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During the frenzy of the December holidays, the last thing salon owner Marla Vail needs is a dead body slathered in a green facial mask at her new day spa.
The victim, Valerie Weston, was a major donor for Friends of Old Florida, a historic building preservation society. Marla’s stylists are scheduled to work backstage at their upcoming gala fashion show, but Val’s demise might put a crimp in their plans. Hoping to salvage her reputation, Marla determines to track down the suspects. As she learns more about Val, she realizes the benefactress might have stumbled onto secrets others would kill to keep. She’d better prepare for a body count that has nothing to do with hot stone massages and everything to do with murder.
Q: Nancy, welcome back to Island Confidential! Tell us about Marla.
A: Marla Vail, hairstylist and amateur sleuth, owns the Cut ’N Dye Salon and Day Spa in Palm Haven, Florida. She’s married to Detective Dalton Vail. It’s a second marriage for them both, and he has a teenage daughter. They have two dogs, a golden retriever and a poodle. Marla can’t help solving crimes. Pursuing justice is a calling for her, same as making her salon clients look good. With her listening skills, she’s able to get suspects to talk, and she won’t stop until the killer is caught despite the personal risks involved. Due to a past tragedy, Marla hasn’t wanted to have children, but by Facials Can Be Fatal, she might be having a change of heart.
Q: How much of you is in Marla?
A: Family values are important to us both, and we take our obligations seriously. Marla is a lot braver than I am, however. She goes places I wouldn’t dare and has hairdressing skills I’d dearly like to have. I can’t even wield a curling iron without tangling my hair. I’d love for her to be my stylist and friend. Her mother reminds me of my own, and her relatives share similarities with my cousins. Other characters are totally fictional but people I’d like to meet. Marla is definitely gutsier than me but she’s as well-organized and goal-driven. She cares about the people around her, and I like to think this nurturing nature comes from my former career as a registered nurse.
Q: Do your characters change and evolve throughout consecutive books in the series?
A: Most definitely. I think it’s vitally important for fictional characters to grow and change like they would in real life. Marla starts out in book one, Permed to Death, feeling guilty about a tragedy that happened when she was nineteen years old. As a result, she doesn’t want kids and seeks redemption. This drives her to solve the first mystery. In this story, she meets Detective Dalton Vail who not only has a pre-teen daughter but also has hangups of his own. The two of them have to work out their problems before they can pursue a relationship together. Their attraction grows, and as they let go of the past, they can look forward to a future together. It’s not until book ten, Shear Murder, that they get married. Marla’s attitude toward children softens as she gains affection for her stepdaughter and sees that she can juggle a family and a job. Her viewpoint expands, and Marla becomes more considerate of others as she matures. But is she able to be a good mother to an infant? Hair Brained, the sequel to Facials Can Be Fatal, answers that question, and once again Marla’s attitude evolves.
Q: Have you ever thought of killing someone that you know in real life–on the pages of a murder mystery, I mean?
A: Yes, that has occurred to me. Story ideas are everywhere if you think of negative motivators like envy, greed, jealousy, and spite. Friends and relatives need to watch out for mystery authors. We might put them into our next book.
Q: How realistic is your setting? Do you take liberties, or are you true to life?
A: Most of my Florida settings are real. Palm Haven where Marla lives is really the town where I live but it’s been renamed. Many of the places and other towns are real. I’ve done research trips to these places and try to detail the five senses so my scenes come alive for readers. Florida has such diversity in terms of ecology and demographics that it has a wealth of material and settings. People have either been to Florida, live here, visited relatives here, come on Spring Break, or would like to retire here. Many of my readers recognize the places I mention. If something bad happens during a scene, I will rename the location but it’s often still recognizable from the description.
Q: When the movie or TV series is made, who plays the major parts?
A: I’ve done a Pinterest board of possible actors. Marla is easier for me to pinpoint than Dalton. Go here to see: https://www.pinterest.com/njcohen/bad-hair-day-mysteries/ Here are the frontrunners:
For Marla: Shenae Grimes-Beech
For Dalton: Carlos Fonnegra
Q: What’s the worst and best advice you’ve heard or received as an author?
A: “Throw a lot of spaghetti on the wall and see what sticks” is good advice for a beginning writer who isn’t sure of her niche. But once you find your genre, you should stay with it to build your platform. Diverge too early, and you risk diluting your brand. Now that we have more publishing options available, I would advise writers to keep writing in the genre they love regardless of the marketplace. You need to have four or five books out there before you start to make an impact. Also keep in mind that readers love series, and so do editorial houses. Create characters and settings that you’ll want to spend time with while you build your repertoire. Once you’ve established yourself, you can think about what else you want to do.
View the Book Trailer: https://youtu.be/6OTw5232Eeg
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About The Author
Nancy J. Cohen writes the humorous Bad Hair Day Mysteries featuring hairdresser Marla Vail, who solves crimes with wit and style under the sultry Florida sun. Several titles in this series have made the IMBA bestseller list. Nancy is also the author of Writing the Cozy Mystery, a valuable instructional guide on how to write a winning whodunit. Her imaginative romances, including the Drift Lords series, have proven popular with fans as well. A featured speaker at libraries, conferences, and community events, Nancy is listed in Contemporary Authors, Poets & Writers, and Who’s Who in U.S. Writers, Editors, & Poets. When not busy writing, she enjoys fine dining, theme parks, cruising, and outlet shopping.