Dressed for Success

My name is Shelley Munro. I live in New Zealand and love our casual, outdoorsy lifestyle. Like many New Zealanders I enjoy sports and getting out to play in our beautiful countryside, cycling, walking and sometimes boating or swimming. I dress accordingly, love jeans and have a huge collection of T-shirts. During the summer I live in shorts and a T-shirt. When it’s time to dress up, I go smart casual, which usually means trousers and a fancy T-shirt, although I have a couple of formal dresses in my wardrobe.

Dressing my characters can be a problem because some of them plain demand posh and formal. In other words, they venture into places I don’t. Take Kate Fawkner from The Shadow. She attends lots of balls and wears designer gowns and shoes. Let me tell you it was a relief when she got into the cat burglar business and moved into coordinating black. Much easier for a befuddled author!

It’s no secret to my editor that I have problems in this area. She threatened to report me to the fashion police because I mismatched shoe and dress colors. I write mainly for Ellora’s Cave these days. Yes, there’s lots of sex, which means no clothes a lot of the time. You’d think this would be easier, but no. I get these little notes from my editor. Did he take off his boots? Of course he did, I mutter. But, oops. My wonderful editor is right. He’s doing the deed and he’s still wearing his muddy boots! In my defense characters who whip clothes off and on so often can cause confusion.

Luckily, most of my characters are like me. They like casual or wear casual to fit in with everyone else. Here’s a snippet from my Ellora’s Cave release Talking Dogs, Aliens and Purple People Eaters. Janaya, the alien heroine has stowed away on her aunt’s spaceship and they’ve just crash landed on Earth.

Hinekiri pulled a small control box from her low-slung Earth trousers. Jeans, she’d called them when she’d handed a similar pair to Janaya. “Camouflage on.”

“Something wrong, dear?”

“This damned G-thing you gave me to wear is right up my—”

It seems aliens have similar problems to me with their clothing! I don’t care for G-strings either.

Clothes are giving Nikolai, my hero from Summer in the City of Sails fits as well. He’s promised his friend and next-door neighbor he’ll keep an eye on Summer. Unfortunately, Summer is taking exception to a bossy military man and is exerting her independence while enjoying life in the big, bad city. She wants to seduce him but Nikolai is fighting the attraction.

Son of a bitch.

He did a double take. His eyes narrowed while shock punched him in the gut. What the hell was the girl wearing? He eyed the long expanse of tanned leg beneath the short hem of the tight black skirt, the strappy heels on her feet. Then his gaze lifted and paused to savor the two inches of creamy skin at her waist before he hit cloth again. What had happened to the baggy sack thing?

When Summer turned to face him his mouth emptied of every trace of spit. Her black top was sheer and lacy. And low. His gaze fastened on the swell of luscious curves before he had time to veto the move. She might be nine years younger than him, but she was fully grown. Not a shred of doubt there.

I’ve been watching Murder She Wrote and Charlie’s Angels recently. The clothes and hairstyles have really dated and make me laugh. So my question to you is do you notice clothes and shoes in a book? Do you think about reporting the author to the fashion police? And finally, just because I’m nosy…ah, curious!...what is your everyday style? What clothes do you feel comfortable wearing?

Shelley's latest release, a romantic suspense called PLAYING TO WIN goes on sale at Cerridwen Press on 17 Jan 2008. She has recently completed the third book in her Middlemarch series. The heroine is an assassin and wears lots of black while the hero is a leopard shifter. When he’s not naked he’s a kitty, which makes clothes less problematic. You can visit Shelley at http://www.shelleymunro.com/ or her blog at http://www.shelleymunro.com/blog


  1. Liz Jasper // January 11, 2008 at 1:12 PM  

    Shelley, this is a hoot! Thanks for letting me start my Friday with a laugh.

    I typically wear sweats when I write and expect an intervention from the fashion police at any moment.



  2. Cindy Spencer Pape // January 11, 2008 at 1:14 PM  

    Jeans & sweatshirts in the winter, shorts and T-shirts in the summer. For special occasions I have cargo pants or black jeans.

    But yeah, clothes can help set the tone in a book. Glad I don't have to wear that stuff in real life, though. Heels HURT!

  3. Beth Trissel // January 11, 2008 at 1:26 PM  

    Very fun interview, Shelley. I enjoyed your sense of humor! As a historical writer, I've spent ages acquainting myself with costume and come to the conclusion that I should own a vast array of clothing from various time periods to truly give me that feel of authenticity.

  4. Anonymous // January 11, 2008 at 1:29 PM  

    I am a totally casual girl myself. Sweats and sweaters during the winter and casual dresses for summer. As for the books I read, as long as the clothes makes sense to the story, I don't really pay all that much attention. Though, I would have probably picked up on the boots in bed thing too. Congrats on your

  5. Mona Risk // January 11, 2008 at 1:32 PM  

    Shelley, welcome to the Pink Fuzzy Slippers loop.

    Do I notice clothes in a book or in the street? OH YES. I live in flashy South Florida, and my group of friends always dress up. My biggest pleasure is to buy fancy clothes. Until a few years ago, my mother was the best seamstress and designer I knew. She'd always sew for my sister and me. And if I'm not well dressed, combed, face made-up and all jeweled when I visit her in her assisted-living apartment, she takes one look at me and asks me if I'm sick and why do I look like a slob.

    So you can well understand I pay a lot of attention to the clothes heroes and heroines wear. I even tear pages from my mother's Vogue and fashion magazines for inspiration.

  6. Nightingale // January 11, 2008 at 1:38 PM  

    I'm usually the odd man out -- I love formal clothing and would adopt the Victorian or earlier dress if I could.

    I had one scene in Cardinal Desires (and a friend who read for me dinged me on it) where Sterling's (the hero)sweat pants kept disappearing and reappearing.

    Fun interview, Shelley. Wish I could live in New Zealand!

  7. Misc. Muse // January 11, 2008 at 2:45 PM  

    hmm I've not really "dressed" my characters, I am still at beginning stages of writing and do short stories and essays. I myself live in Jean skirts/Jumper - typical uniform of the homeschool mom, sturdy, long lasting, doesn't dirty fast, goes with anything. My dh likes to see me in other things. I have skirts- black, black, and black. I am bit fluffy around edges so I am hoping it makes me look slimmer. I laugh about the underwear thing. While pg and kids young you get in the habit of "granny wear" - I had one young son with me one day- in front seat fishing through my shopping bags- pick up a pair- he said - wow these are really big. It's like recently- dd came back to use washer- ones in her apt were busy. I leave stuff in dryer she pulled it out- pair lace- orange lace Undies- comment - comment. I thought jeepers critic my underwear will you. Oh- other thing- Throngs use to be what you wear on your feet- now on the back side- friend s and I call that floss. About all there is to it.

  8. Shelley Munro // January 11, 2008 at 3:49 PM  

    Liz - glad to hear we think alike. It's good I have someone on my team ;-)

    Cindy - oh, yes! Heels aren't exactly made for comfort. I'm in awe of women who can wear them all day. They have my sincere admiration!

    Beth - I written a couple of historicals and have to say I think we have it easy! First off, the corset. If I ever time traveled I just know I'd land in a place where they'd put me in a corset. I'm squirming at the thought of it.

  9. Shelley Munro // January 11, 2008 at 3:51 PM  

    Hi anon,

    I'm glad my editor picked up on the boots thing. I have actually read a book where the clothes didn't come off and they did the deed. I had some very interesting visuals of that love scene!!

  10. Shelley Munro // January 11, 2008 at 3:58 PM  

    Mona, thanks! I'm enjoying my visit very much. Thank you for having me!

    My mother used to do a lot of sewing, too. I can sew but I'm definitely not an expert. I think it's a shame that people don't dress up as much as they used to. These things do tend to go in cycles though, so maybe we'll see it in future generations.

    Hi Nightingale,

    I was lucky enough to visit a clothing museum in Bath, England. I loved the clothes from earlier centuries. The part that I wasn't so keen on was the lack of bathing. Imagine having a monthly or two-monthly bath. Yuck!!

  11. Shelley Munro // January 11, 2008 at 4:03 PM  

    Hi Misc. Muse,

    Sigh - I have a weakness for lingerie. When I went shopping today I had to make myself walk past a lingerie sale. Of course it did help that hubby was there hurrying me along ;-)

  12. Terry Odell // January 11, 2008 at 4:43 PM  

    I live in casual central Florida. I work out of my home when I'm not writing. Clothes? Why bother? Well, OK, I do throw some shorts and a top on when I get the mail. Shoes--that's pushing it. Frankly, when people drop brand names of clothing/shoes into books, I'm left cold. When I had to dress Blake Windsor, hero of "What's in a Name? in his executive garb I googled "expensive men's clothes" so I wouldn't make some terrible faux pas. I think that's the only book where I mentioned clothing by brand.

    I just bought my most expensive purse ever -- paid $60 for it because it was advertised as 'back friendly' and I was going to be hauling it through South Africa. It was great -- more pockets than God, and the fabric cleans up with a dust-off. I might buy another one in a different color.

    And yeah, getting characters in and out of clothing gracefully can be a treat. Frankly, I'm sick of buttons flying. I think a slow, seductive slipping of button through a buttonhole is more sexy.

  13. Shelley Munro // January 11, 2008 at 4:56 PM  

    Terry - I have bare feet most of the time, too, which is probably why I hate heels so much!

    There's nothing better than a good, comfortable bag for traveling. All those pockets come in really handy.

  14. Bailey Stewart // January 11, 2008 at 5:57 PM  

    I'm a clothes dork. I wouldn't know a jimmy choo from a Sears special. Right now, because it's cold I have on baggy pajama bottoms, t-shirt and a flannel shirt. Oh, and because I have hard-wood floors I have slippers on. As far as writing - I have to ask the sister-in-law who has much more fashion sense than I, especially when it comes to men's clothing. Therefore, I don't really notice it in books unless it's someone wearing jeans in 18th century England - I'm not that much of a dork.

  15. Amy Ruttan // January 11, 2008 at 5:57 PM  

    LOL Shelley I had no idea ... you're like me jeans and a t-shirt and fancier tees.

    Thank goodness I write mostly historicals! ;)

  16. N.J.Walters // January 11, 2008 at 6:31 PM  

    ROFL! You're talking to a woman who is currently wearing her winnie-the-pooh pj's. LOL

    I'm casual all the way and have similar problems when my characters demand "real" clothes. It's a real education for a woman who only owns one pair of dress shoes. I mean, they're black. What more do I need? *g*

  17. Shelley Munro // January 11, 2008 at 7:48 PM  

    Bailey, I'm like you. I ask my sister for advice or turn to good old google to solve my clothing problems. It's a beautiful sunny day here in NZ - no slippers for me today!

    Amy - how do you get on with clothing your historical characters? I've found some great books on costumes at my local library. They helped me when I needed to clothe my characters living in 18th century England.

    NJ - Winnie-the-pooh jammies sound comfortable, and I'm all about comfort!

  18. Liz Jasper // January 11, 2008 at 8:20 PM  


    Hold on. Did you say that you passed a lingerie shop and your husband HURRIED YOU ALONG?

    I don't believe it. There must be more to the story. : )


  19. Shelley Munro // January 11, 2008 at 10:37 PM  

    Yes, he did hurry me. We were short on time this morning since hubby had to go to work. It was a really quick visit to the mall for coffee and groceries before heading home again. Maybe I'll fit the lingerie shopping in next time ;-)

  20. Ashley Ladd // January 12, 2008 at 11:29 AM  


    The fashion police makes me laugh. I usually think of this in regards to my day job. Our HR Director is our real life, in your face, fashion police. Usually, she just gives me looks - the long up and down sweeping looks that tell me what I have on is questionable for the office. Luckily, she's only formally called me into her office once years ago to tell me never to wear such and such outfit again.

    But yeah, in my books, I try to think about fashion. It's not easy. My younger daughter is my personal fashion police at home, usually telling me I dress like I'm still in the 80s. I try to take her advice personally and for my heroines, but she still gives me these looks, too. Like yesterday when the shirt I was trying to wear out (I still have this inclination to tuck them into my slacks) was too long. So she told me to tuck this one in. Then she complained the slacks were going up to my boobs. Oy! I can't win. I'm not sure my heroines do, either.

    When I'm not trying to dress for success at my day job - office environment - I wear black capris with a hopefully contemporary blouse, or sometimes I wear jeans. I'm not too happy this weak as my foot's been hurting so I saw a podiatrist who wants me to start wearing only New Balance running shoes - can you imagine that with my office suit? or even nice slacks for the office? This will be used for a character in one of my novels - but obviously one who's not in fashion.

    And yes, I've forgotten to undress or redress or what clothes were on my characters. I think most writers have at least a couple times. Isn't that what critique partners and editors for?

  21. Sandra Cox // January 12, 2008 at 12:33 PM  

    Fun blog, Shel.

  22. Toni V.S. // January 12, 2008 at 1:03 PM  

    I've had the same problem with clothes in my love scenes, too--especially in the Period pieces. Sometimes I feel as if I'm simply giving an inventory of the fashions of the times! What takes probably a minute in real life ends up taking a page or two in a book so, unless there's some significance to a piece of clothing, I often take the coward's way out and just say something vague like, "Suddenly, the clothes were off and they were wrapped together in nothing but a sheet." or something like that! Got to work on that!

  23. Shelley Munro // January 12, 2008 at 2:33 PM  

    Ashley - LOL. I'm sure my critique partners and editors get a real laugh out of some of my clangers!

    Sandra - thanks!

    toni - yes, exactly. I'm with you. Sometimes you just need clothes that melt away so we don't make our characters too impatient.

  24. Beth Trissel // January 12, 2008 at 3:11 PM  

    I'm trying to decide if I really want to tackle that whole 'kilt thing.'