featuring guest authors; crafting tips and projects; recipes from food editor and sleuthing sidekick Cloris McWerther; and decorating, travel, fashion, health, beauty, and finance tips from the rest of the American Woman editors.

Thursday, March 17, 2016


(Photo by Kevin Jepson)
Jayne Barnard has been shortlisted for both the Unhanged Arthur in Canada and the Debut Dagger in the UK. After 25 years of award-winning short fiction, her debut novella, Maddie Hatter and the Deadly Diamond, released last year. A sequel will follow next year. Learn more about Jayne and her writing at her website. 

Today we take a step back in time. The year is 1898, and Miss Maddie Hatter, Jayne’s Victorian fashion reporter and fashionista for the Kettle Conglomerate of Newspapers in the British Isles, sits for an interview.

Tell us, please, what you are wearing today, and why that represents appropriate working costume for a young lady.

MH: As you will see from the attached photograph, I’m wearing a dark, pinstriped skirt and vest. There is a matching jacket, and a hat, as I am wearing on my book cover. But that’s an outdoor setting. Indoors, and in the company of women, it is permissible to be seen in one’s shirtsleeves. The cloth in both is a long-wearing, sturdy weave of good British wool, that will stand up to travel on omnibuses, trains, steamships and airships. Also once on a camel, but getting the hair off afterward was quite a job.

The blouse—in subdued hues to hide dust and ink blotches better—is done up to the neck. A tie for the office, or a stand-up collar and lace-edged tucker for social occasions, finishes the ensemble. On the book jacket, the open throat was suitably daring for my adventurous journey.

Are your suits made for you, or ready-made?

MH: Ah, you are thinking of the rise of pre-assembled, ready-to-wear clothing in the New York City fashion industry. From a slow start in the 1870s, ready-to-wear clothing has been widely adopted by office workers and shop-girls, freeing them—or rather us—to wear the new fashions several years sooner than was possible when all we had access to were custom-made outfits discarded by the wealthier classes as démodé or ‘out of style’.

Because it doesn’t do for a working fashion reporter to be dressed quite as well as the society ladies I report on, I favor darker colors and simpler cuts. In addition, my skirt is still cut very full at the hips. By 1898, society ladies are wearing A-line skirts that, being tighter from hip to knee than mine, assume a woman will never need to climb a ladder, run to catch an omnibus, or leap out of the path of a murderer, all of which I’ve done in the course of my investigations.

This lady in the photograph is your mentor, Madame Taxus-Hemlock. She also wears dark clothing of relatively simple design. But it’s not the same as yours, and how does she get away with that daring hat?

MH: First, Madame is a widow, and wears black as most Victorian widows do. She could wear colours after a year of full mourning (all black) and one of half-mourning (grays and lavenders). Madame has age and respectability to her credit, and never needs to run or jump nowadays, hence the slimmer, modern skirt with several tiers of ruffles.

Her hat is outrageous even by late-Victorian standards, and reflects her freedom from reliance on a spouse, family, or employer. Freed from my family’s strictures I may be, but I am answerable to a hidebound male editor who disdains lady reporters on principle. If I turned up to work in a bright, frivolous hat like hers, CJ Kettle would be confirmed in his opinion that I am too flighty to be a serious journalist, and I’d be condemned to reporting on ribbons, ruffles and lace for as long as I could stand to work for him. I prefer investigating mysterious events, wherever and however they lead.

Your hat on the book cover is covered in frills and even a clockwork bird. We’ve heard rumors that the little bird is far more than mere decoration, and even that the hat is a disguise for the bird, in truth a remarkably gifted automaton who helps with your investigations. What do you have to say to that?

MH: I say, read the book if you wish to know the truth about my charming little companion. And about the Bloodshot Diamond, the Eye of Africa mask, and that eccentric explorer, Baron Bodmin.

Thank you, Miss Hatter. May your future adventures end with equally exciting tales for stay-at-home readers of Kettle Conglomerate Newspapers.

Maddie Hatter and the Deadly Diamond
Miss Maddie Hatter, renegade daughter of a powerful Steamlord, is scraping a precarious living as a fashion reporter when the story of a lifetime falls into her lace-gloved hands.

Baron Bodmin, an adventurer with more failed quests than fingernails, has vanished in circumstances that are odd even for him.

While he is supposedly hunting the fabled Eye of Africa diamond in the Nubian Desert, his expeditionary airship is found adrift off the coast of England. Maddie was the last reporter to see the potty peer alive. If she can locate the baron or the Eye of Africa, her career will be made.

Outraged investors and false friends complicate her quest, and a fiendish figure lurks in the shadows, ready to snatch the prize . . . at any price.

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Vamp Writer said...

Interesting post...I left a request for fashion help on her site as I've not been able to find a photograph or drawing for the dress of one of my own characters. (-;

vicki batman said...

I love this! and your cover! I took History of Costume in college (Clothing & Textiles major) and fell in love. The book was huge and a part of me can't bare to give it away. Congratulations on the book.

Jayne said...

I saw your message, Vamp Writer, and will get back to you tonight with some suggested sources.

Thanks, Vicki. I love that cover too. The illustrator captured Maddie's sassy spirit perfectly.

I too am deeply in love with textiles and clothing, but my editor made me remove some of the more lavish (she said long-winded) descriptions. It's still the first thing Maddie notices about most of the women she meets, though: how they're dressed and what that says about their status and personality.