Please contact E. B. Davis at for information on guest blogs and interviews. Interviews for July: (7/6) Jennifer J. Chow (7/13) Meri Allen/Shari Randall (Book 1--Ice Cream Shop Mystery), (7/20) Susan Van Kirk, (7/27) Meri Allen/Shari Randall (Book 2--Ice Cream Shop Mystery).

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

An Interview with Diane Vallere

When Poly Monroe was little, she loved playing in her family’s textile store.
But after a fatal family tragedy, Land of A Thousand Fabrics was boarded up
and Poly never expected to see the inside again. Now, as inheritor of the
long-shuttered shop, she’s ready to restore the family business.
However her two new kittens, Pins and Needles, aren’t the ones causing a
snag in her plans...
Not everyone wants Poly back in San Ladrón, especially a powerful local developer
pressuring her to sell—and leave town fast. But even when the threats turn deadly, she’s
not ready to bolt. Because Poly is beginning to suspect that the murder behind the
shop is tied to a mystery in her family’s unsettled past that she’s determined to
solve before her own life is left hanging by a thread.

Diane Vallere writes three mystery series. Due to her varied publishing experience, she has been called a hybrid writer. I call it self-determination.

Diane started her first Style & Error series by self-publishing it. Shortly after, her Mad for Mod series was picked up by Henery Press. Suede to Rest is the first novel in her Material Witness series published by Berkley.

When I first heard about the series set in a fabric store, I wondered how Diane would bring it to life. I’m glad I didn’t have to wait long. Suede to Rest garnered a Left Coast Crime Awards (aka: the Lefty) nomination for most humorous mystery. Not without reason. I read the book in over two days and loved her new protagonist, Polyester Monroe.

One of Diane’s writing attributes is her ability to write strong secondary characters. They are memorable so the reader isn’t grasping to remember their identities. Diane’s cast provides hours of reading pleasure. Please welcome Diane Vallere to WWK.                                                     E. B. Davis

I sew, mostly squares (pillows) and rectangles (curtains), because it can save a lot of money, eliminating the need to have these big-ticket items made. But I didn’t think many people did anymore. From the research I’m sure you’ve done, do people still sew?
DV: I’ve been amazed at the wide variety of people I meet who are learning to sew, or learned from their mothers when they were children. I’ve taken a few classes at Mood Fabrics, and the students are a mix of fashionistas, mothers, crafters, and others who like the challenge of being able to make their own clothes or home decorations.

Spandex characterizes the current time. But I remember and appreciate the fabrics of my youth, like dotted Swiss and waffle cottons, until synthetic fabrics took over. Is there a market for fine fabrics?
DV: Yes. In fact, many people are purists and still don’t like blends. That’s one of the reasons I named my character Polyester. For someone born into a family business that deals with luxurious fabrics from all over the world, she has to live with a name that represents the dark side of the fabric world!

You set your story in a fictionalized town of San Ladrón, which you based on San Dimas, CA. Is San Dimas a suburb of LA? What was it about this town that appealed to you for your series?
DV: In the end all of our secrets come out. I am a fan of Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure, which took place in San Dimas, CA. Once I realized SD was an easy drive away from where I live, I went to visit for the fun of it, and immediately felt it was the perfect setting for a cozy mystery.

What does acronym FIDM mean?
DV: Fashion Institute of Design + Merchandising. (it wasn’t until a recent public reading that I discovered that I’d dropped the acronym with no explanation. Sorry!)

Inheriting the fabric store becomes a catalyst for change in Poly’s life. Why does she embrace this windfall?
DV: Poly has a strong connection to her family, and even her current job with a tacky pageant dress designer in Los Angeles is loosely connected to her youth growing up in the fabric store and learning about how to use old, vintage gowns to make patterns for new dresses. She wants to see inside the store when she first inherits it, but once inside, she’s taken by surprise by the feeling of nostalgia that hits her. Add in the crazy things that start happening to her and around her, and she digs her heels in to find some answers before being run out of town.

Pins and Needles, cats that Vaughn finds in Poly’s dumpster, seem to reflect Poly’s experience and emotional states. But at other times, the cats reflect the fabric store’s existence, almost abandoned, thrown in the trash, then, resurrected. What role will the cats play in the series?
DV: The cats will continue to be present in all of the books, and just like Poly grows to open up and embrace her new life, the cats start to trust her and the people around her. I heard once that rescue cats become some of the most loyal and affectionate pets because they recognize when they’re in a safe place, and I think Poly may be like that—unsure who to trust at first, but eventually opening up and showing her loyalty to her friends.

Poly’s boyfriend Carson seems more than clueless, he doesn’t get it at all. I was surprised that Poly wasn’t more vehement with him. How did two opposites attract? Why isn’t Poly more emotionally distraught by his insensitivity?
DV: I think we often find ourselves in relationships just after college, when we’re transitioning from being students to adults, and somewhere in there is when Carson and Poly met. It’s an exciting time for lots of people: finding that first job, getting a regular paycheck, being trusted with responsibilities, paying bills. As a couple, they complemented each other. She being creative, him being financially savvy. Carson’s long-term goal was to become a successful banker and climb the corporate ladder, and be able to take care of Poly. Unfortunately for him, that wasn’t what Poly wanted. Inheriting the fabric store triggered Poly’s desires to own her own business instead of working for someone else. She recognizes Carson’s intelligence when it comes to financial matters, but gets to the point where she would rather make her own mistakes than listen to his advice. 

Although Poly’s love of the store is apparent, I’m surprised she so readily accepts a plan that her great uncle Marius concocted for her. Isn’t her forte designing dresses?
DV: I never thought that Marius concocted the plan for her to take over the store. He has kept it because it was too painful to sell, and when he passes away, Poly is the only person he leaves it to because he knows she has taken her legacy of growing up around fabric and parlayed it into first a degree, and then a job in the fashion district of Los Angeles.

Poly’s job isn’t as a successful designer to the rich and famous. She oversees a team of seamstresses and works under the morally challenged Giovanni, who runs a tight ship. He buys the cheapest of fabrics in order to maintain a high profit margin, and simplifies Poly’s designs so they cost less to produce. Her great aunt taught her to deconstruct vintage dresses and create patterns, and because of that, she has a love of dresses from the twenties and thirties that are rich with details and made from expensive fabrics. Being away from Giovanni’s workroom and surrounded by the fabrics in the store’s inventory bring her back to that love.

Although Poly’s parents seem to support her decisions, they also kept information from her for years. Doesn’t she have a problem with their data omission?
DV: Here’s a funny story that I promise will get back to this question: growing up, I was a competitive swimmer, and there was an annual race in the local river. One year, someone had drowned the night before the race and the body wasn’t found. All of the parents decided not to tell all of us, the competitors. We swam the race, and found out after it was all over. In a way, that’s how I see Poly’s parents’ data omission. They wanted to protect Poly, and they thought it was better to not tell her some information than to tell her and have it upset her. She is upset with their decision, but her parents are her only family at this point. The whole reason she’s in San Ladron is because of family. She’s not going to stomp around and yell at them, because they are the only other people who have a connection to the fabric store.

Please give our readers a short synopsis of the plot in Some Like It Haute.
DV: In Some Like it Haute, former fashion buyer Samantha Kidd finds herself working for her ex-boyfriend’s maybe former girlfriend. The night before the runway show, Samantha is attacked in the parking lot outside of the runway show venue. Twenty-four hours later, with a full audience, the show goes up in flames. Because there are no casualties, there is no homicide investigation, but Samantha thinks her attack is linked to the arson, and she wants some answers. She finds herself in the unusual position of sharing information with the local detective, who isn’t enamored of the arson investigator who is running the show.

The back cover copy: Fashion expert Samantha Kidd is in the hot seat. After agreeing to help her ex-boyfriend’s former girlfriend with a runway show, she’s attacked in the parking lot outside, landing in the hospital. And when a garment goes up in flames on the catwalk the day after the attack, the situation turns explosive. She recruits a smokin’ hot photographer to turn up the heat on the investigation, but even the third degree won’t expose an angry arsonist. With a crash course in sizzle, Samantha’s curiosity leads her into another inferno, and this time she either faces the fire or gets burned.

Some Like It Haute, the fourth book in the Style & Error series, was released in January, 2015. Does Samantha Kidd, your main character, have similarities to Poly Monroe?
DV: Samantha Kidd is about 5 years older than Poly and has had a very successful and glamorous career as a buyer for a luxury retailer. She traveled to Milan, Paris, and London for her job, so she’s seen a bit of the world. Even with all that, she feels she has not found the place where she fits. She gives up her glamorous job and moves  back to the house she grew up in when her parents announce they’re moving across the country. Samantha is isolated—no close family, friends who don’t understand her decision left behind—but is looking for a fresh start. Samantha has a kooky sense of style inspired by decades of fashion designers and trends, and she considers the way she dresses to be vitally important to her sense of self.

In comparison, Poly Monroe is in her late twenties and has lived in California her whole life. She is very close to her family, who live in a nearby town. She has followed an expected path: graduate from design school and get a job only barely related to the fashion industry. She thinks about one day opening her own shop instead of working for someone else, but the steady paycheck keeps her comfortable. Her relationship is comfortable, too. She’s not looking for a change, but when it finds her, it triggers a whole lot of What If. Poly wears black every day to hide the stains she picks up from working around and fixing sewing machines. It’s easier that way.

You worked in the clothing industry for years. Do your books have a common theme related to your experience in that field? 
DV: The Style & Error books are most closely related to that field, although often more from a jumping off point. From working in the industry, I had a chance to interact with people in all sorts of jobs, which makes it easy to imagine the people Samantha would interact with in the various jobs she takes on. On a bigger scale, I think my books will always contain elements of style and clothing because that’s of interest to me. (Even though Madison Night in the Mad for Mod series wears sixties vintage, the clothes are a vital part of who she is). That is why I say I write about shoes, clues, and clothes.
Crushed Velvet continues Material Witness, Poly Monroe’s adventures, but it won’t be available until August 2015. I hope some of the mysterious questions posed by Suede to Rest Diane will answer in Crushed Velvet, such as:

Why did the McMichaels put their daughter up for adoption?
Is Vaughn a good or bad guy?
Will Carson beg Poly to come back? Will Giovanni?

Over the course of the next book and book three, your questions will be answered!

Here’s what’s next in Crushed Velvet:
With opening day of Material Girl approaching, Poly is stocking up on lush fabrics, colorful notions, and best of all, a proprietary weave of velvet. But upon delivery, it’s not quite the blend she expected, being ninety-percent silk and ten-percent corpse. Crushed under a dozen bolts of fabric is Phil Girard. His wife, Genevieve, local teashop owner and close friend of Poly, is the prime suspect.

Granted, Phil may not have been the perfect husband, but surely Genevieve had no reason to kill him! There’s just the small matter of Genevieve’s own incriminating confession: I’m afraid I killed my husband. Now, as Material Girl’s grand opening looms, Poly is torn between a friendship pulling apart at the seams—and finding a smooth killer wit
h a velvet touch…


Jim Jackson said...

Diane – what a fun set of series to be playing with. Best wishes in keeping up with all of them (it would exhaust me). And I love the titles.

And if you don't know Diane, she's good people.

~ Jim

Kait said...

Sounds like a great book and a great series in the making. Love the names and the setting made me want to book a flight to the coast. Well done.

Warren Bull said...

I'm impressed by authors who keep a series going and you now have two. They sound like fun reading.

Heather Holland Wheaton said...

I loved Suede to Rest--especially the characters. Really looking forwad to Crushed Velvet and will check out Diane's other series in the meantime. Great interview. Always fun to 'meet' authors.

Polly Iyer said...

Another great interview, Elaine, and a great subject. Having a bit of experience in the fashion industry myself, I enjoyed Samantha. Your other series sound like fun. Good for you to keep the ball rolling on three series. Much success.

Gloria Alden said...

Diane, it sounds like another series, I'm going to enjoy reading. How you manage more than one must be exhausting.

Susan O'Brien said...

Great interview with a fantastic author. Especially touched by the description of the cats--and wowed by the swimming story! Wishing you all the best, Diane! Congrats again on the Lefty nomination. Sooo exciting!

Diane Vallere said...

Hi All, Thanks for inviting me to Writers Who Kill! I have Jury Duty again today so my replies will be intermittent, but trust me, I'm reading them all!

Jim,back atcha. Don't you find that mystery writers are some of the nicest, most generous people around?

Kait,reading is the best getaway!

Warren,I will say, at times it's not easy to switch gears on characters, but it's fun to find each of their stories.

Heather-Thank you!

Polly,I do have fun keeping Samantha's big toe in the pond of fashion!

Gloria, at times, it is exhausting, but also stimulating. There's always something happening in one of these worlds!

Susan, it's weird to look back that swimming story!

Shari Randall said...

Diane, your books are right up my alley. I still have a Barbie collection (with the clothes with real snaps and fabrics) and adore everything vintage, mod, or retro (my folks had an antiques store, so I guess it's in my blood). Best wishes for the Lefty!

KM Rockwood said...

Thanks for sharing so much great information and wonderful insights with us,

It sounds like you have a real going concern here!

E. B. Davis said...

Your swimming story gave me the creeps, Diane, but the analogy was right on. Thanks so much for the interview and for writing such wonderful books. Personally, I can't wait for the next in series. Keep up the great work!

Unknown said...

Thank you, E.B., for inviting me to spend time with writers who kill!