Rebecca Phillips-Dahlke ran her father's crop-dusting
business near Modesto, California for several years
during the early 1980's. Her son and muse for writing
this series, John Shanahan, was a career Aero Ag pilot
until his accidental work related death in Feb. 2005.
Next in the Lalla Bains mystery series:
A DEAD RED HEART
A DEAD RED OLEANDER.
A DANGEROUS HARBOR, a contemporary
romantic mystery set in Ensenada,
Mexico will be out in the fall of 2011.
How long have you been writing and what inspired you to start? A: I've been taking the writing seriously since the late 80's... that's 1980's, not 1880's! Like a lot of authors, I had stories banging around in my head so I started with short stories. Sometimes a whole novel will come out of a newspaper or magazine article and sometimes, they start with a line that comes to me, ie. from my second Lalla Bains, A DEAD RED HEART, CHAPTER ONE: "I like having a man at my feet, tough guys who grovel are my favorite, though I'm not averse to a little toe kissing when appropriate." They don't always stay that way, but I'm happy to say this one did. How did you develop your character Lalla Bains? Does she share any characteristics in common with you? A: Lalla Bains is a crop duster because I'm not nor will I ever be, but my father and son were crop-dusters and for two seasons I ran my dad's Aero Ag business from behind a desk. It was the hardest damn job I've ever had. Not to mention the fact that I was a bit young and the pilots and ground crew just walked all over me... that is until one day, I actually did tell a pilot that if he needed to pee, he could do it off the wing! I put that in the book! As for sharing characteristics with me, I'm told that Lalla is also pushy and annoying. Gee, thanks... just what I was going for! The tall blond and beautiful is just wishful thinking. Your story in the A Red Dead Cadillac is fast-paced and full of witty, colorful characters. Do you have favorite authors who have influential in your style of writing? A: Well, thank yew! I remember enjoying Sarah Shankman when I first started reading humorous mysteries. Since then, I've met wonderful women authors who make me smile, giggle and laugh out loud. Kris Neri cracks me up, and please don't think me a brown-nose, but I get a giggle when I read your books, Kathleen. Early in the book, you mention that Lalla’s favorite book is West with the Night by Beryl Markham. That is one of my favorite, too. It is front and center on my bookcase. Did you choose this book for Lalla since she is a pilot, or is this one of your favorites? A: Really? That is sooo cool. I really don't know why they didn't make a movie out of her story... so much more interesting than Issac Dinnesen(sic) My dad gave me that book because I loved to read and because his cousin, Tex Rankin’s picture is in it. Tex was a famous stunt pilot, but when daddy got a stunt plane mother finally put her foot down. Every day my daddy flew crop-dusters was a good day for him… and it paid well, too. Lalla is an unusual name. Does it have a special meaning? A: Lalla likes to say that her daddy, thinking her great aunt might think kindly on Lalla it came time to write out her will, named her after her great aunt Eula May. Fat chance. Aunt Eula May is 86, or 87 by the time the next book comes out, and she's doing just fine, thank you very much. I found the name from a woman I met then decided that Lalla is simply a massacred version of Eula May, but since her brother could only manage Lalla, it stuck. I thought it funny to stick six foot blond beauty with a legal moniker like Eula May Bains. Describe your writing process. A: I used to wing it, but now I do a huge white board and separate out the four archs that make up a novel. I have a premise, the problem the solution, the characters, primary and secondary, their names all put up on the board...and then I start writing. What advice do you have for someone who wants to begin writing a novel? A: If I can say anything, it's that a writer needs to do two things; ONE: write every day, even if it's only for 15 minutes, and TWO: Put blinders on and resist the siren temptation calling, calling you to go back and rewrite that first chapter... because if you do, you're never going to finish that book! Trust me on this, I know, because that used to be me! I've met writers who've never managed to get past the first three chapters. Agents will not like it if you send the first three and don't have anything to back it up... actually, it pisses them off. Yeah, you're going to have to go back and kill your darling first chapter, but not until the book is finished. After all it's only a draft and first drafts are never perfect. Well, at least mine aren't. Can you give us a synopsis of the next Lalla Bains mystery, and when can we expect it to be out? A: Oh, that would be A DEAD RED OLEANDER.
Here's my first line: "The world is flat. Well, it is from my perspective, lying here in this row of cotton, handcuffed to the bumper of my dad's old farm truck." This story will be about the witness protection program and what happens when an inept mob bookkeeper/pilot thinks he’s got the perfect hidey hole in the middle of California farmland flying crop-dusters .
Actually, the next book will be a stand-alone romantic/humorous mystery, titled A DANGEROUS HARBOR and it should be out late this summer. Here's the first line: “Except for the mermaid lounging on a weedy pad of sea grass fifty yards back, Katrina Bluementhal’s sailing vacation down the California coast to Baja, Mexico had been monotonous and uneventful.”