Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Writing What You Know - A Guest Post by Joanna Campbell Slan

This month, Fabulous Florida Writers welcomes guest blogger Joanna Campbell Slan. Joanna is the award-winning author of twenty books, including three mystery series. Her new book, Wave Good-Bye, will be released in March. Joanna  was our featured writer on August 9, 2012.

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 divorcĂ©e 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!

 For more about Joanna, visit or

Next: Doug Eadie - A Light in the Darkness


  1. What a fun post. I love the idea of writing off your hair appointments. Best of luck with the launch of ''Wave Good-Bye.'' Where's the beauty parlor party?

    1. It’s scheduled for Saturday, March 16, at 2 p.m., at Corina’s Suite Salon, 1237 SE Indian Street, Unit 103/Suite 101, Stuart, Florida. Come on over!

  2. The Southern Beauty Shop series sounds delightful, Joanna. I expect a few hair-raising murders, too. I wanted to kill a stylist after he dyed my hair coal black.

  3. Well, Elaine, you and Deb could come on down and we could share ugly hair stories. I do love my girl buds!

  4. You're amazingly prolific. All your series are great and I'm sure this one will be just as successful. As for writing off those hair appts, take notes while you are there as I did for research so you have proof. LOL

  5. I was very pleased to find this site.I wanted to thank you for this great read!! I definitely enjoying every little bit of it and I have you bookmarked to check out new stuff you post.