Sunday, November 30, 2014

WHAT THE EXPERTS SAY: Deborah Garner, Author

Deborah Garner writes “cozy” mysteries set in intriguing locations that focus on the puzzle part of a mystery. In her newest book, CRANBERRY BLUFF, her protagonist meets a group of interesting characters at her inherited bed and breakfast place in Northern California. Reviewers say, "accelerating situations are both funny and alarming" and "I finished the book wanting more." 

Originally from California, Garner and her family—including her two dogs (Corgi mix and Siberian Husky)—travel between California and Wyoming. When she can find time, she likes hiking and taking photos. She writes travel books and enjoys exploring unknown roads and hidden places.

Q: Your newest mystery, CRANBERRY BLUFF, features a protagonist different from that of your first two mysteries. What caused you to forsake Paige? How did you conceive of the story? Does Molly Elliott resemble Paige? Or is she a unique new heroine?

Deborah Garner: Paige is quite busy right now, wrapped up in trouble (of course!)  As for CRANBERRY  BLUFF, I am always motivated by location.  I set the story in a bed and breakfast and then created the back story of the bank robbery as a reason for Molly to be there.  It made sense that guests would be the connection between the inn and Molly’s past.  I don’t see Molly as resembling Paige, who is more assertive, stubborn and persistent.  Molly is more of an anchor for the story, a focal point for the guests’ activities and hidden motives.

Q: You have described CRANBERRY BLUFF as a cozy mystery. I know we’ve discussed this in a previous interview, but it seems an intriguing topic for us mystery readers. What are the attributes of a “cozy” mystery versus other types of mysteries?

Deborah Garner: I’m laughing as I type this answer, because I know you’re aware I take some flack over my cozy mystery definition from those who feel a cozy mystery must have a murder.  And mine don’t.  (At least so far…) But I see the term “cozy” as referring to the attributes of the story itself.  Mine generally involve an amateur, female sleuth, set in a small town location, with a puzzle (mystery) of some sort to solve, written without extreme language, explicit scenes or violence.  This type of story makes for a “cozy” read.  Die-hard thriller fans won’t like this type of book because there’s no heavy-duty action, blood or gore.  Avid romance fans won’t enjoy the lack of juicy details.  But the reader who loves to curl up in a chair with a soft afghan and cup of tea for a little escape?  That reader wants this type of tale.

Q: How helpful was the setting on the California coast to telling your story? Did it add to the mystery?

Deborah Garner: It will come as no surprise to readers who know the Northern California coast well that the fictional town of Cranberry Bluff is loosely based on a favorite town of mine, Mendocino.  I’ve loved the coastal town since I first visited decades ago.  I’ve spent dozens of vacations there, enjoying walks on the bluff, shopping little boutiques and dining in quaint cafes.  I do think there’s a feeling of mystery to the town.  Anyone who takes a nighttime stroll along its streets will feel it.  If that doesn’t work, just ask Jessica Fletcher ;)  One of those walks will take a mystery buff right past her “Cabot Cove” home.

Q: The description of the characters at the bed and breakfast in CRANBERRY BLUFF reminds me of an Agatha Christie mystery. Do you agree? How did you conceive of the plot?

Deborah Garner: I think a good mystery needs to have multiple characters.  The reader wants to have the challenge of figuring out which character is really behind the plot.  In writing CRANBERRY BLUFF I toyed with different motives that might bring each guest to the bed and breakfast.  The plot developed from there.  It may be of interest to readers that I had absolutely no clue how the bank robbery was pulled off until the book was almost finished.

Q: What makes us care about Molly and your characters at the bed and breakfast? How do you make your characters “engaging” and/or “mysterious?”

Deborah Garner: We care about Molly because she has fallen into trouble through no fault of her own, something we don’t like to see happen to an innocent person.  Many people can relate to the experience of being wronged in some way.  As for characters, they need to be unique in order to be engaging.  Each guest at Cranberry Cottage Bed and Breakfast has odd quirks and specific personality traits.  In this particular story, each character has both an exterior and interior layer, which adds to the mystery for the reader.  By observing and bringing those layers together, the reader is led to each guest’s hidden motive for being at the inn.

Q: What do you consider to be the most important elements of a mystery?

Deborah Garner: Take one puzzle, something intriguing for the reader to solve.  Add in clues, preferably numerous and contradictory.  Sift together some twists and turns.  Mix in characters with differing motives.  Bake over several months and serve warm or cold.  Makes one mystery.

Q: How important is a cover to communicating the “feel” of a book?

Deborah Garner: I think it’s crucial.  Contrary to the cliché, I’ve always judged books by their covers.  Right or wrong, it’s what readers do.  Colors set a mood, one that a prospective reader enjoys feeling.  Image implies place.  Is it a place the reader wants to go?  If it’s a successful cover, the answer is yes.  Even font gives clues to the elements inside the story.

Q: What’s next? Will we be reading about Paige again? Will there be another Molly Elliott book?

Deborah Garner: Paige should be out of hibernation in late May of 2015.  She’s quite busy as we speak, about half-way through unraveling strange happenings in a small southwestern town.  As for Molly Elliott, it’s likely she’ll just continue her newly-acquired quiet life in Cranberry Cove.  However, Sadie Kramer, one of the characters from Cranberry Bluff, is looking to take readers on a wild ride by next Christmas.  I dare say she has quite a “flair for mystery” and her first sip of trouble will most likely take her to California’s wine country.

Q: Tell us something about Deborah Garner. What are you currently reading? What’s next on your list? What is your favorite movie? Do you have any hobbies?

Deborah Garner: I hate to admit it, but I’m between books right now, mainly because I’m juggling long-distance driving, the Cranberry Bluff book release and two partially finished manuscripts.  But I have a TBR stack that is screaming at me for attention, which includes a delicious stack of mysteries from the recent Bouchercon event, a copy of your new book, Hilltop Sunset, and The Last Runaway by Tracy Chevalier, which I picked up recently in California’s wine country when I was *ahem* doing some research for Sadie.  Favorite movie?  Tough one, but I like light, romantic comedies.  I’ll say While You Were Sleeping, with Sandra Bullock and Bill Pullman.  Hobbies?  Yes, in my almost non-existent spare time, I love photography and hiking with our two rescues, Thunder, a corgi mix, and Powder, a Siberian husky.

About Deborah Garner

Deborah Garner is an accomplished travel writer with a passion for back roads and secret hideaways. Born and raised in California, she studied in France before returning to the U.S. to attend UCLA. After stints in graduate school and teaching, she attempted to clone herself for decades by founding and running a dance and performing arts center, designing and manufacturing clothing and accessories, and tackling both spreadsheets and display racks for corporate retail management. Her passions include photography, hiking and animal rescue. She speaks five languages, some substantially better than others. She now divides her time between California and Wyoming, dragging one human and two canines along whenever possible.

Molly Elliott's quiet life in Tallahassee, Florida, is disrupted when routine errands land her in the wrong place at the wrong time: the middle of a bank robbery. Accused and cleared of the crime, she flees both media attention and mysterious, threatening notes, to move across the country to Cranberry Cove, where she has inherited her Aunt Maggie's bed and breakfast on the Northern California coast. Her new beginning is peaceful - that is, until five guests show up at the inn for a weekend, each with a hidden agenda.

Mix together one blushing honeymoon couple, one flamboyant boutique owner, a deadpan traveling salesman, and a charmingly handsome novelist, and there’s more than scones cooking at Cranberry Cottage Bed and Breakfast. As true motives become apparent, will Molly's past come back to haunt her or will she finally be able to leave it behind?

New York reporter Paige MacKenzie has a hidden motive when she heads to the small town of Timberton, Montana. Assigned to research the area's unique Yogo sapphires for the Manhattan Post, she hopes to reconnect romantically with handsome cowboy Jake Norris. The local gem gallery offers the material needed for the article, but the discovery of an old diary, hidden inside the wall of a historic hotel, soon sends her on a detour into the underworld of art and deception. 

Each of the town's residents holds a key to untangling more than one long-buried secret, from the hippie chick owner of a new age café to the mute homeless man in the town park. As the worlds of western art and sapphire mining collide, Paige finds herself juggling research, romance and danger. With stolen sapphires and shady characters thrown into the mix, will Paige escape the consequences of her own curiosity?

When Paige MacKenzie arrives in Jackson Hole, her only goal is to complete a simple newspaper assignment about the Old West. However, it's not long before her instincts tell her there's more than a basic story to be found in the popular, northwestern Wyoming mountain area. A chance encounter with attractive cowboy Jake Norris soon has Paige chasing a legend of buried treasure, passed down through generations. 

From the torn edge of a water-damaged map to the mysterious glow of an antler arch, Paige will follow clues high into the mountainous terrain and deep into Jackson's history. Side-stepping a few shady characters who are also searching for the same hidden reward, she will have to decide who is trustworthy and who is not.


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Twitter: @paigeandjake

Thursday, November 20, 2014

WHAT THE EXPERTS SAY: Rachelle Ayala, Author

Rachelle Ayala, Author
Asian American author Rachelle Ayala recently published the second book in her Sanchez Sisters Series, a new romance titled CLAIMING CARLOS, described by one reviewer as a book with “Humor, food, hot cook, smoking hot passion... And quite the plot twists.” Ayala says she basically just likes to write a “good story,” and creates her characters to “feel real.” She believes that humor and her characters' natural good-will contribute to their likeability.

In addition to writing and publishing more than a dozen fiction or non-fiction books, Ayala is a leader in the writing world. She started an online writing group, Romance in a Month, and is actively engaged in other writing groups, including the California Writer’s Club and the World Literary Café.  She currently lives in California where she continues to write both fiction and non-fiction books and novellas.

Don't miss the opportunity to enter a giveaway at end of this interview.

Q: You’ve written romances set in a variety of times and locations. What inspired you to create the Sanchez Sisters and specifically your most recent contemporary romance CLAIMING CARLOS?

Rachelle Ayala: The Sánchez Sisters Series started with TAMING ROMEO, a book I was inspired to write by a group of Filipino authors who wanted to write a contemporary “steamy” romance. Since I love Filipino food, I decided to write a romance that centered around a Filipino restaurant. Choco and Carlos are characters in the first book, and it seemed natural to do the second book with them. Carlos is the chef, and Choco is the head waitress as well as assistant manager. I had a lot of fun with recipe disasters and pranks being played in the restaurant setting, as well as the introduction of a new character, Johnny Dee, the flashy restaurant consultant who tries to shake things up a bit.

Q: Reviewers tout CLAIMING CARLOS as a “refreshing story” and mentioned the “soul and hope that flowed throughout this storyline.” They were pleased to have read it. How did you create this sense of well-being?”

Rachelle Ayala: It’s really hard for me to describe, because when I’m in the writing process I just write and the characters speak and create their stories. I think the sense of well-being comes from the close family and the way the characters really care about each other.

When my characters care about other people, their natural goodness and vitality comes out. A character can be flawed and have problems, but when they show concern for others, this makes them sympathetic and someone readers want to follow.

Q: Reviewers also enjoyed your “incredible” characters and said, “You find yourself not just cheering them on in reaching their goals, but you rejoice in their successes, and ultimately have your heart ripped out when their world falls apart.” What makes an “incredible” character? How do you engage your readers to care about your characters?

Rachelle Ayala: Readers care about characters who feel real. One of the ways to engage readers is through your character’s voice. In Choco’s case, I think it’s her self-deprecating humor, her insecurities, and her bossiness of being the eldest sister that gives her the spunk she has to carry the day. Plus, she is the eldest, but the shortest, so she’s kind of like that miniature Chihuahua who has to prove herself by acting tough. She yaps louder than her bite, because she’s really a powder puff inside.

As for creating “incredible” characters, I don’t create my characters in advance. I find filling out “character sheets” dull and boring. Instead, I discover them while writing. I wrote CLAIMING CARLOS during the first Romance In A Month class I was holding in May-June 2014. One of the daily exercises we did as a group was to answer a daily question about our characters. It was a lot of fun to answer the question and in the process discover something about them. We also shared the answers to our questions with the group and talked about them as if they were real people. I think writing in this group and sharing about our characters made them more unique and “incredible.” I’ve since published the 366 Daily Questions in a ebook called “366 Ways to Know Your Character.” I think answering random questions makes your characters more well-rounded because there is the element of the unexpected.

Q: Several reviewers also mentioned that the “story kept me on my toes.” How helpful is suspense to telling a good romance story?

Rachelle Ayala: Ha, ha, the suspense usually happens because I, the writer, don’t even know how something is going to turn out. I write without planning and am prone to changing my mind in the middle of the story. It’s obvious when I’m writing a mystery or romantic suspense, as there are culprits and clues, however even in a romance there are opportunities for suspense. In CLAIMING CARLOS, we have someone sabotaging the restaurant as well as “what” does Miranda have over Choco’s father? There’s also a big bomb in there, but I won’t give it away because it would spoil the fun. I should add that the answer to that big one was actually not known even to my beta draft. In my beta draft I gave a different answer than the ultimate story. It took some rewriting to iron all of that up.

Q: Did you intend to deliver a message with your story? One reviewer was pleased to learn about the Philippines and its background. Was it your intent to educate readers? Or, were you just trying to tell a good story?

Rachelle Ayala: The message or theme always comes up during revision. When I first start to write the story, I’m going for entertainment. Therefore you’ll find quite a few slapstick or what I think are funny scenes. For example, the dumpster plays a role in CLAIMING CARLOS as well as TAMING ROMEO. The cooking disasters, the food fights, and the restaurant toilet mishaps are all meant for fun. So, I’m mainly telling a good story.

Later on, maybe I can think about a theme, or maybe not. I’m not exactly sure what it is. Second chances? Or maybe recognizing what you have in front of you instead of reaching for what’s not there? I think I’ll let my readers decide what they learned from the story, and I’m always happy when I hear what someone got out of the story.

Q: How relevant is the concept of heroes and villains to your story? What makes an effective villain?

Rachelle Ayala: I do use villains, even in a light-hearted romance. The villain doesn’t have to be someone who is a criminal or an obvious bad guy. It can simply be a person whose goals are opposite to that of the hero. I enjoy writing “villains” primarily because I remember that no one believes he or she is a villain. They feel they are the heroes of their story. It just happens that their story opposes the story of the protagonist. So they end up in the villain role. I usually like to make my villains memorable by being quirky and slightly unhinged. I go for colorful, flamboyant, or plain annoying. I don’t like flat all-bad villains, and therefore even a villain has redeeming qualities. I think a complex villain with good traits makes things more interesting.

Q: I notice that you were a software engineer in your career. What turned you to become a writer of romance novels?

Rachelle Ayala: Since my first book, MICHAL'S WINDOW, was about one of the greatest romances in history, I naturally continued to write romance. I’m not really sure how I turned to writing romance. I just know that I’ve always been a daydreamer and made up stories about people around me in my mind instead of paying attention at meetings.

Q: How useful is humor to telling your stories or developing your characters?

Rachelle Ayala: I’m always giggling or laughing when thinking up humorous scenes, so I believe it is very important. It’s a lot of fun to make up minor characters just to have something funny happen. For one, it makes the characters more likeable. People like seeing a character with a sense of humor. The other benefit is that I get lots of laughs as I’m revising or proofreading. Humor keeps me from being bored.

Q:  What’s next?

Rachelle Ayala: This year was a watershed year for me. In 2012 and 2013, I averaged two novels a year. However in 2014 I’ve already written 4 novels, 3 novellas, 2 non-fiction books, and am in two multi-author boxed sets.

I credit this explosion to an awesome group of writing friends that I interact with almost daily in my Romance In A Month class. I will continue to write with this group of fine authors as I not only find myself more productive while writing in a group, but also am happier with my writing and having more fun.

Q: Tell us about Rachelle Ayala. What do you like to do when you’re not writing?

Rachelle Ayala: I enjoy visiting with friends and going places. Of course these days, every experience could turn into research for writing, or end up in a scene, so I’m never “not writing.” I even dream about my characters while sleeping.

Everything I read about or observe in my daily life is grist for “what-if” questions. As I mentioned before, I daydream about people and situations. Not everything makes it to a story, but you’ll be surprised what does. I’m always learning new things and therefore everything I do is “research” for my writing.

Thanks Joyce, for having me talk to your readers.

About Rachelle Ayala

Rachelle Ayala is a bestselling Asian American author of dramatic romantic suspense and humorous, sexy contemporary romances. Her heroines are feisty and her heroes hot. She writes emotionally challenging stories but believes in the power of love and hope. Rachelle is the founder of an online writing group, Romance in a Month, an active member of the California Writer's Club, Fremont Chapter, and a volunteer for the World Literary Cafe. She is a very happy woman and lives in California with her husband. She has won awards in multicultural and historical romance.

About CLAIMING CARLOS: Book #2 of Sanchez Sisters series

Choco Sanchez is stuck in a rut. She's never hit a softball and has been friends forever with Carlos Lopez, the head cook at her family's Filipino restaurant. When flashy restaurant consultant Johnny Dee hits her with a pitch, she falls head over heels and gets a makeover

Carlos Lopez is not about to lose one for the home team. Johnny launches a full scale change on the menu, and Carlos sends him straight into the dumpster. Claiming Choco's heart proves more difficult. But never underestimate a man who can cook hot, spicy, and steamy, and we ain't talking just food.


“Stop.” Miranda waves a spatula and blocks our way. “No members of the wait staff allowed in the kitchen.”
“I need another order of vegan spring rolls. No meat!” Sarah yells.
“She stole my gluten-free bangus.” Susie pushes her way past Miranda, who bounces against the door to the cold room, opening it.
“Out, out of the kitchen.” Miranda sticks a finger in Susie’s chest. Big mistake.
Susie’s nostrils flare and her piercings dance. “Out of my way.”
With a hefty push, she shoves Miranda who stumbles back into the cold room. Her arms windmilling, she falls in between the sides of raw pork belly hanging up to dry.
“Ai ya!” Miranda slaps at the pork bellies and pulls on a trussed whole duck for balance, right when a wooden tray of balut, fertilized duck eggs with the intact embryo, falls and splatters over her. The slime and partially formed embryos ooze down her hair and face.
Everyone except Johnny bursts out laughing. I whip out my cell phone and snap as many pictures as I can before Johnny blocks my view to help his mother.
Out of nowhere, Carlos appears, and he gives Johnny a kick on the back of his tight leopard printed butt, sending him sprawling against the skewered suckling pigs. They tumble like dominoes, knocking Johnny on top of his balut-covered mother.
Carlos picks up a tray of the Vietnamese style transparently wrapped no-fry spring rolls and flings the contents into the cold room all over Johnny and Miranda. “Vegan spring rolls is off the menu.”


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Selected Other Books by Rachelle Ayala
For a complete selection, go to

Taming Romeo, SánchezSisters Book #1 - Evie Sanchez is recovering from heartbreak when she runs into Romeo Garcia, the boy she left behind. Now a movie star, Romeo reignites her love with romance and skillful lovemaking. But is the fantasy real or revenge?

Broken Build, Chancefor Love Series #1 Dave and Jen must thwart a killer while rescuing a victim from their past. Love blossoms, but Jen is suspected of being an accomplice of the kidnapper who ruined Dave’s life.

Hidden Under Her Heart, Chance for Love Series #2a heartfelt love story mixed with controversy over difficult decisions.

Knowing Vera, Chancefor Love Series #3 Every woman needs a Zach by her side, and Vera Custodio is one lucky girl, if only she can solve the mystery of their families’ past.  

Michal’sWindow (A Novel: King David’s First Wife)a powerful and emotional journey as lived through the eyes of Princess Michal, King David’s first wife.

Whole Latte Love (Contemporary Romance) - A career oriented young woman has no time for distractions—especially the sexy, guitar-playing barista she rooms with. But how can she resist his hot looks, lattes, and heart for the homeless? Set in Berkeley, California, this opposites-attract romance mixes bluesy rock music, hot, steamy love scenes, and financial shenanigans.

A Father forChristmas – (Holiday Romance) Single mother Kelly Kennedy can’t afford lavish gifts for her four-year-old daughter, Bree. Homeless veteran Tyler Manning doesn’t believe he deserves a Merry Christmas. When Bree asks Santa for a father and picks Tyler, both Tyler and Kelly must believe in the power of love to give Bree her best Christmas ever.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

WHAT THE EXPERTS SAY: Olive Oil Producer Bill Schweitzer

Bill Schweitzer, VP of Operations
Ramona Olive Oil Corporation
Bill Schweitzer, VP of Operations for Ramona Olive Oil Corporation, joins us today to answer questions about the characteristics of outstanding olive oil. Schweitzer stresses the importance of locally-produced olive oil and tells us how olive oil should taste, defines “extra virgin olive oil,” and offers tips on how to select the best olive oil. 

Schweitzer is one of the founders of the Ramona Olive Oil Corporation that uses locally grown olives to produce their olive oil in Ramona, California, available throughout the Ramona area and for shipping. For more information on Schweitzer, his company, and Ramona Gold Olive Oil, check out the article, “A New Oil Boom? Ramona Gold Leads the Way in Local Olive Oil Production” in Edible San Diego; or the company’s web page at:

Q: What should I taste in olive oil?

Bill Schweitzer: Olive oil should taste like olives. It should be fresh, herbaceous, lively and a bit peppery.  The flavors might mimic an artichoke or green, fresh cut grass. It should be pleasant and distinctive. Olive oil should never be bland. It should never have “off odors.” It should never have flavors of mustiness, rancidness or “old” anything.

Q: What does it mean for olive oil to be “extra virgin?”

Bill Schweitzer: The definition of “extra virgin olive oil” is simply, oil which has NO flavor or odor flaws and has the correct, very low, percentage of broken molecules called “free fatty acids.”

Q: How do you create extra virgin olive oil?

Bill Schweitzer: Olive oil is a strong anti-oxidant. It preserves itself in the bottle. Olives, on the other hand, are like any other fruit. Once they are picked they are subject to bruising, heat, light and air. The oil should be pressed from the fruit within 24 hours of picking. If not, the oil may pick up the flavors of the slowly fermenting fruit. Olive oil is at its absolute best the moment it comes out of the press.

Q: So, if a bottle of olive oil says it’s “extra virgin” that’s the best kind to buy?

Bill Schweitzer:  No. Fifty years ago it was hard to find olive oil at any place other than the local Italian market. Today, the shelves are full of "olive oil" choices. They come from all over the world, and many of them say "extra virgin” in large and cleverly formatted ways. The truth of the matter, according to Extra Virginity by Tom Mueller, most of the supermarket oil you can buy may have passed by an olive tree in Southern Italy while traveling from the chemical factory to a tanker ship. It's likely that the base oil was some cheaply available nut oil, chemically modified with a little olive flavor added with actual olive oil or another method. Consumer Reports did a study of numerous readily available brands and found few that could rightfully be called “Extra Virgin Olive Oil." The product in local restaurants is probably even less likely to be anything but bulk oil bought from a large importer.

Q: How do I know which olive oil to buy?

Bill Schweitzer: Here are a few tips:

(1) Look for a “pressed by” or “produced on” date. That date should be reasonable: November or December within 12 to 18 months for northern hemisphere sources and May or June for Australian oil.

(2) Look for a clear and unambiguous indication that the olives were grown by the same people who pressed the oil and put it in the bottle. “Estate grown” is usually a good clue. “Organic” is less important as a growing method, but may indicate that the trees are controlled by the bottler.

(3) If there is a choice between clear glass, dark glass or a tin container, always go for the oil that has seen the least light. Ultraviolet light is not good for those healthy molecules in the oil. The tin or dark glass make it harder to see the golden product, but they show that the producer has respect for the oil.

(4) Avoid any that says “produced in Italy” or “bottled in Italy” without the date and estate reference mentioned above. If it is actually olive oil, it still has taken too long to get from grove, to the mill, to the tanker ship, to the Italian bottler, back to a cargo ship, across the ocean through the distribution process and to that grocery shelf in front of you.

Q: What do you consider to be the most important characteristic of good olive oil?

Bill Schweitzer:  Olive oil is best from someplace local. It has traveled less, it has been processed less and it has been lovingly produced by someone who knows where the trees are growing. California is emerging as a fine producer of quality oil. From north to south, from coast to desert, there are small producers who are selling quality oil in the exact flavor profile you’re looking for.  Early harvest sharp, late harvest smooth, Tuscan style, French style, whatever…someone in California is doing it and they are putting the details on their label. And here in California we are fortunate to have a significant and organized olive oil industry that is willing to put its stamp of approval on our product.  The “California Olive Oil Council (COOC)” is dedicated to improving the quality of locally grown oil, educating consumers about the importance of that quality and stamping a certificate on oil that meets those high standards.

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

WHAT THE EXPERTS SAY: Rose Dunphy, Author and Cook

Novelist Rose Dunphy, an Italian by birth, responded to her fans’ request to bring her family’s recipes for sumptuous Italian dishes to her readers. She published her new cookbook THE SCENT of ITALIAN COOKING with recipes handed down from her grandmother, mother, and other family members and also produced by her own experimenting. Reviewers praise her use of photos to demonstrate her kitchen and the foods, and claim “As I turn the pages of this beautiful book I can ‘smell’ the aroma of Rose Marie’s recipes.”

In addition to her cookbook, Dunphy published her most recent novel in both English, ORANGE PEELS and COBBLESTONES and Italian CIOTTOLI e BUCCE D'ARANCIA, and has also been published in many magazines and newspapers, including The New York Times, The Christian Science Monitor, and Newsday. She has a new novel on the “back burner” and plans to get to it soon!

Q: You first wrote ORANGE PEELS and COBBLESTONES, a novel described as a “coming of age love story.” What made you decide to create a cookbook, THE SCENT of ITALIAN COOKING?

Rose Dunphy: Food plays a role in the relationship Marietta, the protagonist in ORANGE PEELS and COBBLESTONES, has with her mother once they reunite.  Readers of the novel have written telling me how much they enjoyed that aspect of the book and did I have more recipes and could I put them in a book or in my next novel?  My family and friends know how much I love to cook.  When they found out that readers wanted recipes, they pushed hard for a cookbook.  So I spent most of the summer writing down the recipes I knew by heart and those handed down to me by my mother, grandmother and other Italian relatives living in Italy.  Included in the cookbook are an Introduction, How to Shop for Foods (a request by male relatives new to cooking) and colorful photos of meals alongside the recipe, as well as photos of my mother, cousins and the Italian landscape.  

Q: What makes your recipes “Italian?” How would you characterize Italian cooking? Is it just pasta, garlic, and tomato sauce?

Rose Dunphy: It’s much more than that.  Italian cooking means using only the freshest ingredients possible, especially vegetables.  In fact, many Italians I know grow their own tomatoes, string beans, peppers, eggplant and herbs in summer gardens.  It’s simple cooking in that you would use vegetables, meats, fish and herbs in their most natural state and blend the flavors to produce the most delectable tastes, aromas and colors our senses can enjoy.  Yes, pasta is a consistent part of the Italian meal, but each pasta, especially if it’s fresh, has its own distinctive flavor due to its shape and the type of sauce put over it, whether it’s tomato sauce with or without meat, pesto, oil and garlic, béchamel or Alfredo sauce.

Q: What are your top 3 to 5 tips to guide us on how to cook Italian?

Rose Dunphy:
1.     Buy the freshest ingredients possible and cook them within a day or two.
2.     Use extra virgin olive oil in all your cooking instead of butter for better health.
3.     Cook vegetables together, blending and enhancing flavor and nutrition, for example, broccoli and carrots, zucchini and string beans.  The natural sweetness of one complements the other.
4.     Use fresh herbs and don’t be afraid to mix those in many recipes, for example, sage leaves, a sprig of rosemary, chives, parsley, basil, oregano, whatever you like.  Be creative.  The final flavor will astound you.
5.     For pastas and bread, the flavor of fresh can’t be beat.  If you don’t have time to make pasta or bread yourself, today you can buy fresh pasta or freshly baked bread in most supermarkets.

Q: What do you consider a satisfying, superlative Italian dinner?

Rose Dunphy: One made simply with fresh vegetables as a side, some meat or fish for the entrée, a pasta dish at the beginning of the meal and, at the end, a Romaine or other green salad with basil and arugula that’s dressed with salt, oil and balsamic vinegar.  A cup of espresso with one or two biscotti clinches the final act. 

Q: How do you test your recipes? (I’d like to volunteer, if you still need any help.) What was the best and worst comment you’ve received from any of your “testers?”

Rose Dunphy: I use the taste test.  I taste the finished product and my husband tastes it, too.  If we agree, I know the recipe is a “wow!”  When an entrée or dessert has not come out as expected, both my husband and I are not afraid to say it.  But I am its worst critic.  I go back and try to ascertain what went wrong or what I could have done differently and note it so I don’t make the same mistake again.

I’ll never forget the time I made Talapia in the oven.  Because the colors are similar and I was probably distracted, I inadvertently added cinnamon instead of paprika to the fish.  While it was baking, I detected a sweet scent I wasn’t used to in cooking fish.  When I opened the oven, I realized my mistake.  I tried to rub it off, but it wasn’t easy as the fish was already cooked.  We tried to eat it, but it was not enjoyable.  “It’s terrible,” my husband and I both finally said.   I rose from the dinner table and pulled out two more pieces of Talapia from the freezer and paid more attention to how I dressed them.

Q: Where/how did you get your recipes? Did you do much research?

Rose Dunphy: My recipes have come from my mother, grandmother and other Italian relatives living in Italy.  They’ve been handed down from one generation to another for many years.  I’ve also gotten some from my mother-in-law, sister-in-law, friends and newspapers from which I’ve tweaked them to create my own versions.  My research involved asking my relatives for their recipes that I did not have and confirmation of what I did have.  Also, some of my recipes have evolved over the years.  I like to think they’ve improved due to my creativity to try different combinations of ingredients.

Q: What did you find the most difficult about writing a cookbook?

Rose Dunphy: Following the format of listing the ingredients and steps in an organized fashion to make it easiest on the reader was a challenge as was making sure that I didn’t omit an ingredient or step.

Q: Which was more fun writing – your novel or the cookbook?

Rose Dunphy: The novel was much more creative and, perhaps, more fulfilling.  But both books were work.  The fun comes at the end, when I finish.  It also comes when I speak about my books at author talks in libraries, schools, book stores, etc. and people come up to me and say, “I loved your book.  It really spoke to me because…”  Or, “I made your shrimp recipe last night and it came out delicious.  And it was so easy.”

Q: What’s next? Will you be writing another novel?

Rose Dunphy:  Of course.  One is already on a back burner ready to be lit.  But I have to finish editing someone else’s novel first, which I’m hoping to complete in a month.

Q:  Tell us something about Rose Dunphy. What do you like to do when you’re not writing or cooking?

Rose Dunphy: I love to read, go for walks, exercise at the gym and do some traveling, especially to see my family in Italy.

About Rose Marie Calicchio Dunphy

Rose Marie Calicchio Dunphy was born in Italy and educated in Italy and New York. Having spent her childhood years in her native country, she knows the Italian culture, language and culinary arts from both sides of the Atlantic. A New York State licensed science teacher, writer, lecturer and experienced cook, the author has written a number of books: ORANGE PEELS and COBBLESTONES, a novel; CIOTTOLI e BUCCE D'ARANCIA, the Italian translation of the novel; THAT FIRST BITE-CHANCE or CHOICE, non-fiction about eating disorders with co-author Mary Sullivan, r.c.; THE SCENT of ITALIAN COOKING, a book of recipes gleaned from generations of Italian women and men that delight everyone's nostrils and palates. In addition, the author has been published in THE NEW YORK TIMES, NEWSDAY, THE CHRISTIAN SCIENCE MONITOR, THE EAST HAMPTON STAR, and in numerous magazines across the country.

THE SCENT of ITALIAN COOKING is a cookbook of Italian and Italian-American recipes passed down to the author from her grandmother, mother and other Italian relatives in Italy that delight everyone's nostrils and palates. It also includes recipes the author created on her own by experimenting with different foods and flavors to create in her home and hopefully in yours the wonderful scent of Italian cooking. The recipes are easy to understand and to use. The author wishes to display a love of cooking that she hopes is contagious. The book contains many photos of foods and Italian scenery as well as how to shop for foods, a Table of Contents and an index for quick access of recipes.



“The best memories I have of my childhood are walking into my grandmother’s kitchen.  It was like entering heaven.  All my senses were stirred and I became alive.” 
For many of us, our senses were stirred and we became alive when we entered our mother’s or grandmother’s kitchens.  The aroma of food cooking on the stove or baking in the oven intoxicated us, overwhelming us with joy and building a tradition of lasting memories of the people who loved us.  For me it also includes the kitchens of my Italian relatives in Italy.  Every time I visit my aunts, uncles and cousins, or they visit me, it’s in the kitchen where we congregate.  In the kitchen our minds, mouths and eyes feast on the most delicious food and drink that the earth can provide and our human hands can prepare. It is where we are family, where we become one.
I want to continue this tradition for my children and grandchildren and for others who wish it – to stir their senses, for them to become alive, not just at holiday times but every day or as many days of the year as possible. 
For this reason, I am collating my family’s favorite recipes into this cookbook so they can live on not only in our kitchens, but also in our hearts and souls and senses and in those of our children.
Pesto Sauce

You can buy pesto sauce, but it won’t taste like the kind that’s home-made.  And it’s so easy to do especially if you grow basil in your garden outside or indoors in a pot.  You can also buy a bunch of fresh basil at the store any time of year. You can put parsley in the mix by using one cup of basil and one cup of parsley, if you prefer. 

Tip: If you double the recipe or make more, you can freeze what you don’t use by pouring several spoonsful (serving for one or two) onto a piece of waxed paper, fold closed and cover with aluminum foil.  Place on a flat cookie sheet and put in freezer.  Once frozen, place packages in a freezer bag, label and date and put back in freezer for future use. 

2 cups fresh basil ½ cup olive oil
2 tbsp. pine nuts 1/3 cup grated cheese
3 chopped garlic cloves or more if you like it more garlicky.

1.     Wash basil and parsley, if using it, under running water.  Dry with paper toweling.  Cut off any thick stems.
2.     Place oil, half of basil, pine nuts and garlic in blender or food processor and blend.  Add remaining basil and blend to a fine texture.  Puree.
3.     Add cheese and blend quickly.  Puree.  Yields one cup ready to serve or freeze for a future time.  

The Scent of Italian Cooking

Ciottoli e Bucce D'Arancia

Orange Peels and Cobblestones


Twitter: @RoseDunphy