Please contact E. B. Davis at for information on guest blogs and interviews. Interviews for July: (7/6) Jennifer J. Chow (7/13) Meri Allen/Shari Randall (Book 1--Ice Cream Shop Mystery), (7/20) Susan Van Kirk, (7/27) Meri Allen/Shari Randall (Book 2--Ice Cream Shop Mystery).

Wednesday, August 22, 2018

An Interview With Joyce Tremel

by Grace Topping

It’s August and nothing appeals to me more than lying in a hammock with a cold drink and a good mystery. When that book includes characters brewing beer, it has me longing for a brew stronger than ice tea. Joyce Tremel’s A Brewing Trouble Mystery series introduces us to the world of brew pubs in Pittsburgh, a place made rich in beer selections thanks to immigrants to that area from countries renowned for their beers. Stir in a bit of murder and a dash of international spy intrigue into the mash, and you have the makings for a read perfect for a hot summer day. Joyce in her latest book, A Room With a Brew, adds an Oktoberfest celebration. What could be better?

A Room With a Brew

It's Oktoberfest in Pittsburgh, and brew pub owner Maxine "Max" O'Hara is prepping for a busy month at the Allegheny Brew House. To create the perfect atmosphere for the boozy celebration, Max hires an oompah band. But when one of the members from the band turns up dead, it's up to Max to solve the murder before the festivities are ruined. 

Adding to the brewing trouble, Candy, Max's friend, is acting suspicious... Secrets from her past are fermenting under the surface, and Max must uncover the truth to prove her friend's innocence. To make matters worse, Jake's snooty ex-fiancée shows up in town for an art gallery opening, and she'll be nothing but a barrel of trouble for Max.

Welcome, Joyce, to Writers Who Kill.

In A Room With a Brew, Maxine “Max” O’Hara owns and operates a brew pub, creating a variety of beers. Before you started your series, did you know anything about brewing beer or running a brew pub?

Joyce Tremel
Other than drinking it, no! I made friends with a couple brewers who were very helpful answering questions about the brewing process and the best ways to kill someone in a brewery. I even helped keg beer one day—it was fun!

Writing about brewing beer must have required lots of visits to brew pubs and beer sampling. It’s tough, but someone has to do it. How did you go about your research?

I drink a lot, lol. Like I mentioned above, the brewers I met were very helpful. There’s a lot of stuff online as well. 

Do you have a favorite brew?

It’s hard to pick one. I like hefeweizens—a wheat beer that has a hint of a banana flavor due to the strain of yeast used. I also like brown ales, and you can’t beat a good stout or porter. Even if you’re not a beer drinker, try a chocolate stout. There’s a brewery in Pittsburgh that brews a chocolate raspberry stout. Yummy.

What inspired you write mysteries, especially ones featuring beer?

I’ve loved mysteries since I picked up my first Nancy Drew book. I’ve always liked to write, so it came naturally to me. The beer idea came about because I wanted a hook that no one had used before in a cozy mystery. I’m pretty sure I was drinking a beer at the time.

Did your years as a police secretary help you in writing about the crimes in your books?

Sort of. It makes researching procedures easier, although I do still have to check to make sure everything is current—that a procedure hasn’t changed over the years. I was in a suburban police department, which is different than one in a small town or a big city, so I still have to research those a bit. 

It’s often said that setting or location can be another character in a book. This is definitely the case with your setting in Pittsburgh. You write so authentically about Pittsburgh that it makes me want to visit. What is it about Pittsburgh that you find so appealing?

I’ve lived in the Pittsburgh area all my life, so I know it well. It’s gone through so many changes over the years. Some people still think it’s a smoky cesspool, which can’t be further from the truth. It’s a high-tech, growing city and the universities and medical centers are some of the best in the world. I also like the fact that each neighborhood is like its own small town. That was one reason I set the series in the Lawrenceville neighborhood. It’s a very close-knit community. And full of brew pubs!

Are any of the businesses you mention in your books, actual places?

No. I’ve had some people say they wish they were! I invented an entire block and plopped it down right in the middle of the very real Butler Street. Some places, like Most Holy Name Church and St. Anthony’s Chapel, the Pittsburgh Zoo, Allegheny Cemetery, etc., are actual places. 

In A Room With a Brew,you created a bit of a bridge between a cozy mystery and an intriguing spy thriller. What inspired this storyline?

Good question! I had hinted about Candy’s background in the first two books and I wanted to at least wrap up that storyline in case it was the last book in the series. I hate it when authors leave us hanging! I researched what was going on in the world at the time Candy would have been in her twenties and used that. I’d say more, but I don’t want to give it away for anyone who hasn’t read the series.

Your character Candy illustrates that we don’t always know the people around us as well as we think we do. That people often have things in their backgrounds they don’t want revealed—for whatever reason. Should that make us more cautious when making friends?

I don’t think so. Everyone has secrets—some good, some bad. 

Max talks about being cautioned by the nuns to be careful about what she did so that her actions didn’t get recorded in her permanent record. Lots of us were probably kept in line because of our fear of that permanent record. At what point does Max discover that there isn’t such a thing? Or is she still guided by it?

That was my twelve years of Catholic school talking, lol. I don’t think Max will get over that anytime soon. I’ve often thought that the good sisters should be in charge of everything. People would be so much better behaved!

Max’s love interest, Jake, works for her as a chef at the brew pub. Does having him as an employee create any problems for Max?

At first she was afraid it would, but they make a good team. 

Many cozy writers today are writing multiple series. Any plans to add another series?

My agent has two proposals on submission—one set in a cider house, and one set at a small town newspaper in the 1940s.  I’m working on another proposal that I’m keeping secret at the moment. 

What’s next for Max O’Hara?

Unfortunately, Max is in Limbo at the moment. The publisher didn’t offer to extend the series. My agent is looking into another publisher possibly picking it up, so we’ll see what happens. I’d love to write more. I have part of a fourth book written (I kill off a drunk Santa), and have ideas for two more after that.

Thank you, Joyce.

To learn more about Joyce and her Brewing Trouble Mystery series, visit

The Brewing Trouble Mystery series is available at most independent and chain bookstores as well as online outlets.

Bio: Joyce is a native Pittsburgher, has two grown sons, and lives in the beautiful Laurel Highlands east of Pittsburgh with her husband. When coming up with the idea for this series, she thought her big city with the small town feel would be the perfect setting for Max's brew pub. She hopes "yinz" guys agree! 


Margaret S. Hamilton said...

congratulations on your latest release! Cincinnati celebrates its strong German tradition with Oktoberfest, including the Hudepohl 14K road race in the old brewery district. Participation trophy is, of course, a beer glass, and beer and brats are served at the finish line.

Warren Bull said...

Your books should be popular here in Portland, Oregon.

Kait said...

What a delightful sounding series - I hope it does get picked up. My TBR groans, I find I am unable to resist the hook of finding out all about Candy! Naturally, I will have to start at the very beginning.

Grace Topping said...

Thanks, Joyce, for joining us today at Writers Who Kill. Good luck with your proposed series, and I hope we will eventually see more of your brew pub series.

Joyce Tremel said...

Thanks, everyone. Sorry I didn't stop by sooner. It's been a hectic day!

Shari Randall said...

This sounds like so much fun. Thank you for stopping by, Joyce!

Annette said...

Hey, Joyce! Hectic day here too, or I'd have popped in earlier to say hi! You know how much I love this series. I'm really bummed it didn't get picked up. I want to read the Santa Claus one!!!