Friday, August 17, 2012

Diane Vallere: Interviews From Her Book Blog Tours

Diane Vallere’s Book Blog Tour 2013
A friend of mine writes books and to promote her book, she has been going on a book tour.  Except in the digital age, this means a virtual tour.  She is not sitting in a bookstore autographing copies of the book that was just sold to a customer (although she has done that too.)  Instead, she is doing a tour of book blogs.  Blogs that focus on her genre (mystery) or style (light hearted murder) do a written Q&A  with her and post it to the blog on a particular day.  I always find it fascinating to see what writers or filmmakers or musicians have to say about their creative process so I decided to collect some of the more interesting responses here for posterity. 
Buyer Beware, Brancusi And Audrey Hepburn
(By Diane Vallere, Mystery Playground, 15 April 2013)
We have a guest post today from Diane Vallere, author of the cozy mystery, BUYER BEWARE, about her inspiration for the book and insider secrets from her eight years as a luxury department store buyer.  The author is also giving away free copies of the book and a $25 Book Depository gift card. Instructions on how to enter can be found at the bottom of the post.

This post is supposed to be about the research I conducted for BUYER, BEWARE, the latest book in the Style & Error Mystery Series. Trouble is, having worked as a buyer for about eight years, I lived through a large portion of the research and have nothing to show for it except for an outdated resume. I would have loved to distract you with photos of factories, showrooms, and handsome designers, but, alas, those photos don’t exist. I have ridiculously few photos from the mid-nineties to the mid-oughts. (Those that I do have are of my cat, who is no longer with me, but lives on in the character Logan.)  So instead, I’m going to dazzle you with a combination of insider information, the inspiration behind this particular story, and, because I sometimes have trouble focusing, a squirrel.
1.The mystery in BUYER, BEWARE surrounds a fictitious collection of designer handbags. In real life, handbags have become status items on par with precious jewelry! Unbeknownst to many clients, one luxury handbag brand includes microchips in their bags so they can verify authenticity and aggressively take down knockoff artists. For real!
2. The reason BUYER, BEWARE opens with a caper is I wanted to pay tribute to one of my favorite movies, How To Steal A Million.  I liked the idea of a planned theft, coordinated by people who could pull it off, but not for reasons of greed or illegal financial gain. The fake statue was designed by Milo Puccetti, a student of Constantine Brancusi. That was inspired by the statue Bird in Space, housed in the Philadelphia Museum of Art. Having grown in in Phillly-adjacent Reading, Pennsylvania, I often went to the museum and admired the exhibit. Who knows—it might have been the same day I ran up the steps out front and imitated Rocky Balboa. (The name Milo is a nod to THE PHANTOM TOLLBOOTH, one of my favorite books).
3. Samantha Kidd lives in this house:

Coincidentally, I lived there too. A few years ago it was listed for sale and I considered setting up an appointment with the realtor to check it out (I didn’t). I wonder if the new owners know what a gem they have?
4. Getting back to handbags, can you believe one vendor “auditions” new factories with ghost orders? Handbags are produced and checked for quality and consistency over a period of several seasons. Even harder to believe: regardless of how good the resulting product is, it never sees the light of day. Instead, it is destroyed. A crime unto itself.
5. BUYER, BEWARE is set in a fictionalized version of Reading, Pennsylvania, where I grew up. Once I decided to fictionalize it, I knew I had the opportunity to use re-landscape the city to my needs. The vendor showroom in this book, mentioned as being in a renovated building on Penn Street, is in the old Pomeroy’s department store, which, in reality, closed in 1957 and was subsequently turned into a bank. I have a soft spot for retail establishments that no longer exist.
6. One highly coveted collection of crocodile bags maintains a price structure almost 30% less than other bags made of the same materials. Why? The company is excused from export tariffs because they employ many locals and are not affiliated with the drug trade. The lower cost is passed along to the consumer. Still, the bags are in the several thousand dollar price range!
7. The scenes between Detective Loncar and Samantha are some of my most favorite. I admit, my first attempts to write a homicide detective character were pretty far off-base. It wasn’t until I attended a class on Interrogation Techniques taught by a former homicide detective that I realized my fantasy-land police were an insult to the boys in blue. But I was inspired. I rewrote the interrogation scene in DESIGNER DIRTY LAUNDRY and incorporated some of what I’d learned. When it came time to put the polish on BUYER, BEWARE, I realized how much fun I could have with the interaction between Detective Loncar and Samantha—and I did.
8. The rumored waiting list for the Hermes Birkin bag is pretty much that—a rumor (or maybe better called an urban legend?). Spend any time in one of the luxury retailers in Beverly Hills and you’ll start to think they’re issued to anyone who moves to the zip code 90210! And just a few weeks ago two Birkins became part of a mystery all their own: along with pieces of precious jewelry, they were stolen from a house in the greater Philadelphia area. There is often inspiration in the news.
9. There is a ridiculous amount of information about squirrels on the internet, and, even more ridiculous are the one million plus stories that include the words “squirrel” and “handbag.” I don’t have that kind of time—do you?
Fashion Can Be Deadly
(By Diane Vallere, on, April 18, 2013)
A few months ago I was in the basement of the luxury retail store where I work, prepping samples for a trunk show. The samples were fairly wrinkled from being packed in the trunks and required steaming, a process that involves hanging garments on a rolling rack (20—40 items), rolling the rack into a large metal cage (about 8’x 10’x 12’), securing the door, and punching the start button. The cage fills with steam, releasing the wrinkles the clothes acquired in transit. It was 7:00 in the morning and no other associates were around. I powered up the steamer, waited until the pressure built up, and yanked the door open. A puff of hot, wet air hit me in the face and I forgot all about steaming samples because I knew one day Samantha Kidd, fashion industry professional turned amateur sleuth, would discover a victim inside of a steamer cage.
On a completely different day, I asked my manager to unlock the personal shopper’s offices so I could look for an item. The offices in question are in the corner of the store and consist of a reception area, three fitting rooms, and a back office. One of the fitting rooms also houses the personal shopper’s desk. Both the individual fitting rooms and overall offices are locked up at the end of each day and very few people have those keys. In a flash, I knew one day I’d have Samantha unlock a personal shopper’s office and find a body. But who? A client? A personal shopper? A stylist? A manager? And the even better question: who could have had access to this otherwise secure area? [disclaimer: I like my store’s personal shoppers and have no intention to knock them off.]
If you’ve read the two books in the series, you know neither of these events has happened. So what’s my point? That inspiration for fashion mysteries jumps out at me almost every day. When travelling to Europe for buying trips, my coworkers and I trusted the car service that shuttled us from appointment to appointment—but what if a shady character did away with the driver and hijacked our car, taking us to his scary hideout for nefarious business instead of delivering us to a showroom filled with shoe samples? What if a sewing assistant was found murdered backstage at a fashion show? What if a store that specialized in second hand vintage T-shirts and jeans opened up around the same time that victims were found around town, left naked? Would you put two and two together?
Ask anyone who works in the industry and they’ll tell you that fashion is serious business. That doesn’t mean it is without its light side. Cozy mysteries can be set against a lot of different backdrops, and the backdrops are often the thing that pulls readers to one series over another. The Style & Error Mystery Series lets me play with the seamy side of the fashion world while still honoring what I love about it: the quick pace, the ever-changing environment, the unique characters. And, of course, the clothes.
(Saturday, April 20, 2013)
It’s been a rough couple of months around here, mostly because my owner doesn’t leave the house. Her name is Samantha, but I call her the ice cream lady. She’s a person. She’s supposed to go places. I’m a cat. I’m supposed to explore the interior of the house, secure the circumference, and test out various spots for sleeping. Only, ever since we moved from the very, very little place that I was never allowed to leave into this gigantic one (that seemed exciting at first, with its stairs and floors like scratching posts, but turned into a death trap when the basement flooded), she’s been doing stuff to the walls that makes the place smell funny and moving around the things in her closet. I joined her once and curled up on a pile of colorful fluffy things, but she didn’t seem happy. She put me outside the room, said something about “cashmere,” and shut the door. I could have gone downstairs to play with my red and yellow felt mouse but it’s stuck under the big gray thing she sits on when she watches the black box, so instead I sat outside the door and meowed until she took a break and gave me ice cream. She does that a lot. That’s how she got her name. 
Last week was different. People came over. A guy with funny black and white checkered shoes and a woman with scary lime green heels that could really hurt my tail! And a new guy whose socks smelled like grass. I think the ice cream lady warned him about me, but I wanted to get her back for knocking my mouse under the big gray thing, so I jumped on his lap and purred while he pet me. I liked him. I hope he comes back. 
Tonight the same people came over. This time they were all very excited about a tall wooden thing. My owner laid it down on the glass square I’m not allowed to jump on (something about my paw prints). The guy with the funny checkered shoes and my owner went into the room with the food. I followed them because I thought it was time to eat. I was wrong. They went back to the room with the door that lets me go outside and looked out the big glass square. I love the big glass square! It’s way better than the black box. Some days I sit by the big glass square and watch things go back and forth. But tonight there were too many people looking out the big glass square so I figured I’d check out the wooden thing instead.  
I swatted at it. It didn’t do anything. I butted it with my head, too—the way they treated it, I figured it would be fun to play with, like a mouse or a chipmunk—but it didn’t move. It didn’t smell like catnip or tuna, either. Honestly, I don’t know why they like this thing so much. It doesn’t even have feathers! 
I walked away from the wooden thing while bright lights swirled around at the place next door. The lights upset everybody. I don’t think the people’s eyes work like mine, so I didn’t know they could see the lights. They sure don’t work like mine when the ice cream lady can’t find her slipper. Duh, it’s right under the big gray thing next to my mouse. Not sure how it got there. That’s the story I’m sticking to. But between you and me, if given the chance, I might put the wooden thing under there too. I want my mouse! 
A Chat and a Chai with … Samantha Kidd
She’s a fashionista with a flair for trouble. (Wonder if Birkin makes a body bag?)
Meet out-of-work fashion expert Samantha Kidd. In Buyer, Beware by Diane Vallere, she was recruited to fill the designer shoes of a dead woman, but the new job comes with a caveat: she’s expected to find out who bagged the store’s former handbag buyer. The police name a suspect but the label doesn’t fit. Samantha turns to a sexy stranger for help, but as the walls close around her like a snug satin lining, she must get a handle on the suspects, or risk being caught in the killer’s clutches. I sat down with Samantha to talk about fashion, fatalities and my mother’s penchant for pearls. Oh and not to GIVE AWAY (wink) the surprise, but after the interview, there’s a special something I know you’ll love.
Chloe: Welcome, Samantha. Now, as a decorator, I can profile a suspect by their décor better than any agent in the FBI’s Behavioral Analysis Unit. Can you do the same thing with a person’s outfit?
Samantha: I’m sorry for taking so long to answer. I got a little lost wondering what you’d think of my budget living room makeover. This is about me, not my house, right?
Chloe: Right. (Though I love a budget makeover.)
Samantha: Then, yes, I’m a bit of a closet profiler, and I don’t mean I keep it a secret. My first lesson about how much your clothes can say came when I was in college. One professor said he could take a picture of us on our first day and know everything he had to know about us based on our outfit. I didn’t like that he thought he could figure me out by the black skirt and pink crinoline I wore that day, so I experimented with every trend in the book during the semester just to keep him on his toes.
Chloe: My mom wears a uniform of twin sets, pearls and peep toes. She says, “Classic.” I say “Bor-ing?” You say… ?
Samantha: Depends on how many strands of pearls. One is a little expected. Ten is a little bit fabulous. And what’s she wearing on the bottom? Pencil skirt? (yawn) Jeans? I’m getting a mental image that’s a little bit Coco Chanel and a little bit Carrie Bradshaw.
Chloe: Oh, she’s definitely more Coco than Carrie. Tell me, what led you to leave the glamour of New York for charm of Ribbon, Pennsylvania, which, despite its cute name, is hardly a fashion mecca?
Samantha: I’ve thought a lot about that over the past few months. When I was in NY I had job security and an enviable paycheck. What I didn’t have was a life. No matter how stressful life in New York was, I always thought I could go home to that house to decompress. My parents called and said they were moving to California and the house I grew up in was going to be sold. I went to Ribbon to help them pack and I couldn’t do it—I couldn’t go back to my life in New York. The fashion director for Ribbon’s department store discovered me crying to my cat in a parking lot. He offered me a job and as crazy as it sounds, for that one moment, I knew that job was what I wanted to do.  But now that things haven’t worked out so well since I’ve been here, I’m considering a rule: no rash decisions while hanging out in parking lots outside pizza places. My judgment may have been compromised by the smell of melted mozzarella and tomato sauce.
Chloe: We’ve all been there. At the preview party of a new store called Heist, you find a dead body. Your second in just a few months. Are you starting to think you’re cursed or something?
Samantha: SHHHH! Keep your voice down, please. I still need to get a job, and this economy makes that hard enough. The last thing I need is for a potential employer to hear my fashion-insider experience comes with a side of bad juju.
Chloe: Ooh. Sorry. Better to let them find out for themselves, right? So, you end up taking the job left open by the murder victim. And I thought the New York fashion scene was cutthroat. Any qualms about filling a dead woman’s shoes, even if they were designer?
Samantha: You know what, Chloe? Yes. Yes, I have qualms. And not why you think. It’s not because the person I was following had died, but because this was pretty much the same job I left behind in New York. Six months ago I left that job because I knew it wasn’t what I wanted to do with my life. This opportunity came up and it was like, “the job is yours.” I almost got the feeling I didn’t have a choice (and if you saw my bank statement, you’d realize I kind of didn’t). And you want to know a secret? Deep down, I already know I can do this job because I’ve done it before. But what if it turns out the only job I can get is the one I don’t want?
Chloe: Yikes, that would be tough. Now, the fashion-challenged cop on the case, Detective Loncar, doesn’t seem to want your help with his investigation. Do you find yourself dressing him with your eyes when he lectures you about minding your own business?
Samantha: Better than undressing him with my eyes! You know, Detective Loncar once asked me my fashion advice and I gave it to him. I thought it was a bonding experience, but turns out he was using my knowledge of fashion to determine my ‘truth baseline’ during an interrogation. Tricky cop! Still, it wouldn’t hurt him to wear a different pair of shoes.  I bet his wife would thank me.
Chloe: Ha. I bet she would. With your shoe-buyer boyfriend Nick in Italy for a month, the sparks seem to fly between you and that cute Dante. Which way are you leaning now? Team Nick or Team Dante?
Samantha: I suppressed feelings about Nick for years when I was a buyer and he was one of my vendors. I still remember that day he caught me trying on one of his shoes from the back of a delivery truck on the dirty streets of New York. He looked so good with his curly brown hair and his Rocky T-shirt. But Dante–where did he come from? I don’t know. I can’t tell where Nick’s head is right now. I can’t say I’m all that happy about the my-boyfriend-spends-6-months-a-year-in-Italy thing, and honestly, he doesn’t do well with the whole my-girlfriend-finds-dead-people thing either. Dante does a little too well with the dead people thing, which is a little scary. I don’t know that I want to date a guy who thinks that’s normal!
Chloe: Your author, Diane Vallere, works as a buyer for one of the top luxury stores in the country and writes mysteries at night. That’s not really a question as much as a compliment. Talk about living the dream.
Samantha: Well, Diane used to be a buyer for one of the top luxury stores in the country, writing mysteries at night, but now she’s a selling specialist who writes mysteries on her lunch break. I think it’s cool that she did what I did—gave up the glam job for one that let her figure out what she wanted to do with her life.
Chloe: I love that. But hey, can Diane get me a Birkin bag? Just kidding. No, really, can she?
Samantha: As far as I know, Diane has gotten one Birken bag for one person in her life: me. (I happen to know the first handbag she spent any kind of money on was a pretty good knockoff she bought in Italy back when they still used the Lira, but don’t tell her I told you.)
Chloe: What does she have planned for you next in the Style or Error series?
Samantha: Personally, I can’t imagine that anything as exciting as the murder at Tradava or the murder at Heist will happen to me again. I’m still looking for a job, but Eddie asked me to help him install an exhibit on The History of Fashion at the local museum. I figure, clothes that haven’t been worn for decades, mannequins, and a rare collection of hats. What could go wrong?
Chloe: What indeed? It was wonderful to meet you, Samantha. You’re every bit as fabulous as I’d imagined.
And here’s one from a previous book blog tour….
Let's Chat With Diane Vallere! (Get Lost In A Book’s Website, 16 August 2012)
Susan: So, you launched your own detective agency at age ten, right? What was your first case?
Diane: The case of the missing pencils. One of my classmates continually found himself without a pencil. He hired me (and my partner, because all great 10-year-old detectives have partners) to find out who was taking them. While he suspected the people who sat near him, turns out the real villain was gravity. They were rolling off his desk to the floor.
Susan: What caused you to switch from detective work to the fashion industry? 
Diane:  I have always loved solving problems, but I’ve also always loved clothes. When I graduated college with an Art History degree, my mom (who I think was concerned that I’d move home and stay forever) suggested I go to the mall and fill out an application. Thus, the start of a career in retail fashion.
Susan: You are certainly well-travelled. What is your favorite place you’ve visited so far?
Diane: I was lucky enough to get to go to Milan, Paris, and London for my job, but I really loved Lyon, France, where the lingerie fair is held each year. I travelled with a fabulous boss who gave me complete autonomy and a coworker who was also a mentor. I’d become friends with a few of my vendors, too, and for us to all be in France and call it work was an embarrassment of riches.
Susan: What’s your favorite kind of story to get lost in?
Diane:  I love to read but often can’t find blocks of time because I’m trying to stay focused on the story in my head, so a book that I can read—devour!—in an afternoon, or over only a few days, is the best.
Susan: The protagonist in Designer Dirty Laundry, Samantha Kidd, is a trend specialist. Can you tell us a little about what she does?
Diane: Samantha’s job is to assist the Fashion Director in recognizing trends from the runway, to communicate between the buyers and advertisers about the trends that are important to Tradava (the store where she works), and to promote the trends through fashion shows at the store.
Susan: Is it true that you make cupcakes that looked like crime scene tape for a Sisters in Crime meeting? Can you get us some of those?
Diane: Yes, I did! Truthfully, I asked the bakery department of my local grocery store if they could make them for me. They said they could, but their body language said otherwise, so I ordered cupcakes with bright yellow icing and shook black sugar through a stencil to spell out the words. I’m sure the cake decorating staff is quite talented, but I did not trust them to embrace my vision.

Susan: What was the first story you remember writing?
Diane: I was an avid reader of Sweet Dreams Romances when I was growing up and I tried my hand at writing one myself. I still have it. It was the story of Abby and Vinnie, two very competitive math students vying for the top grade in Geometry, and the new boy, Chris, who comes between them before helping them see they are destined for each other. I recently typed it up (yes, it was written long-hand) and titled it “The Square Root of the Problem.” It lives a nice existence on my hard drive now.
Susan: How much is Samantha like you?
Diane: Oh boy. I think Samantha is the person I might have become if I had made different choices after college. She represents the idea that a person can be smart but not very bright at the same time, and I often feel that way (though I don’t think I’ve admitted that until just now!). She is more fearless than I am, for sure, has a better figure. She wears what I want to wear and somehow has the money to buy it. Oh, and she’s an Aries, which I am not.
Susan: When reading and/or writing, do you put yourself in the heroine’s role?
Diane: I do, and I think that’s natural, though I think my writing clicked when I first started thinking, “what is he thinking right now?” about the male lead, or “how does the detective react to how Samantha is reacting?” It was a big lesson learned from my editor (Ramona deFelice Long), and now when I’m writing I find myself thinking from all sorts of different POVs. Makes me feel slightly crazy to have so many voices in my head, but it definitely leads to a better first draft!
Susan: What drew you to write mysteries?
Diane:  I started reading mysteries when I was around 9 (note direct impact on the soon-to-be-founded detective agency), and I found something inspiring about kids solving crimes that adults couldn’t. Trixie Belden wasn’t just a character to me, she was the person I wanted to be (but was a little afraid to be, because of her frequent interaction with counterfeiters and gun smugglers and danger).

Susan: I wanted to be Trixie, too!  (sigh) What three things are, at this moment, in Samantha Kidd’s purse?
Diane:  Duct Tape, lipstick, and a punch card (with 10 punches) for a free hoagie at the local sandwich store.
Susan: What is Samantha’s biggest vice?
Diane:  Shoes. Or junk food. It’s a tough call.
Susan: A girl after my own heart! But really, shoes can't be considered a vice, can they? What are the next five books on your ‘to be read’ pile?
Diane: In no particular order: Dead Politician Society by Robin Spano, Artifact by Gigi Pandian, Nazareth Child by Darryl James, Ghost in a Polka Dot Bikini by Sue Ann Jaffarian, and Flawless: Inside the Largest Diamond Heist in History. (*disclaimer: I often scramble my TBR list and there are hundreds of books I’m eager to read!)
Susan’s GOTTA ASK:  What is your favorite scene in Designer Dirty Laundry?
Diane’s GOTTA ANSWER:  This is tough because two sprung to mind. There is a scene in the second half of the book where Samantha gets interrogated. I loved the scene until I took a course on interrogation taught by a homicide detective and realized how far away from reality I was. (Another disclaimer: this book is intentionally funny and is not to be used to train anyone planning on enrolling in the police academy. I took liberties.) I had to rewrite the scene, letting Samantha be Samantha within the general constraints of an interrogation, and I think it ended up better than it was originally.  But I also love the tree scene at the museum.
Susan: What’s up next for you?
Diane: PILLOW STALK, due in October 2012 
An Interview with Diane Vallere
(By E.B. Davis, Writers Who Kill, Wednesday, October 9, 2013
 “The reflective letters EMT on the back of her nylon jacket were more jarring than white shoes after Labor Day.”  - Diane Vallere, Designer Dirty Laundry
It’s no wonder that both of Diane Vallere’s series focus on fashion. She has worked for over twenty-years in the fashion industry, which has built credentials for her writing career. Polyester Press, her creation, published the first two books in the Style & Error Mystery Series and the Mad for Mod Series, and she wrote short stories introducing them. I’ve read all of her books, and I can tell you that Diane knows how to orchestrate complex plots! Now, Diane writes a third series, the Fabric Store Mystery series for Berkley Prime Crime (not yet on the market), keeping Diane busy writing full-time.   Please welcome Diane Vallere to WWK.             
Diane, would you give our readers a synopsis of the three series you write?
Style & Error: When a former fashion buyer gives up the glam life to buy her childhood home in the hopes of starting over and simplifying, she finds new challenges in the form of murders in her new hometown of Ribbon, PA.
Mad for Mod: A midcentury-modern interior decorator who has modeled her life after Doris Day’s character in Pillow Talk teams up with a local homicide detective to solve crimes in a small suburb of Dallas, TX.
Fabric Store: A young woman inherits the decades-old fabric store she was born in and discovers more than musty satin and lace.
What were your considerations when you decided to self-publish?
I wanted to be able to provide for myself everything I might have gotten with a small press: ARCs, advance reviews, blurbs, trade paperbacks and ebooks. I felt empowered by the idea of having control over things like cover art and interior book layout, and the ability to be able to react quickly based on sales trends. I knew my experience as a buyer would serve me well when it came to making business decisions, and truthfully, I’ve spent all of my life working for companies and I’ve always dreamed of having something of my own.
Did you have help in editing, cover creation and formatting your self-published work?
I hire a content editor and copy editor for each of my books. After some trial and error, I’ve found people I like to work with, and I believe in building relationships with people when I like their work. I’ve always enjoyed graphic design even though I’m self-taught, so I took on the challenge of learning Photoshop and designing my own covers. (Even in my corporate jobs I often took on graphic design projects; as Creative and Planning Manager I designed the regional postcards, in-store promotional posters, and special event T-shirts for a division of stores, so I knew my skill set wasn’t completely imaginary). I also taught myself interior book layout and ebook formatting. I can’t say that this is the norm, but I really enjoyed knowing that I was continuing to learn new things. I found the entire process invigorating—much more so than the years I spent searching for an agent! J
How would you characterize the main characters in each of your series, including your new series?
While there is definitely a common thread to all three of my main characters, here’s how I would differentiate them:
Samantha Kidd: Thirty-something. Taurus. Bull-headed, stubborn. Fashion-history major. She believes fashion is important, not silly. Will charge ahead into a situation without thinking things through. She’s loyal to a fault. She has her own reasoning for everything she does, but it often isn’t the same reasoning anyone else would follow, which makes for some good humor. She has an older sister and parents on the other side of the country.
Madison Night: Late forties. She shares a birthday with Doris Day, so she’s an Aries. After a bad break-up, she left Pennsylvania for Dallas, TX, where she started her own decorating business and lives with the perfect male: her Shih Tzu, Rock. She relies on her “decorating eye”—the ability to look at a room and see what fits and what doesn’t—to help her work through the clues of solving a murder. She is currently drawn to two different men: her handyman, who is loyal and creative, and the local homicide detective, who seems to be the polar opposite of her, but shares many of her same independent qualities. Her parents passed away when she was in her thirties, and she has no siblings.
Polyester Monroe: Late twenties. FIDM graduate who has spent five years working at a seedy dress shop in downtown Los Angeles making pageant dresses out of cheap fabrics. Family is very important to her, so when she inherits a fabric shop that has been closed for ten years, instead of signing the paperwork to turn it over for resale, she sticks around, looking for signs of what her great uncle wanted her to do with the store when he left it to her. She is an only child, very close to her parents, who live locally.
Do you think the new series for Berkley Prime Crime would have happened without self-publishing?
No. I give the story below, but I think arriving at the mental place where I was ready to move on from what felt like a stagnant position in my writing career was a catalyst. Plus, once I decided to do it on my own, I started learning so much about how the industry runs! It was like seeing the whole process from the other side of the looking glass.
Have you ever entered fiction contests?
Yes. An earlier version of DESIGNER DIRTY LAUNDRY won the Get Your Stiletto In The Door Contest, run by what was once the Chicklit Chapter of RWA (they are in the process of rebranding to Contemporary Romance Writers). I entered the Daphne (good scores but didn’t final), and several other RWA chapter contests.
How did the deal with Berkley Prime Crime happen? Were you represented by an agent? Was it a proposal of your own, or did the publisher have the series in mind?
The story: I asked an author for a blurb. She liked DESIGNER DIRTY LAUNDRY enough that she told her editor about it, who asked to read it. She liked it but agreed that it wasn’t exactly right for their cozy line and asked if I’d be willing to rewrite it. I was already pretty solid on my decision so instead I wrote a proposal (character sketches and 3 chapters, plus concepts for future books in the series) and waited. And nudged. And waited. And nudged. And then I heard they were interested. On the advice of an author who was published with Berkley, I contacted my current agent and told her the situation. She read the chapters, we had a good conversation about where I was in my career and what I wanted, and she offered representation. I told her I wanted to keep self-publishing with Polyester Press, and she was okay with that.
Which is your favorite: clothing or home fashion?
Clothing, but it’s kind of 60%/40%, so a pretty close split.
How long have you written, and what drew you to mystery?
I’ve written since I was in my early teens—stories, poems, essays, novellas. I have a nice excerpt from a Batman/Catwoman romance that I started in the early 90s! I always wanted to write a mystery because I grew up with Trixie Belden—honestly, she’s as much a part of my childhood as the rest of the girls I was friends with!—and I thought it would be the absolute coolest to be able to write a mystery series. For a long time I wanted it to be a children’s series, but I didn’t have ideas. Then one day I thought about a woman who’s trying to be a grown-up but feels like her family always treats her like a kid. That idea turned into Samantha Kidd in the Style & Error Mysteries.
What items are in your beach bag?
30+ sunblock, 2 towels, a pillow, an old Vanity Fair magazine, $2 in loose change for a meter, rose water to spritz my face, a collapsible umbrella (one day I forgot the beach umbrella and discovered these work quite well!), bathing suit. If the trip is planned vs. spontaneous, I add: bottle of water, cheese & crackers, kindle, and an issue of Atomic Ranch.


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