I’m excited to welcome Ellen Mansoor Collier, author of Vamps, Villians & Vaudeville, to the Readsalot blog today. She’s talking about her latest novel as well as her fascination with the Jazz Age.
Have you always been interested in the Jazz Age? What is it about the Jazz Age that attracts you?
I first became fascinated when I saw the original Great Gatsby movie with Robert Redford and Mia Farrow—the Deco designs, the fashions, the lifestyle, the dances, the slang, the jazz! To me, that era represents the first time women became liberated and were finally free of their corsets and Victorian constraints. The new version with Leo was also incredible—such a sad story, yet what a great setting!
Sure, in reality Prohibition was a dangerous and decadent time, but so glamorous in retrospect.
Who would you pick to play the characters of Jazz, James, and Sammy in a Hollywood adaptation of Vamps, Villains & Vaudeville?
What a fun question! For Jazz, perhaps a Terri Hatcher (Lois Lane)-Myrna Loy type? The photo on my FLAPPERS cover looks exactly like Jazz in my mind—the pale eyes and skin, the dark wavy hair.
To me, a younger Jon Hamm makes a perfect Sammy (plus I’d love to meet him!)—that world-weary bad boy he played in Mad Men. Matt Bomer would be a great Derek, her ex-beau, who acts in the troupe. James can be a Ryan Gosling/Ryan Reynolds combo—tall, blond, cocky and handsome.
Describe Vamps, Villains & Vaudeville in 140 characters (also known as a tweet).
Sassy society reporter Jazz Cross faces gangsters, jewel thieves and an ex-beau in 1920s Galveston.
Is that too long? Nope – you even have characters left over 🙂
Would your characters in Vamps, Villains & Vaudeville want to hang with you?
Sure, we’d have a lot of fun listening to jazz and dancing the Charleston and foxtrot, not that I know how, but I’d try my best. I love to dance, though I’m not a big drinker. I’m a lightweight—I limit my drinks to a margarita or two a month, or more if they’re flavored. None of that bathtub gin or hooch for me—too risky!
Jazz is a fairly unusual girl’s name whereas Sammy and James are a bit ordinary. How important are names to you in your books? Do you choose the names based on liking the way it sounds or the meaning?
I love the name Jasmine since it sounds rather exotic and also universal. Her nickname Jazz for short is perfect for the era. Sammy and James just came to naturally, though I may have picked a different name since I write a lot about real-life gangsters Sam and Rose Maceo.
Yes, I like a combination of both—the names have to roll off the tongue and also fit the character. I picked Amanda for her best friend/roommate since it conjures up images of a blonde beauty—and later I met a pretty woman and writer named Amanda who fit that profile exactly!
What’s the most amusing thing that happened to you while writing or researching Vamps, Villains & Vaudeville?
Amusing? I wish! I did enjoy watching movies and shows about the vaudeville stage, especially the recent Houdini show on TV. VAMPS was a bit challenging because I wanted to introduce her ex-boyfriend and have some closure, but I didn’t want it to sound too much like a love triangle in a romance novel. Some of my readers only want a hint of romance, while others don’t think I include enough. I have readers of all ages—from young girls to seniors—so I want to keep my novels tame.
I’d call them PG at most. Personally, I prefer the soft-boiled puzzle mysteries that are light on romance so I write my novels that way. My mysteries tend to be more cozy than hard-boiled though I do write about real-life gangsters in Prohibition-era Galveston—so I call them soft-boiled since they’re in between the two genres.
What’s your favorite part about the writing process?
I enjoy putting the pieces of the puzzle together and am so glad when I finally have a breakthrough or an “Aha!” moment. Very rewarding to be writing away and suddenly all these loose ends and plot twists start to make sense and get tied up in a nice, not-so-neat bow. (I’m a pantser, not a plotter though I work with a general outline, mostly in my head) Often the whole process takes months of work to reach that point! (FLAPPERS took years of work and I still want to revise it! I worked as a magazine editor for years and it’s often hard to let go of a manuscript.)
Tell us about your next release. And when can we expect it?
Galveston is known for its imposing graveyards and haunted hotels so I’ve started a fifth novel with that supernatural, ghostly theme. Still working on the actual title and plot. Hope to release it later this year, perhaps by late Summer—wish me luck!
Title: Vamps, Villains and Vaudeville
Author: Ellen Mansoor Collier
Published: August 5, 2015
Publisher: Decodame Press
Genre: Cozy Mystery
~ Synopsis ~
In 1920s Galveston, society reporter Jazz Cross is in for a surprise when she attends a traveling vaudeville show with her beau, Prohibition Agent James Burton, and discovers that an old flame acts in the production. That night, they find a stabbing victim behind the Oasis — her half-brother Sammy’s speakeasy — who’s identified as an actor in the troupe. When the victim disappears and later turns up dead, Jazz must help prove that Sammy wasn’t the killer.
Meanwhile, a ring of jewel thieves is turning up all over town, robbing rich tourists of their precious gems. After a second vaudeville actor is found dead, Jazz discovers that the events behind the scenes are much more interesting than the outdated acts onstage.
To make matters worse, Sammy’s old nemesis demands that he settles a score and forces him into yet another illegal scheme. Can Jazz help solve the murders and prove her brother’s innocence—so he can escape the Downtown Gang for good?
A historical Jazz Age mystery inspired by real-life Galveston gangs and local landmarks.
Get a copy now!
~ About the Author ~
Ellen Mansoor Collier is a Houston-based freelance magazine writer and editor whose articles and essays have been published in a variety of national magazines. Several of her short stories have appeared in Woman’s World. During college summers, she worked as a reporter for a Houston community newspaper and as a cocktail waitress, both jobs providing background experience for her Jazz Age mysteries.
A flapper at heart, she’s worked as a magazine editor/writer, and in advertising and public relations (plus endured a hectic semester as a substitute teacher). She graduated from the University of Texas at Austin with a degree in Magazine Journalism and served on UTmost, the college magazine and as president of WICI (Women in Communications).
FLAPPERS, FLASKS AND FOUL PLAY is her first novel, published in 2012, followed by the sequel, BATHING BEAUTIES, BOOZE AND BULLETS, released in May 2013. She lives in Houston with her husband and Chow mutts, and visits Galveston whenever possible.
“When you grow up in Houston, Galveston becomes like a second home. I had no idea this sleepy beach town had such a wild and colorful past until I began doing research, and became fascinated by the legends and stories of the 1920s. Finally I had to stop researching and start writing, trying to imagine a flapper’s life in Galveston during Prohibition.”
~ Giveaway ~