Today Nancy J Cohen is visiting Ascroft, eh? to tell us about Easter Hair Hunt, her latest novel in the Bad Hair Day mystery series.
Welcome, Nancy. 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.
NJC: Easter Hair Hunt is #16 in the Bad Hair Day Mysteries. Hairstylist Marla Vail solves crimes in sultry South Florida in this series that Publishers Weekly calls “fast-paced and jaunty.” Besides the 16 full-length novels, this series includes a short story, novella, and cookbook.
In Easter Hair Hunt, Marla attends an Easter egg hunt at historic Tremayne Manor. Her friend Blinky is playing the Easter bunny. Blinky, a client at Marla’s salon, has hired Marla to fix her hair for the charity luncheon that follows. But once the children’s event is over, Marla can’t find Blinky anywhere. As she’s searching the grounds, she stumbles across a costumed figure sprawled on the lawn and still as a dead hare. Afraid Blinky has fainted in the stuffy costume, Marla summons help. As rescuers pull off the face mask, Marla is shocked to discover a stranger in her friend’s place. Soon it’s a race against time as Marla attempts to hunt down her friend before Blinky becomes the next victim.
Where did the idea for the mystery that is central to the story come from?
NJC: I was inspired by Hillwood Estate, Museum & Gardens in Washington D.C. so I modelled the setting after this historical site. I’d previously written Haunted Hair Nights, a novella set around Halloween. So I wanted to do another holiday story. The timeline for Easter Hair Hunt fit in naturally after the events in the previous title, Trimmed to Death. It follows Marla’s progression as a soon-to-be new mother.
Is there a theme or subject that underlies the story? If so, what prompted you to write about it?
NJC: The theme is about change, which is happening to Marla with her first pregnancy and also because her mother announces that she plans to get married and move a short distance away. These changes reflect things going on in my own life. Nothing stays static forever, and change doesn’t come easily. But you have to adapt and move on.
How do you create your characters? Do you have favourite ones? If so, why are you partial to them?
NJC: I have two sets of characters for each story. One set is the recurrent cast who are Marla’s friends, family, and colleagues. The other set involves the suspects. These are people who can be more quirky. But the ones who are more memorable arise from the recurrent cast. Aside from Marla and Dalton, these would include Marla’s best friend Tally, her mom Anita, deli owner Arnie and fellow stylist Nicole. Oh, and don’t forget the dogs, Spooks and Lucky.
How do you bring to life the place you are writing about?
NJC: Whenever possible, I visit the places so I can take photos and notes. Then it’s all about using the five senses to bring a location alive. Unique characteristics, seasonal celebrations, local festivals, and regional foods all add to the ambiance. I started including recipes in my stories and that led to A Bad Hair Day Cookbook. This title has 160+ quick and easy recipes plus anecdotes written by Marla and excerpts from the books. Easter Hair Hunt includes recipes as well. The setting here stems from my visit to the Hillwood Estate.
What research do you do to provide background information to help you write the novel?
NJC: The research required depends on each story. Usually I like to address a topic that interests me so I can learn something new. For Easter Hair Hunt, topics included beekeeping, honey production, love bugs, Faberge eggs, Russian nesting dolls, stamp collecting, and the history of the U.S. Postal Service. I had a blast visiting the postal museum in Washington D.C. It’s a fascinating place that really needs more than one visit to absorb all the exhibits.
Is there anything else you’d like to tell readers about the book?
NJC: You don’t have to read the earlier books to enjoy Easter Hair Hunt. You can jump into any of my titles, and then if you like the story, go back to book one. They’re all complete mysteries, although the characters do evolve from book to book. After reading this latest tale, you’ll never look at an Easter egg hunt in quite the same way again.
Thanks for answering my questions, Nancy, and good luck with Easter Hair Hunt, the latest book in the Bad Hair Day Mystery series.
The novel is available at the following online retailers:
About Nancy J. Cohen: Nancy writes the Bad Hair Day Mysteries featuring South Florida hairstylist Marla Vail. Titles in this series have been named Best Cozy Mystery by Suspense Magazine, won a Readers’ Favorite gold medal and a RONE Award, earned first place in the Chanticleer International Book Awards and third place in the Arizona Literary Awards. Nancy’s instructional guide, Writing the Cozy Mystery, was nominated for an Agatha Award, earned first place in the Royal Palm Literary Awards and the TopShelf Magazine Book Awards, and won a gold medal in the President’s Book Awards. A featured speaker at libraries, conferences, and community events, Nancy is a past president of Florida Romance Writers and Mystery Writers of America Florida Chapter. She is listed in Contemporary Authors, Poets & Writers, and Who’s Who in U.S. Writers, Editors, & Poets. When not busy writing, she enjoys cooking, fine dining, cruising, and visiting Disney World.