Marni Graff, author of The Blue Virgin and The Green Remains

Marni Graff is the author of the Nora Tierney mystery series – which falls somewhere between a police procedural and a cozy. The second book in this very interesting series just came out, and I wanted to find out more. One lucky commenter will win a copy of The Green Remains.

Before we start talking to Marni, let me catch you up on the series. In The Blue Virgin, American writer Nora Tierney travels to Oxford, England. Her good friend has been wrongfully accused of murdering her partner. But is the accusation wrong?

In The Green Remains, Nora is living at Ramsey Lodge in England’s Lake District, anticipating the birth of her first child and the publication of her first children’s book. But when she finds a body by Lake Windemere, her illustrator, Simon Ramsey is implicated. As the body count rises, Nora and her unborn child will face risks and perils she could never anticipate.

Pretty riveting stuff, huh? Now, I’m a big fan of stories that take me to other countries, so I decided to ask Marni about setting her books in England rather than the U.S.

Author Marni Graff

Esri:

Setting is such a great way to add a tone or feeling to a story, especially if the setting has a strong “personality.” I’m trying to imagine a chipper comedy set in a place where it rains all the time – it’s difficult. I’m assuming you didn’t finish the books during your visits to the UK. Do you ever look at photos to get yourself back in a certain mood?

Marni:

I keep my photo albums of my last trip to Oxford and to the Lake District on my desk. As a matter of fact, we used a photo I took on Lake Windermere as the basis for the cover of The Green Remains. Cumbria is a place of such natural beauty, as opposed to Oxford, which has beauty of a very different kind, all of those golden ancient buildings and bustling crowded streets. It’s town vs country for sure; both strong in personality, as you mention, but of a very different kind.

When I read Elizabeth George’s newest (Believing the Lie) I wasn’t surprised to see she’d taken Lynley to a visit to Cumbria. But then I don’t have a lock on that place, as evidenced by Reginald Hill’s The Woodcutter, and one entire series by Martin Edwards, aptly called The Lake District Series. It’s one of my favorite places, and anyone who has seen the natural beauty of Cumbria comes away impressed. Beatrix Potter and Wordsworth and Ruskin all reveled in the tarns and becks, the fleecy clouds reflected in the many lakes’ surface.

Esri:

After I leave a remote book location, I sometimes have a logistical question about it. I once used Google Earth to find out if a parking lot had a convenient bush beside it, for my sleuths to hide behind (it did). Have you ever had this happen, and what did you do about it?

Marni:

Ah, yes, the challenges of setting …  since my books are set so far away, I use a local contact to answer email questions and keep my photograph albums out for reference. But Google came into play when my copyeditor was going over The Blue Virgin. I’d set a character on a walk from his flat to the Covered Market, past Magdalen College, and it sounded like he’s arrived in about three minutes. Turns out Google told her the distance was a mile and a half, so we changed the text to show it took Davey a bit longer to get there!

Esri:

Any funny stories about travel or other experiences you had in the UK?

Marni:

When I studied at Oxford as an adult, I kept buying books and souvenirs, things I fell in love with because I knew it would be a while before I could go back and I loved the town. But I ran out of suitcase space and ended up having to mail myself a two cartons home … don’t ask about the postage. Since the cost was based on weight, I packed the boxes mostly with dirty clothes and put the books in my suitcase! Then I went through the security check on my way home, and this was before 9/11 and they did random baggage checks. Of course, mine was pulled and when the woman opened my suitcase, it was mostly all books. She looked at my passport, saw I’d been there over a month, then looked at my bag and said, “Lor, lass, where’s your knickers?”

Esri:

Nora is writing an illustrated children’s book in the same area where famed Peter Rabbit author Beatrix Potter lived. Did you (and Nora) take the tour? Buy any souvenirs?

Marni:

I’ve taken the tour (lovely) to Hill Top, and Nora will in a future book with her child. The World of Beatrix Potter attraction (think All Things Peter and Friends) is in the village where The Green Remains is set, right near Windermere. Potter’s influence in the area is enormous; she bought up 14 farms and over 4,000 acres of land and left it to The National Trust in her will so that it would never be developed. In this book, Nora is name-hunting for her child and considers a few Potter favorites, which she ultimately discards. But she does use Peter Rabbit and friends to decorate her son’s nursery.

Esri:

Good for her. You can’t go wrong with the classics. A non-location question: Each of your titles mentions a color. Do you remember what brought that about?

Marni:

The first book, The Blue Virgin, was my original title, based on a club that’s mentioned in the first chapter but is actually metaphor for the young woman whose murder sets Nora on her initial investigation. I work with an outstanding book designer, Giordana Segneri, and it was her idea when she designed the cover, to use the blue wash. We liked the effect so much I made certain I worked color into the title for The Green Remains. This one refers to the appearance of the dead body Nora stumbles over at the edge of the lake but is also a metaphor for what remains at the end of the book: new lives to be molded from the aftermath of tragedy. Right now I’m working on The Scarlet Wench, which is the name of the local pub already mentioned in Bowness in The Green Remains, and is a metaphor for …  you’ll have to read it and find out! The fourth book’s working title is The Golden Hour.
———————–
If you’d like to read excerpts of Marni’s books (and who wouldn’t?), they’re below. And don’t forget to comment for the chance to win a copy of her newest!

Excerpt – The Blue Virgin

Excerpt – The Green Remains

Marni Graff, also known as Auntie M,  M.K., and Marnette, grew up in Floral Park, NY. She currently resides in rural North Carolina, living on the Pungo River, part of the coast’s Intracoastal Waterway. She’s a member of Sisters in Crime, and runs the NC Writers Read program in Belhaven. Graff is the author of screenplays, stories, essays and poetry, and writes two mystery series. Her creative nonfiction was most recently seen in Southern Women’s Review. She is also co-author of Writing in a Changing World, a primer on writing groups and critique techniques. Visit her at her blog, which has fab weekly book reviews, AuntiEmWrites.

Bonus link: A great guest post by Marni on Motherhoot, about her interesting journey to writing.


About Esri Allbritten

Esri Allbritten lives in Boulder, Colorado with her husband, Angel Joe, her cat, Musette La Plume, and her Chihuahua puppy, Josie O. In addition to sushi, bowling and marimba, Esri enjoys discovering quirky, real-life towns and wreaking fictional havoc in them. She is the author of Chihuahua of the Baskervilles and The Portrait of Doreene Gray (Tripping Magazine mystery series), Jokers & Fools, and (as Esri Rose) Bound to Love Her and Stolen Magic.

Posted on May 23, 2012, in Uncategorized and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 11 Comments.

  1. Good interview.I like it when the titles are explained in detail, makes it nice. I can see that woman at the airport looking at Ms. Graff with a surprised look and saying what she said! It sounds like a book thatI would like to read.

  2. Lee Hershberger

    Loved reading your interview with Marni Graff. I’m a great fan of the Nora Tierney series and in the process of reading The Green Remains right now.

  3. Hi,

    A series of titles based on colors and metaphor, neato! The Scarlet Wench is intriguing.

    Jane

  4. Woot! Firsties. Those sound like fun books. I love books set in Britain. I’m going this summer so I expect to write a story or two set there.

  5. Oops not firsties… dang.

  6. Interesting how you authors come up with ideas and locations. I also like the color theme. I was esp struck by how meticulous you need to be about geographical features, such as confirming a bush near a parking lot, or walking distance down a street. Never occurred to me that when you’re using real places, you’d need to be true to such detail. What did authors do before Google Earth?? :) Anyway, I always enjoy reading books taking place in parts of the world I’ve never been…never heard of Cumbria…am now curious about this lake area of England. Sounds like a neat setting for this story…

    Anna F

  7. Hi Marni and Esri. I love the idea that a children’s book illustrator is under suspicion of murder in your story. It’s not expected, is it? Your comments about Google Earth are helpful and amusing–I’d never thought to use it for research until recently, when I wanted to check out a spot that’s about two miles away, but it was pouring rain! This sounds like a great series, and I love the book covers.

  8. Well I read the first 2 chapters and was completely pulled in. Now I have to get my hands on The Green Remains!

  9. Judith Lourine

    I enjoyed your engaging interview with Marni Graff. It’s interesting to read how authors research their books. I enjoyed reading The Blue Virgin and look forward to reading The Green Remains.

  10. Giordana Segneri

    Thanks for the wonderful interview, Esri! Even having worked with Marni for these two intriguing mystery novels, I didn’t know some of what she reveals in the interview. We’re so excited that The Green Remains is now out in print, and I can’t wait to dig into The Scarlet Wench! So proud of you, Marni!

  11. I have always enjoyed books set in places I’ve never been to…there are so many, by the way. I learn something, and get a glimpse of someplace new. Your interview about settings was right on!

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