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Interview: Misa Ramirez, Author of Hasta la Vista, Lola

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Not being familiar with author Misa Ramirez, I was so pleased to get the opportunity to "meet" and interview this incredibly interesting woman. She came up with some great answers and really allows readers to see a bit into the woman behind her imagination and books!

You can learn more about Misa Ramirez at her website. You can also read an excerpt from Hasta la Vista, Lola!

Tell us a bit about Hasta la Vista, Lola!. What is the story about, who are the characters, etc.

Hasta la Vista, Lola! is the second book in the Lola Cruz Mystery series. The series centers around Dolores (Lola) Cruz. Each book is fundamentally a mystery, but the characters are the heart. Lola, her family (mother, father, mobster-like grandparents, brother Antonio, sister Gracie), her on-again/off-again love (Jack Callaghan), her co-workers (Manny Camacho, Sadie Metcalf, Reilly Fuller) — these people each have their own stories which will unfold throughout the series.

In Hasta la Vista, Lola!, Lola arrives at her parents’ house one evening to find her entire family there grieving her death. Identity theft is at the center of the mystery and Lola has to discover whether or not she was the intended target and if someone still wants her dead.

How do you come up with the names of your characters? It almost seems as though, as an author, you have the continuous fun of naming children!

Some of them just come to me and it’s a good fit. Other times a character will go through several name changes until I find the one that truly embodies that character. With Lola, it came to me, and it was perfect. I wanted a name that showed duality. Dolores, as she’s known to her family and co-workers, is formal and traditional. Lola, a nickname for Dolores, represents Lola’s independent, fun, sexy side. There are two parts to her personality and they’re represented by her names. She constantly struggles with balancing her parents’ traditional values and the Mexican culture with her Americanism and her independent views, again represented by the two versions of her name.

What do you want readers to take away from reading Lola Cruz Mysteries?

A thirst for more Lola! The books are fun, sexy, sassy, and smart. I want readers craving the next book in the series, or going back to the earlier books in order to start from the beginning or fill in the blanks.

I also want to represent a perspective of the Mexican culture that is not stereotypical. I’m white, my husband is Mexican, and our children embody both the American and Mexican cultures. We work hard to maintain the Mexican culture in their upbringing, despite the American lives we live. This is the balance Lola struggles with maintaining also. In such a melting pot, I feel it is so important to retain family and cultural traditions. I hope that the Lola Cruz Mysteries help demonstrate that balance and break stereotypes.

What's the most fun about writing Lola Cruz Mysteries?

I like to say (and believe) that Lola Cruz is my alter ego (if I were younger, Latina, sexier, and a detective!). What I love about writing these books is that I get to be Lola and live her adventures, all from the comfort of my home. Lola and her family and friends are so much fun to be around. I can’t wait to get to work every day (after the long commute to my study) and get back to the characters’ lives.

What was the hardest part about writing Lola Cruz Mysteries and Hasta la Vista, Lola!?

Initially, rejection was really hard! But I didn’t give up, kept revising until I had the first book just right, and it was a thrill with Living the Vida Lola sold.

As to the actual writing part, I think tying up loose ends and giving enough of supporting story lines (without giving too much) is constantly tricky.

What do you hope to accomplish within the next five years?

I hope to keep developing the Lola Cruz Mystery Series, of course! I’m also working on a middle grade series for girls, and a women’s fiction with magical realism, so I have plenty to keep me busy.

I also am co-founder of Chasing Heroes and we are continually developing our website. It’s all about heroes and heroines, hero archetypes, and is for readers and writers. Our goal is to continue to grow our site and become a destination for readers and writers.

On a personal level, we have two children heading to college in the next few years, so sending them off and keeping my sanity will be key.

What are you working on right now and can you give us a sneak peek? A small excerpt?

As I mentioned above, I just finished the first book in a middle grade series for girls. It’s called Quiz Girl.

My other big project (aside from the third Lola installment entitled Bare Naked Lola) is tentatively titled: Sister Charms. It’s about two sisters, neither one of which feels they belong at the family’s lavender farm.

Here’s an excerpt from Bare Naked Ladies, the third book in the Lola Cruz Mystery Series:

Seeing a bevy of beautiful women lounging around the conference table at Camacho and Associates, each exhibiting their own take on ‘aloof’, stopped me in my tracks. Their beauty was blinding and I couldn’t really zero in on any one of them. Abundantly flowing locks, perfectly tanned bodies, perky breasts with enticingly rounded cleavage. I was ready to hate them on the spot, except, super detective that I am, I knew they had to be clients. Hating of clients? Not allowed. Pero, if Jack Callaghan was here getting an eyeful of botox and implants, well, that would be a different story.

Manny Camacho, owner of the small investigative firm in Sacramento, ex-cop, and super PI, stood in the doorway of his office quietly talking with yet another attractive woman. Dios mio, they were coming out of the woodwork. This one was older than the others by a good fifteen years or so, but she had the body of a twenty year old. Her neck was long and her body tall and gazelle-like. Her hair shone like black velvet and was pulled back in a severe bun and her angular face and chiseled cheek bones intensified her exotic appearance.

Reilly Fuller, part time clerk for the agency, scowled from her desk. “¿Que paso?” I whispered, stopping to get the 411. She made a strangled sound that made me wonder if all the colorful die she used on her hair had done somehow affected her vocal chords. Reilly lived for gossip, though at the moment it looked like the cat had her tongue.

I heard the zip-zip of the surveillance camera. Ah, so that was the source of Reilly’s grief. Neil, a caveman detective who could scarcely string words together in a sentence, but who was a master of technology–and the current object of Reilly’s affections–was in his lair watching the Barbi show.

“Remember our motto,” I said so only she could hear. “More to love.”

She blinked heavily and patted down her green color-washed hair. “Right. More to love, and Neil does love this,” she said, doing a subtle little chair shimmy. I swallowed my laugh. Reilly was a J.Lo wannabe – -only not Latina, a little fuller-figured, and only monolingual. But otherwise, hey, they were like twins.

Stay tuned for more!

Could you please tell us about your writing process?

I write nearly every day. Once my kids are off to school, I get busy in my study (spending far too much time on email and blog-related stuff) and write. I plot in a big picture kind of way, so often have to work through plot points or character issues as I write. My favorite part of the process is revision.

Do you have any particular habits that you take part in while writing? By that I mean certain music you like to listen to, foods you like to eat, environment that helps you write better, etc.

I make a cafe mocha every day (much cheaper than buying them at a coffee shop). Other than that, I have no ritual, though I’m tempted to make one up just to sound more interesting! I’m fairly normal and not all that quirky.

Where do you get your ideas and inspirations?

My family, my kids, the small town I live in, the newspaper, current events… anywhere my curiosity is sparked. Ideas are all around; it’s taking one (or two, or three) and weaving them into your own story that’s a challenge. It often takes me a while to get the story plot just right, but once it’s solid, it comes quickly.

What are you reading right now?

I’m an eclectic reader, and have books all over the house (and car). I’m reading Blink, by Malcolm Gladwell for book club (and also because I want to — loved Outliers), The Faith Club, The Help (which is one of my favorite books now), and The Doctor’s Wife.

Who are some of your favorite authors?

I go through phases of loving an author and reading everything I can by him or her, then I move on. I enjoy Sarah Addison Allen, Malcolm Gladwell, Amy Tan…

What were some of your favorite books as a child?

Nancy Drew mysteries started it all. Then I graduated to Agatha Christie. I read nearly every Agatha Christie book in high school (in lieu of a social life). I loved Pippi Longstocking, too. The imperfect person strikes a chord with me so I’ve always gravitated toward books with strong characters who don’t fit neatly into a box.

If you could have lunch and chat with any author, dead or alive, who would it be and why?

Ever since my mother took me to see Gone With the Wind when I was in fifth grade (an anniversary screening), I’ve loved Scarlett O’Hara’s story. I devoured the book – several times. I’d love to talk with Margaret Mitchell and learn about her inspiration for Rhett Butler, among other things.

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  • Amy Becker

    Learning more and more about Lola everyday.
    Great interview! Following Misa Ramirez on her virtual book tour is Fabulous!