Larissa provided a blurb for her interview and I’m so happy she did. I think from now on all my author interviews should include a blurb! Here is more about the lovely Larissa and her book:
In Halo, Georgia, folks know Cherry Tucker as big in mouth, small in stature, and able to sketch a portrait faster than buckshot rips from a ten gauge — but commissions are scarce. So when the well-heeled Branson family wants to memorialize their murdered son in a coffin portrait, Cherry scrambles to win their patronage from her small town rival.
As the clock ticks toward the deadline, Cherry faces more trouble than just a controversial subject. Her rival wants to ruin her reputation, her ex-flame wants to rekindle the fire, and someone’s setting her up to take the fall. Mix in her flaky family, an illegal gambling ring, and outwitting a killer on a spree, Cherry finds herself painted into a corner she’ll be lucky to survive.
Here is Larissa in her own words:
1. Describe your writing routine and/or schedule?
Because I have a 9 and 7 year-old, this depends on the school year. During the school year, I get them off to school at 7:30 and hop on the computer by 8:00. I meet my CP partner by text at 8:30 (we try to keep each other on task, although, admittedly, we have had 30 minute text conversations during which I multi-task). If nothing is pressing, I write or edit until I’m starving. Rummaging for food ensues. I get back on the computer and continue writing. More rummaging for food (lately I’ve kept Trader Joe’s chocolate covered edamame on my desk [which are AWESOME] to stop some of the hunting/gathering). Around 2:00, I stop and give myself 30 minutes of peace (nap) before hopping on the golf cart (yes, golf cart) to pick up the kids from school. Then there is much homeworking and carpooling until dinner. After they are in bed, I get back on the computer and catch up on social media/blogging, etc. In the perfect world, I will have stayed off social media and email all day, but I do not live in the perfect world.
During the summer: all hell breaks loose and it’s catch-can with computer time.
2. What do you do if you get writer’s block?
This usually occurs because something has gone wrong with the story. (I am a pantser). I have to back up, reread what I wrote, have some thinking time (in the shower or in the car) where I realize what’s gone wrong. Hit delete and start the scene over. Many times I’ve tried to force the story where I think it should go and not let the characters choose their fate. I have to ask myself, what would Cherry Tucker or [insert character name] think or do here? And that answers my question.
3. Who do you read, or recommend other writer’s read, in regards to craft?
Stephen King’s ON WRITING was the best book I’ve read. The most valuable lesson I learned was his idea that you put your character in a horrible situation and see how they get out of it. I love that and that’s my aim in writing. Put my sweet, little characters (although my heroines are not usually sweet) in some God-awful situation and see what they can do.
I’ve downloaded a lot of books on craft, but most are in my TBR pile. I’ve used STORY STRUCTURE ARCHITECTURE by Victoria Lynn Schmidt, to help me in plotting. I don’t really plot, but I use it to keep the book on track for pacing. I like classes more than books on craft. I don’t like reading non-fiction, which is probably why I liked ON WRITING so much, even though it’s non-fiction. In college I took a mythology class (my favorite college class), and we studied Joseph Campbell’s THE HEROE’S JOURNEY. That’s probably the best book on understanding stories.
Reference books are great, too. I bought a book on body language that’s been helpful. Because my heroine is an artist, I use my old art history text books a lot. And Lee Lofland’s POLICE PROCEDURE AND INVESTIGATION is a help for my mysteries.
4. Who do you read for fun?
Almost anything in fiction. I’ll read the literary stuff, romance, thrillers, historical fiction, mysteries, romantic suspense, fantasy, YA… (did I cover most genres there?). I’m a big mystery reader, especially British. If I’m really stressed, Agatha Christie calms my nerves. I love quirky books like Jasper Fforde’s Tuesday Next series and books by Jostein Gaardner. Love anything from early twentieth century, particularly British. Victorian period, too. Love magic realism. Romantic comedies. Even some Japanese writers. Just don’t make me read non-fiction. I will fall asleep.
5. When did you first know you wanted to be a writer? Tell us about it.
I remember writing lists of words at about age 4. I thought I was writing a book. In elementary school, I used to make books and magazines and sell them to neighbors (my poor neighbors). I won a national writing competition in 4th or 5th grade, was in Quill and Scroll in high school, and even wrote a column for our town’s paper. I always wrote for fun. I don’t know if I ever aspired to be a novelist though. I wanted to be a secretary because I liked to type and I loved desk stuff. I experimented with several majors in college and took creative writing for fun. Someone once told me you had to write what you know, and I felt like I didn’t know anything worth writing. I wanted to write about Victorian girls dying of TB (a story from high school). So I got a degree in history and then went to grad school for art history, which led me into teaching. My parents were teachers. I don’t think I knew writers were real people. The people I knew were farmers, mechanics, housewives, and secretaries. I came from a small town.
So I wrote for fun, then life happened and I didn’t write much except lesson plans and letters. Twenty years later I was living in Japan, my kids were in school for the first time, I didn’t have a job, and I suddenly had time. I always had stories in my head and my husband encouraged me to write. So I did. And here I am. (That was three years ago).
6. What advice would you give an aspiring writer?
I think reading is what helps me become a better writer. Read in your genre and out of your genre, but pay attention while you’re reading. Think about the choices the writer made in language, character actions, pacing, sentence structure, etc. Take a really good example of a book in your genre and dissect it.
Write as much as you can when you can. Fifty words a day if that’s all you can do. Do it whatever way works best for you, just write. Writing is the hardest part of writing. My brain has to be jumpstarted. Some days I’ll only write three words in an hour and then the flow comes. If you’re like me, you’ll need to block out time for that. Other people can write whenever they get five minutes. I’m envious. I’m too easily distracted.
Join professional groups in your genre like Romance Writers of America or Sisters in Crime (I’m in both) and online and/or local chapters. I’m in 4 national groups, a state-wide chapter, and a local writing group. You learn so much from other members. Take advantage of the classes they offer. Look for conferences. Live conferences can be expensive but there are some free on-line conferences. I did the on-line conferences while living in Japan and I learned so much about writing and publishing.
7. What do you think is the most important skill to have to succeed as a writer?
Perseverance. And knowing how to use the find/replace key.
8. What is your favorite food and/or drink?
Pizza and iced Oolong tea (a tea I started drinking in Japan). It used to be beer, but my body doesn’t want me to have fun anymore.
9. Do you have a favorite book or movie?
Favorite book? That’s like asking me to name my favorite child! I have so many I can’t even make a top ten, but my favorite book from childhood that I still love to read is THE LION, THE WITCH, AND THE WARDROBE by C.S. Lewis. We named a dog after C.S. and my daughter is partially named for the character Lucy. I love the movie Lost in Translation. Maybe it’s my favorite. I also love all the John Hughes movies from the ‘80s. And Raiders of the Lost Arc. Favorite Movie is like Favorite Book. Too hard!
10. Is there anything I didn’t ask you that you’d like to share?
I love to chat on Facebook and Twitter, but my new favorite website is Pinterest. For the pinners out there, my heroine in the Cherry Tucker Mystery series is an artist living in Georgia. She loves to eat Southern food and also loves to “embellish” her clothing. On Pinterest, I’m always looking for great Southern recipes and DIY ideas to restyle ordinary clothes that would fit Cherry’s budget that lets her add personal style. If you find a recipe or DIY clothing idea you think Cherry would love, put an @LarissaReinhart in the comment section and let me know. I’ll pin it to my Southern Fixin’s and/or Cherry’s Wardrobe boards and might use them in a future book!
Also, if you love to chat about book topics, some of my friends and I have started a book chat group on Facebook called The Little Read Hens. We have a discussion topic question on Wednesdays we use as a starting point. We also like to celebrate book launches at our website littlereadhens.com. If you have a book launching or are curious about new books coming out, check us out!
Larissa considers herself lucky to have taught English in Japan, escaped a ferocious monkey in Thailand, studied archaeology in Egypt, and survived teaching high school history in the US. However, adopting her daughters from China has been her most rewarding experience. After moving around the midwest, the south and Japan, she now lives in Georgia with her husband, daughters, and Biscuit, a Cairn Terrier.
She loves small town characters with big attitudes, particularly sassy women with a penchant for trouble. PORTRAIT OF A DEAD GUY (Henery Press, August 28, 2012) is a 2012 Daphne du Maurier finalist, a 2012 The Emily finalist, and a 2011 Dixie Kane Memorial winner. When she’s not writing about southern fried chicken, she writes about Asian fried chicken at her blog about life as an ex-expat at theexpatreturneth.blogspot.com.