The Story Behind The Story

Burlap to Cashmere was an alternative Christian rock/folk band that topped the charts and toured with the big guns like Jars of Clay in the 90’s. Then they dropped out of sight. I was thrilled to see them back three years ago at a festival and fell in love with their music all over again. When I got home read up on why they had stopped touring and recording. They had been overbooked and exhausted. While recording their come-back album they had a major setback. Johnny Philippidis, the cousin to the lead singer Stephen, was in a car accident where he was also assaulted. Johnny ended up in a coma and it was questionable if he’d ever play guitar again if he came out of it. He recovered and his guitar playing is mesmerizing.

I was inspired to write a story Feta & Freeways which is book three in the series about the lead singer, who I really don’t know, only that his heritage is Greek. I changed his name from Steven Delopoulos to Nikolos Acton. I moved the band from New Jersey to Milwaukee and gave him a sweet gal, Tia, to fall in love with. Because Johnny, the cousin of that character was the one in real life who had some challenges, his journey he gets his own story in, Root Beer & Roadblocks. He doesn’t have a car accident or get beat up, but he does face serious struggles. I couldn’t change his first name though. He remains Johnny (but with the last name Marshall). When I told the real live Niko (Steven) he smiled and said “You don’t mess with Shakespeare.” Wish I’d had that line to use when writing the books!

While both books are romances, I think the most fun was writing the relationship between these two men. Cousins, friends and bandmates, they have a close bond and that was fun to explore. Makes me wonder how close I might have come to the real-life people who inspired me. Maybe someday I’ll get a chance to ask.

I really should be too old now to be fangirling over musicians. I guess you could say that this is a little bit of fan fiction inspired by real life people and events. The real Stephen and Johnny know about the stories. I can’t tell anymore if I’m in love with their music now because it’s so great (it really is) or simply because I adore the characters so much.

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Susan M. Baganz chases after three Hobbits and is a native of Wisconsin. Feta & Freeways is book three in her Orchard Hill Romance series. It is a stand-alone novel but Pesto & Potholes and Salsa & Speed Bumps are its predecessors. Root Beer & Roadblocks releases early 2017. You can learn more by following Susan’s Silygoos blog and or her fan page, She can be found on twitter @susanbaganz or

Back cover:
When God strips away all your hopes and dreams could you trust Him to give you something better?

Johnny Marshall’s cancer is back . . . and so is the girl who broke his heart seven years ago. As Johnny struggles to find the will to live and fights his second round with the disease, he finds hope comes in small packages with an energetic little boy named David.

Years ago, Katie abandoned the one man she ever loved, having bought into her parents’ narrow views of finding a man worthy of her. In all those years, no one ever compared to Johnny. Now as a single mom of a young boy, she wonders if their reunion right on time or is it too late for a future together?

Excerpt from the story:
Johnny jogged to his car and grabbed his Bible. Fatigue weighed him down as he locked the sedan, the book tucked under his arm. Heading back toward the church, a movement caught his attention. A little boy from his Sunday school classroom escaped his mother’s grasp and bolted his way, blind to a car backing out of its spot.
“David, stop!” Johnny bolted and managed to get behind the moving vehicle to shove the child out of the way. The rear bumper struck his own leg and knocked him to the ground.
The car’s wheels stopped just short of running him over. Thank you, Lord, for big tank cars with huge trunks. The child cried, and a woman picked up the boy. “It’s OK, David, you’ve only scraped your palms. This nice man saved you. How many times must I tell you not to run in parking lots? You are too small for cars to see you.” She hugged the little boy tight.
Johnny dragged his legs out from under the car and struggled to his feet, bracing himself against the trunk to catch his breath. The elderly woman, who had been behind the wheel, toddled around to him. “Are you OK? I’m sorry. I didn’t see him. You moved so fast.”
Johnny nodded. “No one would have seen him. It was an accident.” He patted her on the shoulder before he limped across the parking lot. Pain seared through his hip and leg with every step he took. Reaching the curb, he sank down to the cement, thankful it was clear of snow.
His cousin Niko ran out of the church and knelt by his side. “Johnny, what happened?”
“He rescued my son from getting run over by a car that was backing out. He took the hit.” A woman wearing a stocking cap and winter coat came up behind Niko with the weepy boy in her arms rubbing his eyes.
Johnny shrugged. “What she said.”
“You OK? Do we need to call an ambulance?” Niko’s gaze bore into him. The greater unspoken question loomed.
Teeth gritted in pain, Johnny returned his cousin’s stare. “I want to sit through worship. You’re on stage in a few minutes. Help me inside. I have an appointment with my doctor tomorrow. It can wait until then.” He motioned for Niko to help him rise, and he did. The older woman came up to him and handed him a piece of paper.
“Here is my name, phone, and insurance information. Do you want to call the police and file a report? I wouldn’t blame you if you did.” Her arthritic, wrinkled hands were clenched tightly together as if in petition for mercy.
“I doubt that’s necessary. Thank you, May.” He took the paper and shoved it in his shirt pocket. David’s mom passed him his Bible, which he’d dropped. The leather was brushed clean.
“Are you sure you’re OK? I’m a nurse. I could take a look.” Her face instantly turned three shades of red as she realized her inspection would involve him taking off his jeans.
Johnny smiled and leaned forward. “In my younger days, that would have been an offer too good to pass up, but I visit my doctor tomorrow. It’ll wait.” He turned to Niko. “Help me in?” Niko frowned but walked along with him to the sanctuary and helped him settle into a cushioned seat. Then, Niko went to lead the worship band

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