Sunday, December 16, 2012

Fast Five Author Interview: Larissa Hoffman Reinhart

Today my guest is Larissa Hoffman Reinhart, author of PORTRAIT OF A DEAD GUY.
Larissa considers herself lucky to have taught English in Japan, escaped a ferocious monkey in Thailand, studied archaeology in Egypt, and survived teaching high school history in the US. 

Please join me in welcoming Larissa this morning.

FAST FIVE: Ohayo gozaimasu, Larissa. Irasshaimase. Rather than the 140 characters we’ve grown accustomed to on Twitter, can you share with us a more detailed account of the novel and your research for PORTRAIT OF A DEAD GUY?
LARISSA HOFFMAN REINHART: In tiny Halo, Georgia, everyone knows Cherry Tucker. She’s small, fierce, and loud. She’s also a talented artist. When the well-heeled Branson family wants to memorialize their murdered son in a coffin portrait, Cherry scrambles to win their patronage from her small town rival. Her rival wants to ruin Cherry’s reputation, and Cherry finds someone is also setting her up for a fall.
In a town where it seems impossible to have skeletons, Cherry finds some people have more to hide than others. Particularly the victim’s stepbrother, Cherry’s old flame, who is back in town after his stint in the army. He’s interested in Cherry, but she can’t tell if his interest is sincere or a ruse to learn more about the murder. Either way, she’s not eager to add more personal conflict in her life. She has a flaky family, issues with a goat, and a sort-of ex-husband she can’t shake. On top of this, she’s outraged to find an underground gambling ring run by a recent immigrant in her hometown. Cherry seeks justice and to clear her name while trying to get a portrait finished on time.
I have an art history and art background, so I enjoyed the research on portraiture and reacquainting myself with some of the art techniques. I grew up in a small town, so much of that life is well known to me. Most of my research was done on vehicles, goats, and guns. Which is pretty fun research, in my opinion.
FAST FIVE: Your comments about the goats and Cherry's “sort-of ex-husband” are sure to make any curious reader want to find out more about your protagonist. Is “the job” the most important part of your protagonist’s life?

LARISSA HOFFMAN REINHART: Cherry Tucker’s creativity is an essential part of her personality and that’s what makes her a good artist. She’s also ornery, stubborn, and a smart mouth. Combine that with a tenacious loyalty toward her family and hometown. However, her sense of duty and need for justice melds with this tangential creative thinking and sometimes outweighs common sense. Like thinking she can outsmart a killer. 

FAST FIVE: The Mystery/Suspense genre is the focus of Fast Five interviews, but what unique twist makes your novel stand out? 

LARISSA HOFFMAN REINHART:I believe readers would say the humor and the language makes this mystery stand out. I’m a character driven writer. I enjoy taking the plot down interesting roads, but I gain the most pleasure in creating memorable characters and putting them in odd circumstances. And the characters are Southern, so some readers would say they talk a little funny.

FAST FIVE: How does your main character’s profession draw her into suspenseful situations, (murder, for instance?) 

LARISSA HOFFMAN REINHART: Cherry Tucker is a portrait artist, struggling to live on an artist’s income in her small, Southern hometown. Her desperation drives her toward this odd portrait of a murdered man and leads her closer to the killer in this story. Her artist profession brings her into contact with a variety of people, but it’s her personality that gets her involved in murder. 

FAST FIVE: Is this book part of a series, and are you working on a sequel? 

LARISSA HOFFMAN REINHART: PORTRAIT OF A DEAD GUY is the first book in the Cherry Tucker Mystery series. I have written the sequel and if all goes well it should be out in the spring.

FAST FIVE: This isn’t a Fast Five question, more an “if/then” scenario: If Paris is not an option, then where would you most like to spend your time writing and why.

LARISSA HOFFMAN REINHART: Why isn’t Paris an option? Paris should always be an option. Or are you suggesting you’re not footing the bill to Paris? My laptop travels well. And I write better without internet access. So Paris sounds pretty good. Or my local coffee shop, which does not have wireless access. We used to live in Japan which also does not have a lot of wireless hot spots. I got a lot of writing done there, too! 

Thank you for visiting today, Larissa, and having fun with the FAST FIVE questions. I agree that Paris should always be an option!

Where readers can follow you:
 
My website is www.larissareinhart.com, but I’m very chatty on Facebook www.facebook.com/RisWrites) and Twitter (@RisWrites).
I’m also on Pinterest under Larissa Reinhart and Cherry Tucker1 and Goodreads.
And my friends and I do a book chat every Wednesday on Facebook at www.facebook.com/LittleReadHens. Join us!


 

Monday, December 10, 2012

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Talking Story with Mystery Author Sandra Nikolai



Sandra Nikolai is the author of False Impressions, a Megan Scott/Michael Elliot mystery, that one reviewer describes as “. . .a tightly plotted mystery of betrayal and revenge that kept me guessing until the end. A sparkling debut from a promising crime writer.” Sandra was born in Montreal, Québec, and earned a Bachelor of Commerce degree from McGill University. As a teen, she discovered her love of mysteries through the Nancy Drew series and was determined to write her own stories one day. Please join me in welcoming my guest today, Sandra Nikolai. 

GAIL: Thank you for joining us today for this interview, Sandra. One of many areas that intrigued me as I read your novel, False Impressions, was your portrayal of 3-Dimensional characters, especially your protagonist. Megan Scott tends to avoid conflict, preferring to reason out a situation. How do you usually deal with conflict in your life, Sandra, and did you use examples of personal experiences when writing this character trait for Megan? 

SANDRA NIKOLAI: I believe that a fair number of personal conflicts can be resolved through logic and compromise if we keep our emotions in check. The pen is mightier than the sword, as they say. This concept is reflected in Megan Scott’s outlook on life as well. As a ghostwriter who is logical and organized and works behind the scenes, my young protagonist isn’t used to conflict—especially in the physical sense. As long as everything runs smoothly, she’s okay. For the sake of the mystery novel, I dropped her into threatening situations to create internal and external conflicts, increase tension, and raise the stakes. Readers can find out more about the ordeals I put Megan through by visiting my blog and reading my interview with her. I also wanted to mention Michael Elliott, Megan’s friend and investigative reporter in the story. As one would expect, his search for the truth triggers dilemmas of a lethal kind and brings even more conflict into Megan’s life. How she deals with these conflicts ultimately decides her fate. Luckily, I never had to deal with such horrific events in my life. 

GAIL: Your debut novel, False Impressions, is set in Montreal. You live in Ottawa and graduated from McGill University in Montreal. My genealogy research took me to many websites concerning Quebec, and I had an opportunity to visit beautiful Montreal several decades ago. While I saw many sights there, one unfamiliar to me is Sunny Watering Hole, Bistro Hot Spot, Montreal, Quebec. Because Megan Scott had never heard of the place, either, I am wondering, is this an actual place or a wonderful figment of the author’s imagination? 

SANDRA NIKOLAI: Definitely a figment of my imagination! I thought I’d have a bit of fun by creating a fictitious name for a pub. I used fictitious names for several other places in and around Montreal in my story. To protect the innocent, of course. J

GAIL: One of the most frequently asked questions of authors is “Where do you get your ideas?” Answers vary, anywhere from newspaper articles to personal experiences to sheer imagination. Have you ever awakened from a dream with an idea that just had to be told, and were you able to remember enough of the details to actually write the story? 

SANDRA NIKOLAI: Ideas come to me from the three sources you mentioned, but most of the time they come from my imagination. If I draw from the news or personal experience, I’ll give the incident a twist or dramatize it to suit the scene. As for dreams, once in a while I’ll wake up the next morning with a solution to a problem I’d encountered in the story the day before. It’s one of those “Aha!” moments when all the pieces of the puzzle seem to have fallen into place while I was sleeping. If I’m sitting at my desk, struggling with a bit of prose, I’ll take a break and do something else. The change in focus often leads to an answer. If not, I’ll move on and work on another scene. A solution pops up when I least expect it. 

GAIL: When I read a novel, I look for strengths within the protagonist and imagine the backstory that led her to the point where she is capable of dealing with crisis situations. Megan Scott is suspected of murder in False Impressions. Having to deal with everything that confronts her, she also manages to focus on this accusation. Has she gained the strength to cope with disaster from events in her personal life or through the demands of her career? 

SANDRA NIKOLAI: Perhaps both. Megan is tougher than what she appears to be at first. As the story progresses, we learn she is an only child, which makes her independent. She lost her father to cancer at a young age, is helping her mother financially, and is saving money to buy a home—signs of responsibility. She works long hours, pays attention to detail, and meets stringent deadlines on the job. These habits spell resolve and diligence. When Megan learns of the murders and then becomes a prime suspect, she’s doubly astounded, but she doesn’t dwell on the gravity of the situation for long. Instead she draws on her strengths to help prove her innocence and find the real killer. She’s a survivor. 

GAIL: Research is one of the most important aspects of a writer’s work. No matter how knowledgeable the writer is, some research is inevitable. Seasoned authors (Stephen King comes to mind) may delegate this task, and one author I know says he does not farm out the research for his risqué scenes. As a debut novelist without the luxury of delegating, did you do your own research for scenes involving the Montreal nightlife, specifically the strip club Café Cleopatra? 

SANDRA NIKOLAI: I grew up in Montreal and am familiar with the nightlife there. That’s not to say I frequented the strip clubs or stood on street corners in the red light district. Heavens, I’m a wife and mother—I have a reputation to maintain! J Kidding aside, I try to ensure that my research information is as accurate as possible. I’ve taken a few liberties with names and places, but the police investigation and legalities—Canadian style—were verified through reliable sources. 

GAIL: The second novel in your mystery series, Fatal Whispers, is set in Portland, Maine. It is always fun to travel to the chosen venue of a new novel and absorb the atmosphere and outline pertinent logistics. When you sit down to record your stories, though, is there a special place where you would most like to write, such as inside your private office, on the beach, or in Rome? 

SANDRA NIKOLAI: Yes, traveling is fun! I visited Portland and knew right away that this quaint New England city would be the perfect setting for my next book. As for my special writing place, I have a home office with a lovely view of the trees outdoors. It’s a quiet place where my muse and I conspire to dream up mystery plots, create characters, and bring the guilty to justice. And I love every minute of it! 

 Where to find Sandra Nikolai on the Internet:


Book sale sites: