Chatting with Jenny Kales

This is an exciting post for two reasons: first, because it is the first time we’ve had a cookbook author on Reade and Write (and everyone who reads the blog knows I love to cook and I love to eat). And second, because the author is none other than Jenny Kales, who has been here before and whose books are FABULOUS. She’s here to talk about her newest release, The Callie’s Kitchen Mysteries Cookbook.

I have read the book and I loved it (you can read my full review here). It’s full of wonderful Greek and Midwestern American recipes, as well as some extra treats from the Callie’s Kitchen Mysteries, and I think you’ll love it, too.

Welcome, Jenny!

Congratulations on your new cookbook! I’m so excited to talk to you about it. Here’s my first question: have you always been a lover of Greek food?

Thank you so much! I’m so happy to participate in this interview with you. I have really enjoyed writing my new cookbook. Besides many new recipes, the cookbook contains new scenes as well as book excerpts from the series.  I hope my cookbook gives readers a little more insight into the characters and the series, besides providing some tasty new recipes to enjoy.

Regarding Greek food, I learned all about it from my husband who is a Greek-American. On one of our early dates, my husband took me to Greektown and introduced me to Greek food and the rest was history. I remember having the simple but very tasty dish, tzatziki (Greek yogurt-cucumber sauce) and feeling cheated I’d never had it before. It’s so delicious! Tzatziki is still one of my favorites and the recipe can be found in my new cookbook.

I’m intrigued by the idea of a supper club, which you note is commonplace in Wisconsin. Can you tell me more about them? Do they have memberships, or can anyone eat at a supper club?

Supper clubs are open to the public, and name refers to their hours of operation: any time after 4 pm, aka “suppertime.” They range from rustic charm to old-school elegance, but what they all have in common in that to attend one feels like an “event.” Supper clubs serve good, honest food like steaks, fish, chops and frequently, scrumptious homemade desserts. They also offer house cheese spread and “relish trays” aka crudité, served to every diner. What I love about supper club food is the same thing I love about Greek food: it’s simple, has bold, fresh flavors, and if done right, it’s just plain good.

Wisconsin supper clubs are also known for their classic cocktails, primarily the Brandy Old-Fashioned. Supper clubs often feature live music, always have a Friday fish fry, and are known as meeting places for friends and family to gather. However, their numbers are diminishing, so if you get a chance to visit one, go!

I know from reading your newsletters and various interviews that your husband and his family are great cooks and have inspired some of the recipes you include in your mysteries. Do you always run recipes by them before including them in your novels?

First of all, thanks for subscribing to my newsletter! I always run any new or “tweaked” recipes by the family before I include them in books. However, many of my recipes are my husband’s family recipes, and they are fabulous. So, they’ve already been given many trial runs, such as YiaYia’s Greek Meatloaf and many others. I have altered a few to my tastes and to modern health concerns, such as the spanakopita recipe found in my first Callie’s Kitchen book and in my new cookbook. I think the original recipe called for nearly a dozen eggs. It doesn’t need that many!

What is your idea of a perfect Greek celebration meal?

When you have a Greek meal, it’s always festive! But for a big celebration meal, I have to have a “pita,” aka a dish layered in baked phyllo dough, my favorite being spanakopita. At my house, we also love to have a huge Greek village salad, grilled meats and fish, Greek roasted potatoes, tzatziki and bread. For dessert, my deluxe Greek rizogalo (rice pudding) or Greek cookies with Greek coffee. P.S. A lot of people have asked me about baklava, one of the best-known Greek dishes, and why I don’t have a recipe for it in my books. The reason is that my oldest daughter has a severe nut allergy, so I don’t make it at home, and we don’t eat it at home. However, I love being able to introduce people to lesser-known Greek foods and I hope they enjoy learning about them and trying them.

Do you have a favorite recipe in the cookbook?

That’s a tough one because I love each one and I do make each recipe that I share in the cookbook and mystery books. If I have to pick one, I’ll choose the one I make the most and that’s the paxemathia, aka Greek biscotti flavored with ouzo (anise-flavored liqueur). My second favorite is spanakopita. And my third…just kidding, but it’s hard to pick just one.

I’m sure you have a vast repertoire of Greek and Midwestern recipes. How did you decide which recipes to put in the book and which ones to leave out?

To start, I included every recipe that is found in my mystery novels. I love choosing the recipes that go into the books because they often reflect the action in the mystery or on a character’s personality or behavior. Beyond those, I wanted to feature recipes that were easy to make, delicious (of course!) and that would directly reflect the spirit of the Callie’s Kitchen Mysteries. I also chose to include recipes that I make for my family. I view the cookbook as a peek not into just Callie’s Kitchen but also into my own.

Are you a see-what-tastes-good cook or a follow-the-directions-precisely cook?

If it’s a new recipe, I will try to follow it exactly and make changes later. However, I will confess that I’ve been cooking so long, sometimes I just “know” I’m going to want to add or delete something, or that the baking time needs to be adjusted. I guess you could say I’m a little bit of both.

Of all the foods Callie makes, which is Detective Ian Sands’ favorite?

I love this question! After a hard day of crime solving, he loves her comforting home cooking like the Greek Beef Stew with red wine in A Stew to a Kill. He also likes the Greek Yogurt Coffee Cake and the Loukoumades aka Greek drop doughnuts– two breakfast-type foods sold every day in Callie’s Kitchen. The sugar gives him energy what will most certainly a busy day in Crystal Bay.

Can you share what’s next for Callie?

Yes! Well, I had planned to have her travel abroad. I don’t want to say too much because there are some new scenes in my cookbook that deal with some breaking developments Callie’s life. Regarding having her travel, I considered the current situation with the worldwide pandemic and travel restrictions, and decided that I would still have her travel, because after all, this is fiction and she would have already left on her trip. I’m not sure how or if I will incorporate current events into the book. In the end, I will do what feels right for the story.

And what’s next for you?

I am on a second round of edits for a brand-new mystery with series potential. I really love the premise and characters, one of which is a more mature (retired) female sleuth who starts an online fan group and gets involved in a mystery! I hope to have that one out later this year. I am also turning 50 in May, which is prompting me to want to get busy with some projects I’ve been putting aside. Right now, I’m trying to get my current book finished and enjoying the unexpected time with both of my daughters, who are both home e-learning right now. One is in college and one is in her junior year of high school.

Where can readers connect with you?

I love to connect with readers! You can find me mostly on my Facebook author page https://www.facebook.com/jennykalesauthor/ and Instagram https://www.instagram.com/jennykales_author/?hl=en. I also publish a newsletter for readers, often featuring recipe exclusives, giveaways and more. You can sign up for that at this link or on my Facebook page. My website is www.jennykales.wordpress.com. Stop by and say hello!

Where can readers find your books?

You can find my books on Amazon, in both paperback and for the Kindle (click to be redirected). My Callie’s Kitchen Mysteries are free with a subscription to Kindle Unlimited. I am looking to expand into other formats, such as Nook and iBooks, so stay tuned!

Thank you, Amy, for such featuring me on your blog and for such great questions. I also want to thank the readers, who are so important to us authors, especially now.

It was my pleasure, Jenny. 

Until next time,

Amy

Author Interview: Jenny Kales

Today we’re celebrating the release of A Stew to a Kill, Book 4 in the Callie’s Kitchen Mystery series by Jenny Kales.

Welcome, Jenny! Congratulations and happy book birthday!

Jenny has a busy day planned with book launch festivities, but she’s here for an interview about her characters and her books.

The main character in the series, Callie Costas, is the owner of Callie’s Kitchen; each book in the series finds Callie dealing with various seedy elements of Crystal Bay, Wisconsin. In A Stew to a Kill, a new employee in a neighboring shop, Tea for Two, is found murdered and Callie finds herself being drawn into the murder investigation. And when an old boyfriend shows up in town with his sights set on developing a mall that will hurt the small business vibe in Crystal Bay, Callie begins to wonder if his sudden appearance has anything to do with the murder.

I love Jenny’s books and I’m eager to read A Stew to a Kill.

So Jenny, tell us how you came to choose the setting of Crystal Bay, WI, for your series.

Two reasons that I created this fictional town: I love Wisconsin and I wasn’t coming across cozy mysteries set there. That got me thinking. The next time I visited the Geneva Lakes region of Wisconsin, a beautiful area filled with lakes, small scenic, towns, colorful local history and a bustling small community combined with tourists, I looked around and thought: this is it! Also, there is a presence of Greek people in the community, though it is small.

Specifically, I based Crystal Bay on the Lake Geneva and Williams Bay area of Wisconsin. Because I wanted to take liberties with the location, I decided to combine the two into one town: Crystal Bay. I visit the area often and have come up with my mystery ideas each time. It’s fun!

Are the recipes in your books ones that come from your own collection? Are there recipes you’ve wanted to include in the books, but didn’t?

Recipes come from my own collection, including family recipes from my husband’s side of the family. Now, sometimes Greek recipes are hard to track down because nobody writes them down and would look at you oddly if you asked for that. They seem to be absorbed through the DNA! I’ve been lucky in two ways regarding Greek family recipes. My husband’s grandmother (YiaYia) was involved in a 1950 Greek Orthodox Church cookbook produced in 1950. Several copies survived and were gifted to new members of the family. This book is amazing! True, I have tweaked many recipes for fat content here and there, but these are true-blue recipes and they are fabulous. Several years ago, my sister-in-law commissioned a family cookbook and captured many elusive recipes that we now all have.

There are always recipes I’m not able to include, but I try to find some way to share them. For example, I did not include Callie’s “Speedy Pastitsio” recipe in my latest book even though it is mentioned, because I just had too many other recipes to include. However, I plan to include the recipe in a newsletter soon, so make sure that you’re signed up! Speedy Pastitsio is my own creation and my whole family loves it.

Your knowledge of Greek food and culture is obvious, but in a beautifully subtle way. Have you been to Greece?

I have not been to Greece. My husband has been there several times and was briefly a student there. He also worked on an island for a while, many years ago. I get a lot of my knowledge from him! However, I’m hoping we can go at some point because I plan to set my next Callie novel in Greece!

Can you share something about your main character, Callie, that most readers don’t know?

She’s afraid of the dark! Not so convenient for her, considering she keeps finding herself in dangerous situations that often involve it.

Who are some of your favorite cozy authors?

So many! To name a few: Dianne Mott Davidson, Leslie Meier, Lorna Barrett and two I am lucky enough to call friends: Linda Reilly and new author Debra Sennefelder. This isn’t everyone, of course, so I guess you could say I love cozy mysteries, period.

When you’re writing a novel, do you read within your genre, or do you, like many authors, read only books outside your genre when you’re deep into the writing process?

I try to avoid cozy mysteries when I’m deep into writing a novel. One, because I don’t want to unconsciously copy anyone and two, because I don’t want to feel inferior to the author I’m reading, lol. You never want to let the self-doubt creep in while you’re writing. I like to read historical fiction, contemporary fiction, “detective” fiction like the Shetland novels and suspense when I’m writing.

What do you like to do in your spare time?

I love to spend time outdoors, travel with my husband and family, hang out with my kids, bake and cook, of course, and browse vintage stores. I love vintage clothing, cookbooks, jewelry and I collect classic Nancy Drew novels. I also love to read, (no surprise) and I love mystery TV like Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries. She is my idol.

Where do you do your best writing?

Not at home! I have two favorite libraries where I have written most of my books. The key is to find a library with a “quiet room,” and then I go to town.

Do you have a favorite character in your Callie’s Kitchen series? Who is it and why?

That’s a tough one, but I’d have to say George, Callie’s father. I can picture him so clearly in my mind’s eye and his dialogue just flows out of me. Also, he’s funny, sometimes unintentionally, protective to a fault, but loving as can be.

What’s next for Callie?

She is about to set off on a big adventure! I can’t give too many spoilers but as I said above, I’m about 90% sure I will have her visiting Greece and, of course, encountering a mystery there.

Thank you, Amy, for having me on your blog today. It was a lot of fun!

It was my pleasure. Congratulations and best wishes for lots of success with the new book! Readers, you can find A Stew to a Kill by clicking here or by clicking on the picture at the top of the post.

Jenny has a seasonal newsletter: sign up here!

To learn more about Jenny, visit her online!

Website

Facebook

Twitter

Goodreads

Instagram

Pinterest

Until next time,

Amy