Friday, March 19, 2010

Karen E. Olson - Pretty in Ink!

Posted by Kate

I’m delighted to introduce you to Karen E. Olson, who writes the fabulously fun new Tattoo Shop mystery series for NAL. I'm completely hooked on this series that feature tattoo artist Brett Kavanaugh and a cast of characters that include her hunky police detective brother Tim and a suave, enigmatic Englishman named Simon Chase. Hmm. No wonder I love these books!

Here's Karen!

As a longtime newspaper copy editor, part of my job was to write headlines. When you think about it, a book title isn’t that different from a headline: It should be short and snappy and catch people’s eye. However, I was never a great headline writer, which did not bode well for me when I had to come up with titles for my books.

I was almost done with the first in my tattoo shop mystery series before I had a title. At least one that my editor loved. I’d sent her 50 title suggestions, but each one got shot down. Kristen kept telling me that they just weren’t what they were looking for. Finally, my husband suggested THE MISSING INK, which I thought was too silly, but Kristen said it was perfect (NAL loves puns, just look at their other titles).

Because I have a little bit of OCD (most women do, especially those of us who are moms), I decided that I would keep INK in all my titles. I went on the Internet and looked up words that rhyme with ink and found phrases to play off in the books’ titles.

PRETTY IN INK was easy. It would be the second in the series. It was also the first book I started writing with a title in mind. But what would the book be about?

I hadn’t thought that far ahead; all I could think of was the Molly Ringwald movie from the ‘80s. So using that as a starting point, I thought maybe I could write about some sort of young girl, a pretty young girl, and ingénue perhaps. I thought about a plot that could involve a Britney Spears or a Miley Cyrus or a Lindsay Lohan type of character.

But everyone would expect that.

So I came up with drag queens.

What’s prettier than a roomful of drag queens? All that glitter and glitz and makeup and sparkly shoes and feathery boas. Not to mention that the book takes place in Las Vegas, the glitz capital of the world. No, it absolutely had to be drag queens.

Drag queens with tattoos. Even better.

Now, I did not know any drag queens personally, and I figured I had to find at least one to interview before I could start writing. I don’t live in Vegas, in fact, I’m a plane ride and a connection away in New England. But Serendipity waved her magic wand, and during an interview, I was telling a reporter about how I needed to find a drag queen and amazingly, she produced a phone number. Apparently there’s a huge drag queen contingent in New Haven. Go figure.

I met Brett (remarkably he had the same name as my tattoo artist protagonist!) at the clothing boutique where he worked (and spent time trying on the dresses when there was no one in the store). He told me all his secrets (rice in his bra for a more natural look; two pairs of very tight Speedos to keep his, um, jewels in place). His drag name is Levitra Champagne.

I had a blast coming up with names for my drag queens: Britney Brassieres, Miranda Rites, MissTique, Shanda Leer. It was so much easier to name them than to come up with titles! I gave them a roomful of beautiful, buff boys to perform with at Chez Tango, just off the Strip somewhere near Fremont Street (have to keep it vague or someone might actually go looking for it). And then they start dying. It’s a murder mystery. What else could happen?

Do titles entice you to pick up a book? Do you like titles with puns in them? And if you could come up with a name for a drag queen, what would it be?

Be sure to visit to find out more about Karen and read excerpts from her books.

And Karen is giving away a copy of her first Tattoo Shop mystery, THE MISSING INK, to one lucky random commenter today! Good luck!


Helen said...

Is he coming to my place

Have Fun

Laney4 said...

"Do titles entice you to pick up a book?" Yes they can, but ultimately the blurb on the back makes me want to buy the book. If I'm unsure of a new author, I'll open the book to a random page and check it out too.

"Do you like titles with puns in them?" Yes-sum, I do. My life is comprised of puns, for better or worse....

"And if you could come up with a name for a drag queen, what would it be?" How about Tough T*tty? (Can you say that here?)

You didn't ask, but I think the book could be called WHAT A DRAG ... or DRAGGING BEHIND.... I'll stop there, as I probably could go on and on with them!

Have a great day!

Helen said...

Well he is visiting me and he probably will be here for the birth of my new grandchild Brooke is getting induced in the morning so he will be in for fun.

Ladies what a fun interview and I love those names LOL I really love a good mystery that keeps me thinking all the way thru the book. As for coming up with name I don't have much of an imagination but how about Tootsie Lee LOL

Have Fun

Helen said...

I forgot to say yes titles do make me pick up abook

Have Fun

Anna Campbell said...

Hey, Helen, it looks like you're starting your holiday with one naughty chook! Hide those Tim Tams!

Karen, how lovely to meet you and I have to say I'm a sucker for pun titles! Love your two. And how fascinating that you got to meet the drag queens. I used to live in Sydney's red light district (I say live, not work, NOTE!) and honestly a lot of those boys are prettier than I am. It's not fair. But then I suppose they don't think it's fair that I don't need rice in my bra to look natural, snork!

Titles DO entice me to pick up a book. I like something that's a little bit different or which plays on those eternal themes. I just recently read an ARC from an Aussie author, Christina Phillips. It was about the love affair between a Roman centurion and a Druid priestess and it was called FORBIDDEN. Got to say Christina had me at the title - love the hint of forbidden love. It's one of those themes that always draws me in.

Donna MacMeans said...

Helen - Take him! Take him! He was absolutely no help yesterday - expecting me to wait on him instead of the other way around (grin). Sending hugs for the new arrival.

Hi Karen - Your books look hot and sound like a hoot. The tattoo artist mystery series is certainly unique. May I ask? Do you have a tattoo? (and where?)

Yes, a catchy title will make me pick up a book, as will a fabulous cover. Love your title puns.

I imagine coming up with drag queen names would be a hoot. However, I'm drawing a blank (doing taxes all day will do that to you (grins))

Laurie said...

Hi Karen! Titles can entice me to pick up a book and I like some pun titles - yours included. Some, though, are long, complicated, and too corny.

Ink or Swim? Driving Me to Ink? LOL Maybe not.

Name for a drag queen? How about Honey Baer, Jewel Jabinski, Lolly Lavine?

Your books sound like a lot of fun!

PinkPeony said...

Hi Karen! Tattoo artists! Very original. I don't like titles that are too contrived and cutesy but it's the blurb on the back and the first few pages that are the deciding factor on whether I'll buy a book.

I've been jotting down drag queen names. I need at least six for my current ms. Here's a couple for you...
Kari Oki and Landa Honey

Congrats, Helen!!

PinkPeony said...

I forgot to mention...check out

It's RuPaul's site and you can cut and paste pics of folks and "dragulate" them. :)

Caren Crane said...

Oh, Helen, good snatching of the GR! Don't let him near a tattoo parlor, though. I think the blog today may give him ideas...for you! Also keep him far away from the delivery ward. Hey, maybe he could babysit the other grandbabies while the new one is on the way! On second thought...

Caren Crane said...

Karen, I adore punny titles! Our own Anna Campbell was understating when she said she is a sucker for a pun title. She is the Pun Queen! Once you wind her up she can go on for days. We love that about her!

Okay, I shouldn't even mention this BUT I work VERY indirectly with a man who has a name that made my ears perk up when I first heard it. I wanted desperately to know who the guy with the porn star name was and why, by all that's holy, did his parents give it to him?! Name: Shan Teel.

Yes, that is his real name. I think his first name must be Shannon, but he has always uses Shan. For business. He would not make a cute drag queen, but he has a perfect name!

Minna said...

I think I usually look at the picture of the cover first. I do like titles with puns.

Robbie Williams She's Madonna

Kuorosota 2010 - "Like A Virgin" [Marcon kuoro, Kuopio]

Kuorosota 2010 [2]// Kuopio - Paradise City

Kuorosota 2010 [3]//Joensuu - Pop-musiikkia

Kuorosota 2010// Joensuu - Pohjois-Karjala

hrdwrkdmom aka Dianna said...

Do titles entice you to pick up a book? Do you like titles with puns in them? And if you could come up with a name for a drag queen, what would it be?

The titles catch my eye first then I read the back and if still undecided will skim here and there to get a gist of the writing style.

Oh yes, love play on words, something that tickles my funny bone will catch me real quick.

Uhhhh, imagination is kind of on vacation right now but how about.. Lucy Lovalot, Livine Frea, Vanna B. Rocken, Ladyov Goodnight

Karen Olson said...

You all get started early around here! Thanks so much for having me!

You've got some great suggestions for drag queen names, and it's great that you're all open to puns.

Donna, in full disclosure, I do not have a tattoo. I've done extensive research, though, visiting tattoo shops and watching YouTube vidoes and reading some really fascinating books (Margot Mifflin's Bodies of Subversion: A History of Women and Tattoo is amazing). I have found that women who turn 40 seem to have a penchant for a tattoo.

Laurie, you're close on titles...the next one, out in September, will be Driven to Ink. And the fourth is Ink Flamingos.

Caren, Shan Teel is definitely a drag name. Or a porn name :)

Minna, A cover can draw me into a book, too. I absolutely love the covers of my tattoo shop books. They're so striking.

Christie Kelley said...

Hi Karen, welcome to the lair!

And Helen, congrats on the GR!

I don't mind punny titles for light contemporary romances. I'm not sure it works historicals or darker contemporaries.

I do think coming up with drag queen names would be a hoot.

Good luck with your release!

Kate Carlisle said...

Oh Helen, congratulations! I'm sure the GR will be very helpful in the delivery room. *snork!*

And congrats on the impending birth! How wonderful and exciting for you and your family. Please keep us posted!

Kate Carlisle said...

Y'all, I'm laughing at the drag queen names you're coming up with.

Laney, Tough T*tty is a good one!

And Landa Honey!! LOL, Pink!

OMG, Dianna, Vanna B. Rocken!! Hilarious!

Oh hey, sounds like a hoot! I'm going there right now! I'll be back. :-)

Virginia said...


Yes titles draw me to a book but also covers! I usually go by the blurp on the back or what I here about on the blogs is what I go by when buying a book! Great post by the way!

MsHellion said...

Titles DO entice me to books; and puns are a particular weakness of mine. (I blame my English major self.)

Drag queen name? I'm not very original. Dee Lishush is probably the extent of my creative abilities in this realm.

I totally have to show these books to my friend. She is a tattoo artist--and would probably really like these!! (Not, of course, you have to be one to appreciate them...I just think she'd appreciate them even more! *LOL*)

Louisa Cornell said...

Yay Helen ! You can always tell this grandchild that he or she was delivered by a Golden Rooster!

Karen, these books sound like a hoot! I LOVE the idea of a series set around a tattoo parlor! My brother has a huge dragon tattooed on his back and none of us in the family knew it for 18 years. We found out about it after my Dad passed as Dad was always VERY anti-tattoo. Funny as he was a military man and lived all over the world.

A catchy title WILL make me pick up a book and read the blurb. I'm always fascinated with how people come up with titles for their books and yours are definitely catchy!

Drag queen names ? Hmmm.

Is "Happy Bottom" just a little TOO risque ?

How about "Dragin' Lady" ?

Or "Tiny Snippet" ?

Maybe "Mystery Package" ?

I'd better stop now before some of my drag queen friends beat me up.

Karen Olson said...

It's interesting how when I started writing these books friends of mine started telling me about their "secret" tattoos. So I'm not surprised about your brother's!

I even had a woman come up next to me during a bookstore event to show off her tattoos to the audience.

Tattoos are no longer for drunken sailors. They're incredibly mainstream.

Kate Carlisle said...

Happy Bottom, Louisa?? LOLOL

Ms. Hellion, I know your friend the tattoo artist would definitely appreciate these books! But you don't have to be one to get into the stories. At heart, they're great mysteries and a fun, fast read. And did I mention there's this charmingly enigmatic (uhh, and sexy) Englishman? Hellooo!! Y'all must check him out!

Karen, I love the title "Ink Flamingos."

denise said...

Titles definitely can make me pick up a book. your pics look great.
I would love your book.

Anna Sugden said...

Hi Karen - welcome to the Lair.

Funnily enough - your title caught my eye only yesterday! I love the movie Pretty in Pink and was fascinated to see what your book was about.

Fun and clever titles do catch my eye - but the story blurb has to deliver for me to buy the book. Ditto with covers. And, I'm another who has to check what the opening page is like.

I've always wanted a tattoo (it's the former punk in me), but am too chicken to get one done - I can't stand pain - I'm a wimp!

Cracking up at all the drag queen names! We used to call a girl at uni - who wore a LOT of make-up - Mandy Max Factor. I reckon that could work as a drag queen name.

How about Juicy Le Choo, Luscious Louboutin, Hoochy Gucci, Cha-cha Chanel and Ta-ta Blahnik? Okay - so I suck at this!

Anna Sugden said...

Oh - forgot to say that one of my fave titles for an impulse buy was Looking for Andrew Macarthy by Jenny Colgan - that too was inpsired by PiP.

Anna Sugden said...

Helen - commiserations on the chook, but woohooo on the new grandbaby! Sending positive birthing thoughts to all involved!

Anna Sugden said...

Anna - it's the legs that get me. Some drag queens have awesome legs! Okay, so they have ginormous feet (but, they do get all the great shoes cheap!)

Karen Olson said...

Fascinating that people read the blurbs on the back of the book and use that as a gauge. I've rewritten all of my jacket copy because it seems whoever has written it may not have read the same book I wrote!

Totally loving all the drag queen names!

and Helen, congratulations on the grandbaby!! How exciting!

p226 said...

Well I'm not the world's most physical guy, but when she squeezed me tight she nearly broke my spine oh a Lola. L-o-l-a lola.

I have a drag queen story I'm soooooooooooo not sharing.

Nancy said...

Hi, Karen. Welcome, and congratulations on your new release!

Do titles entice me to pick up a book? Definitely. A title will get me as far as reading the blurb. If the blurb sounds good, I'll crack the book open and read a few pages.

Helen, congrats on the rooster!

Nancy said...

p226 wrote: I have a drag queen story I'm soooooooooooo not sharing.

Now, see, this is so not fair. I don't have any drag queen stories. I depend on vicarious enjoyment of other people's, and if this one is not being shared, it must be really priceless. *pout*

Nancy said...

Karen wrote: I've rewritten all of my jacket copy because it seems whoever has written it may not have read the same book I wrote!

I've had that feeling reading reviews of books I've loved (or hated)--did we read the same book?

Nancy said...

Oooh! I just remembered--I DO have a drag queen story! I have TWO of them.

At DragonCon some years ago, I was in line for the ATM behind Poison Ivy, the Batman villainess. Only Ivy was about 6'3" in heels, and I remember thinking, "Gee, I thought I was tall." Upon concluding her business, Ivy turned around, putting my eyes roughly on level with "her" Adam's apple.

But it was a great costume.

Even longer ago, I was standing on a balcony at DragonCon, people-watching, and noticed someone go by behind me in a gorgeous blue silk duppioni (I think that's right, not so up on fabrics) Tudor gown and headpiece, powder blue that shimmered dusty pink when the person walked.

Later, I was leaving the restaurant and noticed that gown flowing out into the aisle from a booth. I stopped and said, "That's a fabulous costume." As I leaned over the booth, I noticed the wearer's very large hands, and then he said, in a gravelly bass voice, "Thank you."

I was so glad I had not added the virtually obligatory southern "ma'am."

At DragonCon '08, the dh and I met Ms. Marvel on the street before the parade, and I took her picture, but she wouldn't talk, just mimed. When we found our spot to watch, I asked the dh, "Do you think Ms. Marvel was a he?" And he said, "Don't you?"

So I guess that's three. Which, unlike some people, I'm sharing.

Which does not mean other people should not open up and share, too.


Pissenlit said...

Hiya Karen,
Oooh, fun! I've always wanted to get tattooed but I know it'd be a bad idea 'cause I'd eventually get bored of it and want something else. It seems I'm only suited to temporary tattoos. Heh heh heh!

Yep, neat titles have caused me to pick up books. Punny ones are always good for a laugh and/or a groan.

A drag queen name? Gah, I'm no good at this! Um, how about LaFawnDuh Come-Hither? Wow, okay, that was horrible. :D

Karen Olson said...

One of my best friends from college sent me a photo of him and his partner with two drag queens. He said the one on the right was just an amateur. How he knew that? The drag queen hadn't quite figured out how to "tuck" properly, and it was very visible!

Kate Carlisle said...

Love your stories, Nancy! Not that they're meant to pressure p226. I know you're not that kind of girl. (But who knew p226 was such a tease?? Just sayin')

Anna, I looove those shoe names!!

Karen, "Tucking" should be a mandatory course at drag queen camp! LOL

Kate Carlisle said...

Wow, I just re-read your comment, Miss Anna C. I had no idea you used to live in the red light district! But on second thought ... there is a certain way you walk down the street. Or strut, to be more accurate. Are you sure you never ... well, we'll talk later. ;-)

It really is sad that so many of those boys are prettier than us! LOL

PinkPeony said...

Kate..the next time you're in the Bay Area you might want to check out Bingo-licious. It's Bingo Night sponsored by the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence...their motto is "go forth and sin some more".A friend of mine went and she had the best time. I'm hoping to make it there soon.

Helen said...

He certainly had fun in the delivery suite.

We welcomed my 5th grandchild Caitlyn Lorraine into the world at 11-30 pm Friday 19th March and can I say how awesome it is to watch my littlest grandchild come into the world.

Have Fun

Pissenlit said...

Helen, congrats! Happy birthday to Caitlyn Lorraine! :D

Tawny said...

Karen, I love your titles. I love even more how fun it must have been to chat with the drag queens and come up with those great drag names.

I love titles and they definitely entice me to pick up a book. It sounds like yours are great ones!!

Pat Cochran said...

Hi, Karen!

Names for drag queens:

Pat Ternal, Pat Agonia, Mary Juana,
Mary Gold, Mary Time, Beth Anny,
Cassie Opeia, Jan Issary, Mary Ana
Trench, Cathy Terize, Geri Atric,
Candi Date, Helen Istic.

Congratulations, Helen, on nabbing
the GR!

Pat Cochran

Tawny said...

ROFLMAO Pat -what a great list of names :-)

Beth said...

Welcome to the lair, Karen! Your titles are great and your books sound fantastic *g*

I love titles with puns in them and I also love to use song titles as book titles :-)

catslady said...

I do like catchy titles but it's the blurb on the back that sells me.

I like the name Lola.

Kate Carlisle said...

LOLOL!! The Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence!! Oh, Pink, I wish I'd thought of that. I love it!

Gotta go check out the website. Thanks!

Kate Carlisle said...

Oh {{{Helen!!}}} How wonderful! Congratulations to you and your family, and welcome to the world, little Caitlyn Lorraine! What a sweet name.

Hope the GR didn't faint in the delivery room! ;-)

Nancy said...

Helen, congratulations on your great news! What a fabulous day for your family.

chey said...

A title with a pun in it usually will made me pick up a book, but the blurb on the back helps me decide if I want to read it.

Louisa Cornell said...

Welcome to the world Caitlyn Lorraine ! Your Grammy has SUCH a lot of lovely books saved for you to read one day !!

It's never too early to recruit another Bandita Buddy and Romance Reader!

Karen Olson said...

Congratulations, Helen!

Pat, the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence are LOL!!! And they play Bingo. Of course they do. I actually stole my girlfriend's first grade teacher's name for the tattoo series: it's Sister Mary Eucharista, and she is Brett's conscience.

I can't believe how many wonderful drag queen names everyone's coming up with! I think I may have to revisit the drag queen world again in another book. Perhaps a drag queen amateur sleuth...

Becke Davis said...

Karen! I was on a deadline today and almost missed your visit! How exciting to see you here!

I love that gorgeous, colorful flower tattoo in the last photo. I don't know why tattoos fascinate me so much - it's not as if I'll ever have the nerve to get one!

Kate Carlisle said...

Hi Becke!! Hope your deadline isn't killing you. Hey, are you a Tattoo Shop fan? Of course you are! I love this series.

I know what you mean about the pretty tattoos. They're beautiful to look at but ... I just keep thinking of the needles! Ack!

Karen, thanks so much for visiting the Lair today! It's been fun! {{waving!}}

Becke Davis said...

Kate - Yes, I'm a fan of Karen's, and, of course, of your series, too. I finished If Books Could Kill last week - how long do I have to wait for Book 3?

Lady_Graeye said...

What entices me to pick up a book? Title, cover, color and theme. I think a story about drag queens would be a riot to read. It would be so much fun.

How bout "Tootsie Roll" "Pixy Stick" "Smoochy Coochy Coo" "Rosie Ben-Ravished" "Poppy Mycork"

Kim in Hawaii said...

Titles definitely catch my attention, but it is the back blurb that sells the book.

I also enjoy a good pun in the title. My children laugh at my romance books scattered about the house, not really understanding the puns.

And they also laugh at the Hawaiian names as we drive down the street (just came back from the Big Island for Spring Break). Hawaiian names, inadvertently, have lots of puns to English speakers.