Stilettos and Scoundrels is, and always will be, near and dear to my heart. It’s the first book I wrote start to finish and then went on to publish. I wanted to be a writer since the second grade. Though it never felt within my reach until the advent of the e-book and Amazon transforming the publishing landscape.
My entire life, I dabbled in writing and continuously thought about how amazing it would be to become a published author one day. Every year I went to the library and checked out the book Writer’s Market. If you’re unfamiliar, it’s a huge (like thousands of pages) book that has lists of agents and publishers along with publishing opportunities plus much much more. I’d scour through it, looking for potential agents who might be a good fit for what I wanted to write. I’d create a list, and then tell myself that this year would be the year. I’d finally finish a book and send it to an agent starting my author journey. But I never did. Why? I was too afraid of rejection, so I made sure to come up with plenty of excuses for why I could never actually finish the book and send it off to an agent.
My mother also had the same dream. While she never went as far as getting a list of agents, at least not to my knowledge, she always talked about how she wanted to be a writer. She attempted to write a few stories but never really pursued it seriously. More just a pipedream because she lacked the confidence to pursue her dream. The exact thing I did for years. That halfhearted attempt at achieving something we both wanted.
I know that her fear was the same as mine. It was a fear of failure. Isn’t it crazy how many things we don’t even try because we’re afraid to fail? When often the worst that can happen if you fail isn’t really that bad.
If back then, I’d finished a book and sent it off, and that person didn’t like it, it’s not like it would have killed me. Sure it would hurt, and my ego would be bruised, but it wasn’t life-threatening.
When the exciting new world of self-publishing opened up, I got a renewed desire to publish. For the first time, I could do this. The second thing that finally motivated me was my circumstance. I was in my late 30s going through divorce doing the typical taking stock of your life thing. You know, what I’d accomplished and what I still wanted to do before I died. The dream of becoming an author had never left, and it was finally time to achieve that dream.
When I started writing Stilettos and Scoundrels, I planned for it to be romance. My reading tastes bounce around from romance, mystery, thrillers, and suspense. I knew, or least I felt, that I could do the best job with a romantic comedy type book — nothing too deep, nothing too complicated, something that would be lighthearted fluffy and fun. I knew before I started writing that my main character’s name would be Presley Thurman, to pay homage to my mother. Her maiden name was Thurman, and she loved Elvis Pressley. Fun fact: I was conceived after an Elvis Presley concert now, aren’t you all thrilled that you know that about me?
My original premise was that she would lose her job in Chicago, go back home, and run into an old high school flame. Then they’d have the normal – oh, I’m attracted to you, but this won’t work with some funny mishaps thrown. Until they finally decided that they were meant to be and would live happily ever after.
However, if you’re reading this after reading Stilettos and Scoundrels, you will realize that’s not what happened. Instead, a senator turned up dead. In a romance book that might not be a big deal as a side story but Presley had a mind of her own and decided she needed to solve the mystery. This decision of hers, and I say hers because it was not mine, she has a mind of her own, changed the trajectory of not only the book but Presley’s future as well. Instead of falling back in love with a high school sweetheart, staying in her hometown, and living happily ever after, she’s now solved 13 mysteries and counting. I plan on getting through all 26 letters of the alphabet. Thank you, Sue Grafton, for the idea. While the series didn’t end up being the romance I’d planned, Presley’s actions have allowed me to launch and sustain a writing career that I wouldn’t trade for anything.
This book was also over 100,000 words in its first iteration. That was in 2009, and trust me; it wasn’t 100,000 words of amazingness. Over the years that book has been re-edited several times, it’s had several different covers, and has only gotten better with age.
Like most of us.
People often ask me if Presley is fashioned after myself. To some extent, all the main characters in my series have some things in common with me. My heroines love coffee, Diet Coke, cheese, food in general. None of them are a size two. They are also curious, stubborn, and don’t take no for an answer. I think most writers, to some extent, interweave real life into the books. I always tell my friends no one is safe. There are glimmers of personality traits. Common phrases that my friends say, situations that have happened, that are all ripped from the headlines – yes, I’m a big Law and Order fan.
I often get asked where the idea for Cooper came from, and it’s an exciting story. There was this boy in high school, who will remain nameless to protect the innocent who was a bit of this bad boy. While we never had a serious boyfriend/girlfriend relationship, we did go out a couple of times. I liked this guy, and I think he liked me; we were just different. As a teen, it was a barrier, and so we never managed to go past a couple of dates. When I thought about who I wanted to model Cooper’s history off of, I thought of this guy. Cooper didn’t have the best upbringing, and got in a little trouble, was a little bit of that proverbial bad boy but deep down was the sweetest guy ever.
Interestingly enough, I haven’t talked to this person since I graduated from high school many many many years ago. Recently, Facebook gave me one of their suggested friends, and it was his wife. No big surprise because we all went to high school together, and I’m glad that he’s happy and seems to have a beautiful family.
As for Cooper and Presley living happily ever after well, I guess you will have to keep reading.