Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Jenn McKinlay--Cloche and Dagger

DEBORAH CROMBIE: You will guess, from the quote on the
cover of Cloche and Dagger, that I really loved Jenn McKinlay's new book. London? A hat shop? In Portobello Road, no less? A heroine named Scarlett? And a murder???? What's NOT to love!

So I asked Jenn to tell us a bit about how she came to write this very English story, and what is the deal with the hats?

(And remember I said to pay close attention to the hat in the photo from the film The Women in Monday's post? See anything familiar in the photos here today?  What goes around, comes around, it seems...)  Here's Jenn!


What was your worst fashion faux pas?

 I remember mine.  In my defense, it was the eighties.  At the tender (read dopey) age of seventeen, I decided it would be fabulous to shave the sides of my head and bleach my brown hair a brassy shade of blonde only found on clown wigs or troll dolls.  Obviously, that wasn’t enough, so I decided to wear a Pea Coat and combat boots bought at the Army Navy Surplus shop because high school guys love asking out a girl who looks like a dude, right?  Yeah, this is one of many reasons why I am so grateful that the Internet was still in its blessedly innocent infancy during my teen years.  The only evidence of my bad choices is a sleeve of negatives in a musty box in my mother’s basement.  Praise be to the stone age!

Now what if your fashion faux pas was photographed, went viral and inspired a traditional mystery series?  Yes, Princess Beatrice, I’m talking to you.

Like many of the fabulous authors here at Jungle Red, readers frequently ask me where I get my ideas. They come from a variety of places but for Cloche and Dagger, the first of the London hat shop mysteries, the idea came to fruition in a matter of hours.  On April 29th, 2011, I roused myself (like 22.8 million other American viewers) to watch the royal wedding.  I loved it all – the pomp -- the circumstance – the crazy hats!  And then, there she was, Princess Beatrice with that beige thing on her head.  I simply could not look away.

It became a worm burrowing into my skull.  I couldn’t stop thinking about Philip Treacy, the milliner who designed the hat, which then led my brain to wonder about the British custom of wearing hats.  Milliner is just not an occupation you see much in the States, although I’ve been told since researching this series that the popularity of hats is on the rise.  As I watched the Internet light up over Princess Beatrice’s chapeau, I wondered how she felt and hoped she was blithely unaware of the criticism.  I don’t like to watch people being bullied, I mean, it’s not like she designed the squid replica herself.  Then I wondered if she was miffed at Philip Treacy, and then BAM!  I knew I had to write a mystery series set in a hat shop in London, so I did.

Writing Cloche and Dagger was one of the best experiences of my writing life.  It challenged me in so many ways with a foreign setting, a business I knew nothing about, and it came out in first person in the voice of my American heroine Scarlett Parker.  For this adventure alone, I will be forever grateful to Princess Beatrice and Philip Treacy and that wonderfully inspiring hat.  As a thank you, because Princess Beatrice is too often associated with fashion faux pas, I’m including a picture of her where I think she is quite lovely (not sure who the dude is, but he’s cute – go, girl)!

Now, confess, what was your worst fashion faux pas?  And what would you have done if it went viral (besides cry)?

And now I must take a moment to give a tip of the brim to two of the Reds who were wonderful enough to slog through Cloche and Dagger while I was still whipping it into shape – Deborah Crombie and Rhys Bowen!  You both represent what is so terrific about the writing community – the camaraderie and support.  Smooches to you both!

Jenn McKinlay is the New York Times bestselling author of the Library Lover’s mysteries and the Cupcake Bakery mysteries.  She also writes under the names Lucy Lawrence and Josie Belle.  She lives in Scottsdale, AZ in a house overrun with kids, pets, and her husband’s guitars. 

DEBS: So, readers, confess your worst fashion faux pas and you could win a copy of Cloche and Dagger! (I would love this book for its utterly charming cover even if the story weren't so much fun!)

(And Jenn's right--Bea's BF is quite dishy...)


  1. Debs, my worst fashion faux pas was wearing my Mariner Scout uniform to school in ninth grade.

    No that wasn't the worst. My worst was wearing a pair of bright blue Doc Martins to church.

    No that wasn't the worst. My worst was wearing combat fatigues to a job interview after school. Hey it was Halloween.

    No that wasn't the worst. My worst was coloring my hair in 10th grade. It was a pretty red color, but my mother hated it. She re-dyed it dark brown but only had enough color to do half my hair. And she made me go to school like that. I did the smart thing and ran away from home again.

  2. Jenn, sorry! I missed this paragraph when I copied and pasted the above comment.

    Cloche and Dagger looks like a very fun mystery. Any book that brings to mind Princess Beatrice's headpiece contraction thingy… Well it just has to be good, and I am going to read it.

  3. Besides you're from Scottsdale, and my assistance dog Kendall is from Power Paws in Scottsdale.

  4. Growing up in a small town I didn't have much chance to make a fashion error. We didn't think much about it at the time.
    I am looking forward to this book, I always wanted to wear those hats I saw in the movies, but looked weird when I tried them on. Dee

  5. Oh Jenn, love this post! You were so much more adventurous with fashion as a teen. I lived for going to the Villager outlet and buying matching sweaters and skirts, as short as my mother would allow.

    My worst fashion faux pas was something I sewed to wear to graduate school. Think boxy dress in orange stripes with an equally boxy jacket on top.

    Can't wait to read the book--it's up next in my pile!

  6. This books sounds great! Thanks for sharing, Jenn.

    The only faux pas I can think of is wearing one navy shoe and one black one to work one day. They were great shoes so I had a pair in each color. Boring, huh?

    I loved the Villager stores, too. With an Etienne Aigner handbag and loafers.

    I look forward to exploring your books.

  7. My hair is poker straight. No, take a ruler; look at how straight it is - my hair is straighter. When I was a youngster I wanted curly hair. So, to make me happy, when I was in seventh grade my mom gave me a Toni Home Permanent (remember those?) Suddenly, I looked like a poodle. I wanted to stay in bed until eighth grade but my parents wouldn't let me. It was not long - thankfully - before my hair returned to its normally straight status. But not before all the really nice, compassionate girls in seventh grade told me "it really looks adorable, Deborah", when I knew they were really thinking they were glad they were not ME. Okay, yeah, I was a neurotic kid. It probably looked fine but it was such a DIFFERENT look for me, and I wasn't prepared for it! To ME, it was a horrible fashion disaster, faux pas, whatever you want to call it!

  8. I went through a period in the 80s when I decided to wear hats. I had some lovely ones -- a hot pink felt fedora and a black bowler with a polka-dot veil. Loved them, but I sang in the choir in church and a delegation of older women took it upon themselves to visit me and tell me I shouldn't wear my hats to church anymore. I was young and stupid and let them bully me into it. The me I am now would have told them to eff off.

  9. Jenn, I love your photo. Your grin is so adorably rascal-ish that I'm betting the book is also filled with mischief.

    My teenage fashion faux pas was trying to jump on a fashion-forward (at that time) trend by wearing orange high-top sneakers. Problem was, I was still wearing my fashion-backward blue cat eye glasses.

  10. Thanks so much for inviting me visit, Debs! Reine - you sound like a rebel - excellent! Gram, my town was small. Sadly, that didn't stop me. Lucy, I can top that! I decided to sew my prom dress (think yards of emerald green satin). Thankfully, my mother fixed it. Marianne, I've done that with socks, but you win with the shoes. Fabulous! Deb, I bet the curls really were cute! Again, I'm so glad Instagram did not exist back then. Oh, horror!

  11. Jenn, I'm so excited about the new series! You know I'm a big fan!

    Fashion faux pas? Well, my kids would tell you that I still make them on a regular basis. It seems holey jeans and denim shirts over t-shirts are not a big fashion statement, but they're perfect for working in the garden.

    But looking through some old photos, the kids all took a vote and decided my neon yellow overalls were the worst choice I've ever made. They were one of my favorite outfits!

    Do you think maybe I became a writer so I didn't have to worry about fashion??


  12. Fashion faux pas?? Well, the Sun-In I put on my hair in junior high (thinking that somehow my mother wouldn't notice) was pretty bad. As in orange.

    The 80s in general. I should never, never, never wear anything with shoulder pads.

    But the worse? 80s again. My hair was really short, but for some insane reason I let my hairdresser talk me into a perm. Unfortunately, we took a family holiday to the UK that year, and there are PICTURES. Just ask my daughter, who, by the way, has never made a fashion faux pas in her life. Sigh.

    Jenn, just talking about your book has made me want to read it again. Such fun. And I just want to dive into the cover.

  13. Cindi - You're adorable and I bet those hats were, too. Damn the conformists! Carolyn - One foot forward and one eye back seems perfectly reasonable to me and wonderful you could totally carry it off! Holly, you could rock neon yellow overalls like no other. You're amazing! Debs- I did the Sun-In hair thing, too! Ack! What were we thinking???

  14. Jenn, did I ever tell you that some friends in London took me to Locke and Co., Hatters? In St. James, mind you. Hatters to the Queen, etc. etc. I had my head measured! Too bad I could afford to buy even a fraction of one of their hats. But at least I'm on their books!

    They made Harrison Ford's fedora for Indiana Jones, and many other famous hats. But not, I think, Princess Bea's:-)

    I love hats, by the way, and wear them rather well. That's one of the things I like about England vs the US. You can wear a hat nobody thinks you're weird.

  15. Awwww - lookit you, cutie! SO glad to see you here this morning. Being a big Jenn fan and a lover of hats, I could not wait to read CLOCHE AND DAGGER and, no surprise, LOVED it!!! Can't wait for the next.

    Let's see. Fashion faux pau . . . hmm. None. Not a one. Never, ever.


    I have to admit, most of them (there were many) had to do with my hair. My hair has been every color known to man, and some that were unknown until they showed up on my head. pitiful.

  16. I'm not sure what my biggest fashion faux pas was- but I now have a teenage daughter who prevents them by saying, "Mom- you're not going out of the house like THAT, are you?" I'd always thought it was supposed to be the other way around.

  17. Does this count as a fashion faux pas? I had blocked it from memory until now. Picture the late 60's and mini-skirts, riding on a hot, crowded commuter train in the summer in Chicago - and me with legs liberally slathered in a terrific product I had just discovered: fake tan, guaranteed to make your legs look great, and to not wash off until you scrub it off. When I got off the train I discovered that while holding my purse and lunch and newspaper on my lap the newsprint had transferred to my legs, so I was now a walking Chicago Sun-Times. Tried to wash it off in the office bathroom; the newsprint was a better look.

  18. I was going out for dinner to a fancy restaurant and decided a new dress was in order. Found one I loved in pale blue ultra suede. Remember that? In any case, I spent a long time getting ready, looked in the mirror and smiled with satisfaction on my way out the door. While seated at dinner and still inwardly smug, I could feel hands at the back of my neck. It was the waiter using chicken shears from the kitchen to cut off the price tag and size tags so fashionably decorating me back. If I could have slid under the table I would have! Pride goeth etc.

  19. When I was in 6th grade, I was new to town and I was in a 6/7 combination. One of the 7th grade boys had a Halloween party and he invited me. Of course I "dressed up" in costume including clown face paint.

    Um, the very cool kids in my new town didn't wear Halloween costumes. There I was, with that thick white-face and a painted on red smile.

  20. CLOCHE AND DAGGER sounds fun, Jenn! And I love hats. Total hat girl, that's me--I might even be the type to wear a fabric squid on my head. :-) (Nah, almost kidding.) The last couple of years, I've noticed milliners at crafts fairs. I bought a lovely sun hat from one.

    Have to agree with Deb: the 80s! Oh my god, when I think back to my dyed gothic blue/black hair...And the shoulder pads! I remember walking down the street one day in NYC. I was wearing a blouse with shoulder pads beneath a winter coat with shoulder pads. Some guy walking buy commented, "Nice shoulders."

    Mortification...I'd take the shoulder pad thing too far. :-) I looked like a football player! Hah!

  21. I loved the book, Jen. So glad it's getting great reviews. Hope to see you in Scottsdale next week maybe?

    Faux pas?

    I think it had to be a green sweater, worn backward, above a green pleated skirt and green tights. I was tall and very skinny in those days and must have looked like a walking corn stalk.

    A home perm in my teens was also a disaster.

  22. I had to look up cloche, and did so because of that previously described rascal-ish grin.

    Nothing remarkable about my common errors of dress, but I went to a wedding party once (night before the ceremony) where the sister of the groom hated the bride so much, she wore all black, including a veil. Popping champagne, listening to toasts, all the while this sister looking like the widow at a funeral. I wanted to leave early, told my wife her New Jersey friends were creepy.

  23. Debs-You did not mention the hatter in St. James. I met up with one in Kensington in June. Great research, but yeah, I also write a bargain hunters series, so at $350 - no hat for me.
    Hi, Kate! Now why is it I see you in a red hat? :)
    LynnS - My hooligans do the same for me. Since I dress like a 12 yr old boy, I have now tripled my wardrobe!
    Grandma Cootie. Chicago Sun Times transferred to your legs - LOL - you were WAY ahead of your times!
    Shelagh - Despite the price/size reveal - I'll bet you were stunning!
    Denise Ann - Drat those cool kids! They ruin all the fun!
    Lisa Alber - Ugh! Dynasty reruns give me shoulder pad flashbacks!
    Hi, Rhys!!! Cornstalk? LOL! Darn it, I'm out of town next week - beach bound.
    BTW - I'm finding all of these confessions very inspiring!!! :)

  24. I thought Beatrice was wearing antlers at first! Bless her heart, she'll get it right eventually. I've done so many dumb things I have managed to erase most from my memory. Let's see. . . I wore a cardigan inside out all morning at a CPA prep course until the nice man behind me told me. I think he was trying to place the brand. In my defense I got up at the crack of dawn and dressed without lights on so as not to disturb my husband.
    Oh the 80s were awful. I remember a client making fun of my suit because of the shoulder pads. I do believe I donated it to rummage afterwards. For unknown reasons I asked a friend to give me a home permanent. She did, and I promptly blow-dried it into an afro. Was horrified and stuck my head under the faucet to try again. I find it hard to beat a friend of mine tho for faux pas. She is dynamite and legally blind, altho she can see some. She was at a hotel pool wearing her bikini inside out; she hadn't noticed she'd put it on wrong.
    Your book sounds like fun Jenn and I will read it!

  25. Fashion faux pa? Probably anything I have ever worn in public. I just don't care if something is fashionable or not; if it fits (reasonably well) and is comfortable and I like it, I wear it. If not, I won't!
    But I do love to read books, and love your cupcake shop and library series, so I'm sure this one will be great, too!

  26. Love the title, Cloche and Dagger. What fun. Can't wait to read the book.

  27. My faux pas was to overdress for at a premiere of Irish Entertainers in Philadelphia. At the time I worked for An Scathan, an Irish American news magazine. My editor was my escort and we were both covering the event and representing the paper. My editor (mistakenly) told me it was a black tie event. He wore a tuxedo and I wore a long, black sequined evening dress. Once we got there, I quickly discovered it was not a formal event (and yes, I could have murdered my editor!) I felt ridiculous and couldn’t wait for the evening to end.

  28. I imagine my kids would happily supply you with examples. I, thankfully, am of an age to not remember what I don't wish to.

  29. A lavender hot pants suit.

    To a wedding. 1972. Yeesh.

    Need I say more???

    Welcome dear Jenn!

    Grandma Cootie, I am still laughing..

  30. Forest green leggings. Pink and white hotpants with brown platform shoes. White pantyhose.

    There's more but you get the idea.

  31. OMG. I forgot about hot pants. Guilty of that too. Selective memory is wonderful.

  32. LOL! These are wonderful! And now I feel the need to stop picking on the the inner city teen boys I see with their underwear hanging out above the waistband which is belted below their equator...Naaaaaah!
    Still picking on them. Wonder when they'll look back with horror :)

    Hi, Hank, great to "see" you! And even in a lavender hot pants suit, you'd be lovely!

    Pat D - Shoulder pads - I'm pretty sure Satan invented those.

    Carol B - I love your attitude!

    Hi, Lori! You're so sweet!

    Joan - I'd have choked him!

    Libby - You are very wise :)

    Darlene - White pantyhose! I once had a pair that were puce - from the Gap. Yes, I wore them. Urgh.

  33. Jack - That is the best creepy wedding story EVER! Inspiring, even! Bwa ha ha ha!

  34. This comment has been removed by the author.


  35. Jenn -- My wife reminds me that three people in that creepy room died before their time, including the bride, who committed suicide within a decade. I'm not touching this inspiring story -- it's all yours.

  36. Raised on a farm, went to small rural school - no faux pas there since majority of students were just glad to have anything to wear.

  37. Well...I was a child of the 80's and my favorite memory is forever remembered in my lovely 3rd grade school picture that my Mother just loves to show me! I had massive bangs, held up with AquaNet, which of course popped back into place if I pushed them down (this was the test to be sure I had sprayed them enough!) with a MASSIVE blue denim bow strategically placed on the side of my head! The 80's were not a good look for anyone!

  38. One fashion faux pas I've never forgotten: wearing a casual skirt and top to a wedding where almost every female was dressed in cocktail dresses. I blame my aunt, mother of the bride, for that one. My elderly mother had asked her if slacks were ok. My aunt said sure, she'd be wearing pants too. Right - a very dressy pair of pants and top with sequins! My husband never minded that he was wearing good jeans, but I did! We'd have dressed up if we'd had the right information.

  39. Cloche and Dagger sounds like an awesome series -- can't wait to start reading!