She has no tattoos.
by Karen Olson
It’s Vegas, baby!
It’s Vegas, baby!
When I was talking with my publisher about my new tattoo shop mystery series two years ago, we discussed where I should set it. I wanted to keep writing about New Haven, Connecticut, my hometown, and a great place to put a tattoo shop, in my opinion. Sadly, my publisher didn’t agree. Because of shows like Miami Ink and L.A. Ink, they were veering toward something a little more glitzy and glamorous. After some discussion, we all finally agreed on Las Vegas.
I love making the setting a character in my books, and Vegas is so full of character that it’s so easy to bring it to life on the page, even though the time I’ve actually spent there has been so short. I love the craziness of the Strip, where people wander from casino to casino along the palm tree-lined main drag; the amazing resorts, which give us Paris, Venice, Rome, and New York all in one place; and the stunning views of the desert and mountains at Red Rock Canyon.
I felt that when I created my real characters, I needed them to match the city: big and colorful. Which is why writing about a tattoo shop in Las Vegas is absolutely perfect.
Brett Kavanaugh, my protagonist who owns The Painted Lady in the Venetian Grand Canal Shoppes, is a tall, slender redhead with Monet’s water lily garden extending down her arm, a dragon tattoo that curves around her torso and up over her cleavage, and a tiger lily stretching from breast to hip on her side. She gets another tattoo sleeve at the end of PRETTY IN INK, but I won’t give away what it is.
Her employees are colorful, too. Joel Sloane is a big guy with a long braid down his back and barbed wire tattoos on his neck. He looks like a biker but he’s got a much gentler nature. Bitsy Hendricks, the office manager, has no tattoos, but she’s a little person with a huge personality. Ace van Nes is the pretty boy tattooist who craves to be a “true” artist. Brett’s nemesis, Jeff Coleman, who owns Murder Ink, a rival tattoo shop, matches the gritty side of Vegas. He’s an old-school tattooist whose shop is lined with flash, stock tattoos.
Because Vegas is so over-the-top, when I was devising a plot for PRETTY IN INK, I knew the sky was the limit. So in this particular book, I’ve got drag queens playing a major role. They’re wonderfully flashy, with names like Britney Brassieres, MissTique, Shanda Leer, and Miranda Rites, and tattoos and costumes to match. And even though I discovered that there’s a huge drag queen contingent in New Haven, I know the storyline and characters just wouldn’t have worked here. They had to be in Vegas. Just like the series.
Have you ever been to Vegas? If you have, what’s your favorite thing to do there? And if you haven’t, do you want to go?