbuster novel so when I saw it in a used bookstore, I couldn’t resist.
Kathy: Will you share any of your hobbies or interests with us?
JDG: My main hobby is that I take adult figure skating lessons. I have been obsessed with figure skating for decades, ever since I was a kid, but other than teaching myself how to skate at the local rink, I never had any formal training. Last year during the Olympics I heard Johnny Weir talk about the Ice House in Hackensack, New Jersey. I checked their website, saw that their next adult class was starting in a few weeks, and signed up. It was the best decision I ever made. It’s difficult and challenging, but for me, being on the ice and trying to teach my body to relinquish control and just glide across the ice, is pure joy.
Kathy: Name 4 items you always have in your fridge or pantry.
JDG: Vanilla flavored almond milk
Lactose free Activia yogurt
Jarlsberg cheese, which is naturally non-dairy – are you noticing a theme?
Lactose free Breyer’s Vanilla ice-cream – which is beyond delicious!
Kathy: Do you have plans for future books either in your current series or a new series?
JDG: Absolutely! I’m currently editing the third book in the series – MURDER AT ICICLE LODGE. Alberta, Jinx, and the entire gang, including the men in the series, go on a week-long vacation to Icicle Lodge in Lake Ariel, Pennsylvania. Of course, wherever the Ferrara’s go, murder follows, so soon there’s a dead body and another murder mystery to solve. It’s kind of like my homage to And Then There Were None.
Kathy: What's your favorite thing about being an author?
JDG: Touching the hearts and minds of readers. It is a great responsibility, but also a great joy to know that the words, characters, plot twists, and themes that I create will live on in a reader’s memory. It’s humbling to know that when I’m all by myself, sitting at my desk typing, the result of my work is going to be shared with who knows how many others. That my creative pursuits can have an impact on people I’ve never met, fills me with both humility and pride. Making a reader feel some kind of emotion is worth all the struggles I face when writing a book. It’s what makes me excited to start working on another novel.
Murder in Tranquility Park (A Ferrara Family Mystery) by J.D. Griffo
About the Book
Cozy Mystery 2nd in Series
Kensington (March 26, 2019)
Mass Market Paperback: 336 pages
Alberta Scaglione and her twentysomething granddaughter, Jinx, love to spend time—and solve crime—together . . .
Ever since Alberta Scaglione inherited her spinster aunt’s Cape Cod cottage, she’s been enjoying the good life in Tranquility, New Jersey, with her black cat, Lola. But since things are mostly quiet in this town, she finds other things to do—like joining Jinx for morning jogs in Tranquility Park. She has to do something to stay healthy, as long as it doesn’t involve Jinx’s healthful tofu sausages and gluten-free pasta. But when they stumble across a treehouse hidden in the trees, and a dead body underneath it, they take a detour into solving a murder. Now the Ferrara ladies will have to exercise extreme caution to avoid a permanent decline in their health . . .
Includes Italian recipes from Alberta’s kitchen!
About the Author
Italian by birth, Jersey by upbringing, J. D. Griffo is an award-winning playwright and author who has written ten novels, over twenty plays, and a handful of screenplays that have yet to see the light of day. Griffo studied Journalism and Marketing at New York University, graduating magna cum laude many, many years ago, as well as Creative Writing at the New School and Gotham Writer’s Workshop. And the J. D. stands for the author’s mother – Jean Dolores – who absolutely loved to read and tell stories.
Twitter - https://twitter.com/Michael2264
Instagram - https://www.instagram.com/j.d.griffo/
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