– ‘The Magic of Wor(l)ds’ blog is a hobby, reviews and other bookish stuff on this site are done for free. –
Today I’m on the ‘The Evening’s Amethyst’ blogtour, organized by Zooloo’s Book Tours.
To promote this book I have a Q&As post, but before I let you read it first some ‘basic’ information.
About the Author :
Marni Graff is the award-winning author of The Nora Tierney English Mysteries and The Trudy Genova Manhattan Mysteries. The Evening’s Amethyst is the fifth in the Nora Tierney series. Her short story “Quiche Alain” is in the Agatha-winning Malice Domestic Anthology, Murder Most Edible.
Who is Verity?
That becomes a central question for American Nora Tierney, who has moved to her new Oxford home with her fiancé, DI Declan Barnes, and her young son.
Declan’s new case at Exeter College coincides with a frantic call from Nora’s stepsister, Claire Scott: a fellow graduate student has died in a fall, and Claire begs Nora to help her prove her friend didn’t commit suicide.
The sisters conduct their own snooping, while Declan and his team juggle this death with a cold case that proves to be more surprising than Declan could ever imagine.
First of all thank you very much for taking the time to answer my questions, I really appreciate it. Here we go! 🙂
Can you, for those who don’t know you already, tell something about yourself and how you became an author?
I was a nurse who always wrote on the side for many years while I studied writing. I always knew one day I would write fiction full time, but during my 30-yr career I wrote for a nursing journal and published essays and poetry. My last nursing position as I was getting ready to retire was as a medical consultant for a NY movie studio—more on that later! When I left and started to write full-time, I knew mysteries would be my genre as they were the books I read and enjoyed the most. I’d previously taken a degree in English Lit, and studied different fiction forms, including mystery and novels at the University of Iowa Summer Writing Program. When I was invited to study one summer at Oxford University, a dream of mine, I gladly accepted and studied Gothic Literature. That cemented my decision to set my first series in England, with an American protagonist who lives there. I’ve never looked back and love that I am able to write full time now, with the new book, The Evening’s Amethyst, the fifth in that series, plus two in print in the new second series, The Trudy Genova Manhattan Mysteries.
Which books did/do you love to read as a child/now as a grown-up?
I read at an early age and have been a voracious reader. I always loved Nancy Drew and Cherry Ames as a young reader, and discovered Agatha Christie quite early. That led me to the Golden Agers, like Josephine Tey, Ngaio Marsh and Dorothy Sayers. While I’ve read other fiction and non-fiction, the bulk of my reading has always centered on crime novels. I review crime books, so those are still the bulk of my reading, from psychological suspense and thrillers to police procedurals and pure mystery. Mine are cozy mysteries, both series a mix of police procedural and amateur sleuth, where the puzzle and a sense of resolution are the hallmarks.
Is there a writer whose brain you would love to pick for advice? Who would that be and why?
PD James was always my hero, Dame Agatha notwithstanding, and I was very fortunate to have met her and have had her in my life as a mentor and friend for the last fifteen years of hers, such a great gift to me. I was writing for Mystery Review magazine when I took that course in Oxford, and they sent me to her London townhouse to interview her. She was gracious and kind, offered advice to a budding crime novelist, and approved of the English series I had in mind. But when she heard of my position as a medical consultant for a movie studio, she made me promise that once I had a few of the English mysteries under my belt, I would start a second series set in Manhattan, and that the main character would be a nurse who had my job. She explained that readers love to see behind-the-scenes in an area they don’t know, and this certainly fit the bill. Once I had written three of the Noras, I brought out the first Trudy Genova Manhattan Mystery, Death Unscripted, and now alternate the two series.
If you could, which fictional character (from your own book(s) or someone else’s) would you like to invite for tea and why?
Hmm, that’s a good question! While there are a lot of fictional characters I’d love to meet, and Adam Dalgliesh springs to mind, I think I’d like to have tea with DI Declan Barnes, Nora’s fiancé. I’d like to ask him how he views Nora and their life together, and how he juggles heading a detective team with Nora, her young son, their puppy and a new home! It would be good to get to know him better to make him jump off the page even more.
Do you have some rituals or habits whilst writing?
When I’m actually writing, not researching or taking notes, I put on headphones and listen to music. I write at home and that shuts out the household noises of my husband and two dogs. It’s usually classical, as if I put on songs I tend to sing along. I will sometimes put on music that reflects the emotion of the scene I’m writing, too. I was writing a funeral scene once and played the Albinoni Adagio over and over, with its deep, brooding chords, and that put me in the proper frame of mind. Similarly, “Spring” from The Four Seasons is more upbeat. I also like music from the American Songbook: Sinatra, Clooney, Chet Baker particularly, but only when revising, or I’m distracted by the lyrics, but a little Beatles music is always good for polishing!
Where do you come up with your idea(s)? Do people in your life need to be worried? 😉
I watch a lot of crime shows, but mostly to learn of advances in forensics so I don’t screw something up. The plot ideas usually come to me out of my characters and where I want to take them next. I want readers to feel they are not reading the same book over and over, one reason I move Nora around so the settings aren’t the same, as in the Jessica Fletcher Syndrome: how many murders can one small town sustain? That goes to how I tell the stories, too. So for instance, The Golden Hour has a psychopath controlling the action, and the reader is aware up front of the ‘bad guy’ so that one’s not a Whodunit? but a Cantheystophim? For The Evening’s Amethyst, I’d never used a cold case and decided to explore one as the subplot in this book, with what I feel is to good effect. No one I know needs to be worried—at least, not yet!
Are you a plotter or do you go with the flow, as a pantser?
I start with the end. I know who did it and why, and then work my way from the starting point, which often changes and is the part I rewrite the most to get to that point. So I have a vague overarching plot outline as I plunge into the writing, but the rest I leave to happenstance as I write. I’d say I’m a hybrid! I think a writer can have as exhaustive an outline as they want, but they must allow for a new thought or a better subplot or a different route to occur as they write. I guess what I’m saying is that a certain amount of flexibility is always a good thing.
Can you give novice writers some tips (do’s/don’ts)?
READ. Read in your chosen genre, especially, so see what is marketable and what is popular and what is already out there. Read to see what’s good writing and even awful writing so you don’t duplicate it. Read out of your genre on occasion to stay fresh and give you a different perspective. You must be a reader to be a writer. I read three crime novels a week, and that’s perhaps overkill as I read quickly, but a writer should have a To Be Read pile and always a book in progress. Secondly I’d say Just Do It, like the sneakers ad. Write something most days, or work towards your project. Maybe today is not a day you have time to write, but you can find time to Google something for research towards your project. Find the time of day when writing works best for you–for me it’s the afternoons. And third, always carry a small notebook around. A tiny one that fits in a purse or pocket is fine. Use it to jot down ideas that come to you before writing and after you’ve started a project; or maybe to note an overheard conversation that has a line of dialogue in an exchange you don’t want to forget. If you live in your setting, note the smells and sounds of the area; if you are not, you can still note people’s habits and characteristics who cross your path to form well-rounded characters. Does that person keep brushing his hair off his forehead? Is that a nervous gesture, is he shy, or does he just need a haircut? Note details, as details are your friend.
What are your futureplans as an author?
I’m happy alternating the two series now. While I’m writing a new Nora, I already have a folder to toss in things for the next Trudy. Maybe it’s a photo from a magazine of an interesting face that could be a potential character description, or an article that supports my plot idea. Once a book is in the production stage, after copy-edits and being put in the layout for publishing, I’m already researching the next one in the other series and may start writing it. For instance, right now The Evening’s Amethyst is newly in print, but I started writing the next Trudy Genova, Death in the Orchard, last June once everything was with the book designer. It not only keeps me fresh, I never have writers’ block, because if today Nora is cranky or not talking to me, I can turn my attention to researching the next Trudy. I do enjoy talking about the books and my writing process, so not being able to do that with Covid is something I’ve missed. I hope to be able to get back on the road with a book tour next spring and to visit the libraries where I have a following, driving from my NC home, through NJ, NY, CT, MA into Maine and back!
Last, but not least : Can you give my readers one teaser from your book, which is featured here on my blog, please?
Of course! This is the end of Chapter One:
Nora and Declan were interrupted by the almost-simultaneous ring of their phones. Nora headed to the kitchen where she’d left hers on the island; she could hear Declan as he answered first.
“Suspicious, McAfee?” said Declan to his youngest sergeant. “Sounds hellish. Watkins on his way? . . . Good. Tell the sergeant I’ll walk over and meet him there.”
He gave more orders as Nora grabbed her phone and saw it was her stepsister, Claire Scott, enrolled in a master’s program at Exeter. “Hi, Claire.” She heard sniffling on the other end while Claire composed herself enough to speak. A thread of anxiety ran through her. “Are you all right? Is it your dad, or my mom?”
“I’m fine, but my friend Bea isn’t.” Claire choked back a deep sob. “Please come, Nora—Bea’s dead!”
Isn’t that a great reason to pick up this book and to find out more?!
Thanks once again for this lovely interview, M.K. Graff.
The Magic of Wor(l)ds
P.S. Are you an author (or publisher) who also wants a FREE interview like this? You can always contact me via e-mail!