Monday, March 21, 2011


Still no answers to the big question ….

One week out and I am still in pursuit of the perfect author’s outfit. I checked with a few more friends to see if they might have the answer. I went a bit further this time as well as checking the Ottawa contingent. Brenda Chapman has a day job in the federal government job and has to be creative about when she’ll write mysteries and what she’ll wear. Read on:

“I usually work in the evenings after dinner during the week. On the weekends, I start in the morning and work off and on all day. Sometimes, I find myself typing away at 10 o'clock at night. I usually work in jeans, a couple of sweaters and running shoes. Sometimes, I write in my pajamas and housecoat (as I am now) if I am up early on the weekend.”

A couple of sweaters? Must be cool. No wonder I got shivers reading Brenda’s new book.

Maybe Sue Pike’s house is a bit warmer. Let’s hope. “I do what writing I do in the afternoons as I go to aquafit most mornings.”

Aquafit! Water! Warm! But … “By the time I sit down at my laptop I'm showered and dressed to kill. Black tights, turtleneck and a bulky sweater. It is Ottawa in winter, after all. My friend Tinka gave me a Navajo talisman that I put on the desk beside the computer. It's supposed to call out the muse. Sometimes it works.”

Fine, Sue. But what about the summer? To my surprise, she admitted to wearing … “as little as I can get away with. Just my underwear if it's very warm. I write in a small cabin by a lake, as you know, and unexpected visitors are as rare as blue mockingbirds in those woods.”

Well, who knew?

Meanwhile, in what she calls Canada’s Caribbean, Lou Allin is … “wearing yoga pants, which can do double duty if necessary, like going outside to get wood. A Hawaiian volcano t shirt, sox, and cozy leopard bedroom slippers with rubber bottoms, also useful for going out for wood.”

Sounds very colourful, but, you know, not all that warm if you have to keep going out for wood.

Worried, I checked out my friend Hannah Dennison in LA. I was in for a shock. “I am happiest writing in my pajamas with fingerless gloves and thick fuzzy socks. And when it's cold, I'll add a scarf.”

Wow. She’s a pretty glamorous gal, but she’s so cold that her words are blue! And fingerless gloves. Hmmm.

I thought it wise to check with one of the guys too. Maybe he’d have a more dashing 007 thing going. Here’s C.B. Forrest (Chris to his Mom). Judge for yourself: “Well, MJ, you know the "B" in CB Forrest stands for Buck-Naked.”

I seem to remember this issue from a liar’s panel, so I’m not completely convinced. Read on: “My favorite writing shirt is a faded navy blue cord job with the elbows almost worn out and half the buttons are gone. My wife keeps trying to throw it out, but I always come back with "this is my writing shirt" and give her a look that suggests she's obviously insane. Like a superstitious baseball player wearing the same pair of underwear every game of the playoffs, I guess I just don't want to tempt the fates.”

Now that we’re on to underwear (again!), it’s time for me to accept it. We’re not such a fancy lot, but my friend sure turn out some terrifically readable stories in their PJ’s, slipper, skivvies, fingerless gloves, Hawaiian gear, old shirts, and yoga pants. I guess I don’t need to worry too much about getting the best gear. I should just stay in the chair and try to write the best book I can.

You might not agree. If you don’t, do you have any fashion advice for these authors? Or me?

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.


  1. I've always pictured Dame P.D. James writing in her sage-coloured silk suit but after reading this I think it's possible even she writes in her jammies. Maybe even her nickers. So it looks anything goes, MJ. Just keep writing.

  2. Gosh I sound like such a slob.... love reading about other authors' attires. I'm particularly envious of Sue Pike's cabin by the lake. Living in a city, my view is well ... I don't actually have one.

  3. My advice: just don't write and Skype in the same outfit! Author publicity is hard-earned and should not be destroyed by torn shirts, stained undies or pilled fleece jammies. Otherwise --- write on!