Friday, July 17, 2009

What Happens on Jungle Red, Stays on Jungle Red

It's good news Friday!

HANK: We love it when good things happen to wonderful people. Dear dear FO JRW Karen Olson's just got some terrific news...
NAL has just picked up two more books in Karen's tattoo shop mysteries. The third will be DRIVEN TO INK, with a possible pub date of late 2010 or early 2011. The fourth is tentatively titled INK FLAMINGOS.

And now, journalist Karen has forsaken the chic Connecticut life..and sets her new mysteries in VEGAS. Have you been there? I haven't...but Karen has!

KAREN: Vegas. Everyone knows it. Even if you haven’t visited, you’ve seen it on TV, in movies. It’s got an allure that was born of mobsters and celebrities and scandals and gambling. Bugsy and Frank Sinatra and Dean Martin and showgirls and casinos like the Sands and the Frontier and the Four Queens and the Sahara.
When my editor and I were discussing the setting for my new tattoo shop mysteries, she originally suggested Miami or southern California. Those are the places where those TV tattoo shows are located. But as I reminded her, those are also settings for great crime novels, too, and those novels are written by writers who actually live there. I was concerned I’d be exposed as a fraud, since I haven’t strayed too far from my native Connecticut. My editor said they were just looking for palm trees and heat.
So I suggested Vegas.

No, I don’t live there, either. And I’d only visited Vegas once, for a total of two days, 12 years earlier. But Vegas seemed easier to fake somehow. Since so much of Vegas really is fake. Like the canal and gondolas at the Venetian Grand Canal Shoppes, where the tattoo shop in my books is located. And the Eiffel Tower at the Paris resort. And the Brooklyn Bridge at New York New York. And the Roman statues at Caesar’s.

Halfway through writing the book, I realized I needed to actually visit Sin City. So my husband and I took our daughter out of school (yes, bad parents that we are) and flew to the desert in June, where it was a scorching 105 degrees every day. But it’s a dry heat. Ha.

There’s something about the desert that I’ve always loved. It was too hot to hike, but we took a drive up to Red Rock Canyon, just outside the city. It’s spectacular; the red rocks rising high into the clear blue sky, the brown desert floor speckled with the green of Joshua trees and banana yuccas.

Yes, I’m a New Englander, but I feel so comfortable in the desert.
We also spent a lot of time at the Venetian, where I took myriad photos so I could remind myself of the ambiance. We ate at Bouchon, Thomas Keller’s French bistro. We wandered through the MGM, where we stayed, and I took in the gamblers at the slots and the table games. We saw the Bellagio fountains.

When I started writing my books, I loved setting them in New Haven, the city I was born in. When my editor wanted me to move out of my hometown, I was a little nervous. Could I do it?

It was a lot easier than I thought. And I got to go to Vegas.

If you were to pick a completely different setting for your next book, where would it be?

Karen E. Olson
SHOT GIRL, NAL/Obsidian, now available


  1. My editor picked Memphis for me. :) I'm going there later this month.

    Mystery Writing is Murder

  2. Choosing Las Vegas is brilliant, because almost everyone is an outsider (if you ignore the large base population that keeps expanding the city limits), and tattoos fit right in. And tattoos do seem to be everywhere these days, even on the most unexpected people.

    I'm trying for Philadelphia next--it's a city with its own peculiar (I mean that in the best way!) character and charm, it hasn't been beating into the ground by other writers, and I lived and worked there for 15 years, so I know it well.

  3. Elizabeth, I've never been to Memphis but my parents lived in Chattanooga for a while and Tennessee is beautiful.

    Sheila, I love Philly! My best friend lives there, and there's just so much to do and so many things off the beaten trail that can definitely be explored in a book.

  4. I've only set one book where I live. I'd set my first in a made-up town based on my trips to central Oregon to visit my husband's sister. She was most gracious about answering all my questions -- "What trees bloom on the streets in May?", etc.

    But I didn't like bugging her, so I moved my next one to Orlando, where I live, and found it was even more of a pain. Because it was real, I had to be accurate, and I was writing about a deputy sheriff, so that required all sorts of research.

    I'm back to made-up towns, but in places I've visited. I have to get over to Ireland, where my daughter is living now! But I don't think I can swing it until I'm big-name enough to write off the trip, which means a contract first instead of after.

  5. I also think Vegas is perfect! Congratulations, Karen. I know your books will be a great success!

  6. If I had to choose another setting, I'd choose one that gave me a good excuse to go to a place I love (which already happens with the Lady Georgie books when my trips to UK are all research).
    So maybe Venice, Salzburg, Tahiti or even Australia, which I go to regularly anyway.
    Somewhere exotic. I love taking a mini-vacation when I read.

  7. Terry, made up places are good because you don't have to adhere to real locations. I kept messing up streets in New Haven! But in Vegas, if you keep it all on the Strip or Fremont Street, it's pretty easy.

    Thanks, Rebbie!

    Rhys, exotic locations are fabulous and I'd love to set a book in Australia.

  8. I keep trying to set my stories anywhere in America, and the friends who read them keep telling me they're still set in England. Ah well.

  9. Hey, Amazon sent me notice of your book this morning because I buy other mysteries from them. My cousin has lived and entertained in Vegas since he quit touring when his band all got married--thirty years? Even he leaves there in summer! LOL. Best wishes with the series.

    Me, I like Key West, but, um, it's been done.

  10. Oh, what a great idea..I'm thinking the island of Nevis. Beautiful, difficult to get to (andescape from)--it could be like an Agatha Christie guests-in-a-mansion homage.

    I'mcstill in DC at the RWA convention--it's amazing and hilarious..2000 people. All reading. Got to love it. And JAnet Evanovich was the main speaker. SHe was honest and charming and inspirational. I was an unabashed fan, and sidled up for a photo. I wouldn't be doing this if not for her, right?

  11. If I'm fortunate enough to get this series published - let alone get through this first book :) -- one book in this series needs to have some scenes in the UAE. Yup, Dubai.

    Good grief. Those first few books are going to have to sell through with a lot of extra copies, huh? ;)