MLC: Do you remember the first mystery you ever read? If so, what was it, and what pulled you into it?
AUTHOR: I started out reading Nancy Drew books, expanded to Judy Bolton and Cherry Ames. I loved the secret passageways, hidden tunnels, nosy heroines and friends. From there I slid into romantic suspense with Victoria Holt, Mary Stewart, and Phyllis Whitney. It was a natural to pick up female amateur sleuth stories once the genre became popular, and that’s what I’m still reading.
MLC: When did you first decide you wanted to write a mystery, and what led you to that decision?
AUTHOR: I started out writing romance novels and ended up putting mysteries into the stories. I liked plotting them so much that I decided to write a straight mystery.
MLC: Do you write in any other genres? If so, which ones?
AUTHOR: I still favor futuristic romance, combining the science fiction and romance genres. You can put mysteries into these stories as well, and that actually enhances them.
MLC: Which comes first for you, the plot or the characters?
AUTHOR: They sort of evolve together. I’ll start out with the victim and then figure out who has the most to gain from this person’s death. This leads me to develop the other suspects. At this point, I’ll give them each a motive and secrets. Then I can write my synopsis. I don’t delve into the criminal mind in my stories. I’m more interested in the relationships among the different characters.
MLC: When you are all wrapped up in the story, do you feel like you could solve the crime, or maybe even solve all the world’s mysteries?
AUTHOR: Never! I’m much more of a coward than my heroine. Just reading the newspaper upsets me. That’s why I won’t read true crime, dark romantic suspense, or watch the forensic shows on television. I like mysteries that are light, funny, and have a happy ending. It’s escapism. I know I can’t solve the world’s mysteries, maybe no one can. But we can escape for a few hours into another world where justice is done.
MLC: Do you write every day, or what kind of a schedule do you have? Do you write fulltime, or do you have a “day job”?
AUTHOR: Yes, I write full-time. I set myself a goal of one chapter per week. As long as I meet that goal, it doesn’t matter how many days I work. The rest of the time is taken up with promotional activities. That can be a real time sink.
MLC: Other than your writing, what do you enjoy doing? What is the most important thing to you in your day-to-day life?
AUTHOR: Taking walks, meeting friends for lunch, reading, watching my favorite TV shows. I always seem to have so much going on that there’s not enough time to do everything on my mental lists.
MLC: Who are your favorite mystery authors? Do you try to emulate them in your own writing?
AUTHOR: Jill Churchill is the author who first inspired me to write my own humorous mystery. I still like reading about amateur sleuths because I can identify with the heroine, and fortunately, there are many authors writing in this genre today. I cannot picture myself a detective, a forensic expert, a cop, or even a PI. Therefore, I’m more apt to read about an ordinary person caught up in a lighthearted adventure.
MLC: In your present book, is this part of a series, or is it a standalone book?
AUTHOR: I write the Bad Hair Day mystery series featuring hairstylist Marla Shore. So far there are nine titles in the series, and I’m waiting to hear from my publisher if there will be more. It’s really up to them, and they rely on sales figures to make their decision.
MLC: If you are doing a series, do you see an end to it sometime, or do you plan to go on for several years with it?
AUTHOR: All good things come to an end, unfortunately. That may not be my decision. As I said above, it’s up to the publisher. If it were up to me, I still have more Marla stories to tell. This is why readers should buy an author’s latest title if they want a series to continue.
MLC: Do your characters ever drive you a bit crazy by going off in their own direction? If so, how do you rein them in, or do you just let them run off on their own?
AUTHOR: If a character is taking a new direction, I say, go for it! If I’m surprised, so will the reader be, and that makes for a more exciting book.
MLC: Do you pattern your sleuths after yourself or someone you know? If so, do you let that person know they were your “pattern”?
AUTHOR: My sleuth is very close to me in many respects. We share a value system, ethnic background, and probably our world outlook, although she’s a lot braver and can stay up later at night!
MLC: How long did it take you to get published? How many rejections did you have to suffer through first? Were you ever tempted to give up? What do you think made the difference when it was accepted?
AUTHOR: I wrote six books before one sold. The book that sold was my first futuristic romance and it won the HOLT Medallion Award. I love Star Trek and Star Wars and used that influence in my futuristic trilogy. When I decided to write a mystery series, the first three books sold within six months. I still get tempted to give up, when the promotional duties become overwhelming, but all I have to do is get messages from fans about how much my books mean to them, and it inspires me to keep writing. So you see, dear readers, your notes to us authors are much appreciated!
MLC: Do you ever attend any conferences? If so, which ones?
AUTHOR: I alternate between Malice Domestic and Romantic Times. Some years I’ll attend RWA National or Bouchercon. I’m always at Florida Romance Writers Fun-in-the-Sun and SleuthFest, sponsored by the FL chapter of MWA.
MLC: Do you have to promote your own work, or does your publisher do that for you?
AUTHOR: I do all my own promotion. I WISH my publisher would do more.
MLC: If you have to do marketing, what methods have worked the best for you?
AUTHOR: Sending targeted postcards to readers, packets of bookmarks for booksellers to pass out in their stores, e-mail newsletters, web site, and blog. You never feel as though you’re doing enough. That’s a large part of the pressure.
MLC: Do you have any idea how your book is selling?
AUTHOR: I think they’re doing really well. DEAD ROOTS, my last December release, was out of stock at Kensington by April.
MLC: What has been the best review you have gotten, and why?
AUTHOR: I’ve been lucky to get some really good reviews. Some hold more weight than others, like Publisher’s Weekly. But I’m grateful to anyone who is supportive.
MLC: Have you won any awards, either as an author or for your books? Please tell us about them.
AUTHOR: As I mentioned
earlier, I won the HOLT Medallion for CIRCLE
OF LIGHT, my first published novel. You can
still buy a trade paperback version through
the online bookstores. This book is special
to me, especially because it was inspired by
a dream and is like my own personal fantasy
coming true. As for mysteries, several titles
have made the Independent Southern
Booksellers Association (IMBA)
MLC: Is there any one certain thing that a reader has written to you that made you just want to jump up and shout “Yes!!!!”?
AUTHOR: I love reader mail and have gotten some very touching letters. I save them all in notebooks, even the emails. Too many to mention but here’s a few: a person inspired to become a hairdresser from reading my stories; hairstylists who’ve written to me about how accurate my books sound regarding their profession; the woman sorting through her dead mother’s belongings and finding my stories; the business professionals for whom my books provide hours of pleasurable escape from life’s strife; and so on.
MLC: What is your next project, and when will it be out?
AUTHOR: PERISH BY PEDICURE is the eighth book in my series and is due out this December. CREW CUT, where Marla and family go on their first Caribbean cruise, comes out in Dec. 2007.
MLC: If you could write anything at all, ignoring what editors and publishers say they want, what would it be?
AUTHOR: I’d finish the science fiction romance I’ve started. I’m halfway through and feel that my characters need me to complete their story.
MLC: Do you have any words of wisdom for aspiring mystery authors?
AUTHOR: Never give up, Never surrender. Remember your P’s: Persistence, Professionalism, and Perseverance.
MLC: Do you have any teasers for your readers and fans about the next book?
Klausner’s review says it all:
“Hair salon owner and stylist Marla Shore is not having an easy week. Her fiancÚ’s in-laws from his dead wife are coming to town to stay in her home to check her out and insure she is right for being the stepmother of their granddaughter Brianna. She is also working for Luxor Products as an assistant hair stylist at the Supreme Shows Conference. Marla hopes to gain experience, a better job, and an avenue to visit places she dreams of seeing.
When Marla arrives at the convention center, she meets Luxor director Christine Parker, but notices that all of the employees seem openly to despise the head honcho. When an anonymous person sends Christine a drink, she takes some and soon feels ill. The next day she is dead, a victim of poison. Marla turns sleuth, but fails to uncover the culprit before another homicide occurs.
Nancy J. Cohen has written a cleverly constructed and entertaining murder mystery starring a likable heroine who knows better, but cannot stop herself from sleuthing. In this case, the victim is so vile that a horde seems to have wanted her dead making motivation difficult to use as a means of weeding out the killer. PERISH BY PEDICURE is filled with hair splitting humor, unexpected nail biting twists, and a bad hair week caused by future in-laws while Marla cuts to the roots of the case.”
MLC: If a genie suddenly appeared and said they would grant you just one wish for your books, what would you wish for?
AUTHOR: A very lucrative movie contract! Or better still, a TV series!
MLC: Please give us your website url and your email address where people can contact you.
MLC: Thank you so much for giving us a little glimpse into your books and your life. We look forward to a lot more books from you.
AUTHOR: Thank you for your interest!