Please welcome Marni Graff, author of The Nora Tierney English Mysteries and The Trudy Genova Manhattan Mysteries.
What’s your idea of a perfect day?
A sunny day on the river where we live in coastal NC: walking our Spinone, Radar, along the water, then writing on the screened-in porch with a big cup of iced tea–and making good writing progress. Eating a nice dinner with my husband, preferably one he’s cooked as he’s an excellent chef, then watching something like Grantchester or Midsommer Murders at night. Staid but relaxed and comfy!
Do you have a signature accessory, color, fragrance, phrase/expression, or meal?
I use a perfume called Juniper Sling, which is a Penhaligon product, and the juniper reminds people of a cool gin and tonic. I get lots of compliments on it and recently gave that perfume to Nora to wear in my next English mystery. Her partner, DI Declan Barnes, will notice it and like it!
Which books/authors inspired or influenced you the most?
I’d have to say the Golden Agers: Christie, Sayers, Marsh, etc. and Daphne Du Muarier and Conan Doyle. I started with Nancy Drew and Cherry Ames and the rest early on, and just kept reading. I could read when I started kindergarten and never looked back. Books are my guilty obsession–I can never have too many waiting to be read. Mysteries became my favorite early on and P D James became my hero in modern crime writing, although my books are very different from hers. I was fortunate to interview her years ago when writing for “Mystery Review” magazine, and we became fast friends which lasted until her death last year.
Do you listen to music when you write?
I use Pandora radio to suit my mood, or to put me in the mood of the scene I’m writing. I have channels for the American Songbook, Chet Baker, Billy Joel, Diana Krall, and then the classicals for when I don’t want lyrics: Mozart, Bach, Beethoven and Baroque. I also have an Adele channel, Jack Johnson, and James Taylor if I’m in a different kind of mood.
If your latest book were chocolate, what kind would it be and why?
Dark and sweet, for sure! Because Trudy is a gal of many sides, with a cheery smile and upbeat manner than can turn darkly serious when murder’s around.
What made you interested in writing this particular story?
Actually, P D James, my friend and mentor, insisted I write this series after I’d already started writing my Nora Tierney English mysteries. She knew of my nursing background and my work for a NY movie studio as a medical consultant. She felt readers love a behind-the-scenes look at different worlds, and Trudy Genova was the outcome. Death Unscripted is the first in the series, and it’s dedicated to James.
What themes do you regularly (re)visit in your writing?
I’m not writing about serial killers or psychopaths in my books, although I do read and review some of those on my crime blog, Auntie M Writes (www.auntiemwrites.com). In both series, despite the particular theme for each book, there is the thread of exploring “what motive would convince an otherwise rational person to convince themselves it’s reasonable to commit murder?” After all, we are who we are by the choices we make. I’m fascinated by that idea as I think any person has the capacity to murder, given the right circumstances.
Tell us about your main character.
Trudy Genova grew up on an apple orchard in Schoharie, NY, the same village one of my daughters-in-law comes from, so I know the area well. She’s moved to the Big Apple for nursing work and now is a medical consultant for a movie studio. She lives in a flat on the West Side, and loves to read mysteries so much she’s considering writing one. She has a good friend at the studio she pals around with, and generally is adjusting to life in a big city after her almost-fiancé married a German woman when he was stationed there. She’s smarting from that betrayal, but loves her job. That means correcting script pages of medical scenes at home, and some days she’s sent to things filming in NY. It could be a movie or television show or TV movie. Part of the job includes ‘baby wrangling’ as a nurse must take child actors under 14 up to the studio for rehearsals and taping. No parents are allowed on set. And that includes taking the young actor to Wardrobe to get their outfits and running their lines with them. During Death Unscripted, Trudy is working on a soap filming for the Internet, “Thornfield Place,” Her task this week is to teach a womanizing, aging actor, Griff Kennedy, how to fake a heart attack. During taping, he performs so well, only Trudy realizes something is seriously wrong, but not before Griff points his finger accusingly at Trudy. He sinks to the floor, dead–but not from a heart attack. She soon finds herself the main suspect and insinuates herself into the investigation, to the chagrin of the senior detective on the case, Ned O’Malley, and his sidekick, Sergeant Tony Borelli.
Describe your protagonist as a mash-up of three famous people or characters.
Trudy would be part adult Nancy Drew, for one, for her noisiness and investigating skills, which she’s learning. She also has a slightly snarky, funny side, so let’s say she’s a bit of Meg Ryan at her younger best. And then throw in Emma Thompson for her quirky but literate side. This is a gal who’s a lot smarter than people sometimes think.
If you could host a mystery-author dinner party, who are the six writers (living or otherwise) you’d include?
Oh, boy, that’s a good one. Definitely Agatha Christie. I was able to visit her Devon home, Greenway, and it’s filled with her presence. Probably Dorothy Sayers, too, and Josephine Tey and Conan Doyle. Then P D James because I miss her and her books so much. And we’d have to have Scottish author Val McDermid, another writer I’ve interviewed and see now at St Hilda’s Mystery and Crime Conference in Oxford, because any time Val is at something, there is certain to be tons of laughter!
What’s next for you?
I’m heavily into writing the fourth Nora Tierney English Mystery, The Golden Hour, with scenes in Oxford, Brighton and Cornwall, but most of the action in Bath. Nora’s an American writer living in England with a nose for murder. The first two of those have won awards for Best Classic British Cozy and the third is shortlisted for the same award. Then I’ll turn to the next Trudy Genova Manhattan Mystery, Death of an Heiress, where Trudy’s the medical consultant on a movie being made for TV filming in the historic Dakota building, former home to John Lennon and a host of other celebrities.
Marni Graff is the award-winning author of The Nora Tierney English Mysteries and The Trudy Genova Manhattan Mysteries, all available in trade paperback, ebook and as Audible books. A member of Sisters in Crime, Graff writes a crime review blog (www.auntiemwrites.com) where she frequently interviews authors whose work she’s admired. She’s also Managing Editor of Bridle Path Press and mentors the Writers Read group in Belhaven, NC. She is a frequent contributor in nonfiction and poetry to ezines and journals such as Southern Writers Magazine, Southern Women’s Review and Shelf Pleasures.