Friday, February 5, 2010

If the Shoe Fits …

Today we welcome Kelli Stanley, author of the much-anticipated new mystery CITY OF DRAGONS (Feb 09, Thomas Dunne/St. Martin's). Kelli made her mark with NOX DORMIENDA, which won the Bruce Alexander Memorial Historical Mystery Award. Kelli is a supporter and friend to many local mystery, thriller and romance authors and we're delighted to have her here!

So today I’m here to talk about shoes. And Pens Fatales, you wonderful writers—thanks for having me over to dish! ☺

First, know that I adore shoes. Well-made Spanish or Italian leather pumps with wood frames get my heart racing. When I was very young and lived in Italy—not too far from the Florence market—I used to ogle the shoes in the window, and try to bargain for the ones that I loved the most.

I still own a few … gorgeous green leather, matching bags. Ah, the ‘80s … I guess they’re vintage now, but hell—then so am I. ;)

The trouble is that I can’t wear ‘em. High heels are insanely uncomfortable! I grew up on a farm and my feet became accustomed to more practical kinds of footwear, the kind you need to hike and walk and feed livestock in. So while my mind may drool over espadrilles or back-strap sandals, my feet yearn for the comfortable.

There are a couple of designers I really like—Josef Seibel is one--who can produce very Euro style shoes that won’t make your feet scream. When I’m out and about on book tour—which I am right now—I tend to favor these shoes—German styling and craftsmanship, but comfortable enough to handle two bookstore events in a single day.

I also love boots. Hey, remember I was young in the ‘80s, so I’ve never lost my attachment for ankle boots. And let’s face it … boots just give you an edge. They’re Diana Rigg, they’re Honor Blackman, they’re a leather power trip all unto themselves. Boots are the ultimate sexy footwear, in my opinion …

Speaking of sexy footwear, I enjoyed the shoe research I had to do for CITY OF DRAGONS. I even purchased some shoes from the ‘40s, so I could get an idea of how they were made, what they felt like. Those specifics didn’t make it into the book—though relative prices did—and Miranda, my protagonist, definitely has an eye for footwear … and a shoe store plays an important role in the plot.

Back in 1940 San Francisco, pumps were the main evening shoe in the winter, but sandals and wedge heels were popular during the summer. Miranda’s “working” clothes—when she’s working the clubs in search of philandering men on behalf of their wives—need to be the ultimate in fashion, yet long-lasting and practical, too.

And of course, there were no “comfort” shoes then, and people generally walked more. Miranda’s leg muscles are very strong—another plot point. Walking up and down Mason Street—where her apartment is—every day in heels will do that. ☺

But Miranda’s “real” shoe—you know, the shoe we wear not on our feet but in our minds, like my green Italian pumps—is quite different. While her pumps are femme fatale, it’s her identity as a detective that is the most important thing to her.
Femme fatale on the outside, she’s complex and tough and hardboiled and vulnerable and scarred on the inside. And she’s determined and driven to make a difference.

So yeah … her favorite shoe is a gumshoe. Because that’s what she is.

And it’s my favorite shoe, too. ☺

Thanks again for having me over, ladies—it’s been a blast!


Sophie Littlefield said...

I can't imagine walking all over san francisco in uncomfortable shoes but as you point out, we take much of our comfort for granted. Miranda and her friends probably didn't bother complaining, because it was just the way it was, but I can't help wondering what they would have thought of a nice pair of clarks!

Kelli Stanley said...

I know what you mean, Soph! :) I think women -- especially pre 1960s -- just became accustomed to pain as just one of those things that was part of being a woman.

If you think about it, women's medicine in general seems to have always lagged behind.

But hey--at least they had really good calf muscles if they walked as much as Miranda! :)

Thanks for having me over!! On my way back to Seattle and then home later today!


L.G.C. Smith said...

Great post, Kelli! We're birds of a feather with respect to being able to wear heels. And I have a pair or Josef Seibel woven Mary Janes in my closet.

Love the 40s details. My grandmother, who was in her forties in the 40s, wore pumps every day of her adult life. Even after more comfortable options became available, the tendons in her ankles and calves had been so affected by decades of heels that she couldn't wear anything else. She lived on a cattle ranch, of all places.

Best of luck with CITY OF DRAGONS. Great cover!


Rachael said...

Wowie, what a cover, and love those 40s shoes, too!

Juliet Blackwell said...

Hi Kelli -- thanks for stopping by Pensfatales! Great to have you here -- had a blast at the M is for Mystery kick-off event. I wore comfy shoes, though ;-)
Great post! Gumshoes all...

Daisy Bateman said...

I wonder, were the shoes of the day the reason men were rejected from the army for having flat feet? Because you don't hear that one so much anymore.

Great post, Kelli!

Jane said...

I am wondering if we were in Florence at the same time! I studied there from 1981-1982 and, crazy enough, I was always ogling the shoes in the windows too. Bought a couple pair(sadly no longer have)and longed for more. I live on a ranch so usually am wearing boots or such, but have a closet of fab shoes. I am going to need to check out your book-best of luck with it. I am a mystery fiend-doesn't that go with cool shoes?

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