I had a great time reading Diane Vallere’s SUEDE TO REST, the first book in the Material Witness Mystery series! Published by Berkley Books, SUEDE TO REST takes you to the accident-prone life of Poly Monroe as she discovers the truth behind the murder of her great aunt in her family’s textile store. SUEDE TO REST has recently been nominated for the 2015 Left Coast Crime Award for best humorous mystery novel. In this Q&A, Diane reveals what inspired her to write SUEDE TO REST and shares her advice to aspiring writers.
Janet Umenta: You’ve worked in the fashion industry for twenty years. What was it like writing during that time?
Diane Vallere: I don’t love flying. My job as a buyer took me to some fabulous places, but there was pretty much only one way to get there. I would take my laptop and write as soon as we were allowed to use electronic devices. My first book was mostly written on flights to and from NY. Even today when I fly to a conference, I look forward to that time as solid, uninterrupted writing time.
After I moved from buying to sales, I wrote on my lunch break. I kept a table in the stockroom, sandwiched between back stock and dismembered mannequins! It was good training for being able to write on command.
JU: What inspired you to write SUEDE TO REST?
DV: I love the idea of discovering something special in a store that has been around for a long time, and the idea of inheriting a fabric store and being able to rediscover the inventory fascinated me. At first I wasn’t sure if it would be paranormal and include ghosts or spirits, but the more I wrote, the more I saw Poly as the type of character who would dig for facts and want to find out what happened to her great aunt. I still remember the night I had the idea. Material Girl Mysteries! About a woman who inherits a fabric store! Slight details changed from there, but Poly Monroe and SUEDE TO REST are still very much what I hoped they would be.
JU: My favorite part of SUEDE TO REST was seeing Poly Monroe grow in confidence and stand up for herself. What do you think Poly would say about the way you portrayed her in the book?
DV: I like to think that she would be happy with my portrayal of her, though she might wish that I’d have edited out her klutziness. I loved that Poly was a smart, resourceful woman, who came to conclusions about her life during the book. I love how her memories of growing up fed her need to discover the truth.
JU: So many surprises! What was your approach to outlining the plot for SUEDE TO REST?
DV: Truth? I don’t outline. My favorite part of the writing process is sitting down and catching the story as it comes to me. Usually what happens next flashes into my head moments before my fingers need to know what to type, and sometimes I get excited about a plot twist because I didn’t see it coming. I hope that same excitement happens for the reader.
JU: What tips would you give to mystery writers who are seeking publication?
DV: This process takes time and resiliency and creativity and passion. You might not need all four at the same time. You might find you have no time when your creativity is at its peak. You will need your resiliency when rejection comes. But always protect your passion for writing. When you reach the point where you write because you love to write, you’ll find a sense of calm that helps you deal with everything else.
In the 1995 documentary UNZIPPED, the designer tells the interviewer that everything about putting on a show is hard except for designing the clothes. That’s how writing feels for most of us. So much about the process is hard: querying, writing synopses, revisions, rejection, waiting. Everything is hard except for the story. If the story gives me trouble, then I know I’ve gotten something wrong and I go back and fix. But the best part of all of it is figuring out what happens next. Writers write!
About Diane Vallere
Diane Vallere is the daughter of a seamstress and a scientist, which makes her feel like the love child of Edith Head and Spock. After twenty years in the fashion industry, she now writes full time, trading fashion accessories for accessories to murder. She launched her own detective agency at ten years old and has maintained a passion for shoes, clues, and clothes ever since. Find her at www.dianevallere.com, Twitter and Facebook.