I'm delighted to be back with another brilliant awesome author interview, and today's guest is Kelly Brakenhoff who already has a book out with another planned later this year. Find out more about Kelly and her books, and then read the interview!
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. Her first mystery, Death by Dissertation, was published in April, 2019. Look for the sequel, Dead Week, and her children’s picture book series featuring Duke the deaf dog, both coming in the Fall of 2019. She serves on the Board of Editors for the Registry of Interpreters for the Deaf publication, VIEWs. The mother of four young adults, a cranky old dog, and a rambunctious puppy, Kelly and her husband call Nebraska home.
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.
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.
“Death by Dissertation is an engaging mystery with puzzling clues that introduces readers to a plucky protagonist . . . Author Kelly Brakenhoff is to be commended for her insider observations and realistic portrayal of campus politics and life in a small college town.”
~Book Club Librarian
“Find yourself caught up in this heartwarming academic cozy mystery featuring a strong and determined female sleuth.”
~Mallory Heart’s Cozies
“Not only does author Kelly Brakenhoff spin a good tale she seems to write from the heart.”
— My Reading Journeys Blog
“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
Who are you and what do you write?
Hi Kate! Thanks for interviewing me. I’ve been a Twitter fan of yours for a long time.
I’m an American Sign Language Interpreter by day, living the dream in Husker Heaven, aka. Lincoln, Nebraska with my husband and two dogs.
Death by Dissertation is my first novel and the beginning of the Cassandra Sato mystery series set in the U.S. in rural Nebraska. After graduating with a Ph.D. and working a few years at a college in Hawai’i—where she was born and raised—Cassandra moves to Morton College in the heart of the Midwest because she thinks it will help her get experience to someday become a university president.
When a student dies two months into her dream job, she struggles with culture shock, academic politics, and threats of violence while she helps the investigation. Cassandra is surrounded by an old friend, hilarious students, and supportive co-workers, but it’s her job on the line if she can’t figure out how to end the nightmarish string of suspicious incidents.
Where and when and how did the writing life begin for you?
I don't remember not loving to read, and then writing followed soon afterwards. In elementary school, my younger sister and I made homemade comic books featuring dogs and cats. I wrote the words, and she did the illustrations. Think Garfield meets Snoopy. They were pretty bad.
How has the journey to this point been? Can you give us a basic rundown?
Cassandra Sato’s story began as a NaNoWriMo project in 2014. Years of writing, editing, and procrastinating got me to the finished novel stage. After more than forty rejections from agents, but lots of praise and advice from talented mentors, I decided to make the leap and self-publish. I hired an editor and a cover designer then plunged into the deep end of publishing.
Mysteries are my favorite to read and write. I plan to publish the second in my series later this year. I'm also working on a children's picture book series that has a deaf dog as the main character. Ironically, my sister is drawing the illustrations. And they are gorgeous!
What's been the hardest part of your writing/publishing experience so far? And the most enjoyable?
The first commandment of writing advice experts love to repeat is “Write Every Day.” Awesome wisdom if you’re a full-time writer. My day job is mentally challenging, I'm married, and I have four mostly grown children and a grandson. Keeping work/life balance is such a high priority for me, I just can't write every day. Which has its repercussions, like how it's taken me 4+ years to finish my first novel. When I don't touch the manuscript for more than a couple of weeks, I waste valuable time getting back into the story. I do try to think about my WIP every day. I jot notes that occur to me while dreaming, driving, or running. Do I feel guilty about it and cringe every time some expert preaches this advice? Yes. Will I continue to write at my (snail's) pace. YES!
Would you go back and change anything?
For many years I put off my dreams to help raise my children. 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.
Where would you like to be in 5 years time? And 10? Or, what are your plans for the future?
I look forward to traveling more the next few years now that our nest is empty. Great story ideas come to me when I’m people watching in new places.
The next Cassandra Sato mystery, Dead Week, is due out later this fall. After that, I have at least three more planned in the series. At some point, Cassandra needs to lead a group of Nebraska students on a study abroad trip to Hawai’i so we can see the reverse culture shock that Cassandra has experienced in Death by Dissertation.
What's one piece of advice you'd give to new writers just starting out?
At the risk of sounding like your mom, here’s my advice: Writing a novel is hard, but if you break it into small chunks and just focus on the next sentence it helps you avoid feeling overwhelmed. If it were easy, everyone would do it. If you want to do it badly enough, you will find the time.
Ketchup or Mayo? Hellman’s Mayo
Night or Day? Such a toughie. Day??
Inside or Outside? Outside
Dogs or Cats? Dogs, of course.
Twitter or Facebook? Reluctantly, Facebook.
Ebook or Paperback? If I had unlimited shelves, Paperback.
Walk or Drive? Walk
Sun or Rain? Sun
Keyboard or Pencil & Notebook? Keyboard!
Comedy or Drama? Comedy
Chips or Chocolate? Chocolate, although both are my kryptonite.
Want to guest blog or be interviewed? Got a cover reveal or book coming out?
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