Sunday, 16 June 2013

INTERVIEW: Ellen Mansoor Collier Author of Bathing Beauties, Booze and Bullets - BLOG TOUR

Today I would like to welcome Ellen Mansoor Collier to the blog with a fantastic interview with an excerpt from Bathing Beauties, Booze and Bullets.



Can you please tell us a little about yourself with 5 fun facts?
  1. I used to review mysteries for The Houston Chronicle and learned a lot about fiction that way. As a journalist, I thought it would be relatively easy to write a mystery novel, until I tried to write Flappers (my first book). I don’t know how these multi-published authors crank out several books a year!
  2. In high school, I had a British pen pal and actually met him in London a year or so later. He was cute, but very shy! 
  3. I love animals and have a soft spot for strays. We own two fluffy, hyperactive Chow-Shepherd mutts adopted from a shelter, a brother and sister who look like vanilla and chocolate, Coco and Champagne. They’re almost eight and always getting in trouble! 
  4. After my junior year of college, I worked as a reporter for a weekly newspaper as a paid intern. They even offered me a permanent job, but I wanted to get my degree.
  5. I was a tomboy growing up and as a teen, used to teach swimming at the local pool. I still love to swim!
When did you realise you wanted to be a writer and what was the very first thing you ever wrote?
I wrote a short story by hand when I was about six. I took my first journalism class in high school, served on the school newspaper and won a couple of writing awards (including a UIL award in News writing). In college (the University of Texas at Austin), I majored in magazine journalism and wrote for the school magazine. After college, I worked as a city magazine editor/writer and later started freelancing for national magazines. Between journalism jobs, I worked for two antiques dealers/designers and became more interested in history and antiques.

How do you come up with your characters? Are they based on real people’s characteristics?
Many of my characters are based on real people, namely the Galveston gangsters and high society families. My main characters are composites based on different people, real and fictional. Jazz is a younger version of Rosalind Russell in My Girl Friday, Lois Lane, and Nellie Bly combined.

Who designed your book cover and why did you choose that particular design?
As an indie, I get to pick and choose my cover artwork and typefaces. I thought this illustration seemed whimsical and colorful, yet the two bathing beauties looked mysterious, like they were keeping a secret. Luckily my brother, Jeff J. Mansoor, is a talented graphic artist and pulled it all together for me in an attractive design. I’m very visual and enjoy the process of designing my own covers. I may change the covers to photographs for a print version later this year.

In one sentence, can you tell the readers why they should read your book?
Bathing Beauties, Booze and Bullets provides a behind-the-scenes look at the early Miss Universe pageant in Galveston, and combines a unique historical setting with a fun, fast-paced “Jazz Age mystery” full of plot twists and turns. (Whew!)

Do you have a favourite non-spoilery scene or quote from Bathing Beauties, Booze & Bullets?
My half-brother Sammy appeared, looking dishevelled and rumpled, his shirt half-buttoned and dark hair curlier than usual. “What happened to you?” I asked, stifling a laugh.

“All those dames!” He gasped for breath. “Get a few drinks in ‘em and they turn into vultures! They were all over me!”

“I noticed. So what are you complaining about?” I teased him. “I thought you liked having a fan club around.”

“I do, but…” He looked down, smoothing out his shirt, then buttoned it back up. “I just feel so bad. I don’t know what to do…” His mood turned somber.

“About what? Amanda?” No secret my best friend had a big crush on my handsome sibling.

“About everything…” He paced the tiny office, rubbing his unshaven face, as if trying to think. “I’m in a jam and I don’t know how to get out.”

“What kind of jam?” I could tell Sammy was stalling for time, so I went over to him and shook his arm, to stop his pacing. “Sammy, tell me what’s wrong.”

“It’s about the gangs. Their turf wars.”

“What else is new?” Galveston gangs had a long-standing rivalry, and it didn’t take much to set things off. Broadway served as the boundary separating the two gangs, and it was no-holds-barred if and when that line was crossed—the Beach Gang’s turf was located north of Broadway, and the Downtown Gang was south.

Naturally Sammy wanted to stay on good terms with both gangs, who controlled the flow of booze on the Island. Agent Burton had tried, but failed, to shut down their operations, but he did manage to cut off a few sources, including a dangerous bootlegger, for a while—with our help.

“What’s the latest feud about?” Word was, Ollie Quinn had set his sights on the Downtown Gang’s turf, and with his reckless wheeling and dealing, Johnny Jack seemed ripe for a coup.

“Let’s just say the Maceos don’t always see eye-to-eye with Ollie or Dutch Voight. They want to get out of the prostitution racket, but Ollie wants to line up houses all over the island, even set up shop in the clubs.” Sammy took out a Camel cigarette and lit it, avoiding my gaze.

I’d heard similar stories and in fact, Mack confirmed several rumors in a hard-hitting series for the Gazette describing the turf wars, a string of eye-opening articles the gangs didn’t appreciate. In his latest piece, Mack quoted anonymous sources who claimed the Maceos were trying to oust Quinn and Voight, vying for the top spots in the Beach Gang.

“You don’t say. How does that affect you?”

“Word is, the Maceos want to break away from the Beach Gang, branch out onto new turf, start their own operation.” Sammy puffed away, hiding behind a cloud of smoke. “Johnny Jack knows we’re friends, and he didn’t care as long as they kept out of his way and left Market Street alone. But after the ice man hit, all hell broke loose. Now Johnny Jack wants to stop the Maceos cold before they muscle in on his territory.”

“How does he plan to do that?” After a string of recent killings, I saw first-hand how vicious the Galveston gangs could be if you double-crossed them.

Finally Sammy quit pacing and plopped down in his worn banker’s chair. “Jazz, you’ve got to help me. I need a favor, a big favor. ”

“What kind of favor?” I eyed him, skeptical. Sammy always made it clear that I was supposed to stay out of his business, for my own safety, but now he wanted my help?

“Remember the night I spent in jail? Somehow Johnny Jack got the idea that your Prohibition friend bailed me out. So now he thinks we’re best buddies.”

“That’s not true.” I bit my lip, feeling guilty, since I’d asked Agent Burton to get involved, to help get Sammy out of jail. Fortunately he’d managed just fine on his own.

“I just tolerate the guy ‘cause of you. But now I need his help.” Sammy leaned forward, elbows on his knees. “Johnny Jack’s putting the squeeze on me. He threatened to tell everyone in the Downtown Gang that I’m Agent Burton’s squealer if I don’t do what he wants.”

“His informant? Bunk! What does he expect you to do?”

His shoulders slumped. “He wants me to convince Burton to raid the Hollywood Dinner Club and shut it down—during the bathing beauty dance routine this Friday night.”

What’s next after the Bathing Beauties, Booze & Bullets and when is it due to be released?
Taking a breather now, but I do have a few more ideas for the “Jazz Age” series. I’ll keep you posted!

What’s one piece of technology you cannot live without?
My laptop!

Tea, coffee or hot chocolate? Arnold Palmers (Iced tea and lemonade)
Sweet or savoury? Sweet
Cats or dogs? Both!
Day or night? Night
eBooks or paperbacks? Both!
Favourite all time book? Rebecca and/or The Great Gatsby. Hard to pick only one!

Thank you Ellen for stopping by today!

The Books

Title: Bathing Beauties, Booze and Bullets
Series: A Jazz Age Mystery #2
Author: Ellen Mansoor Collier
Release Date: 5th May 2013
Genre: New Adult Jazz Age Mystery

It’s 1927 in Galveston, Texas—the “Sin City of the Southwest.” Jasmine (“Jazz”) Cross is an ambitious 21-year-old society reporter for the Galveston Gazette who tries to be taken seriously by the good-old-boy staff, but the editors only assign her fluffy puff pieces, like writing profiles of bathing beauties. The last thing Jazz wants to do is compare make-up tips with ditzy dames competing in the Miss Universe contest, known as the “International Pageant of Pulchritude and Bathing Girl Revue.”

She’d rather help solve the murders of young prostitutes who turn up all over town, but city officials insist on burying the stories during Splash Day festivities. After Jazz gets to know the bathing beauties, she realizes there’s a lot more to them than just pretty faces and figures. Jazz becomes suspicious when she finds out the contest is also sponsored by the Maceos, aspiring Beach Gang leaders and co-owners of the Hollywood Dinner Club, where the girls will perform before the parade and pageant.

Worse, her half-brother Sammy Cook, owner of the Oasis, a speakeasy on a rival gang’s turf, asks her to call in a favor from handsome Prohibition Agent James Burton: He wants Agent Burton to raid the Hollywood Club during the bathing beauties dance routine--or risk revenge from the Downtown Gang leader. Her loyalties torn, Jazz is faced with an impossible task that could compromise both of their jobs and budding romance. Meanwhile, Jazz fends off advances from Colin Ferris, an attractive but dangerous gangster who threatens Sammy as well as Burton. In the end, she must risk it all to save her friends from a violent killer hell-bent on revenge. Inspired by actual events.

Title: Flappers, Flasks and Foul Play
Series: A Jazz Age Mystery #1
Author: Ellen Mansoor Collier
Release Date: 1st July 2012
Genre: New Adult Jazz Age Mystery

"The Great Gatsby" meets "Midnight in Paris" in this soft-boiled historical mystery, inspired by actual events. Rival gangs fight over booze and bars during Prohibition in 1920s Galveston: the "Sin City of the Southwest." Jazz Cross, a 21-year-old society reporter, feels caught between two clashing cultures: the seedy speakeasy underworld and the snooty social circles she covers in the Galveston Gazette.

During a night out with her best friend, Jazz witnesses a bar fight at the Oasis--a speakeasy secretly owned by her black-sheep half-brother, Sammy Cook. But when a big-shot banker with a hidden past collapses there and later dies, she suspects foul play. Was it an accident or a mob hit?

Soon handsome young Prohibition Agent James Burton raids the Oasis, threatening to shut it down if Sammy doesn't talk. Suspicious, he pursues Jazz, but despite her mixed feelings she refuses to rat on Sammy. As turf wars escalate between two real-life rival gangs, Sammy is accused of murder. Jazz must risk her life and career to find the killer, exposing the dark side of Galveston's glittering society.

About the Author

Ellen Mansoor Collier is a Houston-based freelance magazine writer/editor whose articles and essays have been published in several national magazines, including: FAMILY CIRCLE, MODERN BRIDE, GLAMOUR, BIOGRAPHY, COSMO, PLAYGIRL, etc. Several of her short stories have appeared in WOMAN'S WORLD. She’s profiled a variety of people, from CEOs and celebrities (including Suze Orman), to charity founders (Nancy Brinker et al) and do-gooders. A flapper at heart, she’s the owner of DECODAME, specializing in Deco to retro vintage items. (

Formerly she's worked as a magazine editor, and in advertising and public relations (plus endured a hectic semester as a substitute teacher). She graduated from the University of Texas at Austin with a degree in Magazine Journalism, where she enjoyed frou-frou cocktails and lots of lattes. When she’s not concocting stories, she enjoys traveling, shopping at flea markets, listening to instrumental jazz, reading cozy mysteries (of course) and taking walks with her husband Gary and hyper Chow mixes (Coco and Champagne).

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