Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Mystery Writer Larissa Reinhart on Coffin Portraits, Japanese Adoptions, and Funny Brits

Larissa Reinhart's new mystery, Portrait of a Dead Guy, is out today!  Here's our interview about her book.

Hi, Larissa!  Thanks for agreeing to be on the blog, and for discussing your book, PORTRAIT OF A DEAD GUY, with me.

            You write funny!  They say that writing humor is the hardest kind of writing.  How did you choose to write a humorous narrative, and how do you maintain your funny narration and dialogue?

To be honest, that’s just how Cherry speaks in my mind. She kind of talks out the side of her mouth and uses these descriptive phrases. I love humorous books, so I probably absorbed a lot of humor through reading-osmosis. If I’m having a bad day, I like a good dose of PG Wodehouse or Jasper Fforde. If only I could reach UK-humor level... Brits are hilarious people. I love their dry wit. I’m not so subtle.

        Two of my favorites! The premise of your book is unusual .  A struggling artist snags the job of painting a recently-murdered man, in his coffin, as a memorial for the rather odd family.  Therefore, your heroine Cherry Tucker has to spend a significant amount of time with a stiff.  Did this situation strike you as funny or horrifying?

It strikes me as funny, but when I explain the plot I get a lot of “are you a lunatic?” looks. I think I’d rather paint a stiff than take on a killer. That would be horrifying!

One of my favorite characters is a billy goat named Tater, who seems to make it his life’s ambition to annoy visitors (or maybe just Cherry?).   Do you have some experience with goats and their whims?

My personal goat stories are fairly innocuous. However, goats have a love/hate relationship with my sister. As children, any time we were near goats they would flock to her, knocking her down, and attempt to eat her clothes. To this day if we take our children to a petting zoo, she refuses to have anything to do with the goats. She was horrified to hear I had a goat in my story. But I believe in making lemonade from other people’s lemons.

Haha!  Speaking of sisters,  I like the relationship between Cherry and her sister.  Cherry is fiercely ambitious, but Casey “couldn’t find ambition if it drew her a map and hired a Sherpa.”   Do you have sisters, and if so, did you draw from the relationships to write about these women?

I have one sister who is nothing like Casey. She’s a hard worker and a great mom. But I can relate to the sniping and one-upmanship between the siblings. My sister and I don’t do that anymore, but we had some memorable arguments in high school. Because their mother abandoned them as children and they then lost their grandmother when they were in high school, I see the siblings as emotionally stunted. However, they’re all very creative. Cherry’s a talented artist, Casey is an amazing cook, and Cody is a skilled mechanic. Unfortunately, Cherry’s the only one who wants to make her mark in the world. Or start paying her own bills.

      There are a number of men in Cherry’s life—specifically her  ex-husband, Todd, to whom she was married “by accident,” and of course the handsome Luke.  It reminds me of the interesting triangle Janet Evanovich creates between Stephanie Plum, Ranger, and Morelli.  Have other people compared you to Evanovich?

You just made my year! I’m such an Evanovich fan. My sister mentioned it to me when she first read the manuscript, but I didn’t think about any parallels when writing. Originally, Todd (Cherry’s ex-husband) was just going to be a jerky character that popped up and harassed Cherry every now and then. But he turned out to be this adorable guy who was so sweet. Even though Cherry’s not certain if he’s playing a dumb blonde act to sneak back in her life, how could I say no to letting Todd hang around? He’s such a cutie.

   In your first sentence, you say that “in a small town, there is a thin gray line between personal freedom and public ruin.”  Are you from a small town?  And do you know whereof you speak?  J

My hometown is even smaller than Cherry’s. I’m from a farming village called Andover with a population of 600. Luckily, I have not suffered from public ruin (I don’t think), but not much goes by without comment. Of course, nobody gossips. Knowledge of other people’s affairs just seems to hover in the air. More like humidity than smog.

Who are some writers you admire?  And who’s writer who makes you laugh the loudest?

I could not fit all the names of writers I admire without tying up the internet lines. I love the early-mid twentieth century mystery/suspense writers like Agatha Christie, Ngaio Marsh, Dick Francis, Mary Stewart, Colin Dexter, Barbara Michaels and Daphne du Maurier. I also love mysteries by Martha Grimes, P.D. James, Nancy Martin, and Sharyn McCrumb. For humor, I mentioned PG Wodehouse and Jasper Fforde earlier. I even find Agatha Christie and Colin Dexter funny. Of course, Janet Evanovich kills me. Meg Cabot and Charlaine Harris, too. Darynda Jones has me rolling now.

      We share many of the same favorites!!  What are you reading now?

Darynda Jones’ Charley Davidson series. I love series, and I love to read them all at once, so sometimes I’ll hold out for a bunch of titles before jumping in. Especially if I know they’re going to be good.

       You are an extremely well-travelled person.  What’s your favorite place in the world (aside from your home, of course?)

That’s hard! But I’m going to say Japan, because we’ve lived there three times, so Japan has a special place in our hearts. We just moved back to Georgia from Nagoya a year ago at Christmas, and we’re still homesick for Nagoya.

You’ve taught English and history.  Are you still teaching?

Eight years ago we adopted our first daughter from China, and I’ve stayed at home since. I dedicated myself to writing once the girls started school (we were actually in Japan at that time). I feel very blessed to have time with them, help at their school, and write. I realize how lucky I am!

      Where can readers find out more about you and PORTRAIT OF A DEAD GUY?

      I’m easy to find on the internet, because I’m usually in front of my computer. My website is http://larissareinhart.com/ and my blog about life in Japan is http://theexpatreturneth.blogspot.com/, but I’m often chatting on Facebook, Twitter, Goodreads, or pinning on Pinterest. Cherry Tucker has her own Pinterest account because she took over half of my boards.

I’m also in a group called Little Read Hens, where we do a book chat on Facebook on Wednesdays. It’s a lot of fun, so feel free to join us!

Thanks so much for having me on your blog! Your interview was a lot of fun and gave me some good questions to chew on (mentally, of course)!

You're welcome! Thanks for a fun read, and good luck with the book!