Tina Kashian is an attorney and a former mechanical engineer whose love of reading for pleasure helped her get through years of academia. She is the author of the Kebab Kitchen Mediterranean cozy mystery series. Tina spent her childhood summers at the Jersey shore building sandcastles, boogie boarding, and riding the boardwalk Ferris wheel. She also grew up in the restaurant business, as her Armenian parents owned a restaurant for thirty years. Tina still lives in New Jersey with her supportive husband and two young daughters. Please visit her website at www.tinakashian.com to join her newsletter, receive delicious recipes, enter contests, and more!
First, I’d like to thank you for having me on your site. I’m happy to be here!
How did you become interested in writing fiction?
My love of writing started with my love of reading. I read everything as a teen from the Nancy Drew mysteries to Agatha Christie to romance novels. I used tape to hold my peeling laminated library card together. I spent many nights reading in bed well past midnight to finish a book, only to start another. I know my mom was aggravated waking up a tired teenager every morning.
I wrote my first book when I was sixteen. I remember typing furiously on the family computer, only to get frustrated when I was interrupted by one of my siblings. That book will never see the light of day, but it was a true learning experience.
Since then, I obtained law and mechanical engineering degrees. My love of reading fiction helped me get through the tough years of academia. And always, spinning in my mind during my lunch hour and my long commutes, were untold stories that I yearned to write about. I started writing books, only to be pulled away by work and family, but I kept trudging forward, learning as I wrote. Getting published was a dream come true.
You are an attorney and have worked as Deputy Attorney General for New Jersey. You’ve also worked as a mechanical engineer, which seems very different from being an attorney. How did you end up doing two such disparate careers?
My father was a mechanical engineer before he ended up opening our family restaurant. I used to spend hours in the garage with him tinkering on things. Most engineers do not like to write, but I was the exception. I loved to read and write stories. When I was in engineering school, a patent attorney came to speak with the students. He sparked my interest in combining the two degrees.
Has your law career helped with your plots in your books?
Of course, I’ve had a few interesting cases cross my desk. The saying that “truth is stranger than fiction” is definitely accurate!
You spent your years growing up working in all areas of your parents’ Armenian restaurant. What details of the restaurant business have given you something to contribute to your books?
My Kebab Kitchen series is set in a Mediterranean restaurant at the Jersey shore. I grew up in the family business. My Armenian parents owned a restaurant for thirty years. I rolled silverware in napkins as a kid, then waitressed and hostessed as a teen. The tips paid for my prom gown. I didn’t have to research the restaurant business because I lived it. I also grew up vacationing at the Jersey shore and still take my kids there every summer.
Your series is called the Kebab Kitchen Mystery Series. I have read many culinary cozy mysteries, but this is the first I’ve seen set in a Mediterranean restaurant. What influenced you to select this setting?
I’m of Armenian descent. I also have a Lebanese aunt. Our family restaurant served American cuisine, as well as Armenian and Mediterranean food. My mother was a talented Mediterranean chef and the grapevine in our backyard was prized more than any rosebush. She taught me how to cook. Writing my Kebab Kitchen Mystery series came naturally to me and it was fun to write.
Your series is set in Jersey Shore. What made you decide to set it there?
Our family restaurant wasn’t far from the Jersey Shore and I vacationed there every summer as a kid. I have many fond memories of building sandcastles on the beach, boogie boarding in the ocean, and riding the boardwalk Ferris wheel. When I envisioned my series, I knew I wanted to set it at the Jersey Shore.
Your first book, Hummus and Homicide, is recognized as being multicultural. I’ve noticed that not many cozy mysteries include different cultures. Tell us about the cultures in the book and your own experience with multiculturalism.
Diversity in books is fun! I also realize there aren’t enough diverse, multicultural books. The sleuth in my Kebab Kitchen series, Lucy Berberian, is Armenian, Lebanese, and Greek. Readers have emailed me saying they like the unique background of my characters, and I know it added a layer of intrigue and interest to my mysteries.
As for my own experiences with multiculturalism, I was raised in a traditional Armenian family and had Lebanese relatives. I also attended public school. It wasn’t always fun as a teenager to have an eccentric, ethnic family, but I’ve grown to value my roots and my own colorful cast of family members. In contrast, my husband’s family can trace their roots back to the Mayflower. We have two young daughters who have the best of both worlds, and yes, they both know how to make hummus and baklava and like them.
Your second book, Stabbed in the Baklava, comes out August 28. What is in store for that book?
Stabbed in the Baklava was such a fun book to write! It combined all my loves: my character’s diverse and eccentric family, the Jersey shore, and a celebrity wedding. Who doesn’t love weddings? Here’s a quick description about the book:
When Kebab Kitchen caters a celebrity wedding at the Jersey Shore, Lucy Berberian doesn’t expect the best man to be skewered to death like a shish kebab. Lucy’s head chef may have killer looks, but he’s no murderer. Can she prove his innocence before he has to go on the lamb?
You feature recipes in your books. Where do they come from? Are they your own family recipes?
Yes. Almost all are family recipes. Others come from recipes I’ve gathered from ethnic cookbooks or have developed on my own in the kitchen. I love to cook. Can’t you tell?
What authors have most influenced your writing career?
Too many to list. I’d say my true love of mysteries started when I read And Then There Were None (Ten Little Indians) by Agatha Christie. I also have fond memories of watching Murder She Wrote episodes with my mother. Sadly, my mom passed away, but watching these reruns makes me remember the good times we spent together.
Thanks for having me!
Here’s the back blurb of Stabbed in the Baklava which will be released on August 28, 2018:
Lucy Berberian has taken over her family’s Mediterranean restaurant on the Jersey Shore after an unsatisfying stint at a Philadelphia law firm. It’s great to be back in her old beach town, even if she’s turning into a seasoned sleuth.
Catering a high-society wedding should bring in some big income for Kebab Kitchen—and raise its profile too. But it’s not exactly good publicity when the best man winds up skewered like a shish kebab. Worse yet, Lucy’s ex, Azad—who’s the restaurant’s new head chef—is the prime suspect. But she doesn’t give a fig what the cops think. He may have killer looks, but he’s no murderer. She just needs to prove his innocence, before he has to go on the lamb . . .
Recipes included! “A delectable read.”
—Bestselling author Shelley Freydont