Author Spotlight: Kelly Brakenhoff

  • a writer of contemporary mystery novels

Readers! Let’s give a good hearty welcome to Kelly Brakenhoff.

Kelly Brakenhoff

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. The mother of four young adults, a cranky old dog, and a rambunctious puppy, Kelly and her husband call Nebraska home.

Kelly, thanks for agreeing to be here today. Most interviews start off with bios and such, and while I’ll get to that as always, let’s start with the important stuff!

If you could have any pet (real/fantasy/no-allergies/no worries about feeding it) what would it be?

After giving this question serious consideration, I just can’t imagine coming home to my pet hedgehog no matter how cute its little face is. I’m boring and I love dogs. I love dogs so much, I’m even willing to overlook the occasional pile of puke on my dining room rug, or the chewed up sock left in the backyard all winter until revealed by melted snow.

I had a friend’s whose mom raised hedgehogs. They’re not really domesticated, just sort of caged wild animals that do their own little thing. But they are awfully cute.

What do you write and how did you get started? ANDWhat do you like to read?

I don’t remember not loving to read, and then writing followed soon afterwards. 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.

My book club has met for nearly 19 years. I love when my friends choose books I’d never know about otherwise. We’ve read nearly every genre and age group, mostly fiction and a few non-fiction. We meet at a different restaurant each month, so one bonus is I’ve tried lots of great local eateries. Our friendship bonds are strong after so long together, but everyone still laughs about that time they all absolutely hated the book I chose.

I haven’t really been in a book club since high school, but it was with my english teacher and some of her friends. But I completely understand how reading and writing go hand-in-hand.

Name one commonly accepted piece of writing advice that doesn’t work for you.

“Write every day.”

Trying to keep it real, here.

My day job is mentally challenging, I’m married, and I have four mostly grown children and a grandson. Of course, not writing every day 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. Keeping work/life balance is such a high priority for me, I just can’t write every day.

Do I feel guilty about it and cringe every time some expert preaches this advice?


Will I continue to write at my (snail’s) pace.


Hear hear! Life comes first, but writing is a priority.

Name one commonly accepted piece of writing advice that they can pry out of your cold, dead hands.

Beginnings matter.

I re-wrote the beginning of Death by Dissertation at least 20 times. I don’t think you can overdo attention to a great opening line and first chapter.

As a reader, I have a strict 50-page limit. If you don’t grab me by the 50th page, I will not finish your book.

I also don’t like it when authors switch time or point of view too frequently before I’ve gotten to know the characters and can keep them all straight. I read to escape, not to work hard.

I probably can count the number of books I didn’t finish on one hand. But most of that is due to my lack of impulse control and my fast reading speed. Good for you for not wasting time on books that aren’t proving themselves.

Shameless Self-Promotion time!

Kelly’s novel, Death by Dissertation, debuted April 22nd! Get it while it’s fresh.

Death by Dissertation (A Cassandra Sato Mystery Book 1) by [Brakenhoff, Kelly]
Death by Dissertation by Kelly Brakenhoff

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. 

I’m not used to self-promotion so let me take this moment to publicly thank you Morgan for being such a great team-building cheerleader of the Facebook groups you administer. Your tireless efforts were the motivation I needed during the dark days when I wanted to give up. I’m sure there are many other lurkers out there who are like me and really appreciate your positive energy. If it’s true that the good you give comes back to you even more, you will be a best-selling author some day!

In honor of checking the “Publish a novel” box off my bucket list, I’m donating part of the proceeds of Death by Dissertation to a nonprofit that will buy books for classrooms with deaf and hard of hearing children.

Please help me promote early literacy by ordering the book before May 10th. Also I’m offering a fun “Afternoon of Reading Getaway” package and I’d love for you to enter the contest and share the link with your mystery-loving friends.

Thanks for having me, Morgan!

Awww! Thanks. Knowing how much a little support helps me, I’m always glad when I can give others the encouragement they need.



Check Kelly out on your favorite social media.


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