What is something many people might not know about you?
When I was twenty-four, my husband and I quit our jobs at General Motors and toured in his rock band for five years. I was the booking agent, manager, and sound tech (which I loved – I had no idea I’d enjoy mixing sound so much). He was the guitarist and lead singer. We wanted to have more oomph in our lives, so we did this in conjunction with a non-profit where we also did a ton of charity concerts with the military, prisons, schools… It was really hard work. But a great experience!
How did you get the idea for the Art Deco Mystery series?
Well… we moved to New York City for a job offer, and we had no idea if we’d love it or hate it. We ended up moving to New York only two weeks after 9/11. It was a crazy time to move to the city. It was so raw and hurting. And yet, alive like I’d never seen. People were aware and helping and passionate. We had several people stop by our moving truck to welcome us to the city! During that time, I started reading a biography about Fiorello LaGuardia. His time coming into office right after Prohibition ended and during the Great Depression, was interestingly like the city in our own era. And it depicted a view of life during the Depression that I hadn’t seen before. Yes, there were awful soup lines, despair, staggering need... But there was also a gritty spirit, innovation that toppled over anything I’d imagined about the era, and that New York wit that is full of satire and that grin-while-you’re-sneering realness… And women’s rights! Women going into professional arenas way before WWII, racial tensions running high all while the first integrated giant dance hall, The Savoy, was opened and raging with success, where it didn’t matter if you were rich, poor, black, white, Hispanic…it only mattered if you could dance. I love that tension, and that’s the story I wanted to tell.
Why did you decide to have a backdrop of art in each book? And how does that work?
Well, that era was such a short and spicy era. Between jazz, film, visual art, you name it, its powerful punch has influenced every era since. I wanted to highlight that, too. Art moves us. It has a way of opening our eyes and hearts in ways that nothing else can do. Even if we don’t consider ourselves “artsy.” It’s why we can be moved to tears from a TV commercial. Art also has a way of coming alongside us to give voice to things we are navigating, feelings we can’t quite articulate. So, in each book, there is a different kind of art that compels a character and mirrors that character’s life. In the first book, there is a famous artist who is a household name now, but wasn’t then, and the main character comes across a journal from that artist and it helps her navigate the choices and feelings she’s going through. In the second book, The Gold Pawn, there is a chilling classic novel that everyone has heard of, and hardly any have read, that comes alongside the main character and a villain as their lives are intertwined. And in the third book, The Pearl Dagger, in 1936 there was this delicious –God, I hope it gets a revival– play that Orson Welles produced through the Federal Works Project with the first all-black theater cast in America. They performed MacBeth, set in Haiti instead of Scotland, with a jungle and skeleton-covered stage. It was called Voodoo MacBeth. What I would do to travel back in time to see it first- hand. A character walks with this, as it echoes and brings light to his own trials and the mystery at hand.
Is this going to be a series or a trilogy?
I hope a series! I can tell you right now that if Kensington does a fourth book, it’s going to have a mystery set at The Savoy and the art that will be the backbone of that one will be jazz and dance. And the fifth will have The End of the Trail sculpture by James Earl Frasur.