JR: I think women in New Jersey, at least those who grew up in the tri-state area, have to be tough. Life is fast-paced here and if you snooze, you lose. I think we're also a suspicious bunch, maybe even a bit paranoid, and we need an attitude to get through the day. And then we also have to contend with the driving! I mean, if that doesn't keep a gal in a highly irritated state, nothing will. Defensive driving is the only kind of driving we know. I swear, half the drivers in this area have no idea what a yield sign means!
Kathy: Were you a fan of Aqua Net back in the day?
JR: I was a huge fan of Aqua Net and I'll let you in on a little secret -- I still am! It's better than gunking wet hair with gels and leave-in styling products that stick to my brush when I'm blow-drying and weigh my hair down. I just get my hair into some kind of a halfway decent style, give it a quick spritz, and I'm good to go.
Kathy: How has your work as a freelance correspondent influenced newspaper reporter Colleen Caruso?
JR: I think being a stringer has been the greatest influence for writing the series. Colleen begins her career the same way I did -- primarily by winging it. This creates some interesting moments as she feels her way through a story. I've been writing fiction since the fourth grade, but being a reporter is an entirely different kind of writing. A reporter has to be extremely accurate, she has to be able to connect with readers, and she needs to develop a rapport with the people she interviews in order to get the story. It's the perfect occupation for Colleen, who needs people to open up to her when she gets background for her crime column.
Kathy: What first drew you to cozy mysteries?
JR: I love the crimes that take place in cozies. They're a little on the subdued side for the most part -- not generally huge headline grabbers. The suspects are usually from a small circle of suspects that have definite reasons for wanting someone to be dead, or for stealing a priceless vase or for ripping-off the elderly in the local retirement community. It's so much fun to eliminate people one by one as I'm reading them -- only to find out I got it all wrong at the end! I also enjoy the characters -- particularly the main character/protagonist. If she's likeable, she's relatable. We all need our heros.
Kathy: Do you write in any other genres?
JR: I'm outlining a mainstream mystery right now, and have had several horror and science fiction stories published in the past. Horror is fun, but it's hard to find an original idea in this genre. How many vampires, werewolves and zombies does the world need right now? We're inundated with them at the moment, but I think they'll fade out for a while and then make a comeback -- which is why I write primarily mysteries. Murder never goes out of fashion.
Kathy: Tell us about your series.
JR: The Jersey Girl Cozy Mystery series centers on Colleen Caruso, a part-time stringer for the Town Crier, the local newspaper, who is newly divorced and trying to find her way in world as a single mother. The mysteries in each of the books take place in the small, quiet shore community of Tranquil Harbor, New Jersey, which at times can be anything but tranquil.
Kathy: Do you have a favorite character? If so, who and why?
JR: Because I based my protagonist on me, I won't say Colleen Caruso is my favorite (un-huh). The one character that I adore and who truly intrigues me is Colleen's boss and the Town Crier's executive editor, Ken Rhodes. He's suave, has a rigid personality, and yet can be so very kind. Oh, and he's gorgeous, which doesn't hurt!
Kathy: Did you have a specific inspiration for your series?
JR: I can't really pin down anything specifically that inspired me to write the series. It just made sense to write what I know (like using a newspaper and using a small town, Jersey Shore setting) in order to make the story unfold more naturally. It's where I live and what I do -- familiar territory.
Kathy: What made you decide to publish your work?
JR: I've always written and knew someday I would try to get my work published. It wasn't until after I joined a local writer's group -- and this was many years ago -- that I started to submit short stories to various publications and anthologies. I wouldn't have dared to go for it without the encouragement of fellow writers. If anyone out there wants to see their work published, join a writer's group. The advice you receive from published authors is invaluable.
Kathy: If you could have a dinner party and invite 4 authors, living or dead, in any genre, who would you invite?
JR: I would invite Amy Tan, Susan Isaacs, Gillian Flynn and Mary Shelley. The dinner menu would be nothing but chocolate.
Kathy: What are you currently reading?
JR: I'm currently reading Naming Jack the Ripper by Russell Edwards. I've read so many books on the subject that if I were just a few years older, I could be The Ripper.
Kathy: Will you share any of your hobbies or interests with us?
JR: I'm an Antiques Roadshow junkie! I love the old stuff that turns out to be valuable enough to cause a major coronary.
Kathy: Name 4 items you always have in your fridge or pantry.
JR: I always have fruit, which rots in the crisper because my intentions are good, but the Devil Dogs I keep around are even better. Then there's salmon, which I love (in the freezer) and boneless chicken breasts, because I'm always on a diet. I'm getting awfully tired of eating chicken and I'm not losing all that much weight anyway. I guess the Devil Dogs aren't helping much with the weight-loss thing.
Kathy: Do you have plans for future books either in your current series or a new series?
JR: Yes! I'm currently working on a third book in the Jersey Girl series called Food For Thought -- which is the name of the trendy shore restaurant where the staff at the newspaper celebrates their fiftieth anniversary and where Ken Rhodes, the executive editor, is poisoned.
Kathy: What's your favorite thing about being an author?
JR: My favorite thing about being an author is being able to live vicariously through the characters I create. I get to investigate crimes, plus commit murder, burglarize, extort, and do all the things I wouldn't do in my real life.