Linda talks with Nancy J. Cohen, author of the Bad Hair Day cozy mystery series.
Linda talks to Nancy J. Cohen, author of the Bad Hair Day mystery series.
Nancy J. Cohen writes the Bad Hair Day Mysteries featuring South Florida hairstylist Marla Vail. These books have won numerous awards along with her nonfiction titles, Writing the Cozy Mystery and A Bad Hair Day Cookbook. Active in the writing community, Nancy is a past president of Florida Romance Writers and Mystery Writers of America, Florida Chapter. When not busy writing, she enjoys cooking, fine dining, cruising, and visiting Disney World.
Website – https://nancyjcohen.com
Sign up for Nancy's newsletter at https://nancyjcohen.com/newsletter
Get to know Nancy: The Tart Words Baker's Dozen
1. Plotter or Pantser? Plotter
2. Tea or Coffee? Coffee in the morning; Tea in the afternoon
3. Beer, Wine, or Cocktails? Wine
4. Snacks: Sweet or Savory? Savory
5. Indie Published, Traditionally Published, or Hybrid? Hybrid
6. Strict Writing Schedule: Yes
7. Strictly Computer or Mix It Up? Desktop Computer
8. Daily Goal: Yes
9. Formal Track Progress: No
10. Special Writing Spot? Home office
11. Writer’s Block? Sometimes
12. File of Ideas: Yes
13. Favorite Author(s)? The authors at BookloversBench.com
Blog – https://nancyjcohen.com/blog
Twitter – https://www.twitter.com/nancyjcohen
Facebook – https://www.facebook.com/NancyJCohenAuthor
LinkedIn – https://www.linkedin.com/in/nancyjcohen
Goodreads – https://www.goodreads.com/nancyjcohen
Pinterest – https://pinterest.com/njcohen/
Transcribed by Otter.ai; Lightly edited by Linda. Please forgive typos and poor grammar.
Episode 112 - Nancy J Cohen
Welcome to Tart Words. I'm your host, Linda Hengerer. And I'm a writer, a reader and a baker. I talk to writers about their latest book and what inspires them, chat with fellow author Suzanne Fox about what writers can learn from reading their favorite authors, and share fast and easy recipes for anyone looking for a sweet treat. Join me as I share Tart Bites, Tart Thoughts, and Tart Words.
Nancy J. Cohen writes the Bad Hair Day mysteries featuring South Florida hairstylist Marla Vail. These books have won numerous awards along with her nonfiction titles Writing the Cozy Mystery and a Bad Hair Day cookbook. Active in the writing community, Nancy is a past president of Florida Romance Writers and Mystery Writers of America-Florida Chapter. When not busy writing, she enjoys cooking, fine dining, cruising, and visiting Disney World. Sign up for Nancy's newsletter at NancyJCohen.com/newsletter and you can visit her website at NancyJCohen.com. I'll put the links to her website, the newsletter sign up and her other social media handles in the show notes. Thank you for joining me today. Nancy, welcome to the podcast.
Hi, Linda. Thanks so much for having me. I'm excited to be here.
I’m excited to have you tell me about your latest book.
My latest title is Easter Hair Hunt and takes place at an Easter egg hunt at a historic mansion in South Florida. My hairstylist sleuth Marla Vail has been hired by a client to do her hair before a charity luncheon at this mansion. But first the client is dressing up as the Easter Bunny for a children's egg hunt. When the contest is over the owner of the historic house asks Marla to help pick up the remaining plastic eggs on the grass. But Marla finds much more than a plastic toy - she finds a body in a bunny suit. Now she thinks maybe her friend has fainted from the hot stuffy head on the costume. But after the authorities arrive and remove the headpiece, it's a stranger in the bunny costume. And Marla's friend has disappeared. So that's the premise for Easter Hair Hunt which was a real lot of fun to write.
It sounds like it. Did you base the mansion on one of the ones in your area?
Actually, I based it on the Hillwood Museum estate and gardens that's in Washington DC. Yeah.
This was a house owned by Marjorie Merriweather Post. And we were very impressed by it. We've toured the house and there's beautiful formal gardens attached to it plus a cafe where you can sit outside and have lunch. It's just a beautiful setting. Plus, the house itself has all these artifacts that Marjorie brought back from Russia. So that whole setting I transported the South Florida and reinvented for my story.
Very nice. I love that about writing fiction. Take this move it here. Take that move it there.
Yeah, and it really helps if you have a model like this to base your story on so you can get the details right.
It definitely makes it easier when you have that mental picture sort of nailed down.
Yeah, I had a guidebook also it really helped describe some of the artifacts because a missing Faberge egg figures into the story perfect for you to look up the eggs and lots of other stuff.
I love those Faberge eggs I mean they're just stunning.
Yeah, they are. I also happen to like the Russian nesting dolls. Matroyshkas. Yeah, have a few of those.
Where did the idea for Marla come from?
Well, Marla is a hairstylist who owns her own salon. And actually I was thinking of doing a mystery series when I was getting my hair done one day waiting for it to process and I looked around at all the other women sitting there staring into space and I thought we need something gripping to read to kill time. Why don't we kill off one of these ladies? And that's where the first story Permed to Death was born. And if you think about it, people go into a salon. They confide in their hairdressers, you overhear a lot of gossip. And it can be a mobile profession. You can go do weddings at a hotel, for example,
or go to someone's house.
Yeah, so it's a fun basis for a mystery series.
When you were thinking about Easter Hair Hunt was it because Easter was coming up or was it the Faberge eggs that sparked your idea or was it the house?
Well the house sparked the basic idea but I wanted to do a holiday story also and I hadn't done Easter before. So the whole thing clinked together with the Faberge egg as well being amongst the Easter eggs, so it all really came together that way.
Terrific. Do you have a writing routine or schedule?
Yes. And I'm following one right now for the book I'm working on, which is called Styled for Murder. This will be number 17 in the Bad Hair Day series. I try to write five pages a day. So if I stick to my schedule, I should finish by the end of April. But I allow myself some leeway. So that by the end of May is my target date.
And when do you think that that's going to come out?
I'm planning for a fall release for that.
Do you outline?
I do I write an outline. Well, I do the characters, the cast of characters first, which is who all the suspects are, and who's the victim, then I put it all together into a synopsis. So I have a total guideline as to where I'm going, but that's fluid and can change as I write the story,
I do the same; for me, I need a title, even if I end up changing it, the title helps keep me on track. And I like to have a basic outline of what I think the story is. And almost every time it's changed somewhat, but I like to know who the killer is ahead of time to just so that I know what clues I need to do, what timeline I'm working with, and how I can keep the reader guessing while still playing fair.
Yeah, playing fair is really important. You have to have all the clues in there while distracting the reader, you want them at the end to come back and say, Oh, that's right, I should have seen that. Or
if I remembered that or now I now I remember, I know the key thing is to hide the important clues in with the unimportant information so that you're giving them the information that they need. They just don't recognize what's important. And what's not until the end through
the killer can change. Sometimes, too, I'm not really sure in this book that I'm working on, who's going to end up being the killer, or there might be more than one because several of the characters have motives. And that's also important if we give each character a secret, or a secret could be a cause for murder. And you really don't know for sure until the end, even if you think you guess who it is. And that's the fun of the whole thing.
Yeah. And some people would killed keep a certain secret that other people wouldn't care if it came out. So Exactly. It really depends on the characters too.
Yeah, that's true.
And you've also written a book about how to write a Cozy Mystery, haven't you?
Yes, it's called Writing the Cozy Mystery. And I wrote it because there was absolutely nothing like that on the market. Cozy mysteries were sort of the second cousin in the mystery genre, which favored serious crime writers and I felt having a book about it would raise our profile as cozy authors and give some respect to the genre. So it's been very well received and won several awards. So I hope it's helpful to people. I've also written another nonfiction title, which goes along with my series, and that's a Bad Hair Day Cookbook. I've been putting recipes into my stories and decided, well, if readers want to look them up, why don't I put them all in one place. And to make it different I decided to write it from Marla's viewpoint. So she has her cooking tips and tricks into in the book,
that's a great idea. Is cooking the creative outlet that you use to help with your writing, or to give you a break from the writing, or do you do something else creative?
Yeah, I mean, I like eating. Yeah, so anything to do with food. We like eating out. I like trying new restaurants. I've done cooking classes and experimenting in the kitchen. I like trying new recipes. And in fact, for Easter Hair Hunt, I made roast leg of lamb for the first time. That's one of the recipes and in that story. But yeah, I do like anything to do with food. And if you think about it, social occasions all involve food, even the movies that you watch, there are always scenes in a coffee shop or a restaurant or glass of wine with a friend. So it's an important part of our fiction.
It is and it's an important part of our lives. You know, you break bread together or you share a meal you share. And that's the point isn't it that you're sharing something with another person?
Yeah, that's a good way of looking at it. Yes.
Where can people find you and your books?
They can find me at NancyJCohen.com. You can buy my books at Amazon Barnes and Noble, Nook at Barnes and Noble, Kobo, and Apple. I also I'm coming out with some box sets starting May first that'll be my first box that release so I'm excited about that.
That is exciting. How many books are in the box set?
And are they the first three from the Marla Vail series?
Yes. Which I love the cover. Of course I love all my covers are all fun. They are fun. And my newsletter is NancyJCohen.com/newsletter.
And how often do you send out your newsletter?
Quarterly and I try to include some fun like a recipe or some kind of tip related to the season and whatever new releases I have coming out.
Well, I think on that note, we'll end. Thank you for coming on the Tart Words podcast. So as always, I enjoy talking to you.
Thanks so much, Linda. I really appreciate your having me and whoever's out there listening. Thank you for tuning in.
Thank you for joining me this week. To view the complete show notes and the links mentioned in today's episode, visit tartwords.com/tart112. Follow now in the app you're using to listen to this podcast, or sign up for email alerts through an easy signup form for bakers, readers and writers at tartwords.com/about. Thank you again for joining me, Linda Hengerer, for this episode of Tart Words.
Nancy J. Cohen writes the Bad Hair Day Mysteries featuring South Florida hairstylist Marla Vail. These books have won numerous awards along with her nonfiction titles, Writing the Cozy Mystery and A Bad Hair Day Cookbook. Active in the writing community, Nancy is a past president of Florida Romance Writers and Mystery Writers of America, Florida Chapter. When not busy writing, she enjoys cooking, fine dining, cruising and visiting Disney World.