Arlene McFarlane on How My Disasters Make for Good Comedy


RHYS BOWEN: I always love hosting new-to-me writers on Jungle Reds so I was delighted when Arlene McFarlane contacted me. I think we all need a good dose of funny, cozy mysteries at this stressful time, don't we? And what place more prone to disasters than a hairdressing salon?
So please meet Arlene!

ARLENE MCFARLANE: Thank you, Rhys, for the warm invitation to be a guest on your blog. Im overjoyed to be here with the esteemed Jungle Reds. Im also excited to get to know your readers. So why do I write humorous mysteries about a gutsy beautician part-timing as a sleuth? Lets start with my past and a couple of makeovers which I still do as part of my brand.

I owned and ran a full-service salon for 13 years before turning in my scissors to write the Valentine Beaumont mysteries. The beauty industry had many wonderful facets and planted the seed to craft a comedy series. But how could I use my aesthetics skills to make my beauty mysteries stand apart from others? I wanted to make people laugh out loud, let them solve a mystery, and fall in love with real-life characters.
I admired the slapstick comedy of Janet Evanovich and the brilliant wit of Lawrence Block, so to that end I created Valentine, a plucky beautician with an ethnic background, who catches crooks using her beauty tools. As Kirkus Reviews says, The feisty, pleasantly sarcastic heroine is an able narrator who can turn just about anything in her bag of beauty supplies into an imaginative weaponeven if its just a rubber band.
The series is very much My Big Fat Greek Wedding meets Miss Congeniality with a tagline that reads, Cops fire guns and tasers. She wields combs and razors.
While I personally never snared any crooks, I did have oodles of instances that were too zanyalbeit humblingnot to write about. One such episode occurred when, in my naivet first starting out, I attempted to cut the top of an empty hairspray gallon in order to use the bottom half as a toilet-brush holder. I couldve bought one, but where was the sense in that? Much better to hack away at sturdy plastic, which was getting me nowhere. So I lit a match to burn a small hole in the side to gain entry. It worked, too. But the match fell inside the empty gallon, igniting drops of hairspray at the bottom. Instantly, a blue whoosh fanned up into my face, startling the bejeebers out of me. After my eyebrows grew back and my lips healed, I decided this hairbrained episode would be a scene in my book. Of course, I couldnt make my heroine dense (ahem), so I created Phyllis, Valentines inept employee who dresses thematically in horribly made-up outfits, and who also happens to be a distant relative. Phyllis couldnt cut her way out of a streaking cap, but Valentine is stuck with her because of a family promise. I also invented a clever, skilled sidekick named Max who uses every chance to rile Phyllis.

Heres a taste of a typical day in the salon from MURDER, CURLERS & CANES.

Phyllis threw up her hands. How am I supposed to pluck your eyebrows with you wriggling like a snake?
So much for our talk on a gentler approach with clients.
The woman bolted off the chair and ran to the mirror. Where are my eyebrows? She tapped her forehead. You tweezed off my eyebrows! I look like the Mona Lisa! She snapped up her purse and narrowed in on Phyllis. Id like to know where you got your license.
I can show you, Max said. But Id have to buy a box of Cracker Jacks.
The client stomped to the door, scowling back at Phyllis. You not only look crazy, you arecrazy!
Thats what I keep telling her. Max always had to have the last word.
Also featured in my series is Valentines black cat, Yitts. This furry roommate is fashioned after mine, and like cats in many lighthearted mysteries, Yitts is cute and quirky. Heres a Halloween shot, and another of my cat as a pirate, and a cowgirl. Yes, Im one of those who dresses up her pet. Maybe you can relate.

Writing this series has been a life-changing joy. One of the most exciting honors to date was walking the red carpet at Warner Bros. Studio in LA this past November because my audio book MURDER, CURLERS & CREAM was nominated in the Voice Arts awards. My narrators hadin their wordssuch a blast producing the book, they took it upon themselves to enter it in the awards. What a thrill to be on the same list as Tom Hanks and Keanu Reeves for their voiceover roles in Toy Story 4, and Gerard Butler for his role in How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World. Writing has opened many doors, and Ive been very blessed.
Thank you for coming today! In closing, I want to add that my books can be read as standalones. Books 4, and 5 & 6which are coming soonare mini mysteries, hence the different cover as seen on MURDER, CURLERS & KEGS. Still Valentine novels, but weekend mysteries.

*Now for some fun!* Id love to give away 3 ebook copies of Valentines latest adventure, MURDER, CURLERS & KEGS. Just comment on anything in my post for a chance to win!

I hope you enjoyed learning about Valentine and me. I had an absolutely wonderful time sharing with you! Xoxo Look for book 5, MURDER, CURLERS & KILTS coming this spring!

Arlene McFarlane is the USA Today bestselling author of the Murder, Curlers series. Previously an aesthetician, hairstylist, and owner of a full-service salon, Arlene now writes full-time. Shes also an accomplished pianist and makeover artist. When time allows, she plays publicly and posts makeovers on her website.

Arlene is a member of Romance Writers of America, Sisters in Crime, Toronto Romance Writers, SOWG, and the Golden Network. Shes won and placed in over 30 contests, including twice in the Golden Heart, twice in the Daphne du Maurier, and most recently in the prestigious Chanticleer International Mystery & Mayhem Book Awards.
Arlene lives with her catand familyin Canada.