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During a brutal L.A. heat wave, four people are murdered in the Hollywood Hills and Nikki Easton's best friend Darla Ward has disappeared. The police think she might be one of the victims. No stranger to life's rough side, Nikki survived the streets as a teenage runaway and now brings that edge to her acting roles. But she has never seen anything like the battered girl on the gurney. Could this really be Darla, her beautiful face so damaged it looks barely human, her path to stardom ended in the county coroner's morgue? In her relentless search for the truth, Nikki discovers the hidden side of her friend's life, laying bare secrets buried before Darla was born, and uncovering widening layers of corruption that reach far beyond Hollywood to the highest levels of government.
Maxine has graciously answered some questions for me.
Mason – Welcome ,Maxine. In what order do you create your characters — name, physical description, personality…
Maxine: Nikki — and the idea that her best friend had gone missing — came to me all in one piece, and the original first chapter (which eventually became the somewhat different second chapter) just poured out in about an hour. Her voice and personality were pretty much all there, and her first name too. The details of what she looked like became clear a little bit later. And as a character, I think facets of her kept evolving until the last draft. Mason - Which is the most fun to work with?
Maxine: For me it’s seeing the other characters in the book — and Los Angeles — through Nikki’s eyes. But when I first started writing DAZZLED, my mother, who in life and reading liked to get to the action, told me, “Just don’t put in a lot of description. People don’t read it.” I definitely took her advice and tried to use it sparingly, and I think it kept things tight. Mason - When you finished your book what surprised you the most about its development?
Maxine: Oh, gosh. More than you’d think. You have an idea from your outline what’s needed to move the story forward. But how it actually plays out is almost always a surprise. It’s what keeps writing interesting. And hopefully, what keeps the reader interested. I had an idea how it might end — but I wasn’t sure until the words were actually on paper. And it came so naturally, I knew it was right.
Mason - If you could collaborate on a book with any author (living or dead), who would it be and what would the book be about?
Maxine: Wow. What a tough question! Because I think one of the reasons people still read novels when it’s so much easier to turn on the TV is the narrator’s voice and the intimacy of the experience. And the writers I most admire, from Philip Roth to Megan Abbott — have such strong voices, you can’t even conceive of collaborating.
But okay — if only because Double Indemnity has the most exquisitely engineered plot I’ve ever seen — I’d love to collaborate with James M. Cain. And it would be about how we all see ourselves as innocent, yet pushed to a certain point, would be capable of treachery, even murder.
Mason - What lead you to writing and to this genre in particular?
Maxine: I’ve been addicted to reading since I was a child, and I think the desire to write fiction had its origins almost that early. As for why the mystery genre, what book is more fun than one you can’t put down? The compulsion to turn the page is built into the genre. Murder is always a high-stakes game. And the motives for murder can take us as deep into human experience as a writer cares to venture — without putting the reader to sleep (one hopes!).
Mason - Anything about your protagonist you'd like for us to know about that we wouldn't learn reading this book?
Maxine: In the book you learn that Nikki’s parents were both orphans who married the same week they met. As the series progresses, there will be some surprising revelations about them. Nikki also mentions that at 19 she was briefly married to a man from another country. He will resurface in her life and draw her into another mystery.
Mason - What can readers look forward to next from you?
Maxine: Nikki’s acting career will take her “on location,” and we’ll go along. The next two books are set in Paris and New York respectively. I’m also playing with a standalone mystery that takes place in the world of TV and publishing in Manhattan around 1968, one of the strangest and most interesting times in our history.
Maxine, thanks so much for joining us today and sharing a look at how Nikki came to be. I agree, mysteries are a page-turner.
Now for some background on Maxine.
Like her heroine Nikki Easton, Maxine grew up in New York did a bit of wandering and some fascinating odd-jobs before the allure of glamour drew her to Los Angeles with the idea of launching an acting career. Instead of waitressing like most of her peers, though, she lucked into a gig writing romance novels — quickie potboilers, which she wrote at the rate of one a month to make her rent.
While Maxine did have a role in one feature film, Seasons in the Sun with Terry Jacks (alas, it went straight to video), she found herself much more interested writing. And writing seemed much more interested in her. She wrote game shows, produced programming for Game Show Network, co-authored What’s Really Wrong With You, a book on muscles and health, and currently writes for several publications, including the L.A. Times. Her satiric parody of a White House scandal won the Pen USA West International Imitation Hemingway Competition.
Here is what one reviewer had to say about DAZZLED:
"Maxine Nunes crafts an outstanding tale of friendship, murder, love, and betrayal in her impressive debut, Dazzled....Nunes' writing is top-notch from start to finish, and the increasingly suspenseful plot comes together with meticulous precision." - ForeWord Reviews, Fall 2013
Thanks so much for stopping by today. If you’re a mystery writer, what complies you to write in that genre? As a reader, why do you know reading mysteries?
Hi, I'm Mason Canyon and I love reading and that is why I do reviews. I post them here, as well as several other sites such as Goodreads, Amazon and Barnes & Noble. If you are an author who would like for me to review your book or you would like to guest blog here, please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org These reviews are done for the love of a good book, not for monetary rewards. I'm also a freelance editor. For more on my services, drop by Freelance Editing By Mason