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Murder Mystery Series by author Tina Czarnota  
Published Articles

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Polk Authors: Mystery Set In Lake Wales

Sunday, June 10, 2001
The Ledger

For her first murder, Tina Czarnota wanted the perfect setting. She found it in Lake Wales.

Inspired by the Polk County countryside, she put her bed-and-breakfast inn on a winding back road within a whiff of orange groves. She surrounded the stately Tudor building with trees to shield it from the world.

Then she went about killing one of its first guests.

The murder is almost incidental, though. In her first novel, "Country Inn, Dead & Breakfast," Czarnota focuses her magnifying glass less on the crime than on the relationships between her characters.

There's Katrina, model tall and pretty, a 36-year-old health buff and feminist who's driven to distraction by her boyfriend's father, the chronic smoker and chauvinist Tim Versay.

Caught in their good-spirited crossfire are Versay's patient wife, Song, and son, Bruce.

The four have just opened Tudor Grove, using money the women inherited from relatives. Having their own inn is Katrina's and Song's longtime dream, and they can hardly believe it's come true.

Then Mindy Konrath checks in and, over breakfast, chokes and drops dead. It's later revealed that she was poisoned.

To make matters worse, a reporter from the local newspaper is standing there when Konrath dies.

Czarnota was thinking of the terrain around Lake Wales as she wrote her book. But she said Tudor Grove is not modeled on the historic Chalet Suzanne, at which Czarnota has stayed.

Bed-and-breakfast inns are something of a passion for the Boca Raton woman. She's been a guest at about 15, many of them in Florida.

"The proprietors are like surrogate moms and dads," she said. "It's like going home without the dysfunction, without the (complaining)."

And, she added, every old house has a past, one or more interesting stories.

Home for Czarnota was Buffalo, N.Y.; she was born and raised there. She moved to southern Florida with a couple of friends in the fall of 1980.

Now "40-something," her resume is varied: lunch wagon driver, law office receptionist, housecleaner, petsitter. But, since third grade, she's been a writer, drawn to mysteries. Her favorite detective is Agatha Christie's mustachioed Belgian sleuth, Hercule Poirot.

There's no one resembling Poirot in her own book, but some of her characters are loosely based on people in Czarnota's life. Tim Versay, the smoker, is Czarnota's father, who died of bronchitis.

Czarnota's not in the book, but she'd like to be like Katrina.

"She's got it all: She dabbled in modeling. She's tall and gorgeous. She owns a country bed and breakfast in Central Florida. What else could you want?" she asked.

Czarnota began work on "Country Inn" five or six years ago when her mother was sick with cancer. When her mother died, Czarnota threw herself into the book, writing mostly at night into the wee hours of the morning, in coffee shops and on a word processor in a small office at home.

Once finished, she sent excerpts of the manuscript to agents, publishers and movie companies, about 50 in all. 1st Books Library in Bloomington, Ind., agreed to print it.

"Country Inn, Dead and Breakfast" is available by calling 1st Books at 800-839-8640, or at The cost is $11.95, plus shipping and handling.

Czarnota has nearly finished writing her second mystery novel, called "Deadwaiter."

"Another body or two," she said. She hopes to have it out this fall. She has plans for a third book, set in a different bed-and-breakfast.

"There's only so much nonsense that can happen at one inn," she said.

Michael Gordon can be reached at or 863-802-7513.

Author Tina Czarnota
Murder Mystery Series

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