The Evening’s Amethyst: A Nora Tierney English Mystery
by M. K. Graff
It is my pleasure to welcome Marni Graff to Escape With Dollycas today!
Tell us a little bit about yourself.
I was a nurse for 30 years who wrote on the side, and now have the luxury of writing full time. It has been something I’ve studied for and looked forward to and been the hardest and most satisfying thing I’ve ever done! I have three grown sons, seven Grands, and my husband and I live in rural eastern NC along a river that is part of the Intracoastal Waterway. We have two Aussie Doodles, Seamus and Fiona, who keep us company and are wonderful pets. I also review books and read about three crime novels a week. I taught creative writing too until a bout of breast cancer made me drop some things due to treatment and lack of stamina. I kept the writing and reading!
What are three things most people don’t know about you?
Let’s see: 1. I could read when I entered kindergarten. My mother read every afternoon to me from Childcraft books, the same nursery rhymes over and over, until the words became familiar and I could recognize them. It has been the greatest gift to me. I am still a voracious reader and it my love and my solace.
2. The girl I met the first day of kindergarten is still my best friend, Barbara Bohner. She also could read, and we gravitated toward each other and never looked back. We would get in trouble with our teacher for reading ahead of the group! She is a wonderful person, the sister of my heart. We have been friends for 51 years and as she lives in Maine, we don’t see each other enough. But I go there on book tours and she comes down here for visits and we talk every day on email. We are entwined in each other’s lives.
3. I love everything English, from books set there to Masterpiece Mysteries and other British shows. I travel there, Covid notwithstanding, every other year, sometimes alone and sometimes with my husband when we’ll extend our trip to other places. But I have friends in several areas we visit and we go ahead to settings for future Nora Tierney novels to soak up the sites and sounds of that place and take photos. I could easily picture myself living there, except that I would be hard-pressed to choose a favorite places! The first time I stepped off a plane in England I felt like I was coming home. I always put my Anglophilia down to reading so many Golden Age mysteries, but then I had my DNA done two years ago and found out contrary to my understanding of my background, I’m 56% British!
What is the first book you remember reading?
It would have to be one of the Childcraft books, one called Folk and Fairy Tales, followed by Life in Many Lands. These were building blocks on my way to my first Nancy Drew mysteries.
What are you reading now?
I’m just finishing Richard Osman’s The Man Who Died Twice, the second in his Thursday Murder Club series. It’s witty and full of heart, all wrapped up in a darn good twisted mystery. It shows you not to underestimate older folks, too! Next up after that will be Anthony Horowitz’s A Line to Kill, his third Hawthorne mystery featuring a writer named…Anthony Horowitz as a character. I’m really looking forward to it. Horowitz, who wrote all of Foyle’s War, and has done the wonderful Magpie Murders, is a real creative genius.
What books have most inspired you?
I’d have to say the Golden Agers, especially Agatha Christie, still outsold only by Shakespeare and the Bible. Loved her, Josephine Tey, Ngaio Marsh, and Dorothy Sayers, amongst others. PD James was a huge influence on me, and I was fortunate to consider her a mentor and friend for the last fifteen years of her life. A treasure. Daphne Du Maurier, certainly. Rebecca is one of my favorite novels.
What made you decide you wanted to write mysteries?
It was the genre I loved reading the most. I’d written and published poetry and essays, as well as writing feature articles for years for a nursing journal and later for Mystery Review. I’ve even written humorous screenplays. But mysteries just felt right when I decided to try my hand at a novel.
Do you have a special place where you like to write?
I can do research anywhere but I write at home, usually in the afternoons. My husband and I have a partners desk, so if he’s sitting behind his huge monitor doing his thing, I put on headphones to block the noise of whatever podcast he might be listening to. I usually have classical music on, as if I put on music with lyrics I tend to want to sing along to them! My dogs, Seamus and Fiona, will be lying nearby. If I go on too long, Seamus will come over to me and just stand there to remind me to get up and take them out for a walk, or feed them!
Where do the ideas for your books come from?
When I first designed the Nora Tierneys, I knew she would be an American writer who lives in England so I could use that setting, and that whole fish-out-of-water thing as she became used to living in a place close to her native land but yet different. So what would make an amateur get involved in a murder case? That becomes the crux of each novel before I start. What is a reasonable thing to happen that would see Nora stick her nose in? In the first book, The Blue Virgin, it was when her best friend, someone who’s supported her and showed her the ropes of living in England, becomes a murder suspect. In this new book, The Evening’s Amethyst, it is Nora’s stepsister, Claire Scott, a graduate student taking a Masters in Poetry at Oxford, who gets her involved when Claire’s friend dies and she begs Nora to help her prove it wasn’t suicide. So I’d say the plots grow out of the characters. This is the first book where I’ve added a cold case as a subplot that is woven throughout the book, on a very different scale, but that fits the theme of obsession.
Is there anything about writing you find most challenging?
The openers. I almost never end up with the final book starting the way it does in my first draft. I’ve learned over seven novels now to just plunge in writing once I’ve figured out the ending, and work my way there. Then I go back and rewrite the opening to where it should start, and that often gets rewritten again as I revise and find the place to bring the reader into the story.
What do you think makes a good story?
Realistic characters the reader can identify with on some level; a setting that is well-described so the reader can picture it; and a plot that makes sense throughout and at the end. Most people read mysteries for the puzzle and the resolution in the end. There are so many variations on this it boggles the mind, just as there are so many different genres within crime. A fulfilling story will encapsulate those three things, no matter the genre.
Which, of all your characters, do you think is the most like you?
I can identify with Trudy Genova, in my Manhattan series (Death Unscripted, Death at the Dakota), because she works at what was my favorite nursing job, as a medical consultant for a NY movie studio. Of course, I didn’t get involved with murders! But Nora Tierney, although younger and prettier, is a fairer version of myself: a writer started as a journalist who loves England, with a strong sense of fairness. I’m a Libra, so I made Nora one, too, and that sense of fairness and justice permeates us both. She makes lists, which she claims she got from her mother, but really, she got that from me! And she has a failed relationship in her past because she fell for someone based on chemistry first, but now she has a real relationship with DI Declan Barnes, who rubbed her the wrong way at first, but now they are deeply in love as it’s based on respect for his intelligence and his kindness.
What makes your books different from others out there in this genre?
The books are a mix of amateur sleuth and police procedural. Readers get the story from Nora, using her intuition and curiosity and smarts, as well as her journalistic ability to lie at the drop of a hat to insinuate into situations to glean information. Then they see Declan and his team going the police route, the thorough way real detecting is done, following leads, chasing up information, interviewing suspects and witnesses. While they may be classified as cozies in terms of lowered violence, there’s often less cozy business with things readers will be familiar with: obsession, lying, secrets, and often, real kindness.
What’s next on the horizon for you?
With two series in play now, I alternate writing them. It keeps me fresher as a writer, and when I’m bogged down in the production phase of one book, I’m doing the research and character design on the next. I’ve started the third Trudy Genova Manhattan Mystery, Death in the Orchard. Trudy has brought her NYPD detective boyfriend home to Schoharie, NY, to meet her family. But she’s also enlisted his help to figure out what really happened when he died twelve years ago. It was deemed an accident, but Trudy is convinced her father was murdered.
Thank you for hosting me, and for a chance to talk to readers!
Thank you Marni for stopping by for a visit!
About The Evening’s Amethyst
The Evening’s Amethyst: A Nora Tierney English Mystery
5th in Series
Setting – Oxford, England
Publisher : Bridle Path Press (September 21, 2021)
Paperback : 372 pages
ISBN-10 : 0990828735
ISBN-13 : 978-0990828730
Digital Edition: 336 pages
ASIN : B09JB193D3
Who is Verity? That becomes a central question for American Nora Tierney, who has moved to her new Oxford home with her fiance, 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.
More About M. K. Graff
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.
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Purchase Links – Amazon
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Comments on “The Evening’s Amethyst: A Nora Tierney English Mystery by M. K. Graff #AuthorInterview / #Spotlight – Great Escapes Book Tour @GraffMarni”
Sounds like a good book.
What an interesting mystery! Great interview. Thanks for sharing.
Thank you for hosting me!
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