By Amy Lignor
Lovers of cozy mysteries already know that Cherry Tucker is quite a character. So it will come as no surprise to readers that Cherry’s amazing creator, Larissa Reinhart, is exactly the same. Fun, friendly, intelligent, imaginative—Reinhart is an author who has done it all. From traveling to distant countries and enjoying different cultures to looking down at a ferocious monkey attached to her arm with teeth bared to teaching English in Japan and History in America, Reinhart has that “spark” that draws people to her books. And, thankfully…she is not even close to stopping.
The cozies starring Cherry Tucker have appeared on bestseller lists—from Amazon to Barnes & Noble, and beyond—for many reasons. The character may be unforgettable, but the complex plots offer readers everything from murder to mayhem to romance, with a slice of humor and sarcasm thrown in for good measure.
It was in 2012, in PORTRAIT OF A DEAD GUY, when readers were first introduced to Cherry Tucker. And this June, the fourth in the series, DEATH IN PERSPECTIVE, arrives on the scene. But it’s important to note that Reinhart’s mind is always working. She’s even thinking about one day perhaps branching into the realm of action/adventure, or even the YA horror world. This is a woman who loves life—making her not only a great author, but a fascinating interview.
Cherry Tucker is not only the “big in mouth, short in stature” intelligent woman who gets the job done, but her humor is extraordinary. Is this something you have in common with Cherry? What other aspects would make you two the best of friends?
My husband will be the first to tell you that I cannot tell a joke to save my life. I enjoy a good joke, but I think I’m funnier when the words come from my fingers rather than my mouth. My mouth always trips me up: trips Cherry up, too, but in a different way. She says all the things I would never think to say, let alone have the guts to say. As far as being friends with Cherry, she’s the kind of girl you definitely want to be friends with, but your mother probably wouldn’t approve. I wouldn’t mind having a beer with her sometime, though.
The fourth book, DEATH IN PERSPECTIVE, places Cherry at the Peerless Day Academy. The synopsis states that she will be pitted against a school bully, of sorts, and dealing with the whole social media realm. Being a mom with two children, how do you feel about social media? Is this something that’s more negative than positive in your view?
As a mom, social media scares me. I just attended a meeting for rising middle schoolers, and we spent most of the meeting hearing about the dangers of kids on devices, particularly YikYak, which has the horrific ability to make your children become prey for neighborhood “bad guys.” As a writer, however, social media is great because it’s an easy way to meet readers, as well as do research. All forms of technology and industry actually fall into this age old question. Such as, I wonder if folks living in the “iron age” felt similarly when they discovered that getting impaled on an iron spear hurt more than a bronze. Yet, iron made a better plough!
Along the same lines, you’ve taught in high schools and bullying seems to have increased (or at least gotten more attention). Do you feel that there are ways we could somehow change what’s happening out there?
It’s really horrific how a kid can get bullied on the Internet for all the world to see. It was bad enough when a kid had to suffer the “slings and arrows” of gossip/words in their own school. I believe this really has to start with parents not being afraid to check their kids’ phones, and monitor their social media sites. You can’t be their friend and their protector. Google your kids’ names, for heaven’s sake! Constantly. Make yourself aware of the new sites coming out, and warn your kids about sites, like Snapchat. The photos might only last a few seconds, but it’s so easy to take a screen shot and then post it on the Internet. A lot of kids are getting embarrassed that way, which leads to tragedy. Locally, we have had to deal with a middle-school issue that led to charges and arrests for the children. I say, good for the police, because you have to show kids the dangers of the Internet. A teenager’s frontal lobe is not fully developed until their early twenties (sometimes later in my opinion). That’s the “decision making” part of their brain. They’re going to have bad judgment and, as a parent, it’s your responsibility to help them make good choices.
In addition, we must teach kids to stand up for students who are being bullied. Tell them to report the bullying. Schools have to take this seriously and they need help, because teachers don’t always see it, particularly if it occurs online.
The realm of eBooks has grown substantially. What are your thoughts on eBooks versus print? As a reader and a writer, do you have a particular favorite?
I still love “real” books, although my Kindle is very handy to slip in my purse and take with me.
Your bio is a true adventure. Readers will be interested to know about the ferocious monkey you escaped in Thailand, the archaeology you studied in Egypt, as well as the hardest part—teaching high school. Are you an adventurer at heart? And is there a specific location you yearn to see?
I’ve always loved learning about foreign cultures, and love to travel. I’m not as adventurous as some, extreme travel doesn’t hold any thrill for me. I will not be hiking Mount Everest, but I’m not a homebody either. On the weekends I like to go, see and do, even if it means going to Atlanta or some small town in Georgia. I’ll always have a special place in my heart for Japan after living there three times. And there are so many places I’d love to go. Whenever I read a book about a place, I want to go there. My daughters are adopted from China, so I’d really like to do a “homeland tour” with them before they leave the nest. I haven’t been to Taiwan either, and I hear there is good eating there!
Inside the mind of a writer is where readers long to be (except perhaps Stephen King’s, depending on what kind of day he’s having.) Is Cherry Tucker a part of your daily life? Do the stories come out of nowhere when it comes to achieving Cherry’s next adventure?
Generally, the idea for a story will just pop into my head. Right now I’m writing #5, THE BODY IN THE LANDSCAPE, which is set at a hunting lodge. I actually got the idea when we attended a wedding. My husband’s cousin takes hunters out on his property to hunt feral hogs, which are really destructive. Immediately, I thought: “Hmmm…what a great place for a murder.”
“Mystery Minions” is such an interesting and fun group to be a part of. Could you tell readers exactly what this is; and your work with fellow novelist, LynDee Walker?
LynDee is a fellow Henery Press writer and a good friend. She writes the Nichelle Clarke, Headlines in Heels mysteries. The Minion’s are a street team, mainly made up of readers who enjoy our books. We like to chat and hang out with them. And what’s really been great is finding ways to meet them in real life. I got to meet several at Malice Domestic and it was so much fun to hang out with them.
Cherry is not the only character you write about. Is there a new hero/heroine coming out of the woodwork soon?
You caught me! Cherry Tucker keeps me pretty busy, but when I can, I sneak in writing between her deadlines. I’m currently working on two other mystery series: One is set in Japan around a paranormal detective agency; the other is set in a Georgia mountain resort town with a heroine who is very different from Cherry Tucker. She wields lipstick better than a shotgun, but she’s determined to become a detective against all the odds that spring up from her unique childhood. …And that’s all I’ll hint at for now.
With your love of Japan, can you tell readers how their literary scene differs from the U.S.?
Japan has great readers who are very devoted fans. Just think of the “otaku” culture that’s developed from manga and anime. Although, I think because manga has become so popular, westerners don’t always realize how rich their literary traditions are. They love to read western and eastern works. And as far as mystery and suspense, there’s a huge following even though, or maybe because of the fact, that their crime rate is so low. One major difference between western and Japanese stories is that the Japanese admire sacrifice, so there’s a lot more tragedy in their writing.
I ask this of everyone, so forgive me. If you could pick a writer, living or dead, to have lunch with (and, no, the dead one can be alive and breathing so as not to make it a really gross lunch), who would that be, and why?
I always say I’d rather pick a friend than an icon, because I don’t know what to say to an icon. Would you go to lunch with me?
This is one writer who readers (and this interviewer), would most definitely love to have lunch with! But there is one more hint I can give you about future books in Larissa Reinhart’s future: You never know if an “old rocker-type” will end up in Cherry Tucker’s life, surrounded by feral hogs.
After teaching in the US and Japan, Larissa enjoys writing, particularly sassy female characters with a penchant for trouble. She lives near Atlanta with her family and Cairn Terrier, Biscuit. Larissa Reinhart’s third Cherry Tucker book, HIJACK IN ABSTRACT, is a 50th Annual Georgia Author of the Year Nominee. The first, PORTRAIT OF A DEAD GUY, was a 2012 Daphne du Maurier finalist for Excellence in Mystery/Suspense, 2012 The Emily finalist, and 2011 Dixie Kane Memorial Winner. DEATH IN PERSPECTIVE is the fourth book in the best selling Cherry Tucker Mystery series.
To learn more about Larissa, please visit her website.