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Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Janel Gradowski's Recipe for Success

Author Janel Gradowski joins us this week to talk about how she mixes up a cup full of life experience and a dash of fiction and fantasy to create the delicious concoction that is known as her Culinary Competition mystery series.  Janel is celebrating the release of the third novel in the series featuring culinary whiz Amy Ridley, "Doughnuts & Deadly Schemes."  If you haven't already, don't wait to snap up this VERY well-reviewed new release! 

For me, writing is the perfect blend of reality and fantasy. Each story has elements that I’ve experienced in real life, but also bits of daydreams combined with a dollop research. My Culinary Competition Mystery Series is set in a fictional town in southeast Michigan. I have lived in Michigan my entire life, so I know how the seasons change and how strange the weather can get – like the 25 degree temperature drop in 24 hours that recently occurred. My family and I love to take road trips, so I have been to many cities from small mining towns in the Upper Peninsula to the metropolis of Detroit. I’ve pulled bits and pieces from many real cities to construct Kellerton. Now that I’m three books and two short stories into the series it’s a bit of a challenge to keep track of all of the businesses and locations that I have invented, but I use a notebook and maps to record everything.

While I have traveled extensively within Michigan, I don’t travel outside of the state often. Usually for summer vacations and that’s it. I know many authors write about locations they have never been to, like Paris or South America, but for my series I wanted it to be set in an area that I knew well. Sandal-melting heat waves…I’ve been through those. Snow in April? Experienced that this year. I love adding details, like using “pop” instead of “soda” or mentioning pasties. That would be pronounced pass – tees. No, I’m not talking about part of a costume in a strip club. These pasties are handheld Cornish meat pies popular with copper miners in the 1800s and now one of the iconic foods associated with Michigan. There are many idiosyncrasies in a region. If I set my series in a state I wasn’t familiar with I wouldn’t be able to add those kinds of details as easily.

The fantasy part of writing my series comes from the places and characters. The main character, Amy, lives in a big Craftsman-style house in a beautiful city neighborhood. Personally, I have never lived anywhere that had a sidewalk. I’m a country girl and have always lived in rural areas. The view out the front window, of my generic 1950’s three-bedroom ranch house, is a farm field. The most common causes of traffic backups in my area are gigantic, slow-moving tractors that take up both lanes of the road. So I gave Amy the type of house I have always admired complete with my dream kitchen. And my dream car. In real life I drive a full-size, extended cab, four-wheel drive pickup. Amy drives a blue Mini Cooper.

One of my favorite things is developing characters. Amy’s propensity for coming up with wild theories and scenarios is all me. I can walk through a mall, overhear a snippet of a conversation and almost instantly invent at least three possibilities for what the people could be talking about. However, I am nowhere near as outgoing as Amy. I have also never competed in a cooking competition, even though the series is based on them. The Food Network and local competitions provide the seed ideas for what eventually turn into the contests featured in each book. Since I am a coffee fanatic, Riverbend CafĂ© - where Amy works, is a composite of many of the coffee shops I have visited. Writing the series has been very much like creating the recipes I include with each book. I mix a bit of this and a sprinkle of that and end up with something I hope my readers will enjoy.

About the Author

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.

To learn more about Janel and her books, visit:

1 comment:

  1. I think this is a great twist on the traditional culinary mystery series. Thanks so much for telling us more about your books and the backstory to them.


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