Mystery and Mayhem Award for Best British Cozy from Chanticleer .
Marni Graff’s first Trudy Genova Manhattan Mystery, Death Unscripted, had a well-loved and most distinguished mentor. This is the book P. D. James insisted Graff write and it is dedicated to her. This book was named a finalist for the IAN Awards and is shortlisted as Best Mystery from
Chanticleer Media. Marni writes a brilliant blog under the name Auntie M. She is also the author of screenplays, stories, essays and poetry and non-fiction. She is Managing Editor of Bridle Path Press, an author’s cooperative and one of the founders of the ground-breaking Screw Iowa! Writers Group. She is a member of Sisters in Crime and of Mystery People.
Marni: I am an unabashed Anglophile, who first visited England in my 20’s with my then-husband’s rugby team. The minute I stepped off the plane, I felt like I was coming home. England felt that familiar to me—maybe I lived there in another life? I’ve always felt an affinity for the UK, perhaps from my early Agatha Christie readings, and when I was twelve I wanted to be Julie Andrews! That feeling of home has only intensified through many subsequent trips there. Despite the distance, I knew if I set Nora down in England, I could live there vicariously through her. It’s proved a great excuse for trips to scout locations for future books, too.
antiquated, gleaned from reading the Golden Agers. Not living there makes it difficult to keep up with new sayings and phrases. These friends are my lifeline for those issues, and for correcting me when I forget that Americans call things by different names than Brits do. Nora has adopted some Britspeak, but she also still thinks in American at times, so I’m careful to keep those accurate, ie: diapers vs nappies; the trunk of a car vs the boot; a stroller vs a buggy. The area I grew up in, on Long Island outside New York City was a village with many similar aspects to English village life. Floral Park had a small town feel, its own local police, even a small newspaper, with everyone knowing everyone else’s business and gossip, so those things were easy to call upon. But there’s nothing like being in a place to get a feel for it, so I always visit in person before using a place for a setting.
Carol: I love the warm protective bond you gave Nora with her delightful baby, Sean, but the fact remains that you presented Nora with one of the greatest challenges any female sleuth has to face, being a parent and a single parent at that. Did you always intend that to happen, or was Nora’s pregnancy as big a shock to you as it was to her?
Marni: I often rue the day I had Nora become pregnant! Having a child certainly hampers her ability to move lithely and investigate when heavily pregnant, as in The Green Remains, and now Sean must be accounted for in each subsequent book. When I was writing The Blue Virgin, I was thinking of Nora’s story arc for the series, and knew there had to be something BIG that happened right off the bat to make her different from any other amateur sleuth, something that would also give me plenty of subplots for subsequent stories. Having Nora find out she was pregnant after her partner had died evolved out of the first draft and did surprise me, but once I’d written it in, that seemed the natural way for many things to happen. In The Scarlet Wench, Nora is struggling with initiating a real relationship with someone who is not her child’s father, and the practicalities that ensue in a modern world. In The Golden Hour, the one I’m revising now and hope to have out later this year, Sean unwittingly becomes the focus in the story.
Marni: First out will be the next Nora, The Golden Hour, which will be in print later this year. Then I’ll finish work on Death of an Heiress, the next Trudy Genova mystery, and hope to have that one out in 2018. In that one, Trudy is working on a television movie being filmed at The Dakota , the famed apartment building, probably known to most people as where John Lennon was living when he was killed outside its entrance.
manuscripts as they were written in longhand and then transcribed. She often travelled with Phyllis and kept her on course, and theirs was a strong bond. It was fitting that Death Comes to Pemberley is dedicated to Joyce.
Carol: To end with can you tell us about yourself? I know you are a very busy lady with lots going on in your writing life and your personal life – like you, I have seven grandchildren and know that is pretty well a full-time job in itself. What other things do you like doing with your time?
Each year, I meet with the same group of women for our critique workshop for each other’s novels-in-progress. We’ve been meeting every June for thirteen years now after meeting at a novel writing class at the University of Iowa, and I value their opinions and suggestions. It’s rare to find a group willing to take on the task of reading an entire novel for each other and we do it for whoever has one to read, then each writer gets a day and we go over them page by page. Besides my writing and revising, I’m also the Managing Editor for Bridle Path Press, a small indie press that’s an author’s cooperative out of Baltimore, MD. I also mentor the monthly Writers Read program in Belhaven, NC, and teach workshops at The Pamlico Writers Conference each year. On occasion I’m asked to meet with a book club and talk about the books, and of course, I will tour when I have a new book out. I have a route that takes me from NC to Maine by car, with stops along the way at libraries and bookshops to talk about the new book. I take one route up, stop in Maine for a visit with my best friend since Kindergarten, and take another route home, staying with family and friends along the way. I’ve slept on a lot of couches these past years, but meeting with readers and answering their questions is always a highlight for me.
Carol, thanks so much for this interview and for making me examine my writing.