Larissa Reinhart - Can a Small-Town Artist Outwit a Killer?
A Wall Street Journal bestselling author, Larissa writes the award-winning Cherry Tucker Mystery, Maizie Albright Star Detective, and Finley Goodhart Crime Caper series. She loves to tell funny stories about women, looking for love (and dead bodies) in all the wrong places. Larissa, her family, and Cairn Terrier, Biscuit, lived in Nagoya, Japan, but have returned to Peachtree City, Georgia. You can see them on HGTV's House Hunters International "Living for the Weekend in Nagoya" episode. Larissa loves books, food, and traveling with her family. As our Author of the Day, she tells us all about Portrait of a Dead Guy.
Please give us a short introduction to what Portrait of a Dead Guy is about.
Essentially it’s about a small-town girl, living in a lonely world, who’d give anything to make it as a portrait artist. Working hard to get her fill (she’s living on borrowed meals), she rolls the dice on trying to grab the commission for her town patron’s son’s coffin portrait. And ends up singing the blues, when the son’s killer finds her getting too close to the truth. Also, Cherry’s ex-boyfriend’s back and might be involved in the murder. Her sort-of-ex-husband is writing bad songs about her. And a goat wants to kill her truck.
Tell us more about Cherry Tucker. What makes her so special?
She’s a talented artist who graduated from Savannah College of Art and Design, but she’s also a redneck who loves her small town and is ornery as all get out. She’s short in stature and big in mouth and hasn’t earned the respect of her town (her family’s from the wrong side of the tracks), but she’s working on it.
Was there anything in particular that inspired you to write this book, that made you want to tackle this?
Oddly enough, when I wrote Portrait, I was living in Japan and working on another book. When I’d drive my girls to school, I’d listen to country music and think about Georgia. Soon enough, the characters started talking to me. Then they wouldn’t shut up so I had to write down what they were saying.
Your work contains a lot of humor. Why do you write it this way?
Probably because I like to read funny books. And watch funny movies. I also have an odd sense of humor, I think. Or at least, that’s the impression I get when folks ask about the title of my book.
Besides writing, what other secret skills do you have??
I make really awesome mac and cheese.
This is the first book in a series. Did you plan from the start to make this into a series?
When I pitched and submitted Portrait, I was open for it to be a standalone or a series but knew editors likely wanted a series. The other books continue sequentially through Cherry’s life, but they can be read out of order. Most take place in Forks County, where her hometown of Halo is located, and many of the same characters reoccur in them.
Why did you pick Halo, Georgia, as the backdrop for your story?
I’m a small-town girl. Actually, that’s not true, I grew up in a village. I liked small towns because they were bigger than my farming village. Growing up I was impressed if a town had sidewalks (didn’t take much). And I live in Georgia, south of Atlanta, so I set Cherry’s fictional Halo in Forks County there. I can look out my window and see her world. I grew up with the kinds of people in her stories although I never deliberately use a real person as the base for a fictional one.
What drew you to this genre?
I love romantic comedies and cozy mysteries and Southern fiction. I just threw all that in the pot and stirred.
Which of the characters in Portrait of a Dead Guy was the most challenging to create?
Probably Max “the Bear” Avataikin. He refused to play the heavy, even though that was the role created for him. For an Eastern European gangster, his sense of humor surprised me.
IIf you could spend a day with Cherry Tucker, where would you take her?
Probably the Varsity in Atlanta, because we both love to eat there. If Red’s County Line Tap was a real place, I’d love to go there and try the wings.
When working on a new book, what is the first thing you do?
Get to know the main characters. I think about their personality types and backstory, their motives and needs, then write for a while to get into their heads so I can “hear” them. It usually takes me several chapters. Then I regroup and really hammer out the details of the story.
Do you have any interesting writing habits? What is an average writing day like for you?
When my children were little, I’d write mostly at night. Then I’d write while they were in school. Now they’re teenagers and I just write whenever I can. I’m finding the best time is to get up before six, but I've been a night owl for so long, it’s hard for me. I just adjust with the times. And during the pandemic, everyone is home all the time. My husband’s up early, doing stuff. The girls are up late, doing stuff. It’s a bit of a challenge.
What are you working on right now?
I have three current series, all romantic comedy mysteries — A Cherry Tucker Mystery, Maizie Albright Star Detective, Finley Goodhart Crime Capers — and I’m adding a new small town, romantic comedy series that has no dead bodies (which isn’t exactly true because someone dies to kick off the series). Cherry Tucker and Maizie Albright had new stories out this year: Cherry had “A Motherlode of Trouble” in the anthology, YEAR-ROUND TROUBLE, and Maizie Albright’s sixth book, 18 CALIBER, released in April.
My plan was to write the romcom, then the next Finley Goodhart, THE PONY PREDICAMENT, and the seventh Maizie Albright. The pandemic shook things up a bit, so I think there’s going to be a switch around. I’m still writing the romcom while I figure out what will come next.
Where can our readers discover more of your work or interact with you?
My website, larissareinhart.com, can introduce you to my book world and if you’d like some free reads and exclusive content, join my VIP Readers group there. I send a personal email about twice a month with news and monthly giveaways.
You can also follow what I’m reading and writing on Bookbub: https://www.bookbub.com/authors/larissa-reinhart.
For social media, I’m mainly on Facebook and Instagram, and feel free to friend me, particularly if you like pictures of what I’m cooking and my dog, Biscuit. There are also a lot of goat memes on Facebook because Tater from the Cherry Tucker Mystery series has his own fan club.
Thanks so much! This has been fun!
Y’all grab Portrait while it’s free on Amazon. Most of the series books are on Kindle Unlimited, too. :)