Straighten your lovely hats and smooth those gloves, Barbara Jean Coast is here! I prepared a darling tea tray and set it in front of our guest, very careful not to muss what appears to be a new outfit.
May I pour you a cup of this tea? It’s appropriately called “Editors’ Blend.”
Ooh how lovely, thank you, doll! Please add a generous nip of your “Editors’ Helper” to that as well.
Funny, I happen to have some of that right on hand. I know you must have a soiree to attend this evening so I shall not dillydally. Today we will focus on research for your language, setting, and costume. But first, tell me why the 50s and early 60s has such appeal to you.
Well, you know what a social butterfly I am, but I always have time to have a gossip with you, Annie! Let’s see – well I just love the 50s/60s. It was such an optimistic and colorful time. There was so much style and flare, and a great use of language. Double entendres were as common as double martinis. So much could be said with a wink and a smile.
Surely you can’t actually be from that decade. You look much too young, so I wonder what your research method is to gather the appropriate props, fashions and language of that time. How do you start your props and accessories research for a new book?
Oh you flatterer, you! The Porcelana is still working, I guess. That and the Geritol chasers. It’s nice to have old photos of family and sewing patterns around, as well as the fashion magazines and books of the time. My good friend Angela Bricker also has a fantastic shop called Georgie Girl that carries vintage clothing and accessories that I paw over as often as I can.
How do you take the reader back in time through the language and dialogue of your characters?
I do my best to remember how people spoke, the use of words, the politeness and again the double meanings and flirtatiousness, not just with suggestiveness, but also the backhanded compliments and saying things in a way that could put someone in their place but not outright humiliate or embarrass them. People thought their words much more than just using one particular f-word over and over as it seems to be done these days. Then when a gentleman or a lady really did swear, by golly, they really meant it and you knew it, sister!
About language, what phrases or words do you find especially interesting or funny from the 50s?
Well, you know that Toodles gives me such a cheer. I also “Think Pink” as much as possible, and love it when my friends “Give Me a Dingle” (oh, stop blushing – I don’t mean THAT, silly girl!). I enjoy being considered, “Spiffy,” “Swanky,” and/or “Swell,” but then again, who doesn’t?
Your books have such great description which add to the depth of your story. When you are writing details, do you have photos to look at as you are describing hair styles or items in Daphne and Margot’s shop?
Oh yes, I am constantly scouring the internet (I am a girl ahead of my time…) for images and have a great collection on Pinterest and have found some great art books on vintage fashions. My friend Rita Cagle has a lovely site: http://www.living-fifties-fashion.com/ and she does so much work to help keep the beautiful images alive in all of our hearts and minds. Some of the Poppy Cove designs also come from my alter ego girls’ imaginations, as well. They play with their own take on what they’d like to see created in the world, even for today.
How are those sandwiches? Can I get you anything else to drink?
The sandwiches are lovely, Annie. Really glad you decided on chicken salad as opposed to aspic surprise. I really do think the jelly salads have been a bit too common as of late, don’t you? I could however use a top-up of the “Editor’s Helper,” with a splash of the “Blend” as well. Thanks.
Santa Lucia sounds so lovely and I wish I could go there. Tell me how you settled on a location for your story and any travel that was required. Did you send Andrea and Heather out to various cities to enhance the flavor of Santa Lucia?
The girls tell me that they think the Santa Barbara coast (the basis for the fictional Santa Lucia) called them! It was the first and the loudest muse. They traveled there quite often before writing the stories and creativity seems to well up from the time they spend there. Santa Lucia is very loosely based – it is its own town, but also reflective of many of the little places in the area – Carpenteria, Solvang, Summerland, Ventura, Ojai. It’s about the feeling as well as physical place, as well as creative license for what would be a great cozy, ideal place.
Ms. Barbara Jean, I’ve really enjoyed your visit and hope you come back again. You are such a delight. You don’t suppose I could try on that hat?
Yes, this has been lovely. Don’t be a stranger – you’re welcome to make any day a soiree with me whenever you like! And this hat would be darling on you – just make sure you have it at just that jaunty, carefree angle and watch the doorframes!
With a swirl of her soft coat, Ms. Barbara Jean left our office. And I was left holding a very jaunty hat and a smile.
After enjoying Death of a Beauty Queen, get ready for the next in the series, which will bring up the past of one of the major characters and make all the others wonder what to think and how they view their own lives….
About These Authors
Barbara Jean Coast is the pen name of authors Andrea Taylor and Heather Shkuratoff, both of whom reside in Kelowna, BC, Canada. Barbara Jean, however, is a resident of Santa Lucia, California (eerily similar to Santa Barbara), where she enjoys long lunches, cocktail parties, fancy dinner dates with attractive and attentive gentlemen. Her interests include Alfred Hitchcock movies, reading Carolyn Keene, music by popular musicians, such Frank Sinatra and Tony Bennett, shopping for new dresses, attending society events and always looking fabulous in kitten heels. DEATH OF A BEAUTY QUEEN is her second novel in the Poppy Cove Mystery Series.