Kit James is a gourmet cook. Valerie Pankowski, not so much. She favors cereal for dinner, while Kit can rustle up a perfect frittata, even in a stranger’s kitchen with half the ingredients missing. We know all this because we made them do it.
Back in 2011, when Val and Kit were first introduced in The Disappearance of Mavis Woodstock, they were new to us. We four were still getting to know each other. We were creating two women, telling their story, making it up as we went along. By June 2012, when the girls appeared in The Murder of Susan Reed, we had become old friends, and we knew what we were dealing with, even though they gradually took on a life of their own. Obviously, we knew what Val and Kit were thinking and what they would say before they said it. And with the help of Word, and our two heads in the background writing and proofing, we continue to pull the strings on their lives, making sure they don’t repeat themselves, their hair color stays constant, and they arrive at a destination in the same outfit they put on that morning.
Getting to know Val and Kit has brought us such joy and so many laughs. They’re both fiftysomething and are shameless Starbucks-aholics. When serious thinking or recapping events is required, they’re often found at their favorite coffee shop downing lattes. Val is your everyday, salt-of-the-earth working gal. Money is often as tight as the clothes she’s trying to fit into. She lives in a tiny apartment, which she loves, even though it’s been compared at least once to a rabbit hutch.
Kit, on the other hand (like Val before her divorce), has no occupation and lives in a large, stylish house. Her long-suffering husband, Larry, has tried numerous times to curtail the outlandish schemes of his wife, but so far his attempts have been unsuccessful. She has a wardrobe of designer outfits, all ridiculously overpriced (in Val’s opinion), and they fit her slim frame perfectly. On any occasion, she turns up in the perfect ensemble, while Val spends a good deal of time digging through her closet, trying to come up with something that doesn’t need repairing and won’t bring on one of her dreaded hot attacks. While Kit seems to never be less than perfectly made-up, Val’s attempts at cosmetic enhancement generally fade an hour after being slapped on.
In Death in Door County, the girls embark on a trip to Wisconsin to visit Val’s mother, Jean, never a big fan of Kitty Kat. She blames Kit for every indiscretion her daughter has ever committed, and she’s probably correct. Kit is the alpha pal of the two; Val follows in her wake, often kicking and screaming.
Creating our two protagonists has been pure delight. They have become real people to us, and judging by many of the kind reviews we’ve received, we think they are real to some of our readers too. In our daily, nonfictionalized, very real lives, we often find ourselves saying oh, that is totally something Kit would do or that’s exactly what Val would say.
Kit is courageous, blunt, and loyal to her pal. Val is kinder, softer, but also faithful. What binds the two is their love for each other. True friendship is a rare blessing; and we should know.