I met Melissa Bourbon (Misa Ramirez) for the first time in 2009 at Barnes & Noble on the Texas Christian University Campus. I was new to the industry, having just joined RWA, and went out to support a writer on the release of her very first book, LIVING LA VIDA LOLA, A Lola Cruz Mystery. What I found was a quiet, cute, tall blond with a quick smile and a soft voice. This was the first (and only) time I’ve seen Misa wearing a conservative navy blue suit. Since then she’s let her inner artist take over at her book signings, so after ten cozy mysteries, two romantic suspense novels, one light paranormal romance, one how-to book, and one children’s book you’ll now find her wearing funky hats, sassy pig-tails with homemade wool beads or a bright scarf around her neck—she has grown into her National Best-selling Author shoes with style.
Kym: Welcome back to the Cozy Corner, Misa!
Kym: I love your Magical Dress Making Mystery Series set in Bliss, Texas. Can you tell our readers who or what inspired you to create heroine, Harlow Jane Cassidy?
Misa: After writing several of the Lola Cruz mysteries, I wanted to branch out into another realm of mysteries: cozies. As I was coming up with the trademark cozy hook (sewing was a given since it’s something I’ve done since I was a little girl and still enjoy today), I started thinking about who my sleuth would be. Harlow Jane Cassidy came to me in a flash. I wanted to build historical elements into the series and I love outlaws (especially the whole Butch Cassidy and the Hole in the Wall Gang legend). I decided to change up history a little bit, giving Butch an alternate love interest and a child that results from that relationship. The charms carried through to the Cassidy women, thanks to Butch’s wish in a (real) Argentinian fountain, completed the core elements of Harlow and the women in her family, all of whom are at the core of every book.
Kym: It’s hard to believe that A SEAMLESS MURDER is your sixth book in the series. Each one is a fresh, stand-alone mystery. What helps you keep your character’s so interesting throughout the series?
Misa: Thanks! For me, it’s important that the characters grow. In the old mysteries, like Agatha Christie’s many books, the sleuths remain a constant, never changing, never growing, and never having much going on in their own lives. That’s not true of today’s cozy mystery sleuths. They have lives, hobbies, families, lovers, friends, and everything in between.
Harlow Cassidy is no exception. But I didn’t want her to just have a boyfriend who would always be a boyfriend, for example. I wanted their relationship to grow and develop with each book. Loretta Mae, Harlow’s great-grandmother, is a ghost. I didn’t want her fully formed as an otherworldly entity in book one, so I thought about what it would be like for her to try to communicate, and how Harlow would deal with Meemaw as a ‘person’ in her life. How would their relationship evolve over time and as they learn to communicate better?
These are just some of the decisions I made at the beginning, and there are many more. I think each of these types of decisions helps keep the series fresh.
Kym: The Cassidy women have all the charm a reader would expect from a matriarchal family with roots deep in the heart of Texas, yet you’re a born and bred California girl. How did you capture the essence of the Southern women so easily?
Misa: I am a born and bred California girl, but my mom’s family is all from Texas, we lived in Dallas when I was little, and I always dreamed of living on a ranch. I think Texas blood runs through my veins. I’ve been in Texas for almost 7 years now and feel as if it’s home. The culture, the family, the food it all fell right into place with the Cassidy clan because I love it all so much.
Kym: In each of your books, Harlow designs magical garments for the customers of her custom-dressmaking boutique, Buttons and Bows. Each garment grants the wearer their deepest desires. From pageant gowns, to wedding dresses, to unique aprons for the local women’s group in A SEAMLESS MURDER Harlow’s skill are straight off Madison Avenue—with a little Texas charm. I’ve seen the aprons, but I have to ask, do you sew gowns as intricately designed as Harlow?
Misa: Ha! I barely have time to make an apron at this point. And gowns have always been out of my league. I do love sewing, especially the end product, but nice coats and a fairly complicated dress are about as adventurous as I’d dare to get anymore and they’d both probably send me into fits.
Kym: Harlow is surrounded by Cassidy women. Some with magical talents, some without; some living, and some just hanging around with the living. Who is your favorite and if you had to cast her in the movie, who would play the role?
Misa: I always envisioned a young Sandra Bullock, circa Hope Floats, as Harlow, and as an aside, I picture Will as a combo of Tim McGraw, Pancho Villa, and Toby Keith all rolled into one.
I hadn’t really cast the other women in my mind, so I’m not quite sure!
Kym: You come from a family of artists, and have developed some pretty mad skills behind the camera lens along with your talent with a sewing machine, and multiple other artistic venues. Is there a cozy mystery in your future that will find your heroine behind a camera lens?
Misa: I’ve been thinking that there might be! I have a proposal in the works right now for a food blogger mystery series, and that definitely would require camera work, so we’ll see how that develops and what happens. I will say that I’m loving the 365 day photo challenge I’m doing. I post the photos to my Facebook page so if anyone wants to follow the challenge, that’s where you can do it. I’m loving the way it’s forcing me to see the world, both big and small things, in a new and fresh way.
Kym: Congratulations on A SEAMLESS MURDER hitting the Bookscan and Barnes and Noble best seller’s list and for hitting their mystery best seller’s list! Can you tell our readers where they can find you on social media and what we can look for next?
Misa: Thanks! It’s the third in the series to become a National Bestseller, which is so amazing.
As for what’s next, as I mentioned, I have a proposal out for a new series, and I may begin to revisit Lola Cruz again soon. I’m also percolating on a women’s fiction, something I’ve been wanting to write for a very long time. So, we’ll just see what develops!
Thanks for the interview, Kym!
Kym: Until next time, get cozy and read on!
Kym Roberts is a retired detective sergeant who looks for passion, mystery and suspense in every book she reads and writes. She can be found on the web at kymroberts.com, on Facebook at Kym Roberts (author) and on Twitter @kymroberts911. Look for her latest release, DEAD MAN’S CARVE, A Tickled to Death Mystery on Amazon. (All proceeds will be donated to wounded veterans)