Q. You are Latina by marriage, and have one daughter and four sons. To what extent did your family influence your decision to make your protagonist Latina?
How important was it that Lola identifies with her Latina roots?
A. Lola was greatly influenced by my love of my husband’s native culture. He’s first generation Mexican-American.
The more I thought about Lola, the more I wanted to develop her as a woman straddling two cultures. I wanted her to be a character that lived the basic type of life that my own children do. They are Americans, but the Mexican culture infuses certain parts of their lives, most fundamentally through their experiences and relationships with their aunts, uncles and cousins who have similar upbringings and backgrounds.
I created Lola to be a non-stereotypical Latina, someone like my daughter, who’s smart and strong, who loves her family for who they are, and who is not afraid to live the life she chooses, even if that life is different than the one her parents want for her. As for my boys, I wanted to show them some behind-the-scenes elements of a strong woman and how she can be uncompromising, loving, and so much more.
Q. One of the most compelling aspects of the book was the heat between
Jack Callaghan and Lola. Despite her overwhelming attraction to Jack,
Lola is determined to remain true to herself at all costs. Why was it
important for you to create such a dynamic between the two of them?
A. I love the idea of Lola finding love, but she has to find it on her terms. Living the Vida Lola is really half mystery / half romance. The romance, though, is an ongoing situation with a larger arc than one book. Lola has to find a way to balance her personal goals, her family, and her values with the man she loves and his expectations. Also, how her romance with Jack develops or doesn’t develop directly influences her mystery-solving. It ups the stakes for Lola because she’s not just fighting for the people she’s working for; she’s also fighting for her own future, even as it’s still developing.
Lola–just like me, and my daughter, and all women out there–is about so much more than love and a man! Love makes everything sizzle, but Lola has to find happiness with herself first and that was essential to me.
Q. The Cruz family is very close; what was the inspiration behind this
A. When I first married my husband, I was enthralled [and sometimes overwhelmed!] by his family–he’s one of seven who are close in age and are all strong personalities. I came from a small [two brothers] family so the Ramirez family gatherings were unusual to me–like parties every weekend!
Carlos’s sister, Gloria, has become my best friend, and I see her as my sister as much as if we were blood. Her two boys are my oldest boys’ greatest friends. That type of sibling/friendship, as well as the inherent closeness and respect, were the very things I wanted to try to capture and highlight in the Lola Cruz Mystery Series [though, of course, Lola’s family is entirely different than my husband’ Carlos’s!].
Q. Families portrayed outside of the Cruz clan in the book are riddled
with problems: parents abandoning children and husbands abandoning
their wives. Why this contrast?
A. In a way, Lola’s family is the “ideal”. It has its problems like any other family, but this doesn’t affect Lola’s love for them.
Jack Callaghan’s family, by comparison, is different. The contrast between his family and Lola’s hopefully illustrates that despite the dysfunctions Jack grew up with and his own personal failures, he still recognizes the value of family [through la familia Cruz]. That is part of his attraction to Lola. She embodies the values he didn’t have growing up, and that he wants to create in his own life.
As to the others, well, it’s a mystery, and death and mysteries and such stem from dysfunctions!
Q. What is next for Lola?
A. Oh, Lola has SO many great adventures coming up! In Dead Girl Walking, book two in the series, her identity is stolen, her mafioso grandfather ropes her into investigating her cousin’s marriage, and heartthrob boss Manny Camacho assigns her a new case that makes her question people’s ability to commitment.
In book 3, Bare Naked Ladies, Lola’s battling, well, bare naked ladies–at a nudist resort. Among other things, the question is, will she or won’t she get naked herself?! And what will Jack Callaghan think about that?