A sweet treat: Susan Bernhardt’s The Ginseng Conspiracy

Today we visit with fellow MuseItUp author Susan Bernhardt. Her novel, The Ginseng Conspiracy, was just released on 1/3/14. Welcome, Susan!

Susan Bernhardt: Thank you, Heather and David, for having me on your blog today and for being a part of my progressive dessert online book launch. I appreciate it.

Brainerd & Fraser: Your progressive dessert book launch is a great idea! We understand that, along each stop on your tour, you will give a dessert recipe. Here’s the full schedule:

  • January 3rd – Lorenzo Martinez – www.lorenzo-martinez.com – Kay’s Triple Threat: Triple Chocolate Raspberry Truffle Torte.
  • January 3rd – Marsha West – www.marsharwest.com – Deirdre’s Divine Inspiration: Heavenly mousse au chocolat.
  • January 6th – Heather Fraser Brainerd and David Fraser –  drivingblindproductions.wordpress.com – Marissa’s Surprise: Plum Clafouti
  • January 7th – Helena Fairfax – www.helenafairfax.com – Elizabeth’s Extravaganza: Éclair au Chocolat

Brainerd & Fraser: Now, on with the interview! We love cozy mysteries. What inspires you to write in this style?

Susan Bernhardt: I’ve always enjoyed reading cozy mysteries with the usual setting of a peaceful, calm surface of the small town where wickedly, intriguing secrets lie. I also enjoy their appealing, quirky characters. So it was fun to write The Ginseng Conspiracy in this style.

B&F: What sets The Ginseng Conspiracy apart from others in this genre?

SB: The Ginseng Conspiracy, a more complex cozy, is a fresh approach to the subgenre. It combines descriptions of culinary delight with art, music, and a flair for solving murders. Murders in cozies are non-graphic: they shy away from violence, suspense, and take place off stage. Multiple murders occur in The Ginseng Conspiracy and all are suspenseful.

B&F: Your characters discuss the mystery over tea at Sweet Marissa’s Patisserie. What made you decide on such a unique crime-fighting setting?

SB:  I thought it would be a fun place for the three main characters to meet. And I love desserts. I’ve been in patisseries and have always been impressed with their display of beautiful pastries. I wanted their crime-fighting headquarters to be more than a bakery.

B&F: We understand that the fictional Sudbury Falls is based on your own hometown. How are the two towns similar? Or, if your answer might get you in too much trouble with your neighbors, how are they different?

SB: Sudbury Falls is similar and different. Like Kay Driscoll the protagonist in my book, I live in a small northern Wisconsin town and work at the free clinic. The town that I live in is similar to Sudbury Falls in that it has a river running through it, a college, open-space where I walked with my friends. The actual ginseng rich area of Wisconsin is two hours east of the fictional Sudbury Falls.

A writer takes from real life experiences. Whenever someone has a writer for a friend, there is always a possibility that the writer may be influenced by the person.

B&F: There are quite a few medical professionals in our family, and we greatly admire your volunteer work at your local clinic. How did this come about?

SB: A free clinic was started in our town about seven years ago. I volunteered immediately. Health care shouldn’t be a privilege. It is a right. I wanted to try and help people to access the necessary health care they needed to sustain their lives and see that they wouldn’t fall between the cracks of the health care system.

B&F: We’ve heard that you like to travel. What is the most amazing place you’ve ever been? And have you ever been to Minneapolis?

SB: Minneapolis is an hour away from where I live.  We go to Minneapolis and to St. Paul to restaurants. Also that’s where the arts are: the theatre, museums, ballet, opera.

My husband and I do love to travel. My favorite place to visit is London because it is exciting, comfortable, and easy to get around in.  But as far as amazing, I would have to say Venice, Italy or Barcelona, Spain.

And now for the rapid-fire round!

Agatha Christie or Sue Grafton? I’ve read all of Sue Grafton’s books.

Chocolate or vanilla? Chocolate definitely.

Sit on a beach or explore a new city? I love to explore a new exciting city.

Coffee or tea? Both actually but I drink more tea than coffee.

Elvis or The Beatles? The Beatles. When I was in college the question was: The Beatles or The Rolling Stones. I was more of a Rolling Stones person.

Thanks for visiting, Susan! Is there anything else you’d like to add?

The Ginseng Conspiracy, a cozy mystery, is my first published novel. Here is the blurb from the back cover:

On her way to attend a Halloween Ball, Kay Driscoll, a newcomer to town, witnesses the murder of a local professor. When the official coroner’s report rules the cause of death to be accidental and the community accepts the judgement, Kay decides to uncover the truth for herself. Through her personal investigations, Kay exposes a complex conspiracy, woven deep within the thriving local ginseng industry, that involves some of the more prominent figures and families of Sudbury Falls.

With her new friends, the free-spirited herbalist Deirdre and the untamed modern woman Elizabeth, Kay discusses new clues over tea and pastries at Sweet Marissa’s Patisserie, their crime-fighting headquarters. As Kay gets closer to the heart of the conspiracy, additional murders happen in quick succession. Before long, Kay learns that the villains are gunning for her, too. Phil, her musically talented but preoccupied husband, determined to keep her safe, withholds from her the one thing she needs most: the truth.

the Ginseng Conspiracy-medium


Who were these people? Was this a pre-Halloween party before the main one? It felt like something sinister was going on, but what? I supposed I should have kept going and minded my own business, but when had I ever done that? My curiosity kept calling me. It was a bit creepy, but I could just take a peek. Not knowing was killing me, so I made the decision to check it out.

Six people stood in a storage room in a circle, all of them wearing the same silk gossamer hooded robes. It was a bizarre scene. No party atmosphere here. Fresh footprints from the mystery people scattered around the thick dust on the floor. Cobwebs covered the wall. This was beoming  much more like The Da Vinci Code than I would have liked. All that was missing was a body. I was beginning to think I had been right in the first place. I shouldn’t be here. Way past having a bad feeling about this, the hair on my body stood on end. But I didn’t move for the door. I was determined to stay and find out what was happening.

The robed people all gazed down at the floor. Stepping onto a low box in front of me, I strained my neck to see what they were looking at. Lying on the floor was a person. Had someone passed out? I could see a man. Someone I knew; the professor we saw on our morning walks, who passed our home on his way to the college, whom Elizabeth hadn’t introduced me to yet. I couldn’t believe it. The professor was lying there, looked lifeless. My skin tingled. I held my breath as my heart raced.

The Ginseng Conspiracy can be purchased online at the following:

AmazonBarnes and NobleKoboMuseItUp Bookstore

And now for dessert!

Marissa’s Surprise. Plum Clafouti – Marissa was always surprising and enlisting Kay, Deirdre, and Elizabeth to try out a new recipe or improved recipe.   
Plum Clafouti – Traditional Clafouti is with dark red cherries such as Bing cherries.
Italian prune plums, halved and pitted
3 eggs
1 1/3 cups milk
2/3 cup all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons grated lemon zest
2 teaspoons vanilla
1 pinch salt
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
2 tablespoons confectioners’ sugar
Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Butter a 10 inch pie plate and sprinkle 1 tablespoon of the sugar over the bottom. Arrange the plum halves, cut side down, so that they cover the entire bottom of the pie plate. Sprinkle 2 tablespoons of sugar over the top of the plums. 
In a blender, combine the remaining 3 tablespoons of sugar, eggs, milk, flour, lemon zest, cinnamon, vanilla, and salt. Process until smooth, about 2 minutes. Pour over the fruit in the pan.
Bake for 50 to 60 minutes in the preheated oven, or until firm and lightly browned. Let stand 5 minutes before slicing. Dust with confectioners’ sugar before serving. 

Susan Book

Website: www.susanbernhardt.com

Author FB page: https://www.facebook.com/TheGinsengConspiracyBySusanKBernhardt


About Heather Brainerd

Intuitive healer + meditation guide
This entry was posted in reading, writing and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

18 Responses to A sweet treat: Susan Bernhardt’s The Ginseng Conspiracy

  1. This book launch has been a lot of fun so far. It will be hard to get back to normal after all of this. And with all of the desserts…I’ll have to start a diet…big time!.

    Thanks again for having me here on your blog, Heather and David.

    Curl up with a killer – Cozy Mysteries
    The Ginseng Conspiracy by Susan Bernhardt

  2. Bill says:

    Great interview. Looks like an interesting read. The recipe looks good too!

  3. I enjoyed this interview very much. It presents an interesting window into Susan, the author, and the person,

  4. The Plum Clafouti looks delicious, Susan! Great interview. I love the idea of combining murder and cakes. Two of my favourite things! (Well, I mean reading about murder, of course – not the actual act! Although if someone were to steal my cake…) Good luck with your launch, and all the best for 2014!

  5. marsharwest says:

    Hey, Heather. I see Susan that you’ve brought another decadent chocolate dessert! Yum. I’ll be sharing. Continued good luck and fun with your book launch.

  6. J.Q. Rose says:

    My mouth is watering for these desserts. I don’t know if I can take following your dessert blogs, Susan. WOW–I’ve sworn to only have toothpicks and water this week!! LOL…Definitely putting your story on the TBR list. I don’t know much about ginseng, but are you saying it grows in Wisconsin? Have fun this week.

    • HFBrainerd says:

      I agree, JQ – this progressive dessert book launch is truly mouth-watering! I’m currently reading The Ginseng Conspiracy and definitely recommend it, especially if you like cozies.

    • Thank you, J.Q. It’s been a great week. I bet your could pick up a bite of the plum clafouti with a toothpick! I know if it were me, I’d be trying.

      Yes, ninety-five percent of the ginseng grown in the United States is grown here, in northern Wisconsin. It is exported mainly to China, where American ginseng is particularly prized.

      Thanks for stopping by.

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