I'm now turning the floor over to Ellen.
Writing a Fashion Mystery Is Like Accessorizing an Outfit
By Ellen Byerrum
In many ways, writing a fashion mystery is like accessorizing an outfit. You take the basic plot and add characters, developments, and subplots. And putting together a series is like establishing a wardrobe that you can count on when you need it, full of different pieces.
Although Death on Heels is the eighth book in my Crime of Fashion mystery series, it took some time to get my characters to this point. The book’s idea didn’t spring to life fully formed, it built upon multiple books featuring Lacey Smithsonian, a fashion reporter in Washington, D.C., The City Fashion Forgot. Her life over the preceding books has changed and grown, just like a “real life.”
So how did Lacey, in Death on Heels, end up in Sagebrush, Colorado, the last place on earth she wanted to be, being abducted by an old boyfriend and going on the run from the law (and from her current beau)?
Step by step. (Pull your boots up and go buy the book, and you’ll see.)
Lacey writes about fashion as a reporter and solves murders with “fashion clues,” and I am so delighted that people still want to read about her after eight books. But I didn’t simply start writing the first book out of the blue one day. I had a character like Lacey in mind for several years before I started the first page. I even had the first lines of the first book (Killer Hair) rattling around in my head for years:
Lacey Smithsonian looked down at the unfortunate woman in the coffin and thought, Oh my God, that is the worst haircut I've ever seen. And they say you can't die from a bad haircut.
I had written many plays and hundreds of news articles, but I always wanted to write books. However, it took a little experience and seasoning before I could begin. Why mysteries? Because that’s what I love to read. Mysteries with a touch of romance. Mysteries with smart sassy women in the lead roles.
I had been reading a lot of mysteries with great women characters, except for one thing. They were rough and tough and competent at solving crimes, but they couldn’t figure out how to dress. I wanted to create a woman who did know what to wear. Even more than that, Lacey Smithsonian has what I call ExtraFashionary Perception (EFP for short). If you learn how to read fashion clues, every outfit tells a story, especially for Lacey.
A book is made of many parts, not just the overarching plot, but interlocking subplots. When I write the books, I have to keep in mind that it isn’t all just about Lacey and solving the crime du jour. There are a lot of other characters, including her love interest Vic Donovan and her friends Stella Lake and Brooke Barton, all who keep her busy. Then there are her coworkers, like her editor Douglas MacArthur “Mac” Jones, her paper’s police reporter Tony Trujillo, food editor Felicity Pickles, and the “death and dismemberment” reporter Harlan Wiedemeyer.
Lacey has to juggle her friendships, her career, her relationship and sometimes her family, while investigating crimes of fashion, both literally and figuratively.
In Death on Heels, I wanted to reveal more about Lacey’s past and personal background. What better way than to take her out of her comfort zone and bring an old boyfriend into the story? This time, she gets into trouble in the last place on earth she expected to see again, Sagebrush, Colorado, the little Western town where she started out as a reporter.
Again, the story had to simmer for a year or two before I wrote it. It takes her into an active role in trying to exonerate her ex, rancher Cole Tucker, and find out what happened to three murder victims, women whose bodies were found barefoot. When I write I have to ask a lot of questions: How would Lacey react? What would Vic think? Where is she in her life and her career? Where will this story take her? What’s the next step?
A curious thing about writing a mystery series is that you’re on a yearly schedule, and that means forever juggling the book you’re currently writing, the previous book you’re currently promoting, and the books you’re thinking about writing next. I might be researching something for a book two or three books in the future from what’s in the bookstore today. You’re always thinking about your books, no matter what else you’re doing.
I am so happy that Death on Heels is finally out. It always feels like a very long time until I see it between covers. However, I’m currently working on the ninth book in the series, Veiled Revenge. And trust me, there are a few ideas simmering away in the background.
Thank you so much for having me here today.
Thank YOU for stopping by! This was a fascinating guest post.
So I got a chance to read Death on Heels, and below is the review!
When fashion reporter Lacey Smithsonian moved to Washington, D.C., from rugged, small town Sagebrush, Colorado, she thought she’d never look back. But when her former boyfriend, cattle rancher Cole Tucker, is arrested for the murders of three women, Lacey digs her cowboy boots out of her closet and hops on the next plane.
My Thoughts: I don't know how I let these books slip passed me. Death on Heels is witty, intriguing, and flat out fun! Lacey Smithsonian is an amazing female lead, and reading her story in Death on Heels was surely exciting. The author has created such fun and believable characters and the mystery factor created a lot of tension. If you're a fan of cozy mysteries with strong women roles, I'd suggest not to miss Death on Heels. In fact, now I want to go and pick up the rest of the books in this series!
BIO and LINKS: Ellen Byerrum writes the popular Crime of Fashion mysteries, set in bustling Washington, D.C., The City That Fashion Forgot. Featuring style sleuth Lacey Smithsonian, who solves crimes with fashion clues, the eighth book, Death on Heels, takes Lacey out of her comfort zone and into the Wild West where she confronts her past and an old boyfriend who is accused of murder.
While researching fashion, Byerrum has collected her own assortment of 1940s vintage dresses and suits, and the occasional accessory, but laments her lack of closet space. She has been a D.C. news reporter in Washington, a playwright, and holds a Virginia P.I. registration. Although she currently resides in Denver, fashion reporter Lacey Smithsonian will continue to be based in Washington, D.C.
Byerrum is currently at work on the ninth book in the Crime of Fashion series, Veiled Revenge. You can find more about Ellen on her Web site or on Facebook.
GIVEAWAY ALERT! Yes, I said giveaway.
Ellen is offering up a copy of Death on Heels to one lucky commenter. It's a print book. This giveaway is open to US AND Canada residents! So don't miss your chance to get in on this giveaway, leave a comment :)
Thank you for stopping by again, Ellen, it's been a blast having you here today, and I wish you much success and many sales.
Have a fun Thursday, friends!
Until next time,