Marni Graff is the award-winning author of The Nora Tierney Mysteries, set in England, and The Trudy Genova Manhattan Mysteries. She also co-authored Writing in a Changing World and writes crime book reviews. Learn more about Marni and her books at her website/blog. Marni joins us today to talk about one of her favorite things--stained glass.
As a writer, I play the “what if?” game when devising action or plot points for my two mystery series. So when my husband and I tired of the crowded, hectic, traffic-laden environment that our lovely Long Island had become, we played the same game. What if we changed the way we ran our lives completely? What if we left LI for the nature-filled riverside property we’d bought for a vacation home “down the road?” Maybe we were ready to go down that road sooner than later.
Moving to coastal North Carolina meant building our own home, something I’d never done before. We rented a cottage nearby, excitedly moving from firming up our plans to hiring a builder while we cleared our land on the Intracoastal Waterway site. One thing we knew from early on: we wanted a stained glass window set into the wall of what would be the living room-library area that opened into the rest of the main floor.
Despite having different decorating styles, mine vintage and Edwardian, Doc’s more Art Deco veering toward Modern, we both adore vintage stained glass, and had been collecting pieces for the new house as we went through the run-up to actually breaking ground. We had a double French painted-on-glass beauty from our current home for our bedroom. We found two windows that would be hung by chains in our master bathroom windows and set about restoring their frames as the house framing commenced. One is from a local church, a large cathedral arch in hues of gold with WELCOME picked out across it in large black letters. At night we turn on the light over our tub, and that window, which faces our driveway, greets our company. But that tall ceiling, soaring to fifteen feet in height in the main room, could handle a much larger piece than we’d come across--yet.
One Sunday we were riding around the small town of Chocowinity, a Tuscarora Indian name for “fish of many waters,” about an hour from our land. A friend had told us about an antique shop that was only open on the weekends. The owners visited the UK yearly and brought back a container of vintage furniture and doors, with the occasional piece of stained glass. It sounded right up our alley.
I saw her the moment we parked. The main window was filled with a large piece of Art Nouveau stained glass. Its center held a hand-painted medallion, a woman’s head with the flowing tresses of the era draped in grape vines. The four corners had Nouveau flowers in jeweled colors of cranberry, blue and green. It took my breath away, as did the price tag once we checked inside.
The owner was lovely and we ended up buying an 1880s English armoire and blanket chest that day. I kept returning to the window and drooling. We’d learned she was from Scotland, and yes, we were spot on. She was from the Art Nouveau period, 1890-1910, and Gerald said he was told she was from a Scottish estate that had been built in 1898. By now we were on a first name basis with Gerald and on subsequent visits, bought a vintage drafting table from the 1940s whose top Gerald had inlaid with marble. It doubles as our kitchen island and pastry roll-out station. But I kept eyeing The Scottish Lady, as we called her.
A few months later our anniversary was approaching, and as Doc and I were discussing how we wanted to celebrate, he turned to me. “How would you feel about asking Gerald if we could put The Scottish Lady on layaway and pay her off?”
Building a house takes a while. So did paying off The Scottish Lady, but the two coincided enough that when the builder had scaffolding in place for the beams that stretch across our room and hold the house up, we were able to set The Scottish Lady right into the end wall of the house. She’s fronted on the outside by a plain glass window for protection.
At the golden hours before sunset, sunlight streams through those colors and is reflected on the walls and the books in my library. We’ve lived in The Briary now for thirteen years and The Scottish Lady is still one of my favorite things.
The Scarlet Wench
In the third Nora Tierney Mystery, The Scarlet Wench, American writer Nora awaits the arrival of a traveling theatre troupe, who will stage Noel Coward’s farce, Blithe Spirit at Ramsey Lodge. Her son now six months old, Nora must juggle parenting with helping her friend Simon Ramsey at the lodge. She’s also hoping to further her relationship with the only guest not in the cast: DI Declan Barnes, ostensibly there for a hiking trip. When a series of pranks and accidents escalate to murder, Nora realizes her child is in jeopardy and is determined to help Declan unmask a killer.