When my agent asked me if I’d be interested in working on an existing series and writing under the pen name of “Lila Dare,” I hesitated. I was already busy with two series—the Kiki Lowenstein Mysteries and The Jane Eyre Chronicles. But that said, I’m always up for a challenge. So I gave my agent a firm, “Maybe.”
That “maybe” quickly turned into a “yes” when I heard more about the Southern Beauty Shop mystery series. The books are set in fictional St. Elizabeth, Georgia. The protagonist, Grace Ann Terhune, is a sassy, thirty-something divorcée who works for her mother, Violetta, owner of the eponymous Violetta’s. Grace Ann is the very definition of a GRITS, a Girl Raised In The South.
Grace Ann and Violetta struck a familiar chord in me. My mother grew up in Georgia. When I close my eyes, I can hear Mom talking as I write dialog for the Terhunes. I learned how Southerners think at my mother’s knee. And I live in Florida, which I consider the South, even though some people don’t.
Researching the beauty business wasn’t a problem. My grandmother owned a beauty shop in rural Illinois. I loved visiting it. The whirl of activity in the salon always intrigued me. The atmosphere was uniquely feminine. I tried to evoke that intense feeling of female camaraderie in the book.Capturing the essence of Grace Ann was easy because I come from a family of three girls, and I’ve always written about strong women. We’re six books into my Kiki Lowenstein Mysteries and two into The Jane Eyre Chronicles; both series feature women of substance. I don’t believe in victimhood, although I do like my characters to have both flaws and a backbone. Grace Ann is much more assertive than Jane Eyre or Kiki Lowenstein, but she also has her doubts about herself.
I think the toughest part of my new identity will be signing books under an assumed name. Or responding if readers call me “Lila.” I hope to get a lot of practice with both at the launch party for Wave Good-Bye. Fittingly, we’re holding the event in a hair salon!What seemed like a challenge at first has turned out to be a lot of fun. Recently, my accountant gave me another reason to be pleased with my decision to morph into “Lila Dare”--now I can write off all my hair appointments!