Featured Mystery Author
Nancy J. Cohen is fast becoming a true force in the straight mystery genre with
her second book in The Bad Hair Day Mysteries series coming out in
December. Hair Raiser is Nancy’s newest title and her sixth published book.
This story is eagerly awaited by fans who got hooked on spunky
hairstylist sleuth, Marla Shore, in the first book in the series, Permed
to Death. Set in South
Florida, Nancy’s stories
capture today’s pace and generate the same glowing energy as Marla
shares with her creator. Both present a feminine presence, off-set with
dry, witty humor that draws you into their web of action. I had the
pleasure of speaking with the author over lunch; dining out is one of her
Nancy, I understand reading as a youth in New Jersey led you toward a career in nursing. Has going from reading books to nursing to writing books, affected your voice in the literary world?
my protagonist, has the same nurturing nature that you find among nurses.
She cares about her clients and shows it by listening to their problems
and boosting their self-esteem with a stylish look as they leave her
beauty shop. My nursing
background also affects my stories in regard to Marla’s inner
motivation. This comes from a
film I saw in a continuing nursing education class on near-drowning. The
film had a lasting impact on me because drowning is the number one cause
of death for children ages four and under in South Florida.
As a result of a tragic incident in her past, Marla becomes
involved in a child drowning prevention coalition and feels responsible
for solving crimes.
You were best known for your award-winning futuristic romance novels written as Nancy Cane. Why did you switch to humorous mystery?
enjoy developing complex plots, and my romances ended up having mysteries
in them. I decided to write a
straight mystery set in a familiar locale.
It’s fun doing a series with contemporary characters set in my
backyard, so to speak. Too
often the news is grim; people like to escape with humor and the
satisfaction that justice is served at the conclusion of a mystery.
Mine are cozies, meaning there’s no explicit violence.
The focus is on personal relationships with a light touch meant to
entertain. At the same time,
I learn something new researching each story, and I hope my readers add to
their knowledge, too.
did you find South Florida to be so unique to set the series?
wanted to showcase the Broward County area with Fort Lauderdale’s
transplanted population and diverse cultural mix. The appealing year-round
climate, tropical plants, and beautiful beaches have their own character
which differs from other parts of the deep South, including the grittiness
of Miami. What they have in common is southern hospitality.
Marla’s Jewish mom has her own recipe for life - "please
have something to eat!" She
is constantly feeding Marla when she comes to visit.
Personally, I enjoy a variety of foods. My husband and I took some
cooking classes and loved them. Food is so ‘southern’.
Speaking of food
- you certainly use it throughout your series. Do you really like
it’s a favorite. I look for
the candy around the holidays. Marzipan was a perfect disguise for cyanide
in Permed to Death; the almond flavor hides the poison.
A home-baked cake offers another clue in that book.
Food plays a big part in Hair Raiser, also, with several restaurant
scenes and menu descriptions adding flavor to the story.
a beauty shop as the focal point?
hair salon has universal appeal. Everyone can identify with the situation.
Who hasn’t gone for a hair cut or to get their hair styled?
And it’s a great background setting for a mystery series.
People are constantly walking into a salon; gossiping; and
Tell us about Hair Raiser being released in December.
has volunteered for a fund-raiser sponsored by a coastal preservation
society. Someone is sabotaging the gala event and chefs are disappearing.
Marla gets entangled in order to save the grand affair. She has to deal
with pollution of a mangrove preserve and maintaining our ecological
balance, so again our beautiful semi-tropical environment is the backdrop
for a new mystery. This one is even more funny. Marla is past all the
emotional situations from book one, so there’s more humor throughout the
You visited the Everglades for Permed To Death. What exciting places did you go for Hair Raiser?
went to Nassau and toured the
island, taking detailed notes of places that I used in the story. Again -
food! All the new tastes were
excellent–grilled grouper, pigeon peas and rice, cinnamon sweet
potatoes, and cool rum drinks. My stomach rumbles at the memories!
Also for this book, I studied the mangroves and their role with
nature and several sites on the New River, including the Bonnet House.
Will we see a new ‘southern gentleman” enter the picture in this story?
I’d say he distracts Marla’s attention. However, Detective Dalton Vail
remains in the series. He’s determined to pursue Marla and keep her out
can we expect to follow after “Hair Raiser”?
by Manicure is the third book in the series.
It takes place in a sports club where a member drowns in the
men read your books?
I receive a lot of fan mail from both women and men. Booksignings add to a growing fan list.
What advice would you offer aspiring authors that helped you along the way?
realistic goals that you’ll be able to meet.
I do a chapter a week, or five pages a day. Reward yourself for
minor achievements. My
critique group has been very important and supportive to me, so I’d
advise you to network with other writers. Don’t be afraid to take
chances. If one genre doesn’t work, try another; and you’ll grow as a
writer. Never give up, never
surrender! We all get rejections; you must keep writing!
After thought: Nancy features her own poodle, Misty, as the lively ‘Spooks’ in the ‘Bad Hair Day Mysteries’. I wonder how much pure marzipan makes its way into the Cohen household? Does Nancy pay off Spooks’s model with marzipan to be mute about the mysterious murders? The tiniest of barks would be a dead giveaway!
view some photos of ‘Spooks’, tune in to Nancy’s web site:
Books by Nancy J. Cohen
Bad Hair Day Mysteries Series
Permed to Death, Kensington, December 2000 (paperback)
Hair Raiser, Kensington, December 2000 (hardback)
by Manicure, Kensington, December 2001 (hardback)
Futuristic Romances written as Nancy Cane
Schiller August, the author of this article, is currently working on Miami
Moonlight - a sand in your shoes saga taking Miami's history from a
melting pot to magnet for international trade. The trilogy begins in the 1930s.
Her children's work includes Fira Gani, a picture book
rhyme; and she is completing a youth chapter book set in contemporary
Miami. Southern Mischief is the first in a collection filled with
mysterious surprises by adventurous pals and their sidekicks.
is a native of Miami with a lifetime of community service and
business experience. She
studied journalism, art/design and
at the University of Miami and Barry University.
She is an accomplished sculptor and watercolorist.
© 2000 Elaine Schiller August, All Rights Reserved