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Death by Dissertation
(Cassandra Sato)
by Kelly Brakenhoff


About the Book

Death by Dissertation (Cassandra Sato)
Cozy Mystery
1st in Series
Setting – Nebraska
Emerald Prairie Press (April 17, 2019)
Paperback: 355 pages
ISBN-10: 1733742409
ISBN-13: 978-1733742405
Digital ASIN: B07PKRD658

Ambitious Cassandra Sato traded her life in Hawai’i for a dream position as Student Affairs VP at Morton College in tiny Carson, Nebraska. She expected the Midwestern church casseroles, land-locked cornfields, and face-freezing winters would be her biggest challenges, but it’s her job that’s rapidly becoming a nightmare.

A deaf student is dead and the investigation reveals a complicated trail of connections between campus food service, a local farmer’s beef, and the science lab’s cancer research. Together with her few allies, Cassandra must protect the students caught up in the entanglement.

Dealing with homesickness, vandalism, and a stalker, Cassandra is trapped in a public relations disaster that could cost her job, or more. No one said college was easy.

About the Author


Interview with the Author

The Pulp and Mystery Shelf Author Interview –

Please send graphic files of yourself and the works you wish to feature, a description of
the featured books, a bio, plus answers to the questions below.

What initially got you interested in writing?

I don’t remember not loving to read, and then writing followed soon afterwards. In elementary school, my younger sister and I made homemade comic books featuring dogs and cats. I wrote the words, and she did the illustrations. Think Garfield meets Snoopy. They were pretty bad.

What genres do you write in?

Mysteries are my favorite to read and write. I plan to publish the second in my series later this year. I’m also working on a children’s picture book series that has a deaf dog as the main character. Ironically, my sister is drawing the illustrations.

What drew you to writing these specific genres?

Solving puzzles has been one of my favorite challenges since I was young. I like books where we get to know the characters and feel like they’re real members of our family. At the same time, I always try to guess who the bad guy or gal is before the end of the book. It’s satisfying when an author makes a plot complicated enough that I can’t guess the ending.

How did you break into the field?

Years of writing, editing, and procrastinating got me to the finished novel stage. After more than forty rejections from agents, but lots of praise and advice from talented mentors, I decided to make the leap and self-publish. I hired an editor and a cover designer then plunged into the deep end of publishing. My debut came out in April, and it’s been a fun couple of months!

What do you want readers to take away from reading your works?

After twenty years working as an American Sign Language Interpreter for college students, I couldn’t write a book set in a college and not include deaf characters. If you’re unfamiliar with ASL or deaf culture, you’ll learn about their everyday lives and how it feels to be deaf. Also Cassandra Sato, the main character, grew up in Hawai’i, and there are lots of references to Hawaiian culture in the book.

What do you find most rewarding about writing?

I’ve had so much fun incorporating real people’s personalities and dialogue into the book speaking through my characters. I spend most of my day listening to people talk, and I love when I can use a funny line later in my writing. During my free time I chill in the library, and overhear students’ conversations. Does that sound creepy?

What do you find most challenging about writing?

The first commandment of writing advice experts love to repeat is “Write Every Day.” Awesome wisdom if you’re a full-time writer. My day job is mentally challenging, I’m married, and I have four mostly grown children and a grandson. Keeping work/life balance is such a high priority for me, I just can’t write every day. Which has its repercussions, like how it’s taken me 4+ years to finish my first novel. When I don’t touch the manuscript for more than a couple of weeks, I waste valuable time getting back into the story. I do try to think about my WIP every day. I jot notes that occur to me while dreaming, driving, or running. Do I feel guilty about it and cringe every time some expert preaches this advice? Yes. Will I continue to write at my (snail’s) pace. YES!

What advice would you give to people wanting to enter the field?

Death by Dissertation began in November of 2014 as a NaNoWriMo project, and I finished the first 50,000 word draft in thirty days, averaging 1,657 words per day. Writing a novel is hard, but if you break it into small chunks and just focus on the next sentence it helps you avoid feeling overwhelmed. If it were easy, everyone would do it. If you want to do it badly enough, you will find the time.

What type of books do you enjoy reading?

I like Janet Evanovich’s characters that make me laugh out loud, Sue Grafton (I finally found an All-Purpose Black Dress!), John Grisham, Mary Kay Andrews, Hank Phillipi Ryan. Through my work becoming an author, I’ve met many authors. Now my to-be-read list is longer than my arm.

My Book Club has met for 19 years, and we read any genre. We take turns choosing the book and the restaurant. Without them, I wouldn’t have opened many books that ended up being my favorites. I encourage people to read a wide variety of topics and time periods. I read to escape, so I love learning about other people’s lives.

Is there anything else besides writing you think people would find interesting about

In my free time, I run half marathons. I only started seven years ago, and I was a confirmed walker/couch sitter. This fall will be my ninth race, and my goal is to break two hours. Last year I crossed the finish line in 2 hours, 1 second. So close, I nearly cried! This year I am determined to train harder and crush my goal. During long runs, I practice writing dialogue or thinking up plot twists in my head.

What are the best ways to connect with you, or find out more about your work?

I respond to Facebook messages or Twitter. If you like dog photos, I post the misadventures of our German Wire-haired Pointer, Duke, on Instagram. You never know what he’s going to chew up next. You can also find me on Goodreads and Bookbub. I’m still very new at this author thing, so it’s a huge delight when someone messages me a photo of them reading my book while watching their child play softball or lounging on the beach.

Author Bio


Kelly Brakenhoff is an American Sign Language Interpreter whose motivation for learning ASL began in high school when she wanted to converse with her deaf friends. As an American Sign Language Interpreter with more than twenty years of experience, Kelly’s worked in college classrooms for fifteen different majors. From traipsing across muddy farm fields to stomach-churning medical procedures, and stage interpreting for famous figures, Kelly’s community interpreting interactions number in the thousands. Unfortunately, once she’s stepped away from the job, she usually forgets 90% of what happened. Which helps her keep confidential information safe, but also makes it really hard to grocery shop for more than 5 items without a written list.

Kelly wants to live in a world filled with peace, love, and joy, where people who can hear learn enough sign language to include deaf people in everyday conversations and work. Where every deaf child has early access to language and books with characters like them, and dark chocolate is cheap and plentiful.

When she’s not interpreting or writing, you can find Kelly cheering for her favorite Husker teams or training for half-marathons because she really likes dessert.

Her first mystery, Death by Dissertation, released April 22, 2019.

Author Links

Website – http://kellybrakenhoff.com/

Amazon – Https://amazon.com/author/kellybrakenhoff

Twitter- https://twitter.com/inBrakenVille
Instagram – @kellybrak

Purchase Link – Amazon


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