Murder We Write Mystery Tour continues with author Larissa Reinhart
When I began writing my humorous mystery, PORTRAIT OF A DEAD GUY, I was living in Japan.
My family and I enjoy living overseas, and we loved Nagoya, Japan. However, while living in Japan I didn’t feel pulled to write a story that took place in the city and country we habitually explored. I felt compelled to write about our other home in Georgia. Specifically, small town Georgia (as I’m a small town girl). That’s how my brain works. It never makes things easy for me.
Portrait of a Dead Guy takes place in the fictional small town of Halo, Georgia, within the fictional county of Forks. I can’t visit Halo, but I know Halo. I grew up in a farming village still holding at a population of 600. Halo’s more like the town where I went to school, much bigger with 3,000 people, but Southern. Halo’s an composite of the area of Georgia I have lived in for the past fifteen years (minus my times in Japan) and the country towns I knew growing up.
But Halo is more than a town. Halo itself is a character. Halo’s a little run down, but remembers its whistle-stop heyday splendor. Although Halo struggles with rumors of murder and gambling within its borders, the town keeps its collective chin up before other towns in the county. This becomes even more apparent in the second book in the series. I grew up seeing the judgement of people from one small town over the small town of another. Town pride can be fanatical, something you don’t see as much in the suburbs. I found the irony humorous (I find most pot and kettle judging humorous), and wanted to transfer that humor to Halo.
Small town attitudes are much the same anywhere in the country. I even found that to be true in Japan. In some ways, there’s more individuality and more outward eccentricities, but less tolerance of nonconformity in community mores. I love these juxtapositions. Old Joe Johnson can be free to walk the town in a robe, galoshes, and boxer shorts (because that’s what he’s always done) but dammit, he better not stiff the Boy Scouts at their hootenanny fundraiser, because didn’t Eleanor Martz bake him a casserole when Joe got laid up? And everyone knows Eleanor’s son is planning on making Eagle Scouts. So it goes...
Halo may not have a Walmart, but they have pride, dagnabit. Pride in their citizens (whatever they may say behind their backs), pride in their location (USA, the South, and Georgia, not necessarily in that order), and pride in their past (Sherman may have burned the town, but he didn’t bury the people). I love small towns, and wish I could visit my little, fictional Halo.
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.
Larissa loves writing small town characters with big attitudes, particularly sassy women with a penchant for trouble. After moving around the midwest, the south and Japan, she now lives in Georgia with her husband, daughters, and Biscuit, a Cairn Terrier.
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. You can find Larissa chatting on Facebook; Twitter; and Goodreads. You can also find more information on her website at larissareinhart.com.