MS AMERICA AND THE VILLAINY IN VEGAS
BOOK #2 IN THE MS AMERICA MYSTERIES SERIES
“Superfab fun mystery”… “A giggle a minute”
So say readers of the debut mystery in the Ms America series, MS AMERICA AND THE OFFING ON OAHU. Now beauty queen and budding sleuth Happy Pennington returns, this time to gaudy, garish Las Vegas …
When Happy pulls bridesmaid duty for pageant-wear purveyor Sally Anne Gibbons, the last thing she expects to find at the altar is a corpse. But at these over-the-top nuptials that’s what she gets: a dead best man and a groom who just might be the killer.
Sometimes it seems everybody in Sin City has a secret, from the cocktail waitress trying to land a reality-show gig to the silver-haired cougar with a penchant for blackjack dealers. Maybe hunky pageant emcee Mario Suave is hiding something, too: like the hots for everybody’s favorite beauty queen.
Where are you from? Tell us a little about yourself!
I was born and raised in Buffalo, New York, but live now in Los Angeles. So I’ve morphed into a California girl, going from icicles and snow drifts to Jacuzzis and high surf days.
I’ve had the pleasure of living overseas, too. When I was a teenager I spent a semester in Belgium, lived for six months in London as a newlywed, and enjoyed several years in Tokyo, both as a student and as a correspondent for NBC News. That was my pre-writing life: I was a broadcast journalist for a dozen years, working in local and network news, as a reporter and an anchor.
Tell us about your book? How did it get started?
MS AMERICA AND THE VILLAINY IN VEGAS is the second installment of my Beauty Queen Mystery series. I had the idea of a beauty-queen sleuth for a writer friend during a brainstorming session. It didn’t grab her, fortunately, but it totally grabbed me.
I love Happy Pennington, who wins the Ms America title in the series’ first installment, MS AMERICA AND THE OFFING ON OAHU, after her chief rival falls dead out of the isolation booth during the pageant finale. Happy must find the killer in order to prove she didn’t do the dastardly deed herself.
In MS AMERICA AND THE VILLAINY IN VEGAS, Happy is in Sin City for the wedding of pageant-wear purveyor Sally Anne Gibbons, and at the over-the-top nuptials the best man turns up dead. What can Happy do but nab the killer …
How do you create your characters?
I save the obituaries of people who have lived interesting lives; I stash notes about intriguing character types I’ve encountered; I brainstorm characters with my writer friends. I spend a fair amount of time thinking about what makes a character tick, and I scrawl lots of notes about their lives and families.
What inspires and what got you started in writing?
I wanted to be a writer from childhood. As a kid, I wrote stories in crayon and drew illustrations and covers. I guess I’ve had the storytelling gene all my life. In my TV life as well, I told stories. I never tire of it.
In terms of inspiration, plenty of days I’m inspired to write but plenty of days I’m not. It doesn’t matter. It’s important to sit down and work however you feel. And once you get started, you’ll get inspired, at least a little. Trust me. I agree with romance wunderkind Nora Roberts: Sit your butt down in the chair and write.
Where do you write? Is there something you need in order to write (music, drinks?)
I have a laptop so I don’t have to work in the same place all the time. That said I do almost all my writing in my study. I like a darkish, cave-like environment for writing.
Plotting and dreaming up characters are a whole other matter. I like to do that on a hike, or maybe at a coffee shop, or in an airplane staring out the window. I like to feel free to let my mind roam. But when I write, I want to hunker down and close everything else off. No music, no email, no phone calls, nothing. But a cup of tea in the morning – delightful; and a sweet snack in the afternoon – essential!
How do you get your ideas for writing?
Often it starts with a character. Sometimes I read about a situation and think, Oh boy, there’s fodder for drama there. And as I mentioned earlier, if a nugget of a story or character hits me, I write it down. Because otherwise I’ll forget …
What do you like to read?
Mostly I read what I write: women’s fiction and cozy mystery. That said, I love historical fiction, though to date I’ve written only contemporary stories. I also love the occasional thriller and history/mystery. I always tell myself I should read more non-fiction but I rarely choose to. It’s hard to keep me away from novels.
What would your advice be for authors or those aspiring to write?
Write! Don’t wait for a magical moment to get started. Just start. Force yourself to sit down and do it. A little at a time: it doesn’t have to be a lot. I predict you’ll gain confidence as you go.
And don’t think something’s wrong if you find writing difficult or frustrating or if your prose seems inept. Writing is hard. It’s demanding in all kinds of ways. Don’t fool yourself that successful writers find it easy and so there’s something amiss if you find it hard. Persist and you will be rewarded …