An Interview with Author Janel Gradowski

janelLet’s interview author Janel Gradowski! Keep scrolling after the interview because I have an excerpt from her latest book, Chicken Soup & Homicide.

You have quite a few books and stories published. Of all the characters you have created, do you have any favorites?
Amy, the main character in my Culinary Competition Mystery series, is a lot of fun to write. I love coming up with the wild ideas and unique approach to thinking about things, like solving murders. Although I have to say, I love all of my characters. It’s easier to write about fictional people when you enjoy hanging out with them in your mind.

When you are ready to start writing your next book in a series, what initial steps do you take to get organized before settling in to a writing routine?
I begin with writing notes on white index cards – everything from scene ideas to character notes or recipe ideas. I always keep a pen and index cards nearby, in my purse, in my truck, on my nightstand, during this phase. I collect the cards in little folders that I’ve made out of scrapbook paper until I have enough ideas to start arranging the plot in sequence. Then I break out my colored index cards. I use a different color for each character’s story line. In the end I have a huge 4×6 foot cork board filled with colored index cards for every scene.

Can we look forward to seeing more books in your Culinary Series starring Amy and Carla?
Yes! Book #3 in the series will be coming out in early June of this year. Book #4 will be out fall/winter of 2015 too.

I love the recipes in your books. Are you inspired to create the recipe once you write about it or do you have the dish in mind and incorporate it into your story?
In most cases I come up with the recipes after I write the books. Once in a while, like with the tomato pie recipe in Pies & Peril, I already have the recipe and write it into the book. When I get tired of writing in silence I often turn on the TV tuned to Food Network or The Cooking Channel. There have been quite a few times when I’ve incorporated versions of a dish I’ve seen on TV into my manuscript.

Have you ever had writer’s block and if so, how did you deal with that issue?
I actually had it when I began writing Chicken Soup & Homicide! Even though I had the book plotted out, I was still having problems getting words onto the page. In the end showing up every day to write, even if my entire writing day resulted in a hundred words, worked. I think even if it seems like you have nothing to write, you still need to sit down in front of your computer or with a notebook and just start…even with a few words. Often it’s like a leak in a dam. Once a few words trickle through the block it’s only a matter of time before the dam breaks and the words start flowing. Deadlines are pretty darned good incentives to get the work done too!

What books are you reading now?
I’m reading Steven Pressfield’s War of Art books. I won them in a giveaway at Joy’s Book Blog. I think it was the universe’s way of giving me something that I need at exactly the right time! So many things about being a professional in a creative, artistic profession.

Do you have any advice for aspiring writers who have never been published?
Don’t take rejections personally. There are many publishing “ponds” out there, including self-publishing. Just as you have different reading tastes, perhaps you hated a book that was a bestseller on every possible bestseller list, editors like different stories too. Just because one editor passed on your story that doesn’t mean it’s bad. It just wasn’t right for that editor at that time.

Also, I would suggest trying your hand at writing flash fiction if you would really like to be a published author. While very short stories certainly aren’t easy to write, I know quite a few novelists that can’t imagine trying to write a flash fiction story, they take much less time than a novel. Plus there are many markets for flash fiction. Most are online. Many don’t pay. But if you have never had anything published before, I think they’re a great place to start.

Excerpt from Chicken Soup & Homicide:

“We can work on that prep table.” Sophie’s voice echoed a bit as she pointed to one of several stainless steel-topped tables in the cavernous kitchen space. “I’ll round up some tools for us.”

Other than adding the access door, nothing really needed to be done to the former bakery’s kitchen. Elliot Maxson had been a super neat control freak, so all of the appliances and work areas were spotless and in working order when he sold the bakery before retiring. The giant industrial ovens made the original coffee shop’s single convection oven seem like an Easy Bake Oven. Amy began arranging the loaves of bread, jars of nut butters, and pints of jams on the table while Sophie laid out cutting boards, bread knives, and spreaders.

“We should be able to get quite a few sandwiches out of each loaf if I cut the slices thin enough.” Amy plucked at the end of the plastic wrap on the coconut bread. The sweet scent was a little bit of tropical heaven in the middle of the cold Michigan winter. “I’m going to use cashew butter and pineapple jam with this, sort of like a piña colada.”
“That sounds wonderful,” Sophie said as she examined the labels on the jars. “You’ve done great coming up with all of these. I can’t wait to see what they taste like. I think I’ll go for sunflower seed butter with tomato jam on the rosemary bread.”

“Yum. I was hoping you would like my idea of savory PB and J.” Amy had bought jars of every kind of nut butter she could find at Columbo’s Market, from the standard peanut to soy bean. Then she scoured her cookbooks for unique jams and preserves, coming up with everything from a dried-apricot spread to whiskey-onion marmalade. The hardest part had been narrowing down all of the choices into half a dozen of each sandwich item. There were only so many samples they could eat at one time. It would take at least three test sessions to get through all of the culinary ideas she had unearthed in her cookbook-reading binge.

Soon all of the loaves of bread were sliced and small offset spatulas were stuck into every jar. Sophie had a notebook to jot down all of the combinations along with their tasting notes. Just setting up the ingredients seemed to have put Sophie in a better mood.

“Let’s make some incredible sandwiches.” Amy fist bumped Sophie. Maybe the gesture was a bit over the top for the circumstances, but it made her friend smile. “Lunchbox gourmet. Here we come.”

“You know, I kind of like that term. Would you mind if I poached if from you? Maybe I could make that a category on the café menus.”

“Go right ahead.” Amy swiped bacon jam on a slice of banana bread. Peanut butter was already spread on the other half of the sandwich. It would be her homage to Elvis Presley. “I think that’s what consultants are supposed to do anyway—give clients ideas.”

She would’ve happily helped with the new menu for free, as a friend, but Sophie had insisted on putting her on the payroll as a recipe consultant. The new title was snazzy, but it also came complete with a giant helping of apprehension that settled in her stomach like greasy mac and cheese. People with no formal chef training didn’t deserve to be consultants, did they? It was the equivalent of an unemployed geek who spent twenty hours a day playing first-person shooter video games in his parents’ basement being hired as a security specialist.

Do you like what you’ve read so far? Then leave me a comment and let me know if you’d like to be in the drawing for Janel’s latest book. It’s an e-book so this is open internationally!

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