I have fond memories of playing in fabric stores when I was young. My mom is an excellent seamstress, and often took my sister and me on trips to Levine’s, our local fabric store, to pick out patterns for new dresses, curtains, pillows, or pajamas. She’d drop me by the tables of pattern books where I’d spend hours flipping through the pages, admiring the fashionable sketches and dreaming of the possibilities. As I got older, I would wander the aisles and pick out interesting prints for clothes that I made myself.
Fabric stores are like bookstores to me. I can’t walk into one and not come out with a package. There are no better places to fritter away time! So when the idea of a cozy mystery series set in a fabric shop came to mind, I knew it was the perfect way to combine two passions. I imagined an old fabric store like the one I used to play in, one that had been around since the fifties. What treasures might be hidden inside: dusty vintage fabrics in a stockroom, new old stock of buttons, pattern books from decades past, forgotten packages of bias tape, or thick bolts of polyester double knit? Or maybe a hint of an unsolved mystery?
SUEDE TO REST, the first book in the Material Witness Mystery Series, opens with Polyester Monroe (so named because she was born inside of the store, on a bed of polyester!) standing in front of the fabric store that she’s inherited. What should be a simple transaction involving her signature on a couple of documents gets complicated when Poly decides to go inside and experience the world where she grew up one last time. She doesn’t expect to feel so connected to the store, especially since she doesn’t feel nearly that connected to the job she holds in Los Angeles. She also doesn’t expect to find a dead body in the parking lot the day after she arrives. It seems Poly has a choice: stay in San Ladrón and learn the truth about the small town’s secrets, or sign away her ownership of the store and go back to life as she knows it.
I sometimes think there is a part of all of us that wants a chance to get away from our everyday life. Inheriting the fabric store is a wakeup call for Poly. It throws her life into disarray and makes her think about whether or not her life is headed the right direction—and question what exactly is the “right” direction for her. Not that long ago, I had my own wakeup call and asked myself the same questions. That’s when I changed career paths and moved from Texas to California (where SUEDE TO REST is set). The move was scary–especially for someone who likes to plan everything! I could have stayed where I was, and I could have moved back to Pennsylvania, where I’m from. Instead, I chose the unknown door number three. The move brought new opportunities to my life and, while I haven’t had to contend with any dead bodies, I did think a lot about that somewhat spontaneous decision when writing Poly’s story. So far, things have worked out pretty well for me.
I wonder how they’ll turn out for Poly?