Today it is my privilege to welcome multi-award winning author Larissa Reinhart. Larissa and I met, as so often, via mutual friends online.
Larissa has had a varied and well-traveled life and we are going to have her let us in on some of it.
Thanks so much for having me on! I spotted a fox in my driveway just the other day, but I don’t think it was y’all. lol
I have to get this first question out, because it was one of my dreams since childhood: you actually studies archaeology in Egypt! Will you please tell us something about it?
As an undergrad, I was a history major with an anthropology minor. I loved ancient art. I went on to study art history in grad school, but the ancient languages made my decision to not make a career of it. My college (Truman State University) teamed up with University of Georgia to do a tour of Egypt. It was an independent study class, so I used the research I did for a thesis paper and gave a mini-lecture after I returned. Best class I ever took! Unfortunately, we were in Egypt when Kuwait was invaded by Iraq, so the trip got a little hinky towards the end. Saw a lot of sandbagging and soldiers carrying Uzis. Plus our hotel was full of Kuwaitis who couldn’t return home. That made it memorable, although the mood was definitely ominous at the end.
There is a big difference between your original home in Illinois and your current home in Georgia. What is your favorite part(s) about living in Georgia? What do you miss about Illinois?
My hometown in Illinois is a farm town of six hundred people. Peachtree City, Georgia, feels huge by comparison. I love small towns. There’s a slower pace to life. Everyone knows everyone and everything they’re doing — which as a teenager was an annoyance but as an adult I see that as a benefit. I think you can find that in the South, even outside small towns. People are friendly and genuinely interested in what’s going on with their neighbors and life around them. I know my neighbors and we talk in the street or catch up with each other as we walk our dogs. We watch our children grow up. We haven’t lost our community. I think you can even find that in big cities like Atlanta.
But the two best things about Georgia, as compared to Illinois, are the weather and the food. I love Southern food and sunshine! Also Southerners love a good story, so they make time to talk and listen. I love that.
Several times, you have lived in Japan. Patricia Kyiono, our Monday Fox, was born in Japan. Will you tell us about what took you there and how you enjoyed your time there?
My husband began studying Japanese in grad school and got his Master’s in Japanese art history. That began our journey, although I’d always been interested in Japan through the stories of family friends and my college roommate having lived there.
The first time we lived there, my husband had a grant to study at Keio University in Tokyo. I taught English in junior high schools through the JET program (Japanese Exchange Teacher). Eventually, my husband decided to go into business and has worked for Japanese companies ever since. We fell in love with Japan and have lived there four times over the last twenty years, plus traveled there numerous times in between.
You have also traveled to China, where you adopted your daughters. Please share with us some of your experiences there.
We were only in China each time for about two weeks. The first three days you have the option of traveling to Beijing to do sight seeing, which gives time to get over the jet lag before receiving your child. You’re with a group and it also gives you a chance to bond with the other parents. This is a wonderful opportunity which has lasting results.
Then you go to the province where your child is, then on to stay in Guangzhou for the American Consulate final paperwork. Once you have your child, the trip is all about bonding with them. With our first, we barely left the hotel. With the second, we got out more, but we didn’t really care about sightseeing. It’s all about getting to know your child. 🙂
Both times, we took a few days in Hong Kong to be alone with the baby before going home. We also had the chance to go back to Hong Kong with the girls when we were living in Japan. It was around Christmas and a great experience.
Are your children being brought up as strictly American, with your ethnic background, or do you incorporate Chinese into their lives? I know it can be difficult; I have known so many immigrant families, or families with adopted children, who can’t seem to find a balance between America and their children’s roots.
Our daughters are American, born Chinese. They became American as soon as they entered the US. They were sworn in as citizens at the American consulate in China. However, we celebrate Chinese New Year, their Gotcha day, and read a lot of books about China with them as they were growing up. As they got older, we let them take the reins in exploring their roots. Living in Japan was interesting because they were around not only Japanese kids, but all sorts of Asian and other international students at their international schools. It gave them a global perspective and I think, helped with understanding their own identity.
Is there any place I haven’t touched on that you’d like to discuss?
I think you’ve done a really good job! You’re pretty thorough! [Thanks! I try!-T]
I have found that many of my writing friends were or continue to be teachers. What subjects did you teach? I have never asked any of the others, but I will ask you: Do you think there is a correlation between the two?
I taught high school history, mostly World History, but also psychology and sociology. I liked hanging out with the English teachers, though. 🙂 I think teachers naturally have a strong grasp on language, particularly the liberal arts teachers, and like to read. That’s the basis for any writer. For me, I think a school is a good place to observe human interactions, hear about life’s joy and tragedies, and meet a lot of different people every year— from students, to parents, administrators, teachers, and community leaders. That’s all ripe for story building.
Now, on to your works.
You have several mystery series: The Maizie Albright Star Detective series, the Cherry Tucker series, and your most recent, the Finley Goodhart series.
Finley Goodhart only recently found her ‘good heart’, hasn’t she?
I’m chuckling. That’s very true. She had almost an Oliver Twist start to life. Plus the tragedy of her teen years put her at a disadvantage when it comes to trust and hope. But she’s learning.
Maizie Albright was a teen star with a detective show, who fell from grace. Trying to put her life together, she went to work for a real detective agency in the small town where her father lives. Her mother, (a real stage mother), keeps trying to pull her back into the limelight. What was the inspiration for this very amusing series?
I’m living in Georgiawood. The movies and TV folks have descended upon this area which puts an interesting perspective on life here. So that’s basically where my setting began (although I put Maizie’s fictional hometown of Black Pine up in the North Georgia Mountains). Maizie as a character just popped in my head. I think I had just caught an ad for a reality show about rich kids in Beverly Hills. And I had an agent who wanted another mystery series. So the setting of rural Georgia and a Hollywoodish young woman character just kind of meshed in a paradoxical way that I liked. I think it was one of those five-minute ideas that just grew really quickly. Cherry Tucker happened in the same way.
Congratulations on all of your awards and Woman’s World Magazine picking Portrait of a Dead Guy,(Cherry Tucker mystery) , for their book club! I suppose their line: “Laugh-out-loud funny and as Southern as sweet tea and cheese grits” , gives us a good indication that Georgia has every influence on your work, right?
Thanks so much! That was really exciting. I still don’t know how that happened! Yes, Cherry Tucker is even more Southern and small town than my other series, but they’re all set in Georgia. I love Georgia. I might sneak a Japanese setting in someday, but I can’t imagine living or writing about anywhere else for the long haul.
And you have been part of an anthology “The 12 Slays of Christmas”, as a fundraiser for homeless animals; good for you! What pets does your family have?
We have Biscuit, a cairn terrier. He’s sitting at my feet as I type right now. You can follow his adventures on Instagram, although he got a lot more exposure when we were living in Japan. He made a lot of friends with Japanese dogs in our neighborhood. A well traveled dog. We had fish, but recently lost them. We have one pygmy frog. And we claim the deer, squirrels, chipmunks, hawk, owl, armadillo and of course the fox, who live in our back yard. We had bunnies but I think Geoffrey, the hawk, got them. Or they moved. I hope they moved.
Do you enjoy writing short stories?
I have enjoyed the short stories I’ve written. I used to write a lot of short stories as a teenager and child. Now it’s harder for me to break from the novel-length. I think short stories take more focus and that’s something I lack lately!
Is there anything else that you’d like to tell our readers?
I’m just happy to be here. Thanks so much for taking the time to hear about my adventures! If you enjoy the Maizie Albright books, the third, NC-17, is releasing in August. And I’ve promised my readers more Finley Goodhart and Cherry Tucker stories, too.
How can our readers learn more about your work?
For those interested in being my “pen pal,” I have a newsletter where I talk about my books and goings on with special giveaways. It’s not a weekly thing, just when I have books news. And when you subscribe, you get a free story, PIG’N A POKE, the prequel to THE CUPID CAPER, a Finley Goodhart Crime Caper. http://smarturl.it/larissanewsletter
Feel free to friend me or follow me on any of these. You can find me in other places, but I’m active on these.
Thank you so much for being my guest today, Larissa Reinhart! It’s been a delight.