When I first had the idea for the Mad for Mod mysteries, I knew Doris Day would be the main inspiration for the protagonist Madison Night. Madison shares Ms. Day’s birthday (April 3), has blonde hair, dresses in vintage from the fifties and sixties, and owns her own mid-century modern interior decorating business. To the rest of the world, she’s an oddball, as if delivered from a time warp. In a world of slogan T-shirts, jeans, and yoga clothes, Madison stands out like a sore thumb.
So, why would I choose to create an amateur sleuth who has virtually no ability to blend into the woodwork? Because Doris Day is her mask.
Like Madison, Doris Day has always been an independent woman. While she’s celebrated professional successes like being the number one box office draw in the late fifties into the sixties, starred in movies that are the cinematic version of comfort food, recorded chart topper after chart topper, and founded her own non-profit animal care foundation, she has not lived a charmed life. A leg injury early in her career removed professional dancer from her future resume. Three failed marriages, bankruptcy, and the loss of both her son and of many close personal friends.
That’s the mask that Madison understands.
Doris Day has a lot of die-hard fans. I’m one of them. But outside of that group, a lot of people think that she is synonymous with the fun romantic comedies she starred in, most famously with Rock Hudson. They see the actress as sunshine and daisies. They don’t stop to think about the darkness that also was a part of her life.
That’s the mask that Madison wears. People will see her—blond hair, blue eyes, vintage clothing with whimsical hats and flower pins, and think she’s a novelty. She has become comfortable in her own personal isolation—her business and her dog—and lets the rest of the world write her off. But she finds herself making connections with people who see past her mask. She wants to know if the connection are real.
Madison may drop the figurative mask, but she’ll never stop modeling her life and her appearance after Doris Day. The lady makes a heck of a role model.
Diane Vallere | @dianevallere