Thursday, August 27, 2009

Guest Blog by Author Janice Kaplan

A note from Deborah: Last year I reviewed the book A Job to Kill For here on my blog. I really enjoyed it and I was interested in how the author came up with the series and the characters. Well, my wish was granted and I'm pleased to welcome author Janice Kaplan to my blog.

People come to my website all the time to ask me decorating questions. And here’s the problem: I never know how to answer.

I’m a writer, an editor and a TV producer. But Lacy Fields, the heroine of my mystery series, is an interior decorator with an excellent eye for antiques. She can recognize an Aubusson carpet or a Rothko painting from across the room. Early in the first book, “Looks To Die For,” her husband, a famous LA plastic surgeon, is accused of murder. When the police come into the house to arrest him, Lacy worries about their shoes on the Italian marble staircase. At the start of the latest, “A Job To Kill For,” Lacy has decorated a penthouse apartment top-to-bottom in three weeks—with a fifteen-thousand dollar Hypnos mattress, floor-to-ceiling lacquered doors, and a gleaming onyx table.

Get the idea? Lacy is really, really good at what she does. She can turn a cheap flea-market find into a gold-finished bedside table that ends up in magazines.

I love seeing the world through Lacy’s eyes. Being a writer means you always get to have an alter ego. With Lacy, I sometimes feel like Superman. All day, I’m the hardworking editor-in-chief of PARADE magazine. Then I go home at night and become Lacy Fields, decorator-to-the-stars and supersleuth.

The decorating details are one way that I create Lacy’s world. So are the streets she travels and the stores she visits. Her home is in Pacific Palisades, California—a place I dreamed of living many years ago but couldn’t afford. As both an editor now and a TV producer earlier in my career, I’ve always spent a lot of time in the LA area. Who needs to move when you can live there on the page?

Whenever I visit LA now, I find myself thinking like Lacy. A few weeks ago, I had some time between meetings and stopped on Robertson Boulevard to wander into some furniture stores. I smiled to myself, knowing that all I was buying was the experience. After all, the bronze leaping-stag chandelier I’d seen once earlier at the Pacific Design Center had made its way into the first book. (But definitely not into my house.)

Many mystery writers plot their books carefully before they write a word. I don’t. I start with the characters and let them tell me what to do. I don’t always know who the killer is until I’m almost finished writing—and I think that makes for good reading. If my characters are real and the situations work, the truth unfolds for me and the reader together.

A writer is always looking for material. An important character in “A Job To Kill For” is a motorcyclist who lives on a boat in Marina del Rey. Based on a real person? Well, sort of. One day on the 405 freeway in LA, I was driving by the Marina, and a leather-jacketed guy zoomed out on a Harley. Not much to go on, but how much did I need? As I drove, an image began to form, and his complicated life story unreeled in my head. He wasn’t what I expected. And I hope, on the page, he isn’t what you expect.

I’m lucky to have a wonderful job and family in real-life. I’m forever grateful for them. But creating a different world is a whole lot of fun.

By the way, if you have decorating questions, feel free to ask.

Maybe Lacy will know the answer.

Janice Kaplan is Editor in Chief of Parade magazine. She has been an executive producer of prime-time specials for Fox, ABC, and VH1. The author of Looks to Die For, Kaplan has coauthored three previous novels, including the national bestseller Mine Are Spectacular! A Yale graduate, she lives in Westchester County, New York, with her family. Her latest book, A Job to Kill For, is now available in paperback.

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