Stephanie LaVigne - Whimsical, Witty, and Uplifting With an Occasional Side of Mystery & Mayhem
Stephanie LaVigne is a bestselling author of mystery and romance novels. Her books are quirky, relatable, adventurous, and witty. From hopping freight trains, to sailing across the Atlantic, to mushing a Canadian dogsled, she’s had incredible adventures alongside all kinds of real-life characters. You will usually find her laughing loudly and proclaiming that, if nothing else, her life has never been dull. She has published over fifty popular novels under both her own name and pen names. She currently lives in her favorite South Florida neighborhood surrounded by palm trees, peacocks, a few wild kids, and one wild husband. As our Author of the Day, she tells us all about her book, Headlines, Deadlines and Lies.
Please give us a short introduction to what Headlines, Deadlines and Lies is about.
The book is a feel-good story about friendship, family, and finding your passion. On its face, it is a genealogical mystery where the main character, Piper, has to uncover some secrets within her best friend’s family tree in order to win her shot at a coveted writing position at the local paper. It is a cozy beach read with a bit of sweet romance, played out in a quaint beach town along Florida’s Gulf Coast.
What inspired you to write this story? Was there anything that made you want to tackle this?
I really wanted to try and write something where the mystery wasn’t focused around a catastrophic event. It turns out that’s easier said than done when it comes to a mystery book! I originally began writing it with the Hallmark Channel in mind, so that helped to shape the original idea. My mother’s massive amount of research into our genealogical history, alongside the stories of some of my friends’ missing family tree branches, were the inspiration for the family tree angle of the story.
Tell us more about Piper Harrington. What makes her tick?
I think Piper is a lovable character who you can root for. She was headstrong and confident when she was younger. Then life did not end up turning out exactly as she expected it to. At the point where we meet her, she’s doing what a lot of us do, which is working at a job to support her family, running at full speed to keep everything afloat, and realizing she’s lost that sense of herself along the way. She’s a good friend, a well-meaning mother and daughter, but she’s forgotten how to prioritize herself.
Why did you decide to bring genealogy into the story?
Guilt, maybe? Just kidding. My mom has done a lot of genealogy research for our family, and my paternal grandmother has as well. Genealogy is something I find incredibly interesting, but something I have not had time for. For years now, I haven’t had the time to sit down and listen to the stories, or read through the mounds of paperwork that they’ve each compiled. When I was searching for a story that could have a mystery but didn’t involve a murder, I started thinking back to all the interesting family tree stories that I’ve heard over the years. They are all pretty scandalous when you think about them; or at least they were at the times that they occurred. The older I’ve gotten, the more I realize that there are a lot of unanswered questions in many of our family histories. I came to understand that a lot of those missing pieces turn out to be deadends because someone along the way did not want the whole story told. So is actually quite interesting and sleuthy when you dive into genealogy and start trying to fill in holes or connect branches that are broken. You start putting together clues and realizing that there is more under the surface than you initially thought.
Since publishing the book, I’ve been privy to story after story of missing links in family trees that raise a lot of questions. At this point, I personally know four people of varying ages who don’t know who their fathers are. These are people whose mothers are alive, people who weren’t adopted, yet there is an information gap and an accepted air of secrecy around the unanswered questions. My hypothesis has become that things happen and we bury them or alter the stories because they were highly emotional events at the time. Decades later, the person who kept the secret has sort of created a new reality around the events, and the younger generations never get the real story or the truth.
Besides writing, what other secret skills do you have?
Oh wow, I would love to think I have secret skills! Let’s see… I tend to do really well in emergency situations. When I worked in the film industry, part of my job was basically putting out fires all day long, and I feel uniquely predisposition to do that. I come off as a bit quirky and high energy in real life, but I am very levelheaded and competent when it comes to a stressful circumstance. Another random “skill” if you can call it that, is that I can find the silver lining in pretty much any situation. I give fairly terrific relationship advice, though I probably don’t walk the walk as good as I should. I am also super handy, and if I weren’t a writer, I would probably try to have my own HGTV show renovating houses.
Do any of your characters ever take off on their own tangent, refusing to do what you had planned for them?
I have been running into that a lot lately actually! I had a side character who has muscled his way into becoming the main love interest, which was completely unexpected. The main love interest was supposed to be this character’s affable best friend, but instead this Grumpy Gus has been working his magic on me and my female protagonist and I can’t stop him. I’m honestly still not sure what’s going to happen with them as a couple, so I am just going to keep writing until I figure it out.
Which of your characters was the most challenging to create?
I have a main heroin who has been in the works for probably three years now and strangely enough she is very similar to me in a lot of ways, yet I really struggle with her. I have trouble making her nearly as interesting as any of the other characters in the story. I had a different female protagonist in another book that I had a lot of the same problems with. The parts that make them similar to me, seem to somehow confine me in making them interesting enough. The second character has finally come into her own and now she is off and running with her spunky self, but the first one still lacks something that I can’t quite put my finger on. Once I figure it out and fix it, that book will be ready for publication.
What did you have the most fun with while writing this story?
The main character Piper and her best friend Nora have a relationship that really mirrors how I feel about my best friends. So there was a lot of love and joy in writing their interactions. I also really had fun writing the male love interest JP, because he is the playfully sarcastic, worldly, big-hearted type of guy that I would fall for.
Interesting cover - please tell us more about how it came about.
I had a really hard time with the cover design for this book. It felt like nothing worked for the longest time. During the second round of designing, I landed on a really great cover and thought I had nailed it. When the book was getting ready to be released though I had to admit that, while it was a really strong cover, it didn’t fit the story. Eventually I went back to the drawing board and honed in on what would become the current cover. Now when I look at the cover it makes me happy. It might not be perfect, but I feel like it fits my overall beachy, colorful, upbeat brand.
Why did you decide to involve a crime reporter in this story?
The crime reporter and main love interest, JP Dean, was another one of those characters who sort of created himself. I had done a lot of planning for this book, but several things changed early on once I started writing. Initially, Piper did not have a best friend and I wasn’t a hundred percent sure if I would involve a love interest. Piper was going to try to find the long-lost father of one of her co-workers, but then Nora “Boots” Connor showed up when I was writing, followed by Jonathan Patrick “JP” Dean and suddenly large parts of the world began revolving around their relationships with Piper.
JP arrived as a new hire to the paper, and his personality made it clear to me that he would be on the crime beat. His being a crime reporter also opens up options if I ever want to continue the series and have more mysteries for them to solve together.
When starting on a new book, what is the first thing you do?
First, I come up with a character, location, or general idea that I want to write about. Then I try to outline or plot the trajectory of the story. Outlining is a skill that I aspire to get better at, but anything is better than nothing and I try to be as thorough as I can. Usually I have thought a lot about what the book in advance and have probably already written a few scenes and/or notes about the story and characters. So if I’m ready to start on a book, I am actually coming back to an idea that I’ve been mulling over for some time. I keep a running list of plot ideas, character ideas, snippets of scenes that come to me or I think could be interesting, and things like that. When I’m ready to work on a new book, I gather anything that I had and place it within the working manuscript. Then at some point I make myself sit down and start typing the first chapter to break the seal and get moving. I often have to come back to the first chapter and refine it, but step one is making myself write that first chapter so that the book has an official “Chapter 1” in my manuscript.
Do you have any interesting writing habits? What is an average writing day like for you?
My writing routine changes a lot because I still have little kids at home and life is constantly a whirlwind of chaos. So when life is very busy, I try to dictate scenes. I get into the habit of creating a general outline, and then taking a chapter “on the road” with me so that I can dictate into my phone when I’m driving or waiting places.
I also go through phases because the writing business is more than just writing books. So sometimes I spend a lot of time coming up with plots, other times I am spending a lot more energy on marketing efforts, and sometimes I really get to be in the writing zone, focused on getting the book written. I always take much longer to write than I think I will, so while I can write a scene pretty fast, I need to have large swaths of undisturbed time to actually put it all together into a proper book.
What are you working on right now?
I am working on two mystery series and two romance series. For the mysteries, one is a police procedural serial inspired by outlandish, yet true-ish Florida Man crimes. The other is a female private investigator series that I’m pretty excited about. In the romance department, under my pen name, I have a cowboy brother trilogy releasing, and a new sweet beach series in the works tentatively called The Love Business. It’s gearing up to be a busy year.
Where can our readers discover more of your work or interact with you?
You can get all my books on Amazon and if you follow me on my author page there, they will let you know when I have new releases! Plus, I’d love for anyone to come friend me on Instagram, Facebook, Bookbub, and Goodreads. Lastly, sign up for my Newsletter at www.StephanieLaVigne.com to get little videos, deals, and other fun things!