It is a pleasure to Introduce Janel Gradowski and her new book Pies & Perils released on July 8th.
Amy shifted her basket so that it was directly in front of her, both hands on the leather handles, in battle position. Ahead of her a knot of people clustered around the booth selling miniature pies and tarts. A couple teen girls, dressed in black nylon smocks that signified they were enrolled in the downtown beauty college, scowled as Amy wriggled through the throng. She should’ve picked the small gap between two older gentlemen to squeeze through. Coming between women and sugar fixes was always a bad idea. People had poured out of the downtown businesses to find a meal at one of the many prepared food stands or food trucks set up around the perimeter of the park. The farmer’s market was one of her favorite parts of summer, but during peak hours the crowd was often so thick it felt like hand to hand combat as people jostled each other to select the perfect size of summer squash or the most beautiful wildflower bouquet. Being short didn’t help, especially on hot days, since she was pretty much at the armpit level of most normal-sized people. It felt and smelled like she was a sardine being packed in a tin. Ugh.
The crowd thinned a bit once she got past the pie-hungry mob. Ahead, the last booth she wanted to visit was surrounded by customers. Amy channeled her inner miniature basketball player and made a break for it. Her petite stature, for once, worked to her advantage as she darted around a couple women standing in the aisle having a conversation about removing stains from cloth diapers, and slipped into a crack in the human barricade. The vendor’s offerings were a sight to behold, like Mother Nature and the Easter Bunny had gotten together and made tomato babies. The table was filled with baskets full of heirloom tomatoes in a range of colors from acid green to chocolate brown. Some were as large as softballs while others truly looked like eggs. Amy had been making salads with the lovely tomatoes for over a month, but she’d had an idea while making the casseroles for Kevin earlier in the day. Tomato pie.
She chose a basket with a nice variety of medium-sized tomatoes and paid for them. Luckily she had brought a hard-sided wicker basket with her, to protect the delicate cargo from bony hips and giant zucchinis protruding from shopping bags like vegetal clubs. She tilted her head from side to side like a prize fighter before a match as she steeled herself for the last push through the mass of hungry humanity. There was only about 20 feet left in the vending area. Then she could break free and make a dash to her car. As she turned she caught a glimpse of Elliot Maxson’s unmistakable helmet-like black hair.
“Write what you know.” A common piece of advice for writers. I have to say, my stories would be pretty boring if I only wrote about things that I have experienced. I don’t lead a very exciting life. I’m a mom with a husband, two kids and a Golden Retriever. I live in a 1950’s ranch house in a rural area. Here in farm country, I can literally count watching crops grow as a form of entertainment. Well, slow-growing plants aren’t exactly entertaining, but sometimes the wild animals snacking on them are.
So I use my imagination a lot when I am writing. I prefer the saying, “Write what you would like to know.” Parts of me still creep into my stories, though. Amy Ridley, the main character in Pies & Peril shares a few characteristics and interests with me.
Amy is short and so am I. My 13 and 14-year old kids are both taller than I am and have been for several years. Being vertically challenged gives me a chance to give Amy a unique perspective. I have first hand experience in some of the problems she encounters that normal to above-average height people might never think of as a problem.
Amy loves jewelry. I write fiction now, but in a previous creative life (about 10 years ago) I designed beadwork patterns. I have drawers full of necklaces and bracelets that I have designed and made. While writing the book I think I had almost as much fun describing Amy’s jewelry as I did describing all of the food.
Amy is struggling to lose a bit of weight. Writing is a pretty sedentary career. Yes, plots can be worked out while walking the dog or sweating through an exercise video. The thing is, stories get written by sitting at a computer. I am seriously considering rigging up a treadmill desk, though I wonder how fast I’ll be able to type while walking and trying not to crash.
There are a few more things that Amy and I have in common. My friends and family can probably figure those out. Sharing interests and characteristics with my fictional characters is like a secret ingredient in a recipe. Knowing exactly how something feels or looks adds a nice pinch of clarity to draw the reader into my stories.
Janel Gradowski lives in a land that looks like a cold weather fashion accessory, the mitten-shaped state of Michigan. She is a wife and mom to two kids and one Golden Retriever. Her journey to becoming an author is littered with odd jobs like renting apartments to college students and programming commercials for an AM radio station. Somewhere along the way she also became a beadwork designer and teacher. She enjoys cooking recipes found in her formidable cookbook and culinary fiction collection. Searching for unique treasures at art fairs, flea markets and thrift stores is also a favorite pastime. Coffee is an essential part of her life. She writes the Culinary Competition Mystery Series, along with The Bartonville Series (women’s fiction) and the 6:1 Series (flash fiction). She has also had many short stories published in both online and print publications.
Book purchase links: http://www.janelgradowski.com/culinary-competition-mysteries/1347-2/
Pies & Peril Giveaway