Maybe there should be a forty-eight hour day!
There’s a lot of responsibility to writing a book. For one thing, you have to take care of all those characters. That’s right. You think it’s easy? Never mind, keeping them from being killed, you also have to make sure they eat and, trust me, most amateur sleuths are light on kitchen skills and never seem to keep to a schedule. They can miss meals for days.
You may even have wake them up in the middle of the night to go skulking after clues and you should encourage them to upgrade their skills (firing range, computer hacking, and running, always with the running). Their dogs have to be fed and walked. Who do you think remembers that? And if the dogs don’t get out often enough, you will get mail. Believe me.
It’s like being a mom to a gang of kids who will never become adults. You’re always going to be getting notes from their teachers.
Worse, you have to meddle in their love lives. Can’t have a mystery character be too happy. Or too lonely. Too anything really.
But one of the most time-consuming tasks is making sure they’re dressed properly. Remember Kinsey Milhone’s all-purpose black dress? Most people do. Readers notice these things.
My point is that, aside from the time it takes to keep your own wardrobe and closet in order and make sure you don’t show up at a business meeting in cargo shorts, now you have all these other people to worry about. I have to make sure Alvin Ferguson’s nine visible earrings are shiny enough to twinkle in the light. Mrs. Parnell still hangs on to her CWAC uniform. It’s hanging in her closet. That’s my responsibility too. As for Camilla MacPhee, she’s impossible. Couldn’t care less about clothes. I leave managing her outfits to her three perfectly groomed sisters.
But I do have to replace Fiona Silk’s one good outfit when it gets ruined by some villain in each book. I still mourn the loss of that periwinkle suede skirt and matching blouse. Then there’s Charlotte Adams, that little fashion plate. If it wasn’t for InStyle magazine (now a tax-deduction), I wouldn’t have a hope of having her look her spiffy best (with just the right shoes) as she gets chased on the I-90 or tossed into a dumpster. A lot of those outfits have to be discarded after a book! They’re ruined.
Her friend Jack Reilly is easier, except for bike racing gear from time to time, he’s always with the Hawaiian shirts and the unsuitable cargo shorts no matter what the weather. Even so, the patterns on the Hawaiian shirts have to vary. Jack may be in a rut, but he does change his clothes. Can’t have potential love interest being too grubby you know.
All to say, when I started out in this business, I had no idea there’d be all this work keeping other people dressed. Maybe that’s why I’m behind on my own laundry. There’s not enough time in the day.
What about you? How do you like a sleuth to be dressed? Do you care about that sort of detail as a reader or as a writer?
Mary Jane Maffini rides herd on three (soon to be three and a half) mystery series and a couple of dozen short stories. Her thirteenth mystery novel, The Busy Woman’s Guide to Murder (April 5, 2011), is brimming with names, no two the same.