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.
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.
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!
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.