Interview with ‘Dazzled’ Author Maxine Nunes
During a brutal Los Angeles heatwave, four people are murdered in the Hollywood Hills. The police think Nikki Easton’s best friend, Darla Ward, might be one of the victims. In her relentless search for the truth, Nikki discovers the hidden side of her friend’s life, laying bare secrets buried before Darla was born, and uncovering widening layers of corruption that reach far beyond Hollywood to the highest levels of government. Hollywood, heat, stars and murder – what more do you need? Dazzled is the first in a new noir mystery series from Maxine Nunes. She visits Shelf Pleasure to fill us in on this riveting read.
What would you like readers to know about Dazzled before they pick it up?
The other day I saw a post about Dazzled that said, “I am so addicted to this book!” I couldn’t ask for more, and I hope that’s what readers can look forward to.
One of our favorite parts about Dazzled is how authentic the Los Angeles setting and the Hollywood details feel. Can you tell us a little about your research process?
I love research! There’s only so much sitting at a keyboard you can do. So wherever a scene is set, I like to get out and spend some time there. It might be a place I’ve seen a thousand times, but when you look through your narrator’s eye, it’s kind of wonderful. Details pop out and take on a new meaning, or someone unexpected wanders into the frame and you’ve got something fresh to add to the page — the drunk in the lobby of a Hollywood office building, the ancient waiter at Musso & Frank.
Two of these “field trips,” though, were very new and exciting and a little scary for me. Nikki had to identify a body in the morgue, and I knew I couldn’t write it convincingly if I didn’t go down there myself. I’ll never forget that day. A glimpse through a window of frozen bodies wrapped in plastic and stacked on shelves. The way the staff were laughing and joking like the crew at Starbucks. The smell of Formalin and flesh that lingers in your nostrils — maybe just as an olfactory memory — for days after.
Then I got to the chapter where Nikki learns how to shoot, and I knew I had to get the gun details right. Because when you get real-world things wrong, you lose a reader’s trust. I’ve never been comfortable around guns, but I drove out to a shooting range, and when I found myself in the midst of maybe 50 people all popping off live ammunition, my tension level shot way up. The manager offered to give me a free lesson, and learning to handle a semiautomatic was a powerful experience. But the whole time I was there, the tension just kept building under the surface. I slowly unwound on the drive home. But for Nikki, that pent-up emotion brings the day to a pretty spectacular finale.
Did you always plan to write a mystery? What about the genre appeals the most to you?
I’ve always loved reading mysteries, but like a lot of mystery writers (Walter Mosley, for one) I started out intending to write “serious” fiction. Then one day in a workshop, Nikki’s sassy voice and the situation of her missing friend just sort of poured out. And the way people responded to it, I thought maybe I’d found something.
What most appeals to me about the mystery genre is that it keeps the reader turning pages. And a good mystery is a wonder cure. It can heal a broken heart (thank you Travis McGee) or make the time zip by in a hospital waiting room. And for a writer, it provides a really solid armature on which to build almost anything.
What books are currently sitting on your own nightstand?
The only way I can survive the L.A. traffic is with audiobooks. Right now I’m listening to The Redeemer, a Harry Hole mystery by Jo Nesbo. And on my nightstand (literally) are two books: Roth Unbound: A Writer and His Books, Claudia Roth Pierpont’s wonderful study of Philip Roth, who’s been my idol for as long as I can remember; and a book I loathed in college and started only because my reading group chose it, Thomas Mann’s The Magic Mountain. But this time around I love it. It’s an incredible creation.
What can readers expect next from you?
Nikki’s acting career is going to take her on location to places I’ve either lived in or have a very strong connection to — Paris, Lisbon, the logging country of British Columbia. In the second book, she returns to New York for the first time since ran away from home at 15. An old woman’s death, which might be suicide or murder, draws Nikki into a mystery involving the death of a celebrity in 1968. And Nikki also uncovers some disturbing information about her own parents. Of course, I get to travel too. Research!
Learn more and order your own copy of Dazzled here.
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