Today I am thrilled to show off my guest, author Rosie Genova, who writes The Italian Kitchen Mysteries.
PRAISE FOR THE ITALIAN KITCHEN MYSTERIES
A DISH BEST SERVED COLD
“Once again, Rosie Genova’s writing sparkles!”
-Night Owl Reviews (chosen as Top Pick)
“Great interaction with all the characters and especially the family dynamics are fabulous. A wonderful storyline and several intertwined mysteries make this a filling and thrilling mystery.”
-Open Book Society
“Genova captures the essence of family, the good and the bad, and combines it with a complex mystery….[she] deftly melds a great ensemble cast of developed characters with humor in a fully realized locale and creates a fun, cozy read.” – Cozy Up with Kathy
THE WEDDING SOUP MURDER
“A tightly plotted whodunit that will have readers guessing right to the end, the book blends mystery with comedy, romance, family drama, a vivid and affectionate portrayal of the Jersey shore and…oh yes, cooking.”
-Helen Beglin, New Jersey Monthly
“The Wedding Soup Murder is the second in Rosie Genova’s delightful Italian Kitchen Mystery series. I love the characters and the atmosphere, and the plot has more twists in it than a bowl of rotini. Yummy fun!”
-Susan Santangelo, Suspense Magazine
MURDER AND MARINARA
Included in Suspense Magazine’s BEST OF 2013 List and a finalist for the 2014 Daphne Award
“So good I could taste it!”-New York Times bestselling author Stephanie Evanovich
“The tastiest item on the menu ….I enjoyed every bite.” -Jenn McKinlay, New York Times bestselling author
“Clever and intriguing…. left me hungry for more.”–Livia J. Washburn, author of the Fresh-Baked Mystery series
“A saucy debut….The crime wraps up logically and the characters are likeable…. I could easily see reading another in the series, preferably in a beach chair, down the Shore.”—The Star Ledger
“Follow Vic and her cohort through the streets of Jersey…and discover that you can smell Italian food through a book.”—Suspense Magazine
“Several slices above the usual salami….The Jersey tone is captured very well here, and the family and assorted friends sound like real people.”—Contra Costa Times
“A delectable mystery with an original heroine who shines a light on the complexities of the… world of Italian cooking.”—King’s River Life
“A charming, action and humor-filled novel ….The cast of characters are sassy, brassy and memorable, with writer Victoria and her SIL (sister-in-law) Sofia leading the way with the loving and loud family.”—Fresh Fiction
“Rosie Genova has a nice clean writing style and the mystery is well plotted….Put this one on your keeper shelf.”—Suspense, Night Owl Reviews
“Love the characters and especially the setting of the series….I am already craving a second helping….”—MyShelf.com
Anyone who knows me has heard me rave about those stories! As most of you know, I am half-Italian. Many people have grave misconceptions about Italians, most of which have been facilitated by shows like The Sopranos. (I saw the first 10 or 15 minutes of it and never watched again.) In fact, at one point the NYC Columbus Day parade was nearly called-off when the Columbus Citizen Foundation protested some of the cast being invited to participate.
In fact, in the very first of the series, Murder and Marinara, Rosie’s main character, (Victoria Rienzi), and her family rally against their Jersey Shore town being used to film a “Jersey Shore”-type show, which they feel would be to the detriment of the town and its good Italian citizenry.
Rosie’s characters in the Kitchen are certainly Italian, make no mistake. But they are warm, clean, (not mobsters), slow to anger,( unless it’s justified), and just plain decent people.
Rosie, as you know from my pestering messaging, I not only love the series, I thank you for your portrayal of people of our heritage.
Rosie’s protagonist Victoria left the Italian Kitchen when the charming half-Italian Tim broke her heart. She went to New York and became a successful writer of mysteries, with, may I say, an Hercule Poirot-type series of books, which she wrote under the name of Vic Reed. She’d like to switch gears and write a novel about her great-grandparents, so she returned to her home and the family business. There she finds that Tim now works at the Italian Kitchen.
What gave you the idea to write about a writer?
In cozy series that feature amateur sleuths, it’s important to have a valid reason for the person to get involved in solving a murder in the first place. In making Victoria a mystery author, I gave her some credibility as an armchair detective. But as she soon finds out, murder in real life is very different from what she creates on a page. Further, I found it natural to write about somebody who is a writer—some might call it cheating, I suppose—because I was already familiar with an author’s sensibility and her daily routines. As a writer, Vic’s mind is always busy; her writer’s imagination allows her to theorize about possible solutions. Also, writers are close observers of people. Vic notices behaviors that others might miss, a key skill in lining up your suspects.
Why choose to write mysteries?
I started working in women’s fiction—romantic comedies that are set at the Jersey shore. My agent suggested I try a mystery series and I immediately declined. Plotting was not my strong suit, and I didn’t think I had the skills to craft a good mystery. Luckily, she stayed on me until I worked up a proposal for the Italian Kitchen Mysteries. But I had always been a mystery fan! Mysteries are my go-to for pleasure reading, and I didn’t realize how much I’d already learned from the masters, particularly Agatha Christie and Dorothy Sayers. Most significantly, I truly learned about plot structure in writing mysteries, and I now approach my mainstream fiction with more confidence.
Victoria has a formidable Old-World Nonna, (Grandma), which is rather redundant! Mine was less than five feet tall but she was impressive! How did you decide on your characters?
Well, in some ways it’s like they decided upon me! Nonna is certainly inspired by both my grandmothers, one who was Sicilian—she was the tough one—and one who was originally from Naples, but more Americanized. When Nonna’s softer side shows, that’s my Neapolitan Mema coming through. Vic’s sister-in-law Sofia is inspired by my own sister Terri, a tough-talking Jersey girl who takes no prisoners. (But her heart is pure gold.) My favorite character might be Vic’s father Frank, who sprang straight from my imagination. My own dad is very different from Frank, for example. But I love Frank’s Rat Pack persona, complete with fedora hat and devil-may-care personality. Frank lets it all roll off his shoulders, something his conscientious daughter finds difficult to do.
What we consider the ‘Italianess’ of your characters may surprise those who haven’t known real Italians. Calvin, the mysterious newcomer,( and contestant for Victoria’s affections),is called “Calvino” by Nonna in the book. That is exactly what my relatives would do, Italianize names! Are there any other examples that you particularly use in the stories?
I think we Italians try to shape our experiences in ways that feel familiar and comfortable—hence Italianizing names. My great Aunt Anna on my father’s side, for example, would always add the Italian article to trade names. So she’d say “la Frigidaire” for refrigerator or “il Kleenex,” for tissues. How she knew the gender of these things beats me! Objects, even in their English forms, were often gendered. For example, Aunt Anna would say things like: “The light, she is still on.”
It’s small details like this that help build and layer characters. Some might say they create stereotypes, so it’s a fine line to walk. In the end, what defines “Italianness” or “Jewishness” or “Irishness” or “blackness”? There are some common cultural norms to be sure, but people are still individuals. In writing ethnic characters or characters of color, I try hard to be respectful. Your boy Cal hails from Louisiana, and I worked hard to convey his Southern roots without turning him into a cartoon. (Gosh, I hope I was successful!)
No one can even begin a story about Italians without the mention of food and you set yours in an Italian restaurant. You add recipes in the back of all of your books. How did you choose the recipes?
Most of the recipes come from my own family or extended family. Some I’ve adapted from my favorite cookbook, Cucina Italia. My editor, Sandy Harding, was terrific and really gave me a free hand in choosing the food to highlight in the stories. Mainly, I chose to include my own favorite dishes.
Let’s let the readers in on the story I told to you. My family’s spaghetti sauce recipe contained what was always considered “family secret ingredients” and I was sworn to secrecy about them at a young age. I nearly fainted when I read them right in there in “A Dish Best Served Cold”! Here I had been trying to convince myself to include a series of Italian recipes with my mother’s recipes on my easy entertaining and food blog: Tonette Joyce, Food, Friends, Family
Now, I feel free to do so! I have stories from other family members and non-Italian friends about Italians who wouldn’t share their recipes, (and those who betrayed their trust),so Rosie, did you have any trouble getting recipes from friends and family?
Hmm, that would imply that I asked them first! Actually, I did ask most of them—sadly, my grandmothers are not around to ask, but I’d like to think they’d be thrilled to have their recipes included. My aunt, Marie Abate, gave me the ricotta cookie recipe with her blessing. My friend Tom Ficarra, who inspired the character of Father Tom, was also happy to share his recipe for pasta with tomato and arugula. (An awesome dish, by the way!) And my real life SIL, Teresa Genova, was so pleased I included her late mom’s recipe for antipasto.
How do you choose the names for your characters?
It’s mostly an unconscious process. I imagine the characters physically and then the right name just seems to come. It’s funny—after my mom read the first draft of Murder and Marinara, she reminded me that my dad had wanted to name me Victoria. I’d forgotten that completely when I wrote her, but her name seemed to lend itself to her varying identities—“Vick” for her author persona, “Victoria” for her role as daughter, and “Vic” to her old friends and Tim.
Do you foresee this series continuing indefinitely?
If I have anything to say about it! I promise to keep you posted.
Have you written in another genre?
Yes, as I mentioned, I wrote two romantic comedies inspired by Shakespeare and set at the Jersey shore. I plan to self-publish those in the near future. Currently, I’m taking a break from the mysteries to work on a women’s fiction project that’s set in a village in the Catskills. So I’ve gone from the beach to the mountains!
You have recently retired. Besides writing, is there anything that you have looked forward to doing now that you have the time?
Getting my house in order! Little things like re-lining the kitchen cabinets and organizing my closet. I also love to sew, and I’m excited to get my sewing machine out between book deadlines. Most importantly, I’m trying to focus on better health and nutrition. (Not that I’ll give up my pasta!) We’ve also a sweetie pie of a dog, Lucy, so she gets me out there walking every day.
Is there anything you’d like our readers to know about you or do you have anything you’d like to say? Here’s your soapbox!
Hands down, the very best thing about being published is interaction with readers. For me, that’s the main reason to be on any social media—being able to chat with readers about their favorite characters or storylines. (And meeting lovely people like yourself!)
We have more in common than I ever would have known! I can’t thank you enough for joining us today, Rosie. I wish you continued success!
How can our readers learn more about you?
A Jersey girl born and bred, national bestselling author Rosie Genova left her heart at the shore, which serves as the setting for much of her work. Her series, the Italian Kitchen Mysteries, is informed by her appreciation for good food and her love of classic mysteries from Nancy Drew to Miss Marple. Her debut novel, Murder and Marinara, was named a 2013 Best Pick by Suspense Magazine and was a finalist for a 2014 Daphne Award. Her current release is Book 3 in the series, A Dish Best Served Cold. Rosie still lives in her home state with her husband, the youngest of her three sons, and a charming mutt named Lucy.
A Dish Best Served Cold, Book 3 in The Italian Kitchen Mysteries
Publisher: NAL/Obsidian August 4, 2015
The national bestselling author of The Wedding Soup Murder returns to the Jersey Shore where a killer is stirring up trouble during a hurricane…
At the Casa Lido, the end of summer means a party, and hit whodunit writer Victoria “Vic” Rienzi and her family are cooking like crazy for the restaurant’s seventieth anniversary celebration. As they chop onions and garlic, old family friend Pete Petrocelli stops by, saying he knows something that would make for a good mystery novel. Curious, Vic asks Nonna to elaborate on Pete’s claim and learns of a relative who mysteriously disappeared back in Italy…
The night of the party brings a crowd—and a full throttle hurricane. When the storm finally passes, everyone thinks they’re in the clear—until the first casualty is found, and it’s Pete. Remembering his visit, Vic isn’t certain Pete’s death was an accident and decides to dig deeper into his story. What she finds is meatier than Nonna’s sauce…
Victoria Rienzi came home to the Jersey Shore to write a new book, learn the family restaurant business, and practice the fine art of Italian cooking. But when delicious dishes are paired with murder, Vic has a little too much on her plate…
When Vic asked her nonna for more responsibility in the kitchen, she didn’t mean making a thousand tiny meatballs by hand for the family’s famous wedding soup. The dish is to be served at the reception for a close family friend at the exclusive Belmont Country Club. And once there Vic has to deal with a demanding bridezilla and clashes in the kitchen—between the staff and servers, between two egocentric head chefs, and between the country club president and…well…everyone.
The wedding comes off without a hitch—until the body of the club’s president is found on the beach below a high seawall. Now Vic will need to use her noodle to find out who pushed whom too far…before she’s the one who lands in the soup!
Hit whodunit writer Victoria Rienzi is getting back to
her roots by working at her family’s Italian restaurant. But now in between plating pasta and pouring vino, she’ll have to find the secret ingredient in a murder….
When Victoria takes a break from penning her popular mystery series and moves back to the Jersey shore, she imagines sun, sand, and scents of fresh basil and simmering marinara sauce at the family restaurant, the Casa Lido. But her nonna’s recipes aren’t the only things getting stirred up in this Italian kitchen. Their small town is up in arms over plans to film a new reality TV show, and when Victoria serves the show’s pushy producer his last meal, the Casa Lido staff finds itself embroiled in a murder investigation.