Larissa Reinhart is with me today discussing her writing life, her muse, and her book PORTRAIT OF A DEAD GUY.
PORTRAIT OF A DEAD GUY was such a good read! And for me, it was all about character. Larissa Reinhart has created some unbelievably vivid characters…and they come to life in every quirky scene. The main character, Cherry Tucker, is back in her small town of Halo, Georgia after attending art school in sophisticated Savannah. And as she competes for the commission of painting a portrait of a dead guy, the reader gets to know Cherry and the other townsfolk. In Halo, it seems that everyone has a skeleton in their closet, Cherry included. A cross between an episode of In The Heat of The Night and My Cousin Vinny, I found the descriptions of the town as well as the kin folk who reside there to be endearing if not absurd at times. So many priceless metaphors in the dialog and descriptors make this an absolutely fun read from beginning to end. And there is a mystery, to boot!
This book comes with some book club questions at the end, which might be fun to talk about as a group too. I enjoyed this read a lot, and look forward to the next installment in the Cherry Tucker Mysteries.
I am delighted to have this talented writer here with me, so set a spell and take a peek at this wonderful author.
S. M. Nystoriak: Hello Larissa, and thank you so much for spending time with me in my Writer’s Block! I wanted to first let our readers get to know a little bit about you and your background. First of all, did you always know you wanted to be a novelist?
Larissa Reinhart: Thanks so much for having me on your blog. When I read your Silas Marner post I became an instant fan!
I wanted to be a writer from an early age. I remember writing my favorite words over and over around four, sold homemade magazines and books in elementary school, and won a national contest in fourth or fifth grade. By high school, I had a column on our local paper. In college I felt too intimidated to write novels and chickened out. I didn’t really try to write a full length novel until twenty years later.
S. M. Nystoriak: Thanks so much for the kind words, Larissa! I’m glad you like it.
I am a music teacher, and I do love that very much, but I also have always had a desire to express myself in writing. Is writing your first career?
Larissa Reinhart: Not at all. I was a high school history teacher, but have had a variety of jobs including teaching English in Japan. After we adopted our girls, I stayed at home and that was when I found the time to write again.
S. M. Nystoriak: What about a writing routine? Are you a pantser or a plotter…or both?
Larissa Reinhart: Total pantser. I wish I were a plotter. It would make my life easier! I do spend time and research thinking about the characters and the “incident” before writing, though. And I kind of have an idea for an ending, but that usually changes.
S. M. Nystoriak: I absolutely love your publisher…Henery Press. And your book covers are fantastic! Here they are:
How did you come to write for them?
Larissa Reinhart: They are awesome! I’m glad you like them. I feel very lucky. I heard about Henery Press from another writer, queried, and my editor liked my voice. Not an exciting story but one that makes me very happy!
S. M. Nystoriak: Alright, now for the fun stuff! I just finished your book PORTRAIT OF A DEAD GUY, and what a fun read! The main character, Cherry Tucker, is a struggling artist, trying to secure a commission. You write about her artistic pursuits with such specificity. Are you an artist yourself? Or is Cherry’s livelihood something that you had to research for the novel?
Larissa Reinhart: I wish I were an artist. I did take art classes in college, and began grad school for art history. I love art, so I felt comfortable with an artist character.
S. M. Nystoriak: As I was reading, I couldn’t help but notice the southern-isms right from page one. The characters use metaphor after metaphor as they talk to, and about, one another. Again… are you a southern belle yourself? If not, I loved your rendition of the part!
Larissa Reinhart: Unfortunately I am a carpetbagger. But I’ve lived in Georgia most of my adult life. I am from a very small farm town in the Midwest and grew up hearing my father’s expressions. Our family spoke metaphorically. I’m not good at direct conversation.;)
S. M. Nystoriak: In PORTRAIT, Cherry is sort of out of her element. She grew up in a small town with her own baggage, left that small town for college art school and then returned home. She wants to be a big name artist in a small town. No easy task, it seems. What are your thoughts about her prospects in Halo, Georgia?
Larissa Reinhart: Poor Cherry. It’s hard to make a living at anything in a small town. She needs the support of the community, but has a several things working against her. One is her family history. Cherry’s from the wrong side of the tracks. Second is her rival Shawna Branson, who is from the right side of the tracks and would like to ruin Cherry’s chances at success. Cherry’s got a lot to overcome.
S. M. Nystoriak: Throughout the book, Cherry has several run-ins with men, and she makes no secret of how she is easily taken with dimples! Her old flame, Luke, is one of these men. If you could choose an actor to play the part of Luke in a movie, who would you choose?
Larissa Reinhart: I can’t find a match for what he looks like in my head, but I would say a young Paul Newman or Gerard Butler. I wouldn’t mind sitting in for the auditions for that part!
S. M. Nystoriak: And as a musician, I loved how you tied in Leah and Todd, and their group, Sticks! The lyrics to their songs must have been a riot to write!
Larissa Reinhart: I love lyrics. Those were fun to do. I’m writing Cherry’s third book and there is a freestyle rapper in it. I’m having fun with that!
S. M. Nystoriak: Cherry has some fabulous lines in this book! Here are just a few of my favorites:
When Cherry described how her Datsun “Shined like a beacon in a sea of black.”
To Luke: “You were all over me like butter on a hot skillet!”
Describing Todd: “Like steak and gravy, he appeared all sizzle and smooth.”
And of course, when she was quoting all of Todd’s song lyrics.
Larissa Reinhart: I like your choices! I have a bit of an obsession with food and animal metaphors.
S. M. Nystoriak: This story, in my opinion, is built on great characters. Who was your favorite to write? Why?
Larissa Reinhart: Cherry’s a lot of fun, but Max Avtaikin aka the Bear has really grown on me. Max is an Eastern European transplant in Halo, Georgia. I can hear his accent in my head and it makes me giggle. He and Todd (Cherry’s sort-of ex-husband) were one dimensional characters when I began and they really developed into more interesting characters than I first imagined.
S. M. Nystoriak: I like to ask this next question to all of the authors I interview. Do you use music as part of your writing, either in the background while writing or as inspiration beforehand? What might we find on your iPod? Were any particular songs or music meaningful to you while you were working on PORTRAIT OF A DEAD GUY?
Larissa Reinhart: Yes! And I use different music for different stories and genres. I wrote Portrait when we were living in Japan, and to stay connected to Cherry’s small Southern town roots, I listened to a lot of country music. Since you asked, I have a Pinterest board devoted to my muse music for Cherry at: http://pinterest.com/LarissaReinhart/soundtrack-for-cherry-tucker-mysteries/. You’ll see a lot of Miranda Lambert, Miss Willie Brown, Sugarland, and Little Big Town among other artists.
S. M. Nystoriak: That’s Fantastic! I hope people will check that out. Finally, please clue us in on anything else that you have on the horizon.
Larissa Reinhart: My second Cherry Tucker book, STILL LIFE IN BRUNSWICK STEW, releases May 21, so I’m pretty excited about that. Cherry’s friend is poisoned at a Brunswick Stew Cook-Off where they are trying to sell their art. I’ll also have two more Cherry’s coming out this fall. HIJACK IN ABSTRACT, which I’m finishing now, and a prequel novella that will appear in a mystery anthology called THE HEARTACHE MOTEL.
This novella was much fun because I wrote the anthology with two other Henery Press writers, Terri L. Austin and LynDee Walker. Our stories all take place at this dumpy, Elvis wanna-be motel in Memphis. My story actually occurs during Cherry and Todd’s ill-fated trip to Vegas. They make a stop in Memphis along the way and get involved in a poker caper.
PORTRAIT OF A DEAD GUY:
Facebook page: facebook.com/RisWrites
Goodreads author page: goodreads.com/author/show/5806614.Larissa_Reinhart
S. M. Nystoriak: Well, Larissa, you have given us a wonderful glimpse into your writing and your life as a writer. I wish you all the success with this book as well as your upcoming releases! Thanks so much.
If anyone has read PORTRAIT OF A DEAD GUY, please chime in! I would love to hear from you!