I love college and the academic life! There’s something about new pens, a blank bullet journal, and a drawer full of neatly stacked office supplies in August that make my heart happy. At the beginning of a semester, anything can happen. I’m a lifelong learner and students inspire me every day with their dreams and optimism. In fact, some day I hope to become a university president where I can impact an even greater number of students in a meaningful way.
Not that every step along my path has been smooth. I’ve been passed over for promotions or treated unfairly because being a woman in higher education is still a struggle. I think that’s why I’m so driven to empower my students to succeed. When I lost the love of my life during grad school, that was a huge stumbling block. It took time for me to work through the pain of loss and regain my energy and vision.
Once again, I feel like I’m on the right road, honing my leadership skills and building experience toward my long-term goals. I don’t mind admitting that work is my priority. If you’re chasing big goals, sometimes you have to make sacrifices in other areas.
Kelly showed up about halfway through the fall semester, just when I was beginning to get the hang of my new job as Vice President for Academic Affairs. Within a week, a student had died, mysterious “accidents” occurred, a stalker broke into my house and scared the bejeezus out of me, then campus protestors took over the student center, and there’s been barely a moment of peace since.
I am so looking forward to a quiet, restful winter break so I can catch up on a few DIY home projects and binge Netflix for a change of pace.
3) Want to dish about him/her?
One cool thing about Kelly is her day job as an ASL Interpreter. Because of her connections to the Deaf Community, she includes characters who are Deaf or hard of hearing in the books. My best friend, Meg O’Brien, happens to be an interpreter, too. Although I’ve talked to Meg before about ASL, at Morton College I’ve worked with the Deaf students and faculty more closely. Lately, I’ve been learning basic ASL, but it’s a lot harder than it looks!
If Kelly isn’t interpreting, she’s writing more stories about ways to complicate my life, or the characters in her other series. She occasionally takes her dog for runs or plays with her cute grandkids. She has a website for readers with all her books and posts funny memes or photos on her Facebook or Instagram pages (@kellybrak).
4) Why do you think that your life has ended up being in a book?
If you figure it out let me know.
I’ve always thought of myself as a homebody, dedicated to my career and family. The riskiest thing I did was move to Nebraska for this job. I have big dreams, right? Usually I spend my days in meetings, answering emails, or dealing with students who need my help. I sincerely hope the dead bodies and accidents were just coincidences. Everyone here seems nice, but how do I really know I haven’t unwittingly moved into a town filled with murdering sociopaths?
5) Who's your favorite character? Why?
One of the best perks about moving to Morton College is being close to my friend Meg O’Brien again. We worked together while her husband was stationed in Hawai’i. She’s funny, adventurous, and reminds me that there’s more to life than working all the time. It’s tough being so far away from my family, and Meg, her husband and son have become my ohana, my family away from home.
6) Who's your least favorite character? Why?
Last semester I butted heads with the interim president, but once I found out more of her background and story, I felt sorry for her instead of disliking her. Right now, I’m frustrated with Mr. Hershey, the Charmain of the Board for Morton College. He and the Board rely on me to investigate the mysterious mishaps around campus and run things smoothly in the midst of chaos. But when it comes down to promotions or respecting my expertise, they don’t take me seriously because I’m a woman of Japanese American ancestry. I’m not giving up though. They have no idea how stubborn and motivated I am.
7) What's next for you?
Well, after I finish this cup of coffee, I’ve got to bundle up and see what it’s like to shovel a foot of snow that blanketed our town overnight. Because of the Christmas holiday, this week is shortened, and I really can’t afford to miss a day of work.
I had a meeting scheduled with my old/new boss who showed up unexpectedly last Saturday at our Fall Commencement ceremony. Mr. Hershey hinted that my boss is coming back to work as president, but I have no idea why. Something is wrong and I need to find out more, but first I have to clear a path out of my driveway.
To complicate things, I’ve got this new foster dog named Murphy and housebreaking him isn’t going according to plan. I thought my first Christmas in Nebraska would be spent sipping hot cocoa in flannel pajamas in front of a cozy fire. I’ve never owned a pet before in my life and certainly not a yapping little ball of fur who doesn’t seem to like me very much and can’t hold his bladder.
I really hope Kelly wraps up this mystery before New Year’s so I can enjoy at least a little bit of my winter break.
About Dead of Winter Break
It's beginning to look a lot like murder . . . And Cassandra is knee deep in . . .
Suspects. Her boss is dead, and the police are calling it burglary gone wrong. But when the killer comes after her, it's going to take more than a pair of furry boots to keep the smart, witty Morton College administrator, Cassandra Sato, out of the deep. . .
Snow. Her first Christmas in Nebraska could be her last unless her friends help unravel the mystery and housebreak her dog.
Buy now for a fast-paced, holiday themed whodunit.
Dead of Winter Break is the third book in Kelly Brakenhoff's popular Cassandra Sato Mystery Series. Death by Dissertation was a 2020 RONE Award Finalist. Publishers Weekly called Dead Week, "a diverting whodunit."
About Kelly Brakenhoff