Jessie: On the coast of Maine, powerless to resist the call of the beach!
I am delighted to welcome J.D. Griffo to the Wickeds blog. I met J.D. at a Kensington publishing event hosted in partnership with the delightedful folks at Print: a bookstore up in Portland, ME in April. He is witty and warm and an absolute delight.
J. D. is giving away two copies of Murder on Memory Lake to two readers who leave a comment on the blog.
Here’s a bit about Murder on Memory Lake – the first book in this brand new cozy series:
Recently widowed and about to turn sixty-five, Alberta Ferrara Scaglione thought she’d spend her golden years reconnecting with her granddaughter, Jinx, and living quietly with her cat, Lola, in the idyllic lakeside community of Tranquility, New Jersey. She could not have been more wrong.
When she discovers the dead body of her long-time nemesis – the one and only Lucy Agostino – floating in Memory Lake, which is right in her own backyard, Alberta says arrivederci to her peaceful existence. In no time flat, she and Jinx – a would-be crime reporter – team up with Alberta’s older sister, Helen, a former nun, and their sister-in-law, Joyce, a retired Wall Street wizard, to solve the mystery of who killed Lucy.
It’s The Golden Girls meets Nancy Drew with an abbondanza of Italian flavor thrown in to spice things up as the Ferrara Family goes undercover to become Tranquility’s first family of detectives.
About a year ago my editor said two words to me that have come to change my life – cozy mystery. My first response was, “Me? I can’t write a cozy mystery! Who do you think I am? Jessica Fletcher??” Turns out I kind of am Jessica or at least I’m much more Jessica than I ever thought I could be and I’m thrilled by the revelation.
For some reason I imagined cozies as difficult to write because of the intricate plot, the red herrings, and the consistency of character and storylines from book to book within a series. And I was correct, it is a daunting task! But what I didn’t realize is how incredibly fulfilling and fun it is to weave a story about murder and a little dash of mayhem set in cozy surroundings with cozy characters. And for me, cozy means familiar. Regular, everyday, ordinary people caught up in extraordinary circumstances. Once I made that mental shift, I was able to embrace the idea and have come to fully embrace all the characters in my series.
One of the main reasons I love my characters is because I based them on real people in my life. I tweaked them a bit of course, but their personalities, their dialogue, the way they speak to each other, the way they react to the world around them and especially their values and beliefs are all familiar to me because I grew up with them.
I come from northern New Jersey and grew up in a large Sicilian family. Sunday dinners at Grandma’s house; sneaking a fried meatball – still warm! – out of the oven; knowing that red sauce is called gravy and brown gravy is called . . . brown gravy; the inability to speak without our hands; the inability to speak without talking really, really loud; cousins who are not only relatives, but friends; and understanding that family is forever and unconditional and is the most important thing in the world.
Using these traits it was easy for me to breathe life into Alberta Ferrara Scaglione, someone who lives in my heart and although she is far from perfect, I consider her a wonderful woman and someone I’m grateful to have gotten to know. Thinking of how my female cousins looked, acted, and sounded while we were growing up helped me shape the character of Jinx Maldonado, Alberta’s headstrong granddaughter. And I didn’t have to look very far to steal some characteristics to create Helen Ferrara and Joyce Perkins Ferrara, Alberta’s sister and sister-in-law who round out the amateur detective team.
Together, these four women represent the many intelligent, confident, resilient, loving, and hysterically funny women that are members of my family and my circle of friends. The best part is that since I know these women so completely it’s made writing Murder on Memory Lake as well as the two follow-up books in the series – Murder in Tranquility Park and Murder at Icicle Lodge – such an enjoyable endeavor. My hope is that readers will feel the same way about the Ferrara’s.
I hope that they’ll share in Alberta’s joy reconnecting with her estranged granddaughter Jinx. I hope that they’ll sense the feeling of family devotion and unity that is the undercurrent of each book. And I hope that they’ll come along for the ride as Alberta, Jinx, Helen, and Joyce solve murder after murder after murder.
Because readers can trust me on this – there is nothing more enjoyable and exciting than being a part of one big, crazy Italian family.
Readers, if you could team up with one member of your family – someone who is living or has passed on – to solve a crime, who would it be and why?
Bio – 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.
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