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Posted By Susan Bernhardt

Pushing Water


Your new release Pushing Water occurs during the French Colonial Government in Hanoi in the late 1930s. What prompted you to write this story? What research did you do for this book?

I have always been curious about the history of Vietnam preceding the American/Vietnam War. As a young person during that war, it felt like the confrontation just popped up out of nowhere. Several of my friends were drafted. I lost touch with one young man that I’d been dating after he went to Vietnam. I have no idea what happened to him. Fifteen years ago I began to read about the history of that area of the world. The more I read, the more I was hooked. Soon characters began to reveal themselves to me. Then a plot surfaced. I did plenty of research, digging into old periodicals, newspapers, and dusty archives. I even went on line and purchased several very old and out of print history books. Since beginning Pushing Water I have visited Vietnam and several other Asian countries. The process has been interesting for me and I hope that those who read the novel find it an enjoyable read.

The title of my novel, Pushing Water, comes from a quote in Thich Nhat Hanh’s book, The Lotus In A Sea Of Fire, A Buddhist Proposal For Peace: “In a river current, it is not the water in front that pulls the river along, but the water in the rear that acts as a driving force, pushing the water in front forward.”

What's the best thing about being an author?

Probably the best thing about being an author is when the writing is going so well that it’s as if I’ve discovered a totally unknown world going on in my head. The hope is that if I type fast enough the magic and drama can be captured. It is an elusive experience that can often be interrupted by the mere barking of a neighbor’s dog, but when it happens, it is delicious. Most of the other time, being an author is work, work that I love to do. 

Posted By Susan Bernhardt

I've read and enjoyed many of your posts that are accompanied by fabulous photos of NYC.

Taking photographs is something I’ve always enjoyed doing. But it wasn’t until I started a blog that I began to see how my photos were also telling stories. When I look back and read my early blog posts they sound and look awkward. I don’t think I knew what direction I was going in when I first began to blog. Now I see what my unconscious was trying to tell me. I guess I have a story telling gene.

What's next for Margaret Mendel?

My first novel Fish Kicker that was published in 2014 as an ebook, will be coming out as a paperback very soon. I have a short story collection, Patches, scheduled for publication sometime the end of this year. I’m in the process of completing a novel, Wild Mushrooms, about a woman who gathers wild mushrooms for a living. It’s been in the works for a while, and well, it’s time to finish the book and get onto the next writing adventure.

Blurb for Pushing Water:

VIETNAM, 1939. Sarah, an expat, working as an Archivist for the French Colonial Government in Hanoi, is devastated when she finds a Vietnamese co-worker murdered.

Determined to find the killer, Sarah suspects she knows what prompted the murder when she discovers a secret document in a packet of poetry the co-worker had borrowed from the archives.

The papers include a secret colonial communication outlining a direct order that will bring about devastating hardship for the Vietnamese people.

Sarah’s life is further complicated by the arrival of an old friend, Julia, who brings with her remembrances of a past Sarah would rather forget. Then Albee, Sarah’s part time lover comes on the scene. He claims to be an archaeologist working on a dig in China, though Sarah suspects he is a fulltime communist revolutionary.

Sarah attempts to deal with her problematic personal life, wishing for her solitude to return, when a friend is arrested and executed for revolutionary activities. Heartsick, Sarah decides to return back to the States. Though there is one more hurtle to overcome. The world is in a chaotic mess and within one devastating day nothing will ever be the same again.

Posted By Susan Bernhardt

Former ballerina, Irina Curtius, lives on the Upper West Side in Manhattan. Everything that the great city has to offer is at Irina’s fingertips; museums, restaurants, galleries, not to mention the beautiful Central Park. There’s no reason for Irina not to be ecstatic about her home and she isn’t. New York City is the perfect place to live.

For the past 20 years Irina has been teaching ballet to little girls in her studio, Little Cygnet’s Ballet Academy, with her college friend, Jerome, playing the piano for the school. Irina loved her professional career but she loves teaching the little ballerinas and watching them progress.

Her condominium is an ivy covered brownstone on West 87th street between Columbus and Amsterdam Avenue built during the late 19th century. The rooms have beautiful crown moldings, the windows are large, and yes you can hear the traffic on the streets but so what? The city itself never sleeps and its inhabitants like to be as active as the city.

Irina has some nice neighbors too. Her best friend, high school English teacher, Margarite, lives in an apartment right down the hall; Celeste who lives on the floor above; and Stephen Kramer, his wife Tricia and Tricia’s sister mystery writer, Alice, live on Irina’s floor. But something has changed with the Kramers.

Irina, Stephen, and Tricia always got along well but since Tricia’s sister Alice moved in the dynamics kind of changed. First of all Stephen started to look ill. He still manages to go to work where he’s up for a promotion and to play racquetball with his business associate, Alex Rankin, but Stephen looks very bad and Irina is quite concerned about his health. The strange thing is that whenever Stephen leaves town for business he returns looking fit and healthy but as he stays home he gets sick again. Tricia, his wife, says he has the flu and her sister, Alice, gets very annoyed at Irina whenever she inquires about Stephen’s health.

But life goes on and Irina, with the sneaky ways of friends Margarite and Jerome, is soon reunited with her college boyfriend, Robert. Forty years earlier Irina and Robert were living together and just before they graduated college he broke her heart and ran off to marry one of Irina’s friends.

So there’s a lot going on in Irina’s life but things get more hectic when a rash of burglaries breaks out in her neighborhood and then neighbor, Stephen Kramer, is found dead in his apartment by wife, Tricia. So when irina’s Police Lieutenant friend, Charles Whitney, tells her that Stephen’s death is being ruled as a suicide she decides she has has to find out the truth because she suspects that Stephen was murdered.

“A Manhattan Murder Mystery” is yet another great novel by Susan Bernhardt. Susan lives in Wisconsin so I wondered just what she knew about New York City. Since I’m a native New Yorker which means I’m always ready to fight any outsiders who think they know enough to write about the New York I read this book with my boxing gloves on ready for a good brawl with Ms. Bernhardt. It never happened.

She not only described the Upper West Side to perfection with its neighborhood stores and the pre war apartment buildings but she somehow got the feel of what living in New York is all about. Most writers who don’t live in New York don’t get that but somehow Ms. Bernhardt did. “A Manhattan Murder Mystery” is like a love letter to this great city and it’s obvious that the author respects New Yorkers and how we live here.

You’ll have a great time reading “A Manhattan Murder Mystery” and will not be disappointed in this excellent story.

Posted By Susan Bernhardt

"With her new book, A Manhattan Murder Mystery, Susan Bernhardt, author of the Kay Driscoll series, grand jetés into the stratosphere.

A Manhattan Murder revolves about a retired ballerina, Irina Curtius, who lives in Manhattan’s Upper West Side and owns a dance academy where she teaches ballet to young children.

Bernhardt’s prose flows gracefully like a ballerina in perpetual motion. Her scenes at the academy are so realistic, a reader can almost hear a Beethoven or Chopin melody in the background, guiding the steps of the young dancers. The playing belongs to Jerome, a pianist, who has been Irina’s friend since her college days.

Unbeknownst to Irina, Jerome arranges a reunion with one of Irina’s past loves. The encounter rekindles emotions Irina thought she had squelched long ago. Can she trust Robert, who once had walked out on her when he felt her career was more important that their relationship? Had he changed all that much? Was he really in town to be with her.

When Irina and Robert attend a performance of Swan Lake at the State Theatre, a scene arresting for its visual and emotional impact, Bernhardt explores feelings of love and betrayal, which lies at the core of the ballet and parallels Irina’s emotions in her personal life. Will she end up like Odette, the tragic heroine in Tchaikovsky’s romantic ballet?

As she continues to question her future with Robert, one of Irina’s neighbors dies under mysterious circumstances. Irina suspects foul play and decides to investigate and bring the killer to justice, which she does with the help of a mystery man, who appears in Irina’s life and turns out to be far from a stranger. By introducing this character--whose identity Bernhardt's doesn't reveal until the latter part of the book--she adds a layer of intrigue that has become the author's trademark. In her successful Kay Driscoll series, for example, particularly in The Ginseng Conspiracy, Bernhardt's uses unexpected plot twists to create a mountain of suspense that never crumbles until the end, a technique that reminds this reader of Agatha Christie's works, most notably, And Then There Were None.

After all is said and done, and the final curtain comes down on this delightful cozy dance, I envision Irina and Bernhardt taking their bows in front of an appreciative audience of readers. Bravi! Bravi! Encore!"




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Susan Bernhardt


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