In which it’s Thanksgiving week in the US, poodles!

And that means with only two days to go until Turkey Day, things are being stuffed or marinated or hot glued so you’re probably looking for a little unrelated cheer to take your mind off of the giblets. And everybody else might just enjoy a trip down memory lane. Today and Thursday I’ll be reposting a fab chat I had with Sarah Wendell of Smart Bitches fame. Enjoy!

So today is part one of my chat with Sarah Wendell–she of Smart Bitches, Trashy Books fame! I finally got to meet her in May at a BookExpo party and she is JUST as much fun as you would expect, and not just because she had a cocktail in hand. I knew the conversation would take some unusual twists, and it certainly did…tune in tomorrow for part two, including Sarah’s recipe for spicy sweet potato latkes! We started by talking about my covers, specifically about my heroine’s modest cleavage on the cover of Silent on the Moor.


SW: Has Julia ever had a face? Or breasts? Didn’t she have some, then they went missing on the cover for Moor, and then they were back? SURPRISE! BREASTS! 


DR: {insert missing remark where I observed that Julia doesn’t really do cleavage because she’s supposed to be smart and there are stereotypes at work}


SW: So if we’re following cover art vs. character, in your case, the larger the breasts on the cover, the less apt the heroine is? This is an interesting contrast to urban fantasy covers, where the heroines are often a bit buxom and more oftener wearing leather pants and carrying weapons without sheaths or holsters for them. 


DR: I feel like there’s a potential dissertation lurking in this! (Do urban fantasy heroines have big breasts to add femininity to a character that embodies “masculine” strength? Would they be too emasculating otherwise? Or is it to subvert the expectation that boobs=girlie=character that has to be rescued rather than being heroic?) But it does play into the stereotype of smart, petite brunette versus sexy, buxom blonde, doesn’t it? Of course it’s absurd because busty blondes can be very bright and smart brunettes can be sexy as we all know. In the case of my books, Julia happens to be dark-haired and on the slender side, so the art department has stayed true to that. I’m always more interested in her clothes than her body anyway. The girl gets some seriously chic ensembles.


SW: I have never understood the leather pants, really. HOW do you hunt things with preternatural hearing wearing pants that creak?! Let alone run and work up a sweat. And let’s not even discuss the high heels so many heroines are depicted as wearing on the covers, either. 


Do you have a favorite outfit of Julia’s that you’ve written? It must SUCK to have to do research for her clothing. I mean, gosh darn, I pity you terribly much. 




DR: Yeah, pity me. I SUFFER for my readers. Actually, I have a few great Victorian fashion books for ideas, but I love to brainstorm the colors and they often give a peek into who the character is. Portia is usually dressed head to toe in a single shade, Julia favors jewel tones, and Plum is always wearing something outrageous like embroidered waistcoats or a purple fez. A fez just makes everything better.

I think my favorite ensemble of Julia’s is the black and white striped creation she wore in Silent in the Grave. It had ruby buttons and red roses on the black hat–yum! It was so striking it even got its own cover when the book was reissued as a trade.

And leather pants need to be Febrezed!


SW: What’s one part of Victorian clothing you would LOVE to wear – and what would you like to avoid altogether?


I think I would have looked horrible in any Regency-style gowns, since the higher waistline on some of them would have made me look very very wide and square. But then I look at the shaped waistline of some Victorian era dresses, especially in photographs from the NYC transit museum and I think, “I wouldn’t be able to breathe.”




Thank God for elastic waist pants! 




DR: I’m pretty sure that I would have ended up cutting someone if I’d been forced into a corset. Having said that, I wore a corset-style jacket to an event a few weeks ago, and loved it! It felt feminine and made my waist look tiny. But when I took it off, I nearly sobbed in relief and I gave serious consideration to burning it in the trashcan.


Those Empire gowns in the Regency would have suited me pretty well, I think, but you wouldn’t catch me dampening down my chemise underneath. I’ve been to England and any woman who did that in the British climate is just begging for a slow painful death from a lung complaint. Besides, I think only the slutty Regency girls did that…




If you were wearing Victorian clothing, I have no doubt you’d shake things up with a scarlet petticoat or a sassy hat that says, “Hey, bitches. Sarah is IN THE HOUSE.”




Honestly, I think medieval chicks probably had it the easiest. No confining undergarments and loose robes so if you overindulged in the roast swan and marzipan, no one could tell.




SW: I used to wear ballet costumes that had a lot of boning (huh huh.. boning) and the only thing that happened is that all the parts of me that were not supposed to be inside the bodice were on top or beneath. I looked like a tulle-covered cannoli. The only thing worse on me than corset-style or Regency style gowns with empire waists was that unfortunate period of time where babydoll style dresses were popular for young women, and there was about 4-6″ of fabric in which to conceal one’s chestular assets. So not happening. 


I agree, the medieval fashion would be where I’d find much comfort. We modern women have Spanx, which I am convinced are a round robin of bad karma. You put on the spanx, and whatever was on your backside and thighs before the spanx went on is… magically transferred to someone else until you take them off. But the penalty is that at some time in the future, another woman will put on her spanx and you’ll be the temporary guardian of whatever her spanx are hiding. It’s a vicious circle, and explains why spanx are magic. A round robin of magic. 




Would any of your heroines ever wear bloomers? (Forgive me if one did and I have missed it!) 




DR: Kudos for the thoroughly Beavis moment there. I love the fact that the gift bags given out at the ESPYs this year had Spanx for men in them. And I’m kind of dying to know if anybody wore them!

I haven’t discussed undergarments in the books with the exception of the very specific corset Julia is wearing on her wedding night–so famous it made the cover of the book! I try to “skirt” (see what I did there?) things that remind readers of bodily functions. My characters don’t use the bathroom or have periods or suffer from cramps. I will allow the occasional migraine or poisoning, but that’s just to keep things interesting. And once in a while I will let them have a bath, but that’s really just a bone I throw the ladies so they can picture Brisbane emerging from the tub dripping wet and looking for a towel…

2 thoughts on “In which it’s Thanksgiving week in the US, poodles!”

  1. You are such a tease! This is marvelous!

  2. Lynne says:

    Great interview! When Sarah got down to Spanx I cracked up – horrible thought – inheriting someone else’s excesses, even temporarily. Costume and fashion are great subjects.

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