Readers often say they appreciate the quirky characters and settings in my Dreamslippers Series, which centers on a family of private investigators with the unique ability to slip into a person’s dreams. This ability, which has its limitations, isn’t their only quirk. The matriarch is a 77-year-old yogi with flamboyant manners and a self-styled New Age belief system that proves to be a challenge for her granddaughter, who grew up in the Midwest with conservative Catholic parents.
Along with the dreamslipping ability, unconventional names run in this family. That septuagenarian PI legally changed her name to “Amazing Grace,” and her granddaughter was named “Cathedral,” in honor of her mother’s devotion to the faith. The girl herself prefers the shortened form, “Cat.”
To complicate matters, the ability to dreamslip has skipped a generation. That’s why Cat must travel to Seattle to apprentice with Amazing Grace as the series opens in Cat in the Flock. She needs to learn from her grandmother how to hone the skill, as well as how to make use of it as a private investigator, which has been her grandmother’s vocation for many years. As you can imagine, three strong women with varying religious and political bents and a psychic ability thrown into the mix makes for natural-born conflict.
Of course, being a Midwestern transplant in Seattle means that Cat allows her grandmother see that city with fresh eyes. Cat is also both metaphorically and physically drawn back to the Midwest, though—so much so that she returns after a mere three months’ apprenticeship with Grace. And she delves right into the belly of the beast, so to speak, going undercover in a fundamentalist megachurch. There she meets several potential villains, one of whom is my least favorite character in the book, because he’s emblematic of the real church patriarchy and judgmental authority. Writing the scene where Reynolds Chambers confronts Cat was difficult, but in a good way.
I’ve always loved characters in fiction who seem outside the norm, who flout societal convention or go against the grain. In my early years, I was a huge fan of every odd character the comedian Jerry Lewis played, such as Cinderfella or an orderly involved in madcap adventures. Next came Carol Burnett’s memorable character sketches. Even a small walk-on character such as Hee Haw’s Minnie Pearl would thrill me to no end with a single eccentricity: the price tag left dangling from her oversized hats. Give me someone’s crazy Aunt Wilma or eccentric cousin Larry, and I’m instantly entertained. As soon as these characters walk into a scene, they have everyone’s attention; the story in fact begins to turn on their larger-than-life actions.
Later in my infatuation with le strange came some truly out-of-this-world types, like Mork from Ork, the Greatest American Hero, and Max Headroom. These quirkmeisters teach us about ourselves by revealing how arbitrary our social conventions truly are, how dependent they are on everyone agreeing on X. They pose excellent—not to mention hilarious—questions: What are the effects of taking in a steady stream of advertising? What if we could suddenly fly? What if we all sat on our heads instead of our butts?
Even during my academic training in literature, I gravitated toward the quirky end of the canon. Gloria Naylor’s Mama Day, Toni Morrison’s Sethe, the many characters peopling Zora Neale Hurston’s fiction… My favorite females were made indomitably strong by the challenges they’d faced, and if that forge wrought them into a shape that didn’t fit any mold, we were all the better for it. During my eight-year stint as a college teacher, I again preferred the quirkmeisters, opting to teach Shakespeare’s Taming of the Shrew for the witty repartee, and introducing my students to Jonathan Swift’s biting poetic parody instead of relying on his more well-known works.
Part of the reason I’m drawn to read, view, and write these characters is because they’re so familiar to me. While Cat, Mercy, and Granny Grace are all fictitious characters, they were informed by a lifetime growing up in a large, rambunctious, mostly working class family of pranksters, sarcastic jokesters, and storytellers. They’re all with me when I write.
Lisa was born in Santa Rosa, California, but that was only home for a year. A so-called “military brat,” she lived in nine different houses and attended nine different schools by the time she was 14. Through all of the moves, her one constant was books. She read everything, from the entire Nancy Drew and Trixie Belden mystery series to her mother’s books by Daphne DuMaurier and Taylor Caldwell.
A widely published author, game writer, and journalist, Lisa has interviewed homeless women, the designer of the Batmobile, and a sex expert, to name just a few colorful characters. This experience, not to mention her own large, quirky family, led her to create some truly memorable characters in her Dreamslippers Series and other works, whether books or games.
Always a vivid dreamer, not to mention a wannabe psychic, Lisa feels perfectly at home slipping into suspects’ dreams, at least in her imagination. Her husband isn’t so sure she can’t pick up his dreams in real life, though.
With a hefty list of awards and publications to her name, Lisa now lives in a small town in Washington State, but who knows how long that will last…
Lisa publishes a bimonthly newsletter. Sign up and receive a free book!
Lisa will be back on March 22nd….Don’t miss the 4th installment for Author Of The Month
THE DREAMSLIPPERS SERIES
“A fascinating tale of mystery, romance, and what one woman’s dreams are made of. Brunette will keep you awake far into the night.” — Mary Daheim, bestselling author of the Bed-and-Breakfast and Emma Lord/Alpine mysteries
“Already hooked, this reader intends further sojourns in Cat’s dreamslipping world. Highly recommended.” — Frances Carden, Readers Lane
“Gripping, sexy and profound, CAT IN THE FLOCK is an excellent first novel. Lisa Brunette is an author to enjoy now and watch for the future.” — Jon Talton, author of the David Mapstone Mysteries, the Cincinnati Casebooks and the thriller Deadline Man
“A little Sue Grafton and a dose of Janet Evanovich… is just the right recipe for a promising new series.” — Rev. Eric O’del
“The launch of an intriguing female detective series… A mystery with an unusual twist and quirky settings; an enjoyable surprise for fans of the genre.” — Kirkus Reviews