I'm pleased to welcome Larissa Reinhart back to Cozy Up With Kathy. Larissa is back with her new book, 15 MINUTES, the first in the Maizie Albright Star Detective Mystery series which was released last week.
Kathy: Welcome back Larissa!
LR: Hey, Kathy! Thanks so much for having me on Cozy Up again! I’m always thrilled to be here.
Kathy: You start a new series with 15 MINUTES. Was there a specific inspiration for this series?
LR: I did have a specific inspiration for Maizie Albright Star Detective. In my hometown of Peachtree City, Georgia, over the last 20 years, I was witness to the TV and movie industry filming in the area. Movies like Fried Green Tomatoes and Sweet Home Alabama were filmed nearby, particularly next door in the little town of Senoia. Drop Dead Diva had a set behind my favorite local diner in Peachtree City.
However, the Hollywood effect really heated up in the last five years or so when The Walking Dead made Senoia their permanent location and then the famous UK studio, Pinewood Studios, built a huge backlot and eighteen sound stages a few miles down the road from us. Now our area is host to mega films like Captain America, Civil War and Spiderman: Homecoming. It feels crazy to live in the countryside outside Atlanta and see Dale from The Walking Dead at the local Fresh Market.
I had already been talking to an agent about writing another series and had come up with a character who wanted to recreate her childhood acting gig as a detective for real. It seemed the ideal solution (to me) to use small town Georgia as the setting. She’d be moving home, but unbeknownst to her, Hollywood would move with her.
Kathy: Maizie Albright is a former teen star turned detective. Would you rather be a celebrity or a detective?
LR: That’s hard. Neither seems like a dream job to me. It’s tough tedious work and you learn awful stuff about people that can make you permanently cynical. I know a private investigator and the same goes for detective work. ;)
Kathy: 15 MINUTES is described as a humorous mystery. What are the benefits of adding humor to murder?
LR: It’s more difficult to bring murder up in polite conversation if it’s not funny.
Kathy: When it comes to writing I understand there are 2 general camps-plotters, who diligently plot their stories, and pansters, who fly by the seat of their pants. Are you a plotter, a panster, or do you fall somewhere in between?
LR: I suppose I fall in between, although I’m more pantser than plotter. I have to have a good understanding of my characters before I write in order for the story to work. The plot can be adjusted and does adjust according to the characters actions based on their personalities. I work out my basic understanding of the original crime, the action that starts the story, then have my characters react to it. It feels more natural to me that way.
Kathy: Authors are required to do a lot of their own marketing. What's your favorite part of marketing your work? What do you dislike about marketing?
LR: I love social media. I’m not supposed to say that, but I really do. To me, it’s not even marketing although I do post stuff about my books. I like chatting with people, but I’m not good in person. (And really terrible on the phone). I don’t understand why my brain does this, but I’m a much better as a pen pal. I can think of what to say while typing, but put me in a room with people and I draw a blank. Social media is a terrific form of communication for the socially awkward.
I also love making graphics on sites like Canva, but art was my major for about five minutes. Back when we used Adobe Illustrator on an Apple IIe for graphic design.
What do I dislike about marketing? Anything to do with numbers, spreadsheets, or algorithms.
Kathy: You recently moved to Japan. Has this location change affected your writing habits?
LR: Writing in Japan is harder than I thought it would be. I began my writing career last time we lived in Japan six years ago, but I wasn’t on deadline, doing marketing, or chatting with readers back then. Ideally, I like to write first thing in the morning after getting my children to school. But while I was sleeping, everyone in the West was awake, so I feel a pressure to respond to all the emails and posts I missed before I start writing. That throws off my writing, definitely. I lose focus pretty easily if I don’t immerse myself in the story and it’s hard to immerse when you know someone is waiting to hear from you.
Kathy: Will you share any other upcoming books?
LR: I will have the Cherry Tucker novella, THE VIGILANTE VIGNETTE (Vigilante appeared in the anthology MIDNIGHT MYSTERIES last fall) out as an e-book in about a month. After that will be the release of 16 MILLIMETERS, Maizie Albright’s next case, where Maizie has to babysit a hot mess starlet so she doesn’t blow her big film debut. But when the starlet appears dead, and then not dead, Maizie’s got an actress to watch and a missing corpse to find.
After I finish 16 MILLIMETERS, I’ll go back to work on a romantic comedy I had started writing earlier, BISCUIT GIRL IN NOODLE LAND. I’m hoping to balance my mystery series with romantic comedies and a few young adult books that I’m writing at the request of my daughters and their friends.
When ex-teen star Maizie Albright returns to her Southern hometown of Black Pine, Georgia, she hoped to rid herself of Hollywood tabloid and reality show hell for a new career as a private investigator. Instead, Hollyweird follows her home. Maizie’s costar crushing, but now for her gumshoe boss. Her stage-monster mother still demands screen time. Her latest rival wants her kicked off the set, preferably back to a California prison.
By entangling herself in a missing person's case, she must reprise her most famous role. The job will demand a performance of a lifetime. But this time, the stakes are real and may prove deadly.
A 2015 Georgia Author of the Year Best Mystery finalist, Larissa writes the Cherry Tucker Mystery and Maizie Albright Star Detective series. The first in the Cherry Tucker series, Portrait of a Dead Guy, is a 2012 Daphne du Maurier finalist, 2012 The Emily finalist, and 2011 Dixie Kane Memorial winner. She loves books, food, and travel in any and all combinations.
Her family and Cairn Terrier, Biscuit, live in Nagoya, Japan, but they still call Georgia home. You can see them on HGTV’s House Hunters International “Living for the Weekend in Nagoya” episode. Visit her website, find her chatting on Facebook, Instagram, and Goodreads, and sign up for her newsletter at http://smarturl.it/larissanewsletter.
If you enjoy her books, please leave a review. She sends you virtual hugs and undying gratitude for your support!
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Of course, Nash Security Solutions would be housed in a donut shop.
Time and the elements had nearly scrubbed the painted Dixie Kreme ad from the side of the old brick building and I’d almost missed it. But with my Jag’s top down, the confectioned-carb aroma assaulted my senses. I pulled in a long, exhilarating breath, then pretended I couldn’t taste that sweet mouthful of heaven.
My trainer, Jerry, would have accused me of manifesting donut reality through my sheer love of trans-fats. After all my years in LA, delectables like donuts should cause my brain to flash a warning with a similar intensity to the bright red neon “Fresh & Hot” sign hanging in this storefront window. However, my brain’s warning was more of an appetizing apple red. As in Snow White’s “one bite and all your dreams will come true” red.
My therapist has an opinion on that subject, something about denied sugar both literal and metaphorical. Either way, donuts meant trouble.
I almost buckled to temptation. But I had a mission. I sucked down another mouthful of donut air, placed one Jimmy Choo in front of the other and moved through the front door of the Dixie Kreme Donut building. Then into a dim hall, up the stairs and into a dimmer hall. And stopped before the door with the words "Nash Security Solutions" painted on the frosted glass.
Not a modern glass door that swished when opened. An old wooden door. The whole building had that old-timey feel with the brass knobs and wood and the plaster-over-brick walls. Even the building’s front door had a half moon, stained glass window. Those adorable antiquing couples in Pasadena would have loved the Dixie Kreme building.
For a long minute, I stood before that door inhaling eau de donut and evaluating my wardrobe choices. I wanted to look appropriate. This was my big break. Like a screen test, but better. My stylist might not have agreed on pairing the Jimmy Choos with a white, sleeveless Nina Ricci resort dress and my Chloé Clare bag. Sometimes my stylist went a little overboard. She would have gone with Louboutins and a Birkin. Keeping Up with the Kardashians and whatnot. Literally.
But this was Black Pine, Georgia, where Loubies and Birkins weren’t fundamental. I grabbed the old-timey, brass knob of the Nash Security door and strode through with a "go get'er" set to my features, ripping off my Barton Perreira Jet-Setters and shoving them into my bag like I was on an episode of Miami Undercover.
"Mr. Nash," I said with great authority. And then dropped my bag. Forgot to close my mouth. And I might have gasped.
From Miami Undercover to I Love Lucy.
Nash Security Solutions consisted of two rooms. The outer room had a battered corduroy recliner, a few metal file cabinets, and a frumpy couch. In this room, all was well, although run down and dusty. Unfortunately, the door to the second room stood open. I was unaware of the condition of that room because Mr. Nash of Nash Security Solutions was naked.
Well, not naked-naked. Half-naked. But he was a big guy. As in tall, solid wall of muscle. Movie star muscle. Like Mr. Nash had a personal trainer who specialized in tone and definition.
Except this was Black Pine, and I doubted Mr. Nash had ever hired a trainer to watch him sweat while screaming about the evils of trans-fats and the virtues of chili pepper colonics. Mr. Nash didn't look the type to put up with anyone yelling at him about anything.
He did seem a little slow, though. At my authoritative "Mr. Nash," he froze. With a t-shirt in one hand. And unbuckled jeans. Giving me time to peel my ogle off all those muscles and the unbuckled buckle and peruse his facial features. His head was shaved and his nose looked broken. A wicked scar curled from his chin to chiseled jaw.
But most astonishing, Mr. Nash’s eyes were Paul Newman blue. Startling intense, arctic blue.
He countered my ogle for a few long seconds, taking in my hidden curves, the reddish-blonde hair, sea bottle green eyes, and a nice pair of legs. I get a lot of ogling. Vicki trained me to take ogles as a compliment. Should it bother me? Ask my therapist. She's got plenty to say on the subject, too.
Behind me, I heard the door open and close while Mr. Nash and I continued our stare-off.
"Didn't know you gave peep shows this early, Nash," said a deep, gravelly voice.
I jerked my eyes off the hard body and onto the older, African-American man dropping into the recliner. He wore a chef's apron over his t-shirt and jeans and smelled of donuts.
"Oh my God. I'm sorry," I said to all listening and glanced into the inner office where Mr. Nash fumbled with his belt buckle.
"Why should you be sorry?" said the man, throwing the lever on the recliner to prop up his feet. "Nash's the one raised in a barn."
"Morning, Lamar," drawled Nash, then addressed me. "Excuse me, ma'am. I'm sorry about this. Forgot to shut the door. And you are?"
I relaxed my face, which felt squinchy. My directors hated that look because it made me look constipated rather than astonished. Taking a deep breath, I said, "I'm Maizie Albright. I mean, Maizie Spayberry. Well, it was Spayberry, and I'm thinking about switching back permanently. Although I do like my other name. It has a better ring, which is why my manager changed it."
Nash nodded and focused on buttoning, although he revealed a flash of what I like to call "WTH face."
"Spayberry. Which Spayberry?” said Lamar. “There's a ton around here. Unless you mean Boomer Spayberry? Of DeerNose?"
"Yes, sir. Boomer is my father." DeerNose was big among those that shopped at Bass Pro and other hunting outfitters, but I didn't get recognized as a DeerNose daughter much in LA. It produced a feeling of pride and awkwardness. Among hunters, Daddy's considered the Michael Kors of clothing and accessories. He designs scented hunting apparel. The awkwardness comes with the scent. Deer pee. Big with hunters. Not so much with anyone else.
I glanced at Nash, who was now buttoning a white dress shirt over his muscles. An Armani. A bit old, but still sharp.
"I'm sorry, but aren't you expecting me?" I glanced at my watch. "I was told to come at this time."
"Told by who?" Nash paused the buttoning.
"A Jolene Sweeney. I didn't speak to her, my assistant set up the interview. Maybe our wires got crossed?" I raised my brows at the string of curses Mr. Nash uttered. "I'm sorry. Do I have the time wrong?"
Shooting a look of concern at Lamar, Nash pushed past me to flip the lock on the front door.
"So are you living over at the DeerNose cabin?" Lamar continued. "I heard it's pretty grand. Nice land Boomer's got, too."
"Yes, sir," I said, watching Mr. Nash pace before the locked door. "I haven't been in Black Pine for about six years. As a kid, I spent my summers here. Although I would’ve been better off moving back a long time ago. But you can't change the past. At least that's what Renata says."
"Who's Renata?" asked Lamar.
"Oh, my therapist. The last one." I bit my lip, realizing you shouldn't admit to numerous therapists in an interview. Or what should be an interview. "It's something we do in LA."
"Therapy?" asked Lamar.
"Rehab." Then bit my lip again.
Lamar smiled. He didn't seem to find Nash's pacing at all unnerving. "That's right. Boomer Spayberry's daughter is the TV kid. Maizie Albright. You were on that teen detective show, wasn't it?"
"Yes, sir. Julia Pinkerton: Teen Detective." I grinned. "Before that was Kung Fu Kate. And a few pilots and TV movies. Julia's where my career really took off. And what inspired my new career."
"I don't watch much myself. Nash and I still prefer the radio for the Braves and Bulldogs."
"Because you're too cheap to pay for cable," said Nash.
"Don't need it," said Lamar. "You've got enough equipment, you could probably rig yourself some satellite TV."
"What did Jolene say?" asked Nash.
I looked from Nash to Lamar. He folded his arms behind his head.
"Miss Albright?" Nash's voice grew impatient.
“Me? Like I said, I didn't speak to Jolene. My assistant, Blake, did. Blake's gone now, or I would call her. I had to let all my people go. That was hard."
"The meeting, Miss Albright?"
"I'm sorry. It was about the apprentice position? I need two years training for private investigation and you need—”
"I need nothing." Nash swore using words not altogether familiar to me. And after living in LA, that's surprising. "Can you believe this?"
"Well," I slowed my speech. "I did believe it sounded legitimate. I mean, I haven't been in Black Pine for a while, but I assumed, or at least Blake assumed, everything was aboveboard. I think she checked your agency with Better Business or something—”
"I was talking to Lamar," sighed Nash. "Lamar, what do you make of this?"
"You know my feelings. But you could use help, Nash," said Lamar. "I'd ask about qualifications."
Nash turned from the door to look at me.
"Me?" I said. "I've been studying Criminal Justice at U Cal, Long Beach. While doing the show. But if you don't watch TV, you probably didn't know that. The producers liked the location shots on campus. I had to draw the line at them following me into class, because the professors got upset—”
"What show is that?" said Lamar. "One of them reality shows?"
"All is Albright. It got picked up after the first time I went to rehab. Vicki's idea to capitalize on my notoriety. Awkward, right? I was ready to be done with TV altogether, but it did pay for college. And all the legal fees. And my other bills—”
"Are you for real?" asked Nash. "Is this some kind of prank? Candid Camera type of thing?"
"Candid Camera? Like Betty White's show?” I shook my head. “I am entirely serious. Before I left California, I had Blake research private investigation agencies in Black Pine and yours was all she came up with. Is Jolene Sweeney your partner? Because I'm starting to wonder how Blake made the appointment—”
"Even I'm not old enough to remember Candid Camera, Nash," said Lamar. "I swear, you were born in the wrong century. Although, I'm not much for reality shows. Except Cops, I do like Cops."
"Well, last season was a bit like Cops," I said. "That's when Oliver's non-profit was busted, unfortunately. Which led to my recent predicament. However, my therapist, Renata, and I do agree it all worked out for the best. I wanted out of LA. And this is a better way to fulfill my dream. A healthier alternative."
"Now that sounds interesting," said Lamar. "A bust as a healthier alternative. Not heard that view before."
"I think I've heard enough," said Nash.
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