Today our guest blogger is Nancy J. Cohen, an award-winning author who writes romance and mysteries. Her popular Bad Hair Day series features hairdresser Marla Shore, who solves crimes with wit and style under the sultry Florida sun. Several titles in this series have made the IMBA bestseller list, while Nancy’s imaginative sci-fi romances have garnered rave reviews. Her latest book, and tenth in her mystery series, is Shear Murder from Five Star. Active in the writing community and a featured speaker at libraries and conferences, Nancy is listed in Contemporary Authors, Poets & Writers, and Who’s Who in U.S. Writers, Editors, & Poets.
Joyce: Good morning, Nancy, and thanks for joining us here at Author Expressions. Let's get right to the questions. When did you start to write and how long did it take you to get published?
Nancy: Ever since I can remember, I’ve been writing. At first, it was poems and short stories. I began the submission process quite young, but it wasn’t until grad school that I decided to write a novel.
I bought a book called Structuring Your Novel and that’s how I learned. One of the most important things I did to boost my career was to join Romance Writers of America and attend conferences and monthly chapter meetings. I wrote six books before one sold. My first title, Circle of Light, won the HOLT Medallion Award. I switched to mysteries four books later when the bottom dropped out of the futuristic romance market. Thus began my Bad Hair Day mystery series featuring hairstylist Marla Shore, who lives in South Florida and solves crimes when she isn’t busy running her salon and dating Detective Dalton Vail.
Joyce: What genre or sub-genre do you write? Why did you choose this genre?
Nancy: I write humorous mysteries and sci-fi romance. I enjoy plotting the mysteries, figuring out the relationships among my characters, and incorporating Florida issues into my stories since this is where they take place. But I also love the tales of adventure I can spin when I write romance. Anything can happen in these stories that take place on other worlds, and although the focus is on the developing relationship between hero and heroine, the plots are full of political intrigue, suspense, and danger. My cozy mysteries focus on relationships, too, and the conflicts among the various suspects. Florida is a great setting with its rich and varied ecosystems, distinctive small towns, and diverse populace.
Joyce: What motivated you to write your latest book and what’s it about?
Nancy: Shear Murder is the tenth book in my Bad Hair Day mystery series. It’s the culmination of a personal journey for my hairstylist sleuth, Marla Shore. It’s about weddings and new beginnings. Just when Marla is planning her own nuptials, she gets caught up in another murder investigation. Marla is a bridesmaid at her friend Jill’s wedding when she discovers the matron of honor—the bride’s sister— dead under the cake table. She has a lot going on in her life, but when Jill pleads for her help in solving the case, Marla can’t refuse. It’s a fast-paced tale with humor, romance, and suspense as Marla races to find the killer before her wedding day arrives.
As for what inspired this story, I wanted to give my series a happy ending. My fans kept asking when the next Marla Shore mystery would be coming out, but my former publisher had cancelled the series. As the markets changed, I decided to finish this book to give readers the closure they deserved. So I really wrote it as a response to readers and in gratitude for their support. I hope they are pleased with Shear Murder. It was a delight to write, and I had fun bringing back all the secondary characters that we’ve grown to know and love. And now that I have a new publisher, it doesn’t have to be the end.
Joyce: Tell us about your other works and where readers can buy your books.
Nancy: The Bad Hair Day Mysteries have ten titles. Killer Knots and Perish by Pedicure are the most recent before Shear Murder. They can be found at any online bookstore in multiple formats. Silver Serenade, my latest sci-fi romance, can be bought directly from The Wild Rose Press or elsewhere online. This story is about a beautiful assassin and a desperate fugitive who join forces to catch a terrorist and prevent an intergalactic war. My backlist romance titles are at Backlist Ebooks, or are listed on my Amazon Author Page. This is your best site to locate all my works. And of course, check out Shear Murder.
Joyce: How do you write? Are you a pantser or a plotter? Is it your characters or your plot that influences you the most?
Nancy: I’m a plotter, most definitely. I do my character development up front, filling in their info on some tools I’ve developed, and then I’ll work on research and plotting. Once the story is in my head, I’ll write the entire synopsis. This acts as my writing guideline.
Joyce: What is your typical day like?
Nancy: I do my writing very early in the morning, taking exercise breaks, until around ten or so. Then I spend the rest of the day on marketing/promotion. That can consume all of a writer’s time. This is when I’m on a roll and the story is flowing. If not, the writing part may take longer. I set a daily quota of five pages a day or twenty-five pages a week. Once the book is done, I do several read-throughs for line editing, consistency, etc. Usually I have time free in the afternoons if I have plans with friends, but I’m fortunate to be able to write full-time.
Joyce: What has surprised you about being a published author?
Nancy: It surprises me how many people come up to me and say they have an idea for a novel. Either they are under the mistaken impression that I am dying to write it for them and split the millions we’ll make, or they want to know right off the bat how to get an agent and submit their masterpiece without being willing to do their homework.
Joyce: What one thing do you like most about writing? Least?
Nancy: I love feedback from fans. That’s what keeps me going. I save all the mail I get and it inspires me to keep writing. The least? All the marketing we have to do. It’s never enough, and it takes hours from the time we could spend writing.
Joyce: How do you do research for your books?
Nancy: Some of the research for my mysteries is based upon personal experience. Re the settings, I visit the towns in my stories and take detailed notes and photos. I ask a retired police detective to verify my crime related facts and have attended Citizens Police Academy. I’ve visited beauty schools, trade shows, salons, and more to learn about the hairstyling profession. Probably one of the most interesting experiences was at the Russian shvitz, where I ran around in a swimsuit with my notebook and camera under my towel. I’ve visited a biohazard waste disposal facility, an aquaculture center where they breed tilapia, and joined a fitness club, all in the name of research.
Joyce: What do you like to do when you aren't writing?
Nancy: Reading, outlet shopping, fine dining, cruising, cooking.
Joyce: What advice would you give aspiring writers today?
Nancy: Follow the 3 P’s: Practice, Professionalism, and Perseverance. Know the marketplace. Join your professional writers organizations and attend conferences and workshops. Networking is crucial in this business, and writing is foremost a business these days. It’s not enough to write a good book. You have to be market savvy, establish yourself in the social networks, and meet as many people in the industry as you can.
Joyce: What will be your next project?
Nancy: My next book will start a new paranormal romance series based on Norse mythology. Warrior Prince is book one in The Drift Lords series. I've written three books so far in this universe, and I'm eager to share these stories with readers. After I get this project going, I’ll turn my attention to another mystery.
Thank you so much for inviting me to appear on your site.
Joyce: Thank you for joining us here on Author Expressions, Nancy. Come back any time.
Who knew weddings could be murder? Hairstylist Marla Shore is weeks away from becoming a bride herself when she walks down the aisle as a bridesmaid at her friend Jill’s ceremony. Things take a turn for the worse when the matron of honor ends up dead, the cake knife in her chest. Now what will they use to cut the cake?
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Leave a comment during Nancy’s blog tour in January and enter to win a set of Paua shell jewelry and a signed copy of Shear Murder.