Today Dana Dratch is visiting Ascroft, eh? to tell us about her latest novel in the Red Herrings mystery series.
Welcome, Dana. Let’s get started, shall we?
Tell us about your novel. Is it part of a series? If so, please tell us about the series too.
DD: Hi Dianne, and thanks for hosting me! Seeing Red is the second mystery in the Red Herring series. It centers around Alex “Red” Vlodnachek, a 30-something former reporter turned freelance writer.
This one opens with a one-two punch for Alex. She’s attending a glamorous party in a large Victorian mansion – very 1920s with jazz, cocktails and a collection of intriguing strangers. As a thunderstorm rages outside, there are power outages, ghost sightings and all kinds of mischief. Then at dawn next morning, back in her own kitchen, she discovers an abandoned baby.
Where did the idea for the mystery that is central to the story come from?
DD: No one is exactly as they describe themselves. (Check the height and weight on anyone’s drivers’ license!) And in a mystery, you can have a lot of fun with the idea that some of the characters are not what they appear. Or, in the case of Alex’s grandmother, Baba, that what you see is just the tip of one very tough iceberg.
In Seeing Red, Alex matches wits with spies, art thieves and a professional killer. She finds two bodies that vanish before she can call the cops. Yet the two people stressing her the most are a colicky baby and her own mother.
Is there a theme or subject that underlies the story? If so, what prompted you to write about it?
DD: It’s all about family. Alex can’t turn away someone who needs help. And, in turn, her family is always there to give her a hand. Her younger brother, Nick, is staying at her house for a few months, along with his rescue puppy, Lucy. Alex tells it best:
“Nick was living with me temporarily. After a sudden career change and relocation from Arizona by way of Vegas. Followed by an even more sudden engagement that had recently crashed and burned. That was about the same time I’d launched my new freelance career. Which sounded a lot better on LinkedIn than saying I’d been accused of murder and fired. We Vlodnacheks had kinda had a rough couple of months. But, hey, we land on our feet.”
And in this one, you finally meet Alex and Nick’s mother, Eleanor. As Alex relays it:
“I didn’t even bother to check the peephole. I just threw open the door, Big mistake. A couple of months outside the newsroom, and I was already getting soft.
My mother stood on the porch. She was wearing a Chanel suit, L’Occitane perfume, and a sour expression. But it was clear where my supermodel sister got her knockout looks.”
How do you create your characters? Do you have favourite ones? If so, why are you partial to them?
DD: I love Alex because she never takes herself too seriously. And she’s real. When she finds the sleeping infant in her kitchen, she pauses to swipe a cookie from her brother’s latest batch. Because, you know, chocolate.
I love Trip because who wouldn’t want him for a best friend? He’s always up for fun, he’s willing to loan his Corvette at a moment’s notice for a good cause, and he doesn’t judge. He’s the one Alex calls when she’s planning to break into a room at the B&B. And he knows better than to try to talk her out of it. Instead, he’s Googling “how to pick a lock.”
And what can I say about Baba? There’s nothing Alex’ grandmother can’t do – except cook. Like Alex says, “She’s what I want to be when I get to her age – whatever that is.”
How do you bring to life the people and places you are writing about?
DD: Nothing beats having a reader say “I know that person” or “I recognize that place,” or “that happened to me!”
In this one, Alex takes Lucy to the new neighborhood dog park. And Lucy –independent thinker that she is – loves the park but decides that those teeter-totter things on the agility course are not for her. So the puppy completes the course her own way. Lucy-style. I think anyone who’s ever loved a quirky dog can relate.
What research do you do to provide background information to help you write the novel?
DD: The knowledge of news rooms comes from my own life. I used to be a reporter and, like Alex, I’m now a freelancer. (But not a redhead. Or a former murder suspect.)
Fordham, Virginia (the fictional Northern Virginia town where the Red Herring series takes place), is a mash-up of a few towns I know and love that are bedroom communities for big metro hotspots. I set it just outside DC because that’s familiar geography and it’s also one of the few places left that still has competing daily papers – which I needed for the first book, Confessions of a Red Herring.
As for the characters themselves, dog- and people-watching are favorite sports. If there’s someone near you sitting on a bench or at a nearby table wearing sunglasses and scribbling furiously, that’s probably me.
Is there anything else you’d like to tell readers about the book?
DD: Thanks for your interest in Alex and Seeing Red! If you’re craving a light mystery with a lot of humor and plenty of comfort food, check it out. If you like it, you’ll probably enjoy Confessions of a Red Herring, too. (And if you read that, you’ll find out why Alex became a freelancer and what really happened to her car.)
Thanks for answering my questions, Dana, and good luck with Seeing Red, the latest book in the Red Herrings mystery series.
Readers can learn more about Dana and her writing by visiting her website.
The novel is available at the following online retailers:
About Dana Dratch: Dana is a personal finance writer and the author of CONFESSIONS OF A RED HERRING and SEEING RED. She’s currently working on the third Alex Vlodnachek mystery adventure, RED HOT.