Interview: Larissa Reinhart

Please welcome Larissa Reinhart, author of Portrait of a Dead Guy.

What’s your idea of a perfect day?
First I’d like to thank the Mysteristas for the opportunity to hang out with them today. I love your weekly chat, which I plan to join more when school starts.

I would love to say a day free to write, which would be awesome, but in truth my perfect day would be waking in a foreign location and exploring that place with my family. We love to travel and it brings me a lot of peace and contentment to just walk around some place we’ve never been. Even when dealing with the travel hassles of pickpockets and monkeys.

Do you have a signature accessory, color, fragrance, phrase, or meal?
My signature phrase has become Writing Mystery and Romance South of the Sweet Tea Line, although I’d never use it in a conversation. South of the Sweet Tea Line was my Twitter location when we moved back to Georgia and it morphed into a theme.

However, if you ask my family, my signature phrase is “Did you.” As in “Did you … feed the dog? finish your homework? remember to change your underwear?” and so on.

My signature scent is probably old coffee and Trader Joe’s chocolate-covered edamame. My signature color is orange, and my signature meal is Johnny’s Pizza, preferable eat-in and not carry-out.

Excluding family, name three people who either inspired you or influenced your creativity.
Since I can’t whittle down the writers that have inspired me to three, I’ll name three people with whom I’ve had actual interactions. My high school English teacher, Ms. Scavuzzo, who introduced me to Barbara Michaels’ novels and helped me get a column at a local newspaper. My drawing professor in college who forced his students to sit through excruciating daily critiques, which helped thicken my skin. And when I returned to Georgia from Japan with two manuscripts written and no idea what to do next, Inspirational Romantic Suspense author Debby Giusti encouraged me to get published and pointed me in the direction of groups like Sisters in Crime, Kiss of Death and Georgia Romance Writers. Many people in those organizations have helped me learn the ropes of writing and publishing, too.

Do you listen to music when you write?
Not only do I listen to music, I have separate soundtracks for different books and characters. My Cherry Tucker books are really influenced by country music (although she listens to rock), particularly gritty female singers like Miss Willie Brown, Miranda Lambert, Pistol Annies, and Gretchen Wilson. They write humorous songs about righting wrongs, getting even, and drinking. Which sums up my character.

If your latest book were chocolate, what kind would it be and why?
Cadbury Fruit and Nut Bar because I’ve got a lot of quirky characters who add crunch and sweetness to the bitter dark chocolate of murder.

What made you interested in writing this particular story?
At the risk of sounding like a morbid psychotic, my father died while we were living in Japan. I stayed with my mom for three weeks in my hometown of 600 people. I thought a lot about funerals and small town life during those three weeks. In Japan, I wanted to write a story about a character from Georgia because I missed Georgia. I had already heard her speak and knew some of her family and her ex-boyfriend, but after the funeral it all started coming together. And I think the coffin portrait just jumped to mind because I’m a nut case.

What themes do you regularly (re)visit in your writing?
I seem to have a fixation with death (doesn’t every writer?) that started in high school when all my heroines died from TB or in some other romantic way. I also must have some suppressed mother issues, because those seem to pop up a lot in my writing, too. (Actually my mother is a lovely person). And I definitely like to write about strong, tenacious heroines from rough or humble backgrounds. Those are my small town, reverse-snobbism roots kicking in.

I love the South, so most of my settings are southern, but because I lived in Japan and miss it, I’ve been thinking about bringing the South to Japan in various ways. All I’d have to do is make the heroine from a small, Southern town; bring her to Japan with her mother issues; add in a dead father; and boom… another Larissa Reinhart special. LOL.

Tell us about your main character’s psyche or personality. What led her (or him) to be the person s/he is today?
Cherry’s got nerves of steel, a lack of inhibitions, and a lot of creativity. She’s broken into a funeral home to paint a dead body, invited herself to the house of a man she thinks may be a murderer, and pulled her Remington Wingmaster rifle on an intruder. I don’t think I would want to do any of those things. However, she makes up for her height with a lot of sass. I also lack height, but sass doesn’t occur to me until much later. It would be nice to have her comebacks on the tip of my tongue instead of lying dormant in the back of my brain until I sit at a computer.

Describe your protagonist as a mash-up of three famous people or characters.
What a cool question. I would say Cherry Tucker is a mash-up of Annie Oakley, (an adult) Frankie Addams from Carson McCullers’ Member of the Wedding, and Tuppence from Agatha Christie’s The Secret Adversary (pre-marriage to Tommy and without the English accent).

If you could host a mystery-author dinner party, who are the six writers (living or otherwise) you’d include?
Only six? Ngaio Marsh, PD James, Mary Stewart, Martha Grimes, Sharyn McCrumb, and Dick Francis. But I’d probably hide in my kitchen and let them talk amongst themselves.

What’s next for you?
I’m finishing up Cherry Tucker’s next mystery, Still Life in Brunswick Stew. I’ve also got a romantic suspense that takes place in the North Georgia Mountains that I’m hoping to publish. After Still Life is finished, I’ll start brewing up Cherry Tucker’s third mystery, begin research on another mystery series idea that’s been fermenting in my brain, and write up a draft of my Southern girl in Japan story. I’m going to try really hard not to kill anybody in that one.

***

Larissa Reinhart considers herself lucky to have taught English in Japan, escaped a ferocious monkey in Thailand, studied archaeology in Egypt, and survived teaching high school history in the US. However, adopting her daughters from China has been her most rewarding experience. After moving around the midwest, the south and Japan, she now lives in Georgia with her husband, daughters, and Biscuit, a Cairn Terrier.

She loves small town characters with big attitudes, particularly sassy women with a penchant for trouble. Portrait of a Dead Guy (Henery Press, August 28, 2012) is a 2012 Daphne du Maurier finalist, a 2012 The Emily finalist, and a 2011 Dixie Kane Memorial winner. When she’s not writing about southern fried chicken, she writes about Asian fried chicken at her blog about life as an ex-expat at theexpatreturneth.blogspot.com.

She and her writing friends also chat weekly about books on their Little Read Hens Facebook page and littlereadhens.com. You can find Larissa chatting on Facebook, Twitter, and Goodreads. She loves pinning on her Cherry Tucker and other boards at Pinterest. You can also find more information on her website at larissareinhart.com.

13 thoughts on “Interview: Larissa Reinhart

  1. I love that phrase–South of the Sweet Tea Line. I’ve read PORTRAIT OF A DEAD GUY and it was wonderful. Fun, offbeat characters, a sassy heroine, and smexy men. Can’t wait for the next Cherry Tucker. Good luck, Larissa!

  2. Thanks so much for having me on ladies. I loved your interview questions! And you have the coolest profile pic!

  3. Thanks Terri! And I love the word “smexy.”;)

  4. “But I’d probably hide in my kitchen and let them talk amongst themselves.” LOL! I can’t wait to meet you, Ris! I’m so happy for you with the release of this book, and I can’t wait to read it! :)

  5. Thanks Misty! I hope those writers like take-out pizza.

  6. Larissa, you are hilarious–hiding in your kitchen, indeed. You’d need to channel Cherry Tucker and get into the mix of things. I loved Portrait of a Dead Guy, and can’t wait to read Cherry’s next book.

    I have to tell you, I’m really jealous of your “South of the Sweet Tea Line” theme. So many times I’ve wished I’d thought of that first. :) So far I haven’t come up with anything I like as well.

  7. Thanks Susan! You are free to borrow the Sweet Tea Line as a location! There’s also the Vegetable Plate Line. Biscuit Line. Of course our states are divided by the BBQ sauce line (altho I like Carolina sauce better, shhh).

  8. Oh my gosh, one of my signature phrases is also “Did you…”! Followed closely by “Well, there’s no Nintendo until you…” Sigh. ;)

    Great interview, Larissa! Thanks so much for visiting.

  9. Thanks Cynthia. You must be a mom;) Of course, my husband gets half the “did yous” at my house. Just switch nap for Nintendo;)

  10. Hi Larissa!

    Remind me to tell you about the food coloring and funeral parlor in Idaho story.I’m super excited about your debut. Good luck!

  11. Thanks Jennifer! I am on the edge of my seat and dying to know about the food coloring and funeral parlor in Idaho story.

  12. Thanks Theresa! It’ll be about the food, of course!

  13. As a Southerner, I’m intrigued by the idea of bringing the South to Japan.

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