Diane Vallere has been my guest before. Why? Could it be I have a secret writer’s crush on her? She started her own detective agency at age ten. She writes the Lefty Award-nominated Costume Shop and Material Witness mystery series. Plus, she dresses as though she’s on her way to a fashion shoot. Here’s the story behind Cement Stilettos, Vallere’s latest Samantha Kidd mystery.
“This series in general is focused on the character development of Samantha Kidd,” said Vallere. “Samantha is searching for the things in life that will make her happy. Cement Stilettos starts a few days after the previous book (Pearls Gone Wild) ended, where she and shoe designer Nick Taylor got engaged. She’s a little spooked by the idea that marriage might mean a loss of her own identity, plus Nick has never been particularly happy with her getting involved in dangerous situations, so she has to face a couple of different personal issues.”
According to Vallere, she always knew she wanted a book where series good guy Nick Taylor was at the center of the drama. However, when she finished Pearls Gone Wild, she had ideas for four different stories as the followup. Vallere said, “I wrote up a short blurb for each, along with title, and asked my loyal readers to vote on what they’d like to read next. The votes were very close, except that many people pointed out Cement Stilettos was a natural next step in Samantha and Nick’s relationship.”
How did she get that title?
Vallere chose the title Cement Stilettos as a nod to the old “Cement Overshoes” coined for the mafia. Unfortunately Vallere said she constantly mixes up her terms. “I get confused and say, ‘Concrete Galoshes,’ which is something Scotty says in the Star Trek episode A Piece of the Action. Yes, I’m a Trekkie.”
Even though she writes multiple series, is the President of Sisters in Crime, and believes in creating a roadmap of goals, tasks, and benchmarks, Vallere does not see herself as a methodical person. “People sometimes ask how I get so much done, and I think it’s because I tend to charge ahead with things when they’re mostly ready and then handle issues as they crop up. It’s a lot like Samantha Kidd.”
Back in her retailing days, Vallere took a standardized personality test when she was applying for a job. “The CEO told me I was very self-aware.” Vallere then quipped, “I’m constantly trying to improve on my shortcomings, yet often fail in those efforts.”
Shoes, shoes, and…yes, shoes
When Vallere started writing the Samantha Kidd series, she was a designer shoe buyer. “I have a specific memory of the day I wrote the end of the first book: I was on a buying trip to New York and was in my hotel room. After finishing it, I read an article in Esquire that said clearly all women wanted were shoes, because every single chicklit book on the market had something to do with shoes, either pictured on the cover or in the title.
“I emailed the editor about the significance of shoes in a woman’s life. For instance, when weight is an issue, shoe size is often consistent; a designer dress might cost $1000-$2000, where a pair of designer shoes might cost $400; a pair of shoes in a trend color can update a wardrobe of staples, etc. I ended the email by acknowledging that I’d just written ‘the end’ on a book that featured a former shoe buyer. It remains the singular time I’ve written a letter to a magazine editor to express a counter opinion. As far as I know, they did not print it. I wonder why?”
Keeping the mafia light
Readers of the series will know Samantha is a character who makes a lot of movie references. This causes Vallere to watch movies while she’s working on the series. For Cement Stilettos, Vallere watched documentaries about the mafia in America. This focus on the mafia did cause a bit of concern for some of Vallere’s readers.
“One of them expressed concerns that the concept of mafia in Samantha’s small town might not lend itself to the comic tone this series takes on,” Vallere said. “I had that in my head while I was writing the book. That became a specific challenge: where to keep things funny and where to make them not. When I wrote the ending, I realized that there would be damage to the trust between Samantha and another character. That was a sad moment, but also gives me something to work with for a future book.”
Double Trouble Contest Code #Shoes!
Vallere said her biggest challenge when writing this series is avoiding the temptation to binge on junk food. “Samantha likes junk food and every book seems to make me hungry for something. This one was meatballs and spaghetti! And garlic bread. And pizza. Okay, honestly, every Samantha book makes me want pizza. It’s a wonder I don’t gain ten pounds every time I write one of these books.”
Learn more about Diane Vallere at dianevallere.com.