I’m so excited to be a stop on the blog tour for author Kelly Brakenhoof and her new release Death By Dissertation. This is the first book in her A Cassandra Sato Mystery series.
Death by Dissertation (Cassandra Sato)
1st in Series
Setting – Nebraska
Emerald Prairie Press (April 17, 2019)
Paperback: 355 pages
Digital ASIN: B07PKRD658
Purchase Link – Amazon June 22 – 30 – Just $0.99!!
Death by Dissertation is a great start for a debut author and I can’t wait to see what other adventures await Cassandra Sato.
~Only By Grace Reviews
Death by Dissertation was so great!!! I love cozies but I’m always looking for something different that stands out. Death by Dissertation didn’t disappoint in any sense.
~The Layaway Dragon
Ambitious Cassandra Sato traded her life in Hawai’i for a dream position as Student Affairs VP at Morton College in tiny Carson, Nebraska. She expected the Midwestern church casseroles, land-locked cornfields, and face-freezing winters would be her biggest challenges, but it’s her job that’s rapidly becoming a nightmare.
A deaf student is dead and the investigation reveals a complicated trail of connections between campus food service, a local farmer’s beef, and the science lab’s cancer research. Together with her few allies, Cassandra must protect the students caught up in the entanglement.
Dealing with homesickness, vandalism, and a stalker, Cassandra is trapped in a public relations disaster that could cost her job, or more. No one said college was easy.
Kelly Brakenhoff is an American Sign Language Interpreter whose motivation for learning ASL began in high school when she wanted to converse with her deaf friends. As an American Sign Language Interpreter with more than twenty years of experience, Kelly’s worked in college classrooms for fifteen different majors. From traipsing across muddy farm fields to stomach-churning medical procedures, and stage interpreting for famous figures, Kelly’s community interpreting interactions number in the thousands. Unfortunately, once she’s stepped away from the job, she usually forgets 90% of what happened. Which helps her keep confidential information safe, but also makes it really hard to grocery shop for more than 5 items without a written list.
Kelly wants to live in a world filled with peace, love, and joy, where people who can hear learn enough sign language to include deaf people in everyday conversations and work. Where every deaf child has early access to language and books with characters like them, and dark chocolate is cheap and plentiful.
When she’s not interpreting or writing, you can find Kelly cheering for her favorite Husker teams or training for half-marathons because she really likes dessert.
Her first mystery, Death by Dissertation, released April 22, 2019.
Website – http://kellybrakenhoff.com/
Instagram – @kellybrak
When did you know that you wanted to be an author? What things, if any, influenced that decision?
I don’t remember not wanting to be an author. My mother’s basement is lined with crates of scribbled journals and notebooks from elementary all the way through high school. Please don’t tell Mom! She’d make me clear out my stuff, but my own basement is full of my kids’ junk. Where would I put those precious artifacts? Because no one wants to read my eleven-year-old angst.
Growing up, teachers told me I was a good writer and nurtured that longing in me. However, just because the people on my Christmas Card list look forward to my amusing letters, that does not necessarily lead to completing an 80,000 word novel. Only hard work and determination does that.
With so many cozies being written today, what makes your books stand out from the crowd?
A young woman from Hawai’i moves to rural Nebraska, and finds her dream job at a small private college. The college has a vibrant Deaf Studies department with professors and students learning ASL and Deaf Culture. Their biology lab is doing cutting edge cancer research using an enzyme produced by beef from a local cattle farm. I think I’ve managed to throw together a wide variety of topics that you wouldn’t expect to see in the same book. Fun characters with a compelling mystery make the whole mixture hang together. Somewhere in there, I want you to recognize a character like someone you know in your own life.
Do you work from an outline or plot or do you just see where the characters take you?
My outline is quite long before I begin writing. However, once I’m halfway through the story, I things change as I follow the characters around and write what they say or do. Then in later revisions, I add layers of clues, red herrings and extra twisty turns to keep the readers guessing.
Do you read your reviews? Do you respond to them, good or bad? Do you do anything special to get those reviews?
This is a great question! I just posted a reminder today on my Facebook page begging people who have read the book to please post a review. This is my first book so, yes every review is precious. I appreciate when people take the time to write a review even if it’s only a few sentences. I’ve always been an avid reader, but it wasn’t until I became an author that I realized reviews are very important to the business. I think readers feel like we’ve bought the book, and we don’t owe the author anything else. But it’s such a kind gesture to take the time to let other readers know when you like a book.
What advice would you give to your younger self?
Don’t give up on your dreams, no matter how long it takes to reach them. I’m fifty-one years old and I think that’s exactly how long I needed to be ready to publish my book. Some people are ready when they’re seventeen. It took me longer, but I did it!
Do you think that the cover plays an important part in someone buying your book(s)? Who designs your book covers?
As a reader myself, I choose books by their covers, although I dislike admitting that. Michelle Argyle of Melissa Williams Design does my covers and she kindly held my hand through the process. As a complete newbie, I was awed by her ability to take my synopsis and make a cover that includes hints and clues about the story. It’s a work of art.
Please give us an insight into your main characters. What do you think makes them special?
Cassandra Sato is a fish out of water. She’s grown up in paradise where most of the people look like her. She’s ambitious and takes this job in Nowhere-ville, Nebraska to get the experience she needs to become a university president. She’s a workaholic on one hand, but kind, caring and witty as well. She’s a bit overwhelmed in this story by how different life is surrounded by miles of cornfields and mostly Caucasian students who have had a very different upbringing than she has. In addition, you get to learn about Lance the deaf student and what life is like attending a college where people feel somewhat uncomfortable approaching you because they don’t use the same language. Many people are fascinated by American Sign Language and Deaf Culture, and this book will give you insights into what it’s like to struggle to fit in.
What have you learned about yourselves since becoming an author?
For many years I put off my dreams to help raise my four children who are now young adults. If I ever doubted my passion for writing, I am now certain that this is what I want to be when I grow up. I have no regrets for how long it took. I truly enjoy every aspect of being an author.
Do you write full-time or part-time?
I absolutely love my day job as an ASL Interpreter. I’m self-employed, and I squeeze in writing part-time around my interpreting assignments. Some day I want to write more hours per week, but can’t give up being with deaf folks every day.
What do your plans for future projects include?
The second book in the Cassandra Sato series will release the beginning of August, and I have plans for at least three more. In September, I’ll launch a children’s picture book series featured the adventures of Duke, the deaf dog. The stories are like the Little Critter series by Mercer Mayer, only from the perspective of a deaf child. I can’t wait to get them out into the world. I want deaf children to be able to relate to books with characters like them.
What do you think the hardest part of writing is? What is the easiest?
Beginnings are fun because I love brainstorming opening lines and opening pages. Usually I know where the story begins and ends. I struggle with connecting the middle to the ending. I don’t want a reader to guess the ending too early and I spend a lot of time trying to make the mystery complicated enough that it’s not easy to solve.
What type of books do you like to read? Who are some of your favorite authors?
I like Janet Evanovich’s characters that make me laugh out loud, Sue Grafton (I finally found an All-Purpose Black Dress!), John Grisham, Mary Kay Andrews, Hank Phillipi Ryan. Through my work becoming an author, I’ve met many authors. Now my to-be-read list is longer than my arm.
I’ve been in a Book Club for 19 years, and we read any genre. We take turns monthly choosing the book and the restaurant. Without them, I wouldn’t have opened many books that ended up being my favorites. I encourage people to read a wide variety of topics and time periods.
What is the one thing you would like your readers to know about you?
While many authors are introverts who hide in their writing lairs, I’m very extroverted. I’ve been pleasantly surprised by receiving photos of readers enjoying my book while lounging at the beach or watching their child’s softball games. This is all so new to me! I love getting messages about what readers’ favorite scenes were, or how they couldn’t put the book down. Please feel free to comment or contact me if you want to chat. I’m really enjoying getting to know my readers.
Do you have anything specific you would like to say to your readers?
Thanks so much for reading this interview and being so interested in books. I read for escape and entertainment, and I hope you’ll come along with me throughout this story and many more. I’m just getting started!
How can readers discover more about you and your work?
Facebook: Kelly Brakenhoff (personal page)
Amazon Author Page: https://www.amazon.com/Kelly-Brakenhoff/e/B07PN7K7T7
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