Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Guest Writer Misa Ramirez

hosted by Jo Robertson

Put aside the glasses or mugs or flutes of your favorite beverage (mine’s a frosty Pepsi, but anything works – coffee, tea, wine, or even your favorite lover) and welcome our returning guest Misa Ramirez, who visited us last year to talk about her debut book, LIVIN' THE VIDA LOLA. Misa’s second release in the Lola Cruz series, HASTA LA VISTA, LOLA! releases February 2 and received 4 ½ stars from Romantic Times.

Check out her website at http://www.misaramirez.com/ for information on the third book in the series, Bare Naked Lola, out next year!

Hi, Misa, congratulations on your RT review! Even though you’ve left sunny California for Texas (mumble, mumble), we still miss you in our local chapter.

Thanks for hosting me today, Jo, and to all the Banditas. It is SO good to be back in the Lair.

There’s one thing that I’m asked (and sometimes not asked verbally, but with raised eyebrows) as a writer of a Latina mystery series. Bet you can’t guess what the question is. I’ll give you a hint. I’m not Latina. In fact, I say in my bio that I’m proud to be Latina-by-marriage.

So, the question is... drum roll...

“Why do you write a Latina character, and how did you manage to make her so authentic?”

The short answer is: “I’m a writer, of course, so it all comes so easily! Why not a Latina?”

That’s a complete lie (the part about it coming easy, not the part about me being a writer). Writing is hard work, and it’s true that you have to write about what you know. But, as I’ve already stated, I’m not Latina. I’m a white girl from California now living in Texas. But I married a smokin’ Latino man (almost 20 years married now) and I’ve learned so much about his culture through the years of our relationship so I do know Lola. I know her from the
outside looking in. I know her though my children’s eyes. I know her through my husband and his family. His parents lived with us for several years, his sister is one of my best friends and the sister I never had, and so many elements of the Mexican culture speak to me. So I write this series and write Lola because there is so much beauty in the Mexican culture and it truly speaks to me.

When we had children, it became even more important that we find ways to bring that culture into our American lives, to show the kids the culture that is part of their history, and for them to embrace that part of them. When the character of Lola Cruz (given name Dolores) came to me, it felt right because in so many ways I felt that this family that I’d created in my mind represented so many things I wanted to emphasize about the Mexican culture for my kids. The family, the faith, the langu
age, the food... But I also wanted to show how these elements can be balanced within an American life.

Lola balances (or struggles to balance) life with the cultural and familial expectations placed on her with her own passions and desires which stem from living as an American. I was particularly careful and conscious not to slip into stereotypes, and when people comment that my characters are so authentic and non-stereotypical, I take great pride in that!

So, who is Lola Cruz? Here she is in a nutshell:

Dolores “Lola” Cruz: Part Crusader, Part Swashbuckler, Part Sage


Lola’s single, a good Catholic girl (usually), but willing to do a lot to live her dream of being a detective. She works for muy misterioso Manny Camacho, has always loved old high school crush Jack Callaghan, and has a modern day rogue for a brother. The long and the short of it is that Lola can definitely hold her own in any situation, even when her mother’s berating her for having a career instead of marriage and children, when her mafioso grandfather has her doing ‘family’ work, and when her grandmother thinks she’s a ghost.

The Look:

Long auburn hair with copper highlights, hips and boobs and curves to spare, stripper shoes (to go with her strip l
ist), and a wardrobe full of clothes that Jack Callaghan can’t resist her in. A belly button ring…maybe. A black belt in kung fu and a love of yoga make her fit and strong.

Leading Man:

Jack Callaghan, newspaper columnist with a past and some baggage that prevents him and Lola from moving forward. Who is Sarah, anyway?

The Bottom Line:

Lola Cruz is a feisty heroine. She’s smart, sexy, and sassy. She’s a great friend, loyal, and kick ass. I like to say she’s my alter ego (if I were a super hot, sexy, Latina detective).

Lola’s next adventure has her investigating her own death–and Jack’s mysterious ex-girlfriend. There’s never a dull moment in her life!

Hasta la Vista, Lola! comes out February 2, 2010. Here’s the teaser:

What’s a girl to do when she finds out she’s been killed? Pinch herself to make sure she’s not a ghost, for starters. When Dolores Cruz comes home to her parents’ house to find every relative she has mourning her death, all hell breaks loose. With the help of on-again/off-again love Jack Callaghan, and juggling a new case thrown at her by muy misterioso boss Manny Camacho, it’s up to fledgling detective Lola to find out who’s behind the identity theft and suddenly wants her dead.
Click here to read an excerpt from the second installment in the Lola Cruz Mystery Series.

Thanks so much for joining us today, Misa. Read more about book 1 in the Lola Cruz series below. Misa will provide one lucky commenter a copy of her debut book LIVING THE VIDA LOLA.
Now our guest has a question for you. What kind of mystery book is your favorite? Cozy, hard-boiled, or something like Lola Cruz Mysteries, a sassy Soft-Boiled mix? Or if you're a die-hard romance reader, how do you like the mystery woven into the romance?

Living the Vida Lola, book one in the Lola Cruz Mystery Series

Dolores Cruz (Lola for short) loves shoes, chicken mole, kung fu (she’s a black belt) and her close-knit family. When her brother’s hunky old high school friend Jack Callaghan moves back to town, Lola falls hard. Now, after a year and a half as an underling at Camacho and Associates, a local private investigation firm, her oh-so-sexy and mysterious boss, Manny Camacho, assigns Lola her first big case: solving the mysterious disappearance of Emily Diggs. Can Lola juggle two men, her loving but demanding family, her PI exams, solve her all-important first case, and shop for fabulous shoes?


Meet the characters! Read Lola and her crew’s On-Line Dating profiles.


mariska said...

hi MISA !

Anna Campbell said...

Hi Misa! Welcome back to the lair. And Mariska, congrats on the Golden One!

Misa, I find it fascinating that you write Latina characters so authentically without being a Latina. But then I thought about it a bit further - I write 19th century English characters (occasionally Scottish ones!). And hey, I'm a 21st century Aussie! So viva the imagination! Congratulations on the great review from RT!

jo robertson said...

Hi, Mariska! Thanks for grabbing the rooster today. If I caught him, I was going to make him clean the rain gutters. Tee hee.

jo robertson said...

Anna, when I first met Misa, way back before she was published :-D, I remember thinking why does this blonde, pale-skinned woman have the name of Ramirez. Duh, that was a no-brainer, but then when she sold her first book about a Latina character, I was amazed! She really has absorbed the culture and made it an important part of her children's lives.

She's lucky to have the research first-hand, so to speak, while the rest of us have to surf the net!

Donna MacMeans said...

Hi Misa! Thanks for joining us in the lair. Gotta say as I was reading about Lola, I was thinking - Man, I can see this lady in a TV series. What a fabulous character you've created. One of the really nice things about having her in a mystery series is that she always comes back for the next book! Brilliant!

I'm not a big mystery reader (but I may soon be after reading your blog) but I love incorporating a mystery into romance. It keeps those pages turning. Of course, I love incorporating a romance into a mystery as you have with Jack and Lola as well. Love the cover BTW. Sounds like your career is off like a rocket.

Anna Campbell said...

Hey, everyone, the Bandita fun doesn't stop here today. Check out Day 2 of the Romance Bandits invasion of the Romance Dish. Prizes galore! http://www.theromancedish.com/

jo robertson said...

You're right, Donna. I totally see Lola Cruz as a TV series! Wouldn't that be fun, Misa?

Her stories have a little Stephanie Plum flavor with a Mexican twist!

Deb said...

Hi, Misa. I'm not usually a mystery reader. Some of the historical romances I read do have British spies and intrigue in the plot (Stephanie Laurens does a great job).
I agree with Donna that Lola could have a t.v. series or a movie of the week type deal.

jo robertson said...

Hi, Deb. I read a lot of romance too but I always enjoy the ones with a little mystery (even if it's just the mystery of the hero and heroine's back story) mixed in, or a little suspense.

Deb said...

I agree with you, Jo. A little mystery or suspense adds to a story's plot---just as long as it doesn't take over the storyline.

Tawny said...

Hey there, Misa and welcome back to the Lair :-)

That is so cool that you've integrated your adopted-by-marriage heritage into your books. My husband is hispanic and you're right, its very easy to want to embrace the culture.

I agree with Donna and everyone, Lola sounds like she'd be a fabulous TV character. Best of luck with your release and YAY you on the fab RT review.

Helen said...

Congrats Mariska have fun with him

Great post Ladies I really need to get these books I love a mystery especially if it is combined with romance. Lola sounds like and awesome Lady and I am looking forward to getting to know her.

I like any kind of mystery murder missing people hunting for lost artifacts and of course the mystery of a hero and heroine finding love.

Congrats on the new releasa Misa and thanks Jo for inviting Misa back to the lair.

Have Fun

Helen said...


I gotta say I do love that new photo

Have Fun

Anna Sugden said...

Hi Misa and welcome back to the Lair.

I love reading all kinds of mystery and romantic suspense from the gory and gritty to the fun and cosy. Everyone from Tess, Karen Rose, Mariah Stewart, Allison Brennan and Lisa Gardner through to Carole Nelson Douglas' Midnight Louie series, Elaine Viets, Gemma Halliday and our own fabulous Kate! I've been meaning to get into some of the others who do themed cosies, but not enough time and a twoering TBR mountain have got in the way.

I must admit, I like to see a little romance with my suspense ... but I can be tempted away with a great writer. I've been reading Thomas Perry's Jane Whitefield series and loving that.

That said, I also enjoy a little mystery with my romance and have found that I've been edging towards romantic suspense in my own writing.

misa ramirez said...

Donna, Donna, Donna, you MUST try Lola! It is equal parts romance and mystery. You'll love it!

The series is actually being shopped as a TV series, so we'll see if that ever happens. Fingers crossed!

misa ramirez said...

Hey Mariska, you are an early bird! Thanks for following the tour. =)

What a warm welcome, Anna. I love being here! Thank you for the nice compliment. I'm always hyper aware of portraying the Latino characters (or any character for that matter) authentically. As Jo said, it is my good luck that I live with a Smokin' Latino man! First hand research. =)

misa ramirez said...

Helen and Deb, Lola is for you...I can feel it! So good to be here!

misa ramirez said...

Anna, Lola is a lot lighter than a lot of the books/authors you mentioned, but still a great read! I love mystery elements; they help propel the plot forward, and well, as the first line in Living the Vida Lola attests to, detecting is Lola's passion:

"When I was fourteen years old, I snapped pictures of Jack Callaghan doing the horizontal salsa in the back seat of a car with Greta Pritchard. That’s when I knew for sure I’d grow up to be a private eye."

misa ramirez said...

Thank you, Tawny! You Banditas are the bomb!

Christie Kelley said...

Hi Misa, welcome to the lair. I'm not a big mystery reader but your book sounds fantastic. Good luck with it!

Susan Sey said...

Hi, Misa! I love the sound of your Lola Cruz--I like a good spunky heroine with a quirky extended family. :-)

Congrats on the great review from RT!

Anna Sugden said...

You're on my TBR list, Misa! With an excerpt like that - who can resist?

Besides, after Janet Evanovich's Ranger, wouldn't we all love to have our own Smokin' Latino man?! LOL

Beth said...

Hi, Misa! Welcome back to the lair *g* Your books sound fabulous and I loved the excerpt! I'm looking forward to reading them :-)

Congrats on the fab RT review and fingers crossed for the TV series!

hrdwrkdmom aka Dianna said...

This book sound so good! I was happy to know there is a little romance mixed in with the mystery. How many books are going to be in the series or do you know yet? See, I am trying to find out how long we have to wait to see if she gets the guy.

jo robertson said...

Hi, Helen. I think you'd really enjoy Misa's books. Maybe you'll win today's giveaway!

Ah, the mystery of why two people fall in love. That's a strange one, isn't it? My son is sure it's all about pheremones and scents. Some people know right away. My mom said she fell in love with my Dad the moment she saw him sitting in church, although I can't believe one of the Lewis boys was actually in church. Must've been scamming for girls!

Nancy said...

Mariska, have fun with the rooster!

Misa, welcome back! These books sound fabulous. I've heard it can be difficult for authors who don't belong to a particular ethnic group to sell novels revolving around that group. Congratulations on bridging that gap.

As for what kinds of mysteries I like--cozies (amateur detectives), private eyes, and police procedurals all live on my shelf. I still have a certain fondness for Perry Mason, though the books are dated in some respects.

I read a lot of fantasy and science fiction, and I enjoy worldbuilding. Visiting a culture other than my own in contemporary society is sort of like visiting another world in some ways.

jo robertson said...

Tawny, I'd forgotten your hubby was Latino. My DIL is Mexican, the youngest of a family of seven children whose parents immigrated to the states many years ago. She was the only child born here and her father gave her the only "American" name -- Sandra.

Funny story, Sandra's son Hayden had to do a country project when he was eight. Got his Aunt "Casa" (Consuelo), Sandra's older sister, to help him. Hayden raced home one day, shouting, "Mom, mom, did you know that Casa is Mexican!!??"

jo robertson said...

Thanks for the compliment about the photo, Helen. It's about three years old, but it's my Golden Heart photo. Wish I could say I was still that thin, darn it!

Stacy McKitrick said...

While I don't go searching for mystery books, I do enjoy them, especially if romance is involved (since I'm a sucker for romance).

Between writing and working, my pile of books is growing, growing, growing and I wonder if I'll ever get it to shrink. I've discovered so many new writers that I want to read, and disappointed I can't read fast enough. And now I've found another to add to the pile.

jo robertson said...

Wow, Anna, you've got quite a list of mystery writers you enjoy. And quite eclectic!

As you know, I adore the J.D. Robb (Nora Roberts)"In Death" series.

Hell, let's just call a spade a spade. I adore Roarke.

jo robertson said...

Hi, Misa! It's so good to have you return for a visit today.

The series is being shopped for TV?? That's super news. As noted, we all agree it'd make a great show. Maybe the Latin twist will give it the new slant to cause Hollywood buzz.

jo robertson said...

That's a first great line, Misa!

I compared the "lightness" of the Lola series to Janet Evanovich's Stephanie Plum series. Light-hearted and fun and funny.

Would you agree with that assessment?

jo robertson said...

Good question, Dianna. How many books are planned for the Lola Cruz series? I know a third one's coming out next year.

How about it, Misa?

jo robertson said...

Good comment, Nancy.

Which causes me to ask Misa about her worldbuilding.

Misa, how much did you rely on your extended Latina family to build Lola's world? How about the idea for the mystery? Where did that one come from? The next one about the nudist camp intrigued me.

jo robertson said...

Hi, Stacy, welcome to the Lair. I think you'll really like the Lola series, especially if you're in the mood for something lighthearted.

jo robertson said...

Hi, Stacy, welcome to the Lair. I think you'll really like the Lola series, especially if you're in the mood for something lighthearted.

Trish Milburn (Tricia Mills) said...

Misa, this sounds like a great series. I like those spunky gal detectives.

I guess most of the mysteries I read have wonderful senses of place. Two of my favorite mystery authors are Nevada Barr and Dana Stabenow. Both have this wonderful ability to make you feel like you're actually in the place they're writing about, whether that be Barr's national parks or Stabenow's Alaskan bush. I've also read a few of C.J. Box's books and have enjoyed them.

Jeanne (AKA The Duchesse) said...

Hi Misa! Welcome back to the Lair! Yeah!!!

I love these books and can't wait for more. Grins. Great excerpt too, on your site.

Anna, I had to LOL about your realization. Snrok.

Mariska, congrats on the bird!

Virginia said...

Congrat mariska on nabbing the rooster!

Hi Misa, thanks for joining us here today! Your book sound fabulous! I enjoy reading mysteries myself for a change of pace! I read a little of everything.

Anna Sugden said...

Ooh yes, Jo - how could I forget the JD Robb series?! Roarke is so yummy.

catslady said...

Oh sounds like a fun book. Actually though I love it all. I really like a variety and like to change it up all the time. Normally if I like the characters, then I'll love the book.

PJ said...

Hi Misa!

Congratulations on the upcoming release of HASTA LA VISTA, LOLA! Your books sound great. Like the others, I can definitely see your character on TV!

I love that you have so wholeheartedly embraced the wonderful Mexican culture. The people of Mexico and their rich culture have had a special place in my heart since I was an exchange student to their country in my early teens.

I'm looking forward to reading your books!

Stephanie J said...

Wahoo for the upcoming release! And thank you for the insight into your characters. I really love it, especially about knowing her through your children's eyes. Lola seems kick ass (can I say that on here? :) )

misa ramirez said...

Thank you Christie, Susan, and Anna! You guys are making my day with your enthusiastic response to Lola. Everyone here is!

misa ramirez said...

Thanks PJ!

Stephanie, yes, Lola is Kick Ass, and I hope you can say it here, and that I can, too!

misa ramirez said...

Trish, I'm not sure Sacramento is a place you WANT to be, but I think I created a sense of it. =)))

Beth, thanks so much for the warm welcome!

misa ramirez said...

Funny question, Dianna! Let me just say this is not the romance of Stephanie/Joe/Ranger. There's no question who Lola loves, and though their relationship is wrought with obstacles, Lola and Jack will be together!

misa ramirez said...

Nancy, I agree that it's sometimes tough to bridge a gap, but I have to wonder about men writing women, and women writing men and how nobody thinks much about that! We're writers, after all, and I believer if you feel passionately about something, you should be able to do it justice on the page. That's what I believe I've done.

My editor, in fact, told me that Lola is the least stereotypical rendition of a Latina, which she loved. I took that as a real compliment!

misa ramirez said...

Good questions, Jo.

My experiences with my extended family has greatly influenced the books. They are my frame of reference for the Latino American experience. No experience is the same, which is the beauty of writing a character like Lola. She doesn't have to think or behave in a certain way since she is her own person.

But the cultural elements all stem from being part of my husband's family for such a long time, and truly from him and one of his sisters in particular. In fact, the acknowledgement in Hasta la Vista Lola is to her!

As to the crimes, they are 'ripped from the headlines' and Lola-fied. =) The nudist resort for Bare Naked Lola (book 3) is a read place outside of Sacramento (where killer Carey Staynor hid out after the Yosemite killings years ago). I visited there!

Karyn Gerrard AKA~Drew said...

Hi Misa!

I am not much of a mystery/romance reader myself, though I do love it in historicals when the hero turns out to be a spy for example, and has a crime.mystery to solve, so I really should expand my horizons!
I guess I would prefer a soft-boiled mystery in my romance, I can always read Raymond Chandler for the hard-boiled stuff!
Great luck with your release, and the possible TV series, I think that would be awesome!

Pat Cochran said...

Congratulations on the review from
Romantic Times! I haven't read any
of your books as yet, so winning
a copy would be a great way to start the series! LOL! BTW, I'm the opposite of your life situation in that I am a Hispanic married for many, many years to a sweet man of Irish ancestry.

Pat Cochran

hrdwrkdmom aka Dianna said...

misa ramirez said...
Funny question, Dianna! Let me just say this is not the romance of Stephanie/Joe/Ranger. There's no question who Lola loves, and though their relationship is wrought with obstacles, Lola and Jack will be together!

Cool, I still need to know how much room to make on my keeper shelves though, and with her being a detective I can see where the series has the potential to go on a while if that is in the stars.

hrdwrkdmom aka Dianna said...

LOL on the Stephanie/Ranger/Joe triangle, I thought a couple of ladies were going to come to blows over who Stephanie should end up with.

Christine Wells said...

Misa, welcome to the lair. Lola sounds like a fabulous heroine. I love that you have looked beyond the stereotype to create a three dimensional character. A detective investigating her own death sounds like a lot of fun!

misa ramirez said...

I remember you, Pat! Haven't seen you around Chasing Heroes lately! A sweet man of Irish decent sounds like a winning mix!

Dianna, who do you root for with Steph. Plum?

Make LOTS of room on your keeper shelf!!

misa ramirez said...

I remember you, Pat! Haven't seen you around Chasing Heroes lately! A sweet man of Irish decent sounds like a winning mix!

Dianna, who do you root for with Steph. Plum?

Make LOTS of room on your keeper shelf!!

jo robertson said...

Wow, that's interesting, Misa. Can you tell us a little about your nudist camp visit? LOL, did you get to keep your clothes on?

jo robertson said...

Pat and Misa, the Ranger-Joe Morelli controversy is quite hawt, isn't it? Mostly I root for Joe, but hubba-bubba on Ranger. Who could resist a guy like him?

jo robertson said...

Misa said, "Make LOTS of room on your keeper shelf!!"

I take it we're going to see Lola around for several more books at least. Great!

jo robertson said...

Hi, Karyn/Drew, thanks for stopping by here after your Romance Dish contributions. They were hilarious and congratulations on winning.

If you enjoy soft-boiled mysteries, you'll like the Lola Cruz series. And I personally like that she's got the commitment to the one guy, no waffling there.

jo robertson said...

Christine, Lola is a fully realized character IMO. That's what I like so much about her. And Misa has a great writing voice to bring out the character.

hrdwrkdmom aka Dianna said...

misa ramirez said...

Dianna, who do you root for with Steph. Plum?

Make LOTS of room on your keeper shelf!!

I am rooting for Joe and hoping Ranger runs into a woman that is more than his match...LOL.

Oh goodie, might have to clear off another shelf then. The Banditas and friends are keeping me buys.

Loucinda McGary aka Aunty Cindy said...

Sorry to be chiming in late. I've been having computer 'issues.' :-(

Misa, WELCOME back to the Lair! So good to "see" you here. As Jo said, we've been missing you at our local events since you moved to the Lone Star State.

SUPER CONGRATS on your latest Lola book, and here's me lifting a glass of bubbly to MANY MANY MORE in the series!


Cassondra said...

Hey Jo, hey Misa!

Misa, welcome back to the lair! I have your first book still in my TBR pile, I'm ashamed to say. When you first talked about your series I fell in love with the idea. I just haven't made it to reading it yet. But I will march myself straight to the bookstore and pre-order the second book, because I LOOOOOVE mysteries--all except the hard-boiled ones. I love the cozies, and ones with awesome heroines like Lola. They are my treat any time I get a break.

I am so impressed that you had the courage to write a Latino heroine. I don't know that I am brave enough to take a leap like that.

I can't wait to treat myself with these books.

Cassondra said...

Oh, and Dianna...

Ranger. Stephanie belongs with RANGER. (sticks out tongue)


misa ramirez said...

Jo, I'm not telling about the nudist resort! No, you'll have to follow my virtual book tour. I'm actually blogging when I visit the cozy chicks in Feb! The tour is on my web site (http://misaramirez.com or http://chasingheroes.com ).

Cossondra, to each his own. I know Ranger's a tad more popular, at least with the people I've talked to about it. Actually I haven't read a Steph Plum book in a long while, so I have no idea where they are in their love triangle at this point! Still, I'll root for Joe. Sticking tongue back at you!!

jo robertson said...

LOL, Misa, at any rate, the nudist camp story sounds great.

Thanks for guesting with us today. And readers, be sure to check back in the next couple of days to see who won Misa's giveaway book, Living the Vida, Lola!

Razlover's Book Blog said...

Hi Misa,

Congrats on your upcoming book and I love the cover!

Great interview and I love the storyline between Lola and Jack.

I read alot of romantic suspense so I like a well written mystery with a steamy romance.

I also like a sassy-boiled mix and I also read cozies.

hrdwrkdmom aka Dianna said...

Cassondra, it's Joe :P)

Lady_Graeye said...

Hi Misa, I so glad you are here! Congrats on your new book.