I’m thrilled to welcome Maia Chance to the Power of 10 series. Today, Maia shares the reasons behind her love of research and her latest release, Come Hell or Highball.
Sometimes I deeply suspect that the real reason I write historical mysteries is because of the research portion of the job. Not, mind you, the dry, dusty, dates-and-facts part of historical research. No, I love the stuff.
Some of my favorites…
Pyrex. To me, colorful vintage Pyrex bowls are like candy. I don’t know why this is, but I take solace in knowing that I’m not the only one . . . and I know this because not only are Pyrex museums in existence, but there are a lot of people on Etsy who are DRIVING UP THE PRICES on Pink Gooseberry Cinderella bowls. *Shakes fist*
Shoes. Louis heels, t-straps, jeweled buckles, button-up . . . I love them all. It is unfortunate that I have somewhat large-ish, wide-ish feet, so I never can find vintage shoes that fit me. At least, not women’s shoes. Maybe men’s. (Although I saw a few pairs of Napoleon Bonaparte’s shoes in a museum exhibit. Shockingly small. They aren’t joking about his tininess.)
Maps. I am a total Map Nerd. I loathe that turn-by-turn navigation lady on computerized maps. She is so micromanaging. I love to unfold paper maps alllllll the way and navigate. And I LOVE looking at old maps. You can get a sense of a historic worldview just by studying, say, the blank spots on old maps.
Clothes. Oh my goodness. One word: Pinterest.
Furniture. I have this theory that the “historical body”—the gestures, carriage, and even, to some extent, the shape of the body itself—is conditioned not only by food, clothing (corsets, for example), and modes of labor, but also by the furniture a person uses on a daily basis. The cushy feather bed or the scratchy straw mattress? The crude stool that makes you hunch to keep your balance, or the straight-backed armchair that presents you as a ruler but makes your lumbar ache?
Transportation. They simply don’t make cars the way they used to. Period.
Food. I adore researching and writing about food. I edit out SO MUCH detail on food from my early drafts. I mean, I totally understand that it can get in the way of a fast-paced plot, but who isn’t at least a little intrigued by towering aspic jellies, Spam mousse, or orgeat?
Slang. I believe there is no better way to give a story the flavor of history than by inserting some choice slang. Butterfly’s boots? Confabulate? Geewillikins? Sign me up!
Makeup. From demure Victorian face powder to 1920’s Maybelline cake mascara to mod nude lips, makeup really sets a historical tone. I purposely created heroines for my two series who happen to have a knack for cosmetic application: One is an actress and the other, well, she simply likes makeup. Part of the reason for this was I wanted them both to be good at creating disguises. Also, secretly, I want a reason to study vintage magazine ads.
Houses. Here’s another place I have to pare way, way down with the description. I’m totally serious when I say that all of my books have started with a house. Before the characters, before the plot. Because a house (or a castle, chateau, shack) is so suggestive of both a time period and, well, just sitting empty there, it’s got to be filled with a story.
31-year-old society matron Lola Woodby has survived her loveless marriage with an unholy mixture of highballs, detective novels, and chocolate layer cake, until, her husband dies suddenly, leaving her his fortune…or so Lola thought. As it turns out, all she inherits from Alfie is a big pile of debt. Pretty soon, Lola and her stalwart Swedish cook, Berta, are reduced to hiding out in the secret love nest Alfie kept in New York City. But when rent comes due, Lola and Berta have no choice but to accept an offer made by one of Alfie’s girls-on-the-side: in exchange for a handsome sum of money, the girl wants Lola to retrieve a mysterious reel of film for her. It sounds like an easy enough way to earn the rent money. But Lola and Berta realize they’re in way over their heads when, before they can retrieve it, the man currently in possession of the film reel is murdered, and the reel disappears. On a quest to retrieve the reel and solve the murder before the killer comes after them next, Lola and Berta find themselves navigating one wacky situation after another in high style and low company.
Charming, witty, often laugh-out-loud funny, Maia Chance’s Come Hell or Highball introduces a sparkling new voice in crime fiction.
Maia Chance writes historical mystery novels that are rife with absurd predicaments and romantic adventure. She is the author of the Fairy Tale Fatal and The Discreet Retrieval Agency series. Her first mystery, Snow White Red-Handed, was a national bestseller. Her latest releases are Cinderella Six Feet Under and Come Hell or Highball.
Where to find Maia…