Interview: Renee Patrick

Today we welcome Renee Patrick, a.k.a. Rosemarie and Vince Keenan, authors of the Lillian Frost and Edith Head mysteries!

DesignForDying full sizeWhat’s your idea of a perfect day?

Our perfect day would have to include a late breakfast, then a walk to the movie theater for a matinee followed by a stop at the local doughnut shop to talk over the film we’ve just seen. In the evening we’d meet friends for cocktails at our favorite Seattle bar, the Zig Zag Café.

Do you have a signature accessory, color, fragrance, phrase/expression, or meal?

Our signature meal is a pepperoni pizza from the restaurant on the corner. When you’re both writers, who has time to cook?

Which books/authors inspired or influenced you the most?

Vince has long called Lawrence Block his spiritual father (or at least uncle) and has been especially influenced by Block’s Matt Scudder series. Rosemarie loves P.G. Wodehouse’s Jeeves and Wooster books. We like to think of Renee Patrick as the extremely unlikely combination of the two.

Do you listen to music when you write?

While writing the novels we wanted to be steeped in the sounds of the 1930’s, particularly the early big band singers like Bing Crosby and Kate Smith. They sang the popular songs that our characters would have heard on the radio every day. We played them so much they became part of our vocabulary.

Dangerous full sizeIf your latest book were chocolate, what kind would it be and why?

Dangerous to Know the novel tells stories of emigres who fled the danger of pre-World War II Europe for an uncertain future in Hollywood. Dangerous to Know the chocolate would be a European-style candy bar full of fruit and nuts, rich enough to recall memories of a far-away home.

What made you interested in writing this particular story?

While researching our first book, Design for Dying, we stumbled upon a real-life Hollywood scandal in which George Burns and Jack Benny, two of Paramount’s biggest stars, found themselves brought up on smuggling charges. It was a story neither of us had heard before – a real shock considering how much we both love Hollywood history. We decided it would be a wonderful jumping off point for Lillian and Edith to explore Los Angeles in the years before World War II.

What themes do you regularly (re)visit in your writing?

Reinvention is key to any Hollywood story, so it’s always a theme in our books. In Design for Dying we showed the tragic cost Lillian’s friend Ruby paid for trying to become something she wasn’t. Of course, there’s a lighter side too. Lillian has attempted to reinvent herself as an actress, a department store salesgirl and a social secretary. We’re starting to think crime-solving is her true calling.

Tell us about your main character.

We fell in love with the idea of Edith Head, legendary costume designer, as a detective but we knew she spent her days—and nights, and weekends—working at Paramount. She didn’t have time to track down clues. So we took a page from Rex Stout’s Nero Wolfe novels and gave Edith her own Archie Goodwin. Lillian Frost can follow leads, interview suspects and deliver the information to Edith at the movie studio.

Describe your protagonist as a mash-up of three famous people or characters.

Lillian Frost is Rosalind Russell playing Archie Goodwin with a dash of Dorothy Gale from The Wizard of Oz.

If you could host a mystery-author dinner party, who are the six writers (living or otherwise) you’d include?

We’re picturing a catered affair in the private room of an elegant restaurant in Manhattan, one with a bartender who knows how to stir a mean martini. On the guest list would be Dorothy Parker, Billy Wilder, Patricia Highsmith, P.G. Wodehouse, Joe Keenan (no relation) and Donald Westlake.

What’s next for you?

We’re working on a third adventure for Lillian and Edith, tentatively titled Script for Scandal, set during Hollywood’s greatest year, 1939.

*****

Renee Patrick author photoRenee Patrick is the pseudonym for married authors Rosemarie and Vince Keenan. Rosemarie is a research administrator and a poet. Vince is a screenwriter and a journalist. Both native New Yorkers, they currently live in Seattle, Washington.
 
Their debut novel, Design for Dying, was featured on NPR’s summer reading list and has been nominated for the Agatha, Anthony, Lefty, and Macavity awards. They have been guest hosts on Turner Classic Movies’ Noir Alley. Dangerous to Know, their second book featuring real-life Hollywood costume designer Edith Head, was published in April.
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7 thoughts on “Interview: Renee Patrick”

  1. Welcome Rosemarie and Vince! I loved the atmosphere you created in Design for Dying. When I thought of old Hollywood, I always pictured the big white homes with Hollywood Regency furniture; somehow the image didn’t include all those hopeful kids trying to get a foot in the door and the daily grind behind the cameras. The whole picture is so much richer than I had envisioned. I never heard the Jack Benny and George Burns story. Really looking forward to reading this book.

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  2. What a fascinating era! I have been remembering Bing Crosby a lot lately, as I ran into him in Vienna when I was a kid, so I am looking forward to checking out your books.

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  3. Welcome! I love how story inspiration comes from the most interesting places. And now I want to know more about this smuggling story, too. Lillian and Edith sound delightful–looking forward to reading their stories.

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  4. Ohhhh I could move into those covers. What is it that draws us not only to the era but to the designs of the era. You have nailed it. Can’t wait to curl up with another great read. Thanks for visiting.

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  5. Thanks to you all for the warm welcome! It was great fun answering the questions. Any day we can think seriously about chocolate is a good day!
    Sue – How wonderful that you got to meet Bing Crosby! But why were you hanging out at a racetrack at such a young age? 😉 [Does anyone besides us remember those old jokes about Bing’s horses always coming in last? Nope? Then never mind.]
    Kait – Aren’t the covers amazing? We were so lucky Forge found such a talented artist – his name is Gerad Taylor.

    Rosemarie & Vince

    Liked by 1 person

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