This month, Iâ€™m thrilled to welcome the debut author of TRESSED TO KILL: The
Southern Beauty Shop Mysteries, Lila Dare.
Tapping into the sassy and brassy attributes of the southern belles of St.
Elizabeth, Georgia, Dare introduces readers to a lively cast of gals who donâ€™t
let a little thing like murder keep them from looking good!
Life in a small Southern town like St. Elizabeth, Georgia can be slow and lazy
as a summer breeze, but it can also be as hot and exciting as a summer storm
when a murderer is on the loose!
Grace Tenhune has returned home to work in her motherâ€™s beauty shop, just when
the town diva Constance Dubois is threatening to close Violettaâ€™s down. All
over a tiny little thing like bright orange highlights. But when Constance is
found stabbed to death, the police seem to think Graceâ€™s momma is the culprit.
Well, Grace ainâ€™t having none of that, and with the help of her co-workers at
the salon, and handsome Georgia Bureau of Investigation detective John Dillon,
she soon begins to trim the list of suspects like a good shag haircut.
Lila Dareâ€™s TRESSED TO
KILL is a full of Southern charm and spunk, and will be a delight for cozy
mystery fans to enjoy.
I was pleased to have Lila sit down for a few questions in the midst of the
excitement of releasing a new book!
Sharon: At what age did you know that you wanted to be a writer?
I have always written, from the time I was old enough to make up
stories about Viking princesses and horses. I completed my first novel-length
manuscript (a romance) for a college creative writing course and actually got
some encouraging rejections from Silhouette and Harlequin, only I was too
ignorant about the business to recognize them as positive. (It may sound like
an oxymoron, but there are such things as a â€śpositive rejection.â€ť) I wrote
three more books before getting marriedâ€”a Regency romance and two mysteriesâ€”and
then let my writing take a back seat to career, marriage and children until
about five years ago.
Sharon: How did you get interested in writing "cozy" mysteries? What
appealed to you about the genre of cozy mysteries as opposed to hardcore
mysteries or suspense stories?
Lila: After I had my two daughters (now 10 and 12), I found I couldnâ€™t
stomach serial killer mysteries or suspense novels/thrillers with a high level
of violence anymore. I donâ€™t know why becoming a mother made me more uneasy
about violence, but it did. (It also made me more nervous about flying, but
thatâ€™s a different interview.) I found myself more drawn to traditional
mysteries where the puzzle of whodunit and the relationships between the series
characters were paramount. I also enjoy a lot of humor in my mysteries, so
cozies/traditional seemed like a perfect fit when I began writing full time.
Sharon: What inspired the Southern Beauty Shop theme of your series?
Lila: I was born in Georgia and have lived in Alabama , Mississippi ,
and Virginia . The pace of life in the Deep South â€”not the big cities, so much,
but in the towns and rural areasâ€”seems slower somehow, with family and friends
having a high priority. I wanted that kind of atmosphere for my series. Also,
thereâ€™s something about the climate and the geography of the South, not to
mention the historical context of antebellum plantations, the Civil War, and
southern belles, that makes a rich and appealing backdrop for a series. As an
added bonus, I like re-connecting with my childhood and relatives when I return
to Georgia for research trips.
Sharon: Your main character Grace is a beautician along with her mother -
where did you gather your inspiration for these characters?
Lila: Iâ€™ve never been a hair stylist, but Iâ€™ve spent plenty of time in a
salon chair! My inspiration came from all the talented and talkative stylists
who have kept my hair looking good through the years and have happily helped me
re-invent my look when I wanted to try something new. The mother-daughter
relationship between Violetta Terhune and her daughter Grace is more timeless,
I think, and transcends the beauty parlor. Most of us mothers and daughters
have struggled with the relationship from time to time but still find great joy
in it. Iâ€™m hoping thatâ€™s what readers see in this series.
Sharon: With more and more series coming out in the cozy genre, do you
see the competition for readership becoming more fierce? What do you do to keep
your readers coming back for more?
Lila: Cozy lovers, luckily, are voracious readers, so I donâ€™t see more
series as a problem. The ones that hit a chord with readers will survive and
the others will fade away. I think having a well-plotted mystery is key to
retaining readers, as is creating characters that readers relate to. I read
some mystery series not so much for the plot-du-jour as to find out whatâ€™s
going on in the lives of characters Iâ€™ve grown attached to. Characters that
people relate to, who have real problems and career issues and relationship ups
and downs are so important. Thatâ€™s what I like to read and thatâ€™s what I try to
Sharon: The cover art on your books is just gorgeous - very eye-
catching! Who does the artwork for each book, and are you consulted as to how
it will look?
Lila: Annette Fiore DeFex designed the cover and Brandon Dorman was the
artist. Berkley coordinates all that with their in-house and contract artists.
They very graciously asked my opinion before designing the cover and I sent
some suggestions, but relied on them to get it right since theyâ€™re the experts.
I agree with you that they did a fabulous job.
Sharon: Who are some of your favorite authors? Who inspires you?
Lila: I hate this question because I have so many authors I enjoy and
admire that naming just a few is impossible. Here are some (in no particular
Riordan, Jayne Anne
Liss, Sue Grafton,
Louise Penny. The
list could go on and on. I read 2-3 books a week and try to mix it up, reading
a variety of mystery, suspense, thriller, mainstream and womenâ€™s fiction.
Anyone who tries to lead an ethical life, who perseveres in the face of
rejection and difficulty, inspires me, but Iâ€™ll name Stephen King as a writing
role model. His book On
Writing not only helped me improve my craft, it made me laugh out loud
and provided me the 2,000 words per day framework that I use when writing a
Sharon: What do you have coming up in the future?
The next two books in the Southern Beauty Shop series, POLISHED OFF
and A DEADLY SHADE are written and awaiting my editorâ€™s tender
ministrations. My first book as Laura DiSilverio, SWIFT JUSTICE, comes out from St. Martinâ€™s Minotaur this October.
Itâ€™s the start of a humorous PI series. Iâ€™m currently working on the first book
in my Mall Cop series for Berkley, DIE BUYING, and will start the
first in my Ballroom Dance mysteries, QUICKSTEP TO MURDER, this
summer. Sometimes it feels like Iâ€™m surgically joined to my computer keyboard,
but I love every minute I spend writing and feel blessed to be able to make my
living doing something Iâ€™m passionate about.
Sharon: What advice would you have for anyone wanting to break into
the "cozy mystery" genre?
Lila: I have the same advice for writers who want to write traditional
mysteries as I do for other writers: Write what you want to write and worry
about categorizing it later. Donâ€™t take up roof thatching or puppet making just
because you think theyâ€™re good â€śhooksâ€ť for cozy series and havenâ€™t been done to
death. Write whatâ€™s in your heart, what youâ€™re passionate about, and tinker
with the language and levels of sex/violence when youâ€™re done, if you want to
target the traditional market. Read and analyze lots and lots of cozies
(especially mine). :-)
Many thanks to Lila
Dare for stopping by the Cozy Corner and sharing her love of writing with
us! Check out her website at www.liladare.com for more information on her books and
Be sure to come back next month for my interview with Sara Rosett, author of
the â€śEllie Avery Mysteryâ€ť series. Until then, happy reading yaâ€™ll!
1 comment posted.
Thank you for our introduction to Lila Dare this month. I enjoy how these southern belles can speak so gentel yet be sharp as a tack with their observations.
(Susan Lathen 3:00am May 31, 2010)