Meet me at the diner: Debut author Arlene McFarlane

Dec 2, 2016 | 21 comments |

With this post, I’m launching a new, occasional series on my blog featuring interviews with author friends about their new releases. I’ve called it “meet me at the diner” because in the small communities I write about, diners are gathering places with a special, hometown feel.

Blank bookcover with clipping path

My first guest is Arlene McFarlane, whose debut release, Murder, Curlers, and Cream, a cozy mystery with a helping of romance, came out in November 2016.

Arlene is a two-time Romance Writers of America® (RWA®) Golden Heart® finalist, and amongst many other contest wins and finals, has also been nominated twice for the prestigious Daphne du Maurier Award for Excellence in Mystery/Suspense.

I met Arlene in 2015 when I also was a Golden Heart® finalist, and she lives with her family in southwestern Ontario so we share Canadian roots, too.  

Murder, Curlers, and Cream is set in a beauty salon and the heroine, Valentine Beaumont, is a feisty beautician who is determined to keep her struggling business afloat. She has a meddling mother, a quirky staff and, when the story starts, a dead client. Sexy Detective Romero is assigned to the case and, as the story unfolds and more mayhem ensues, sparks fly between he and Valentine.

Since I’m among friends, I have to confess that I have a complicated relationship with the beauty industry. After a cut that left me with hair of different lengths on each side of my head, highlights that turned my naturally brown hair orange, and a facial that gave me an itchy rash, I approach beauticians with caution.

However, the fictional Valentine is a heroine everyone can root for. She cares about people and, behind her glamorous façade, she has a touching vulnerability. And although it’s a murder mystery, it’s also a very funny book—as I discovered when I started reading it after English Rose had gone to bed and laughed so loudly I woke her up.

arlene-mcfarlane-author-photo-croppedIt’s a pleasure to have Arlene join me today. Slide into a booth, grab a mug of your favourite brew and piece of homemade pie, and let’s chat with her.

Before you became a writer, you worked in the beauty industry and indeed had your own salon. How did that experience shape Murder, Curlers, and Cream?

First, thank you so much, Jen, for having me! Owning a salon indeed inspired the setting of my series, and some of the funny incidences lent way to quirks of certain characters.

After reading your book, I’m going to keep my eyes and ears open on my next hairdresser visit. What kind of reader will Murder, Curlers, and Cream appeal to? 

It will appeal to anyone who loves a funny mystery and female sleuth, plus, anyone who’s ever stepped foot in a salon. And let’s not forget every hairstylist and aesthetician out there who will relate to the goings-on in the salon.

Before reading your book, I didn’t realize that a salon could be such a place of intrigue. What’s your favourite place to write?

I can write anywhere, as long as it’s quiet and comfy!

Quiet and comfy sound good to me, too. And a chair with good back support!

Who was your favourite childhood author and why?

I didn’t read much as a kid. I wasn’t one to hide under the covers until the wee hours of the night with a flashlight and a book. Probably surprising since most authors are voracious readers. But later, much later, I discovered Beverly Cleary and the Ramona books. That woman knew humor! To this day, I still enjoy a good Ramona Quimby story.

Ramona is a fabulous heroine, and English Rose and I love those books. Have you always written “funny,” or did it take time for you to find your writing voice?

When I was in university, my first English essay was on starving children. I remember poring my heart out in that essay, moved to tears at times. That was my first of many A+s in that course, and though it was academic, I learned a lot about voice. I also had a fantastic English professor who encouraged my style and who told me, “Whatever you do, don’t stop writing!” Having said that, I prefer to write “funny” because I like to see people happy and make them laugh. On top of which it’s not as emotionally draining.

As I said earlier, you certainly made me laugh and right from the first page.

Like a lot of authors (me included) you dedicated your first book to your mom. Did she have a special influence on your writing journey?

My mother was my greatest supporter, even when my earlier works weren’t all that great. That’s the biggest hole in my writing journey, that she’s not here to share the joys, to know that I finally became a published author.

Having lost my own mom, I appreciate that feeling. *Hugs*

There are a number of mouthwatering food references in Murder, Curlers, and Cream—from Valentine’s great-aunt’s Armenian paklava to Boston cream donuts “as good as a donut could get.” Are you a foodie, and did you include any family favorites in your book?

I LOVE to eat, anytime, anywhere! Yes, the paklava is a family favourite. And any foods mentioned in the story are likely favourites of mine as well. Like sugared cereal. Great bedtime snack. And who doesn’t like Cocoa Puffs?

English Rose loves Cocoa Puffs. Me not so much as all that sugar makes her even more “energetic” than usual.

Murder, Curlers, and Cream is the first book in a series. What’s next for Valentine and her friends?

Murder, Curlers, and Canes (releasing spring 2017) is next for Valentine. This time, she tries to find out who had it in for an old nun, while at the same time dealing with a sexy new stylist. And as usual, she spars with Detective Romero. 

The third book in the series, Murder, Curlers, and Cruises, which sees Valentine mixed up in a murder on a “Beauty” cruise, is tentatively scheduled to release in the fall of 2017.

I look forward to more of Valentine’s adventures. Thanks for joining me today, Arlene, and happy writing. 

Thank you, Jen. It was my pleasure!

If you’d like to find out more about Arlene, please visit her website (where she has pictures of some of the fabulous makeovers she’s done), and connect with her on Facebook and Twitter.

And just in time for the holiday season (a gift for your favorite beautician, perhaps?), you can buy Murder, Curlers, and Cream on all Amazon platforms, as well as Apple, Kobo, Barnes & Noble, and (in Canada) Chapters-Indigo.


  1. Diana Munoz Stewart

    Great interview! Loved learning more about you, Arlene! Congratulations on the success of this novel!

    • Jen Gilroy

      Lovely to see you here, Diana. I’m glad you enjoyed the interview. I know Arlene will appreciate your comment and good wishes, too. Owing to a family situation, she’s unexpectedly offline today.

    • Arlene McFarlane

      Thank you, Diana. Fingers crossed it is successful, but knowing I’ve got a great support system with you ladies means more than anything. Love ya. xo

    • Jen Gilroy

      Thanks for reading and commenting, Pamela. When she’s back online (unexpectedly off today owing to a family situation), I know Arlene will be pleased,too.

    • Arlene McFarlane

      Jen is right; I am so pleased you stopped in, Pamela. And thanks for supporting me in buying a copy. You’re a real dear; classy & lovely–as always. xo

  2. Tracy Brody

    Jen, think we can all relate to a bad cut experience. Fortunately, hair grows. I’d let Valentine style me up and wouldn’t want her investigating my wrong doings (if there were any), Arlene. Best wishes for much success!

    • Jen Gilroy

      Hair does indeed grow and that cut is a (thankfully) distant memory! Thanks for sharing my pain, visiting my blog and commenting. Once she’s back online (unexpected family situation today), I know Arlene will appreciate it, too.

    • Arlene McFarlane

      You’re too funny, Tracy! I’m sure Valentine would love to style you up! and wouldn’t need to investigate any wrongdoings in your life. But just in case; keep clean!

      Thank you, my friend, for your love & support. xo

  3. Arlene McFarlane

    Thank you, Jen, for this lovely blog post today. It had a definite cozy feel, being at the diner. I hope after readers learned more about me, they’ll be anxious to meet Valentine Beaumont!

    • Jen Gilroy

      You’re most welcome, Arlene. I enjoyed chatting with you and wish you much success with your series.

    • Arlene McFarlane

      Thank you, Lynn, for retweeting. Your support is genuinely appreciated!

  4. Sue Bavin

    What a lovely chatty interview, Jen and Arlene. It was thoroughly entertaining. I’ve had a quick peek at your book on Amazon, Arlene, and have popped it into my shopping basket, so I can look forward to some laugh-out-loud moments. I’m also looking forward to the next meeting at your diner, Jen.

    • Jen Gilroy

      Thanks for commenting, Sue. I’m glad you enjoyed the post and this new series on my blog. Thanks too for supporting Arlene’s debut release.

    • Arlene McFarlane

      Thank you so much, Sue! I hope you enjoy Murder, Curlers, and Cream! We can all use a laugh now and then!

      And thank you for stopping in at the diner!


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