October 7, 2014 11:34:46
Posted By Susan Bernhardt
How did the concept for your novel The Brothers' Keepers come about?
The concept for THE BROTHERS’ KEEPERS came about by asking myself a series of what-if questions. The question that kicked it all off is, What if we found a document written by Jesus himself? The central story question evolved from there, but that was the start of it.
What is your favorite part of the writing process? Least favorite?
My favorite part of the writing process is the research. I am a former college professor, so I have an inclination for obscure books on arcane subjects. Learning things as I go along is my favorite part.
I’m not sure I have a least favorite part, but I would say the hardest part is sitting my butt in the chair and writing the first draft. When I’m writing a new book, I try to sit down at the same time each day (early morning) and write at least 500 words. For me sticking to this goal is the hardest part of writing.
Are any of the experiences of your protagonist or characters based on someone you know? Did you ever feel as if you were one of the characters in your novel?
The male protagonist in THE BROTHERS’ KEEPERS, Nicholas Branson, is a recovering alcoholic, like me. Branson is also more comfortable dealing with life intellectually than emotionally, which describes me pretty well—at least until the past few years.
Did you learn anything about yourself from writing your book and what was it?
I learned that for me true faith in God has to come from within, that it is not located in any institution or organization.
What is the best thing about being an author?
The best thing about being an author is being your own boss, and not having to work for corporate America (including academia, since I believe education has largely become nothing but a business).
What books have most influenced your life? What are your two favorite books and please tell us why?
The books that have most influenced my life are THE BIBLE, the collected works of Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels, as well as the works of Friedrich Nietzsche.
My two favorite books are THE BROTHERS’ KARAMAZOV by Fyodor Dostoevsky, and DEMIAN by Hermann Hesse. These are my favorite books because Dostoevsky comes close to saying just about everything that can be said about the world philosophically up through his time, while Hesse comes close to encapsulating the essence of the spiritual experience.
Which writer would you consider a mentor?
I consider several different writers to be mentors. I’d love to write with the philosophical and psychological depth of Dostoevsky, the spirituality of Hesse, the soul of James Baldwin, the clarity of Hemingway, the plotting of Richard Wright, and the lyricism of William Styron. I consider them and many others to be mentors.
October 7, 2014 11:33:06
Posted By Susan Bernhardt
What other passions besides writing do you have?
I am passionate about music, especially classical music. I must have classical music playing when I read and write.
Book Blurb: The Brothers' Keepers (A Nicholas Branson Novel Book 1)
Most of us are familiar with Jesus’ parents, Mary and Joseph, and Jesus’ purported spouse, Mary Magdalene. But what about Jesus’ siblings? What role did they play in early Christianity?
Contemporary Jesuit and renowned religious historian Nicholas Branson is about to find out…and the answer will shake the foundations of the Judeo-Christian world.
It all starts with the murder of a United States Senator in a confessional, and the discovery of a strange religious document among his possessions. At the urging of his FBI friend, Branson joins the investigation. His effort to uncover the truth behind the murder draws him into the search for an eight-hundred-year-old treasure and into a web of ecclesiastical and political intrigue.
Accompanied by a beautiful, sharp-tongued research librarian, Jessica Jones, Branson follows a trail of clues, from the peaks of the awe inspiring French Pyrenees to the caves of war-torn Afghanistan. Along the way, shadowy powerful forces trail the pair, determined to keep safe a secret buried for centuries.
Links for Matthew:
The Brothers' Keepers:
Barnes & Noble: http://bit.ly/1qNxMnO
MuseItUp Publishing: http://bit.ly/1nACJCG
Conversations Among Ruins:
Amazon Paperback: http://amzn.to/1phAi7v
MuseItUp Publishing: http://bit.ly/1nACJCG
Amazon Kindle: http://amzn.to/1oASGcG
Barnes & Noble Nook: http://bit.ly/1t6Q31L
All Things That Matter Press Paperback: http://bit.ly/1rBiB1e
October 2, 2014 06:05:11
Posted By Susan Bernhardt
Shorter days, a chill in the air, hot tea, and the perfect book... The Ginseng Conspiracy - A Halloween-themed mystery - Curl up with a killer.
REVIEW: As a rule, cozies revolve around multiple murders in a small community, a likable amateur sleuth, and often food. In The Ginseng Conspiracy, Bernhardt fulfills our cozy expectations and adds a few refreshing touches. The murders in the fictionalized community of Sudbury Falls multiply at an alarming rate. Kay Driscoll as the sleuth is immensely appealing because, like every character in Bernhardt's book, she's multi-dimensional. She's sweet, tough, vulnerable and reckless in her sense of justice. When Kay's husband begs her to walk away from the investigation because her life is in danger, indomitable Kay refuses to stop. She continues her pursuit of the truth and we root for her every inch of the way, holding our breath whenever she puts herself in harm's way.
The plot, without any spoilers-alert, is as follows. While on her way to a Halloween Ball, Kay Driscoll, former nurse and newcomer to Sudbury Falls, witnesses a murder. When the official report claims the death to be accidental, Kay suspects something is amiss and decides to investigate.
With support from two of her friends (Elizabeth, a liberated woman who's never met a man she didn't like, and Deirdre, the quintessential spiritualist concerned with good karma and a balanced environment with the help of feng shui), Kay throws herself wholeheartedly into uncovering the truth, using Sweet Marissa's Patisserie as headquarters for their crime-solving efforts. As the investigation gets under way, Kay and friends encounter a city-wide corruption involving some of the best families in town as well as government officials.
By featuring Sweet Marissa's Patisserie as Kay's crime-solving headquarters, Bernhardt does more than continue a tradition of presenting some of the action in a cozy around the consumption of food. She turns the locale in its mouth-watering splendor into another character in the story. Bernhardt shows great expertise not only in her characterizations and descriptions but also in maintaining tension in dialogues and keeping the tension strong from one scene to the next.
In The Ginseng Conspiracy, Bernhardt shows she has mastered the art of the cozy, providing plenty of red herrings and plot twists to keep our interest throughout. For this reader, a refreshing and most welcome touch was Bernhardt's use of art and music in the narrative. During a visit Kay pays to a local museum, the author's adroit pen turns us into museum goers looking over Kay's shoulders as she views the works of the masters. With equal expertise, Bernhardt drops us into the audience when Kay attends a music gig by her husband's band; the music resonates through and off the pages.
With such a successful foray into the genre, one can only expect many more Kay Driscoll adventures by Susan Bernhardt in the future. Bravo, Bernhardt. Long live cozies!
September 15, 2014 01:53:36
Posted By Susan Bernhardt
This past weekend my husband, Bill and I went up to the northwoods of Wisconsin. Our 100+ year old, 3 bedroom cabin, that we rent every September, is on a wooded island surrounded by a pristine lake. It was the first time in ten years we would be up there alone. My ideal weekend consisted of relaxation, romance, and to decompress from the internet, cellphones, etc.
Early Friday evening after getting unpacked and a fire started in the stone fireplace, Bill asked me put on some music while he poured us a glass of wine. I had packed music that I thought Bill would enjoy: jazz, classical and included an album that I loved and thought would be romantic. Clearly, it was the best album of the weekend. I put on Santana's, Supernatural Album.
Bill said immediately, "That's not cabin music."
I responded, "I think it is."
There is a song called "Smooth" and when that came on, I suggested that we dance. With the wood fire crackling, the dimmed lights (I hadn't replaced the bulbs yet with higher wattage ones I had brought along for reading.) I thought it was incredibly romantic.
That night the temperature went down to 30 degrees.
Around 9:30 the next morning, Bill announced that it was warming up and that we should go kayaking. I looked at the thermometer on the screened porch. It read 39 degrees. Agreeing, I started looking for my winter hat and gloves that I had packed while Bill put on sunscreen. Soon he headed off to the kayaks. I asked him to please check out mine for snakes, insects, etc. (I'm very outdoorsy.) as they are stored outside, upside down. (Once there was a toad in my kayak.)
Last summer I had experienced a near drowning incident while kayaking with friends on a wild river, that was way out of our league. After hitting a limestone bluff, my kayak overturned. The current was strong in that area. Under water, I was unable to get my legs out of the kayak. Luckily I was pulled out by my friend, Lisa who had once been a life guard. I had bruises over most of both lower legs and on my arms. This kayaking experience is told in my third Kay Driscoll mystery when Kay has a similar experience. By the way, for those of you who have been asking, "Murder Under the Tree," the second Kay Driscoll mystery is coming out this fall.
When I got to the kayak, the compartment for my legs looked incredibly tiny. I undid the upper clasp on my life jacket, as I felt closed in and was having trouble taking a deep breath. I got in, but kept my legs on top of the kayak.
The lake was calm, the surface smooth like a mirror. It was the most peaceful feeling, gliding along past the trees. I felt again like I had previous to the accident. When we got to the other side of the island the water was more choppy, the wind was blowing us out more towards the center of the lake. We went around the island in a little over an hour.
I had brought along three jackets. One for falling into the lake, a winter jacket that I wore most of the weekend, and a lighter jacket that I immediately put back in the car as it was cold. Actually I also bought three pair of shoes along. Two for falling into the lake. Like I would ever really need two pairs for that.
The rest of the weekend we boated, kayaked again, went for walks around the area, into town to the gift shops much to Bill's delight. ;), read, listened to music, watched movies, had fires, drank a glass or two more of wine. It was relaxing.
Saturday evening we went out to dinner. Seated by a window, we overlooked another lake. As I watched the water, I commented to Bill that the lake reminded me of a Monet painting, with the lily pads, the reflection of the sky, and the ripples in the water. In his lily pad painting, Monet had captured what was in motion and I could see why.
Bill said, "Reality isn't always perfectly in focus."
Profound, I thought.
September 1, 2014 04:44:21
Posted By Susan Bernhardt
In August I went on a mini-road trip to the Milwaukee area to visit my brother and sister-in-law and to meet up later in the week with some friends in Sheboygan. I drove our new SUV that my husband usually took to work. To date, I had only driven this vehicle for about twenty minutes total.
Earlier that morning, my husband, Bill left for work in our other car where I kept CDs that were great for driving (and singing), i.e. Cher, Cyndi Lauper, Janis Joplin, Cat Stevens, etc. (or Excedrin as Bill would say.) So on the way out of the house, I grabbed a few CDs out of our living room cabinet. In the few minutes I had to pick out the music, I chose Dire Straits - Brothers in Arms, Meat Loaf - Storytellers, Tom Petty's Greatest Hits, John Prine, and Queen.
I had my sunglasses on, the windows down, and the wind in my hair. I figured some captivating music was in order to begin my six hour drive and you couldn't go wrong with Queen so I put it in the CD player first. It's amazing the high notes Freddy Mercury reaches. When the music ended, I pushed nearly each of the thirty buttons on the sound dashboard trying to eject the CD while still watching the road.
I saw the Sirius music button on the car and I didn't even want to try to go there. Bill has a USB media stick that plugs into the car stereo with mp3s on it that he gives verbal commands to. Again, no way was I going to try and figure that out either. So I put Meatloaf's Storytellers in and drove like a "Bat Out Of Hell." By the time I finished listening to it, I wanted to tell Meatloaf, "Enough with the talking. Sing!" He has a great voice and the music was brilliant...lots of great singing parts.
Bill and I had just gone to listen to a Tom Petty tribute band in July so next I put in Tom Petty's Greatest Hits. Well some of them were but I skipped over the rest.
The two remaining CDs were John Prine and Dire Straits. I remembered there was a sad song on the John Prine CD that made me cry every time I heard it and I didn't want to mess up my makeup, so I decided instead to listen to Dire Straits. One Christmas many years ago, I gave almost everyone I knew the Dire Straits, Brothers in Arms CD. I thought it was great music with a strong beat. Almost right away I had had enough of MTV but the other songs were pretty good.
I looked at the John Prine CD. I didn't want to play it but I had listened to everything else. I drove in silence for a while. Finally I put it in. There wasn't just the one sad song I remembered but four! I was trying hard not to cry. I kept wiping my eyes with a tissue. They were brimming with tears. When I was about twenty minutes from my brother's home, I thought, I couldn't show up on his doorstep like this, so I ejected the CD and put Queen back in. And sang "We Are the Champions" to perk myself up.
I am going to be travelling this week again. I'll be sure to set out the right music the night before, plus now I know how to use the media stick.