Nancy J Cohen is visiting Ascroft, eh? to tell us about Star Tangled Murder, 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.
Star Tangled Murder is book #18 in the Bad Hair Day Mysteries. The stories follow the adventures of hairstylist and salon owner Marla Vail, who lives in South Florida with her family and two dogs. She has a personal journey to complete in this series, going from a divorced businesswoman to a married wife and mother. However, each book can be read as a standalone. To date, the series has 18 full-length novels, a novella, a short story, and a cookbook. They’re available in ebook and print as well as limited box sets and audiobooks.
In Star Tangled Murder, Marla and her husband, Dalton, attend a battle reenactment at a living history village where the town marshal ends up dead with a tomahawk in his head. Since Dalton is due to retire soon from his job as a homicide detective, Marla joins the investigation to help him solve the case fast. She needs him at home helping with their one-year-old son and not out in the field risking his life. Of course, once she starts interviewing the various suspects, she puts herself in the sights of a killer.
Where did the idea for the mystery that is central to the story come from?
I visited Yesteryear Village, a living history experience in West Palm Beach. It was fascinating to view the buildings and meet the actors playing the blacksmith, schoolteacher, farmer and other roles. I figured this would be a great setting for a mystery with a built-in cast of suspects. Then it was a matter of determining the victim and assigning motives to each player. I like to tour historic homes and admire the architecture of old buildings. This let me delve further into a subject that I enjoy.
Is there a theme or subject that underlies the story? If so, what prompted you to write about it?
Family values are at the heart of my cozy mysteries. Aside from this ongoing theme, in Star Tangled Murder, it’s an appreciation for history. We have battle reenactments and living history experiences to remember the people who came before us. We need to appreciate our ancestors and the hard work they did to survive and make our existence possible. Living history parks are a great way to learn about these early lifestyles in an entertaining and educational manner.
How do you create your characters? Do you have favourite ones? If so, why are you partial to them?
Besides the suspects for each story, there’s the recurrent cast who are Marla’s friends and family. These include her relatives, friends, and salon staff. Each book focuses on a different secondary character, and I can have fun with them in the story. For example, in Star Tangled Murder, Marla’s friends Robyn and Susan accompany her at different times. Robyn, who is also employed as Marla’s salon receptionist, dates around, never committing to one guy. In contrast, Susan is a married neighbor with two kids and a methodical mind. She works from home as a journalist. Susan goes with Marla to sniff out a story, while Robyn goes along for kicks. Other stories focus on different minor players, such as Marla’s mother in Styled for Murder. But the main star in the current story is Ryder, Marla’s one-year-old son. Since I now have a grandson, Ryder is a special character in this latest story. And let us not forget Dalton, Marla’s husband. She’s lucky to have him at her side.
How do you bring to life the place you are writing about?
I use the five senses as much as possible. Setting is more than description. It’s how things taste, smell, feel, look, and sound. The cultural foods and the rituals and traditions of the people who live there factor into the setting. It’s these details that provide the feeling of being there. I had it easy for the fictional Pioneer Village in my story. I’d been to a living history park and had photos to reference along with my own impressions.
What research do you do to provide background information to help you write the novel?
The setting for this novel was the easy part because I’d been to Yesteryear Village. They have videos available on their website. This helped me with the individual settings such as the blacksmith shop, the one-room schoolhouse, the historic mansion, and so on. Then I looked up Florida battle reenactments to determine which one I could base mine on. I chose Dade’s Battle of 1835. Again, online videos helped me create my own scenes. In addition, I read about various Fourth of July festivities so I’d know what sort of activities Marla would encounter on the holiday. Then I got interested in eclectic topics such as tea production and the history of buttons. Learning something new always sparks my stories with something special. These are worked into the tale as Marla interviews various suspects with these interests.
Is there anything else you’d like to tell readers about the book?
Yes, it includes recipes! At the back of the book, I have a Fourth of July menu and a Next Day Brunch menu with recipes for dishes that I’ve made. Otherwise, I hope you enjoy the story!
Thanks for answering my questions, Nancy, and good luck with Star Tangled Murderl, the latest book in Bad Hair Day Mystery series.
Readers can learn more about Nancy and her writing by visiting her website and her blog, as well as her Facebook, Goodreads, Bookbub, LinkedIn and Instagram pages. You can also follow her on Twitter.
The novel is available at the following online retailers:
Amazon Kindle Amazon Print Apple Books: BN Nook BN Print Google Play Kobo Books2Read IndieBound Smashwords Goodreads BookBub
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 the Readers’ Favorite Book Awards and the RONE Award, placed first in the Chanticleer International Book Awards and third in the Arizona Literary Awards. Her nonfiction titles, Writing the Cozy Mystery and A Bad Hair Day Cookbook, have won the FAPA President’s Book Award, the Royal Palm Literary Award, and IAN Book of the Year. When not busy writing, she enjoys reading, fine dining, cruising, and visiting Disney World.
Thank you so much for hosting me here!