... Only, we’re in Detroit and not Chicago.
Picture this: Detroit in the late 1920s. A beautiful, headstrong, young girl determined not to follow in the wake of well-mannered young ladies of that period and be “married off” to the best suitor. A mysterious walk-in closet; a mother with a dark secret. Men and women with self-serving motives, gangsters and molls, booze, murder, and flying bullets!
All this, and more, will you find in author Patty Wiseman’s trilogy, The Velvet Shoe Collection, consisting of: An Unlikely Arrangement, An Unlikely Beginning, and An Unlikely Conclusion.
Patty is experiencing great success with her romance suspense series featuring 17-year-old Ruth Squire, and her “unlikely” adventures.
I’ve just finished reading Book 2 in the collection, and caught up with Patty in between book tours and literary award dinners to ask her a few questions about her unique series.
Sylvia: You picked an interesting era to write about--Detroit, late 1920s--what made you write about this time in history?
Patty: Imagine a tow-headed, five-year-old runt of a girl crouching behind the stairwell in her grandmother’s three-story mansion, listening to the grownups talk about her life during the roaring twenties. We were leaving to move to Kansas. My dad took a new job there. Kansas is where my grandmother met her second husband, and where her story took an unexpected twist. She’d fled from Detroit, Michigan, to save her life and her son’s. I’m a naturally curious being, and my vivid imagination worked over time while grandmother spun her story of intrigue. I’ve often thought she missed her calling. She should have been a writer herself. Over the years, I made a point to stay with her on any occasion I could and sat in rapture most of the time as she told the story of her life’s journey. Those stories never left me. I knew I had to write about them. Life, of course, got in the way. I put it on the back burner, but shortly before I retired, the stories grabbed hold of me and wouldn’t let me go.
Sylvia: How did you find having to research details to write about this era?
Patty: First of all, I love, love, love that era. Partly, because of the stories I heard, but more because when I did start to research that era, the role women played during that time fascinated me. This was an era of women really coming out of the shadows, and making themselves and their desires known. I put my grandmother in that category, as well. She was headstrong, passionate, and beautiful. She knew what she wanted, and was going to find a way to have it. I found a lot of information through ancestry.com. I also have a lot of online friends who live in Detroit, who were very accommodating when I needed to verify facts about the time period. I really had a lot of fun researching.
Sylvia: Why did you name this series of books "The Velvet Shoe Collection"?
Patty: As I said before, I spent a lot of time with my grandmother growing up. She had a huge house, and the guestroom I stayed in had a cavernous closet. I was always exploring; and one night, I found the closet didn’t end in the guest room. It actually turned the corner and continued into my grandmother’s dressing room. When I turned that corner, I was amazed. Rows of fancy dresses, jewelry and shoes! So many shoes! There were all kinds to match her dresses, but the ones I liked best were the velvet ones. Especially a red velvet pair. That’s where I came up with the name. I wrote that closet and those dresses into the books.
Sylvia: So the idea to write this series come from real life, as with most authors?
Patty: Yes. I wrote the stories from my grandmother’s perspective, but really to honor her first husband, my father’s father, who never lived to see him grow up. I had only planned on one book at first, but I got such a wonderful response, I decided to write a series. Now, people are clamoring for me to write about some of the other characters in the books and to expand on their lives. There is so much material there. I could write for years!
Sylvia: I see you are doing some book tours and talks around the country. Please tell us more about this.
Patty: In 2012, I pulled out all the stops and traveled everywhere for book signings and festivals, libraries and book stores. I hardly ever had a weekend off. What I found was women who love to read about strong women who have found a way to live their dreams. This year, I’ve slowed down on the tours and am working on a series of workshops designed to encourage women to pursue their dreams no matter what station in life they find themselves. If you follow me on my website, www.pattywiseman.com, you will be able to keep up to date on the progress of these endeavors.
Sylvia: I like the slogan on your website: "Challenge, Conquer, Change". What is the premise behind this?
Patty: I’ve been able to live my dream, and it is a passion of mine to encourage other women to follow theirs. So many women feel that time has passed them by, that they don’t have anything meaningful to contribute anymore. There are two blogs about "Women of a Certain Age" on my website. One spotlights quotes from women at various ages, and what they like most about the age they are. The other, affirms the worth of women as they get older and spotlights the man’s point of view, and the beauty they find as their partner travels through each decade.
We should never discount our influence in this world because we are aging. Too many times, women get trapped in what the media portrays beauty to be, thus creating an impossible image to sustain. We need to stand away from the television, the billboards, and the magazines, and examine the virtues we have to offer to the younger generations. We are beautiful at every age! We need to find the jewel within!
Sylvia: That is inspiring indeed! Ageing is not very kind to women because of the media, and the culture we live in, especially in Anglo-Saxon countries such as the US, Canada, UK, Australia, and New Zealand. Is there anything else you'd like to tell your readers?
Patty: I’d just like to encourage all women to explore the UNLIKELY! Many times, we fall into a pattern, and just stay on the same old treadmill. Try something new, whether it be in the books you read, the entertainment you enjoy, or the places you travel, even the food you eat. Open up your world! Explore the possibilities. It’s an exciting time to be a woman!
Sylvia: Patty, it has been a great pleasure to feature you on "Sylvia Says". Thank you, and I wish you all the best with the Velvet Shoe Collection and your workshops on inspiring women to reach their potential. I think this kind of empowerment is something we can never get enough of.
Patty: The pleasure is mine. Thank you for the interview, and for having me on your blog. I wish you all the best with your own "Unlikely Adventures" as a strong woman and novelist!
That’s right, online friendships can turn to murder—but it’s fictitious, so that’s a relief.
You’re probably wondering what in heaven’s name I’m talking about. Let me explain: some time ago, I read a couple of humorous fiction novels by British author, Carol E. Wyer. I met Carol when I used to run a vlog, interviewing authors on their respective work, and we maintained contact since. So ours is what I call a cyber-friendship.
In her novels, Carol developed a character that followed the blog of her main protagonist, Amanda Wilson. The blog follower went by the name of SexyFitChick, and she was from Australia. SexyFitChick became a good online friend of Amanda Wilson, Carol’s main character in her two novels, Mini Skirts and Laughter Lines and Surfing in Stilettos.
Carol later revealed to me that SexyFitChick reminded her of me, although I don’t know about the “fit” part *laughter and wink*, but I do agree about the “sexy” bit :D
Over the next couple of years, Carol and I maintained our cyber-friendship, and I really enjoyed reading about the escapades of Amanda Wilson. So much so, that when my own protagonist, smartarse, older chick, super-sleuth, Mia Ferrari, was published in her second adventure, The Gay Mardi Gras Murders, I decided to bring Amanda Wilson (Carol's protagonist) to the land down under for a visit with Mia.
In the story, Amanda (or Mandy) is suffering from “grumpy-hubby syndrome” and so she runs off Down Under to visit with best online friend, Mia Ferrari, and catch the world-famous Sydney Gay & Lesbian Mardi Gras at the same time.
As it turns out, not only does Mandy become part of an investigation into several murders, one of which involves a transsexual with a very valuable diamond that carries a so-called curse; but she is thrown into Mia’s world—a world of luxury international hotels, Ferrari cars, insidious characters, younger men, a bunch of bitchy drag queens, drop-dead gorgeous gay boys, and a lot more. To make matters worse, and really test the friendship between the two protagonists, Mandy develops a crush on Mia’s archenemy, the very good looking Detective Sergeant Phil Smythe.
I won’t go on with the plot and spoil it for you, but I want to point out that from a cyber-friendship between two authors who are continents apart was born the fictional friendship of Amanda Wilson and Mia Ferrari (our respective protagonists). This led our protagonists--both strong and independent mature women, to adventure, the challenge of overcoming rivalry between two good friends, sexual fantasies of "playing with some bad boys", and even hoping to convert a few sexy gay boys--and finally, solving a number of murders before more bodies piled up.
The message in this particular novel, The Gay Mardi Gras Muders, is that through all the obstacles of life, friendship is the most important thing there is—sometimes, friendship is stronger than love, as Mia Ferrari soon learns.
So how’s that for the power of a fictional friendship, which was born in the minds of two authors who became online friends? Personally, I think this takes friendship to a whole new level.
Well, at least for me, one of my greatest fears is the dreaded review, especially when I write in a new genre. Being a multi-genre author, I have always stuck to either contemporary fiction or chick lit. However, I must confess that I've always had a weakness for the smart-talking, wiseass type of characters I watch in film noir movies. You know what I mean, the down and out detective or investigative reporter, going great guns against all odds to dig up the truth. Meanwhile, he (yes, it's usually a "he") is battling with either a drinking problem, or maybe he smokes too much, or he just cannot have that sexy dame he finds wildly attractive and who is driving him to distraction.
My love of these types of movies have led me to write the first of a modern and contemporary mystery/suspense series with a female protagonist. Right from the start of the story she's got a chip on her shoulder about men, as she has been dumped by a cheating husband; she's got the hots for a younger man (she's 48 years old, by the way); she dislikes cops because she was prevented from joining the force by none other than a man; she's assertive, sassy and a real smartass with an attitude. She's very much like a film noir hero. But I'm digressing...
I set out to blog about an author's greatest fear -- the book review -- well, at least it is for me. What will people think of my work? Oh, the nerve-wracking drama of it all as I wait for my first review!
The interesting thing is that I don't fear so much the reviews from readers; although I want those readers to like my work and become fans of my novels. This aside, however, I just need to know that my peers think that my work is good enough. Yes, this is a sign of insecurity; plus, we are usually our own worst critics. Most actors suffer from it, even the really famous ones; artists feel the same way, and so do authors. Therefore, as soon as I finished writing my first mystery/suspense with my older female protagonist, Mia Ferrari, I sent a complimentary copy to one author who I consider to be at the top of her genre (mystery/suspense), and whom I esteem greatly. Her name, Darcia Helle. Then, while I waited for her to read my story, I prayed that she would like it.
I know Darcia is a straight shooter (pardon the pun) when it comes to reviews, and she won't gloss over them. If she likes the story, she'll say so and if not, she'll tell you why. So you can imagine my relief when she gave me a wonderful review. Okay, so I was happy that I wasn't shot down (again, pardon the pun) in flames by someone who has a lot more experience than me in this kind of genre.
The big surprise, however, came when I started to get reviews from other authors who purchased my work and read it. One of them was romance author, Gloria Antypowich, who posted a wonderful review of my novel on Amazon and on her blog. Then, there was Aussie author Charles Jackson, who also gave me a great review.
My novel has been purchased by many people, some of them leave reviews and some don't, but to me the biggest honour is when peers who read my work take the time from their busy schedules to leave a review. This says they truly liked my work, and nothing could be sweeter to me ... well, it would come close to that film option from George Clooney or Clint Eastwood! Hehehehehe.
So what's my point? Personally, as an author, I find it more scary to get reviewed by my peers than by the public in general. Don't ask me why, but there it is. That's not to say that the general public are not discerning enough when they review something they've read. Don't get me wrong; I've seen some fantastic reviews posted by readers of my and other authors' work. And whether the review is favourable or not, it doesn't matter. The feedback is what is important.
Still, it's little wonder that with all this anxiety about reviews authors are often driven to drink. LOL. Thankfully, I'm not a big drinker, so I am driven to cappuccinos and pizza, just like Mia Ferrari :-)
Author Sylvia Massara's: