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Friday, May 18, 2012


Our guest today is Marni Graff, author of the Nora Tierney mystery series. The Blue Virgin, set in Oxford, introduced American writer Nora Tierney who becomes involved in a murder investigation when her best friend is wrongfully accused of murder. The Green Remains follows Nora to the Lake District where she’s awaiting two firsts: the publication of her children’s book and the birth of her child. When she stumbles across a dead body, Nora sets into motion a series of events that will have consequences for herself and those she’s come to love. Learn more about Marni and her books at www.auntiemwrites.wordpress.com. and www.bridlepathpress.com.

Marni is offering copies of both The Blue Virgin and The Green Remains to two of our readers who leave comments this week. -- AP

As an avid mystery reader, I enjoy reading a series where I can watch the growth and changes of the recurring characters. That’s why I decided to do a series when I was developing Nora Tierney and the band of fellows who would reappear as the books progressed.

Developing the main characters meant looking ahead, especially for my gal Nora, to keep the series fresh for readers and the challenges she would face. Giving her complications, of course, would be standard for each novel. But to have a story arc that progresses over several novels, I also had to decide on several larger plot points that would carry over for several years of Nora’s life.

Being an American living in England starts her off immediately with a different background and cultural issues she’s had to learn, including Brit slang she’s still incorporating into her language. But first I started with her “bible,” the back-story of her life that would impact on who she had grown to be, and how threads from that story could be used down the road. I do a bible on my main characters, in more depth for those who reappear, making decisions about each character’s life that may or may not appear on the page, but which will influence the way he or she acts and reacts.

Nora’s father died in her teens, drowned while sailing one night after Nora had turned down his invitation to accompany him in favor of a date. That’s what any teenager would do; yet Nora carries the unreasonable idea that if she’d been with him, she could have saved him.

That guilt affects her future relationships with men in different ways in each book. In the opener, The Blue Virgin, Nora had been engaged to a man working for the Ministry of Defense. Their relationship had soured and she was on the verge of breaking the engagement when Paul’s plane went missing and he and the pilot were declared dead. When she finds out a few weeks later that she’s pregnant, she has to examine her feelings about raising a child alone without a father in the picture.

In the new book, The Green Remains, Nora stumbles upon the corpse of the heir to Clarendon Hall. His ghastly appearance after drowning in his rowing scull can’t help but bring back momentary flashes of the night her father died. Throughout the book, which takes place in her last weeks of pregnancy, Nora struggles with the anxiety she won’t be a fit parent, whatever that definition might be.

Having saddled Nora with a child she will raise alone has given me many challenges that will continue. It kept Nora from being physically active in the second book, and it was a great relief to me to know I could move her around more in the third book I’m working on, The Scarlet Wench. Nora’s mother and stepfather from Connecticut will make an appearance this time around. I’ve also given Nora a stepsister who has been mentioned but who hasn’t  shown up—yet.

Keeping the series fresh also means that Nora will be affected by the modern world and things that occur in it. Although I don’t specify a year, reference to events such as Princess Diana’s death show we are firmly in the twenty-first century. In The Green Remains, Nora uses computer technology to pirate information from a victim’s computer that eventually gives her a clue and leads to a killer. Other characters rely on cell phones, called mobiles in the UK, for communication. As events occur in real time, I will have to decide on whether to incorporate mentioning those in a book or not.

Down the road I see Nora continuing to grow and take different pathways in the roadmap of the life I’m designing for her. I hope my readers will continue to follow her and her choices, as she manages to get herself into and out of trouble.

Thanks for joining us today, Marni! Readers, if you’d like a chance to win copies of both of Marni’s books, post a comment. -- AP


Larissa Reinhart said...

Thanks for sharing! Your books sound wonderful. I love the settings and the backstory clues you've given. Also, a pregnant amateur detective would make tracking down villains more interesting!

I'm writing my first series, the first book is soon to come out and I'm working on the second now. Your tips were very helpful! Thanks so much!

Jenna said...

Keeping a series fresh is one of the hardest things about writing connected books. Especially if you've incorporated a romantic relationship. There's a reason why a romance novel ends with that first commitment between hero and heroine, and we never see them again: married life, or life together, is rarely as exciting as that initial courtship and conflict. Best of luck with your series; sounds like you're off to a good start!

NoraA said...

I totally enjoy stories that take place in the UK. I even own a large number of them by British authors. I'd love to be able to read your books and win a copy. I always wonder how an author can keep coming up with new material without also resorting to cut and paste comments that roll from one book to the next.

Janet C. said...

This sounds like a series I need to check out. I like the idea that there's a backstory and a story arc already in place.

Anonymous said...

They both sound interesting to me! Thanks for sharing with us and will check them out!

Eleanor Sullo said...

Marni, your analysis of your books in Nora TIerney's series is excellent. How very carefully you plan and plot out your stories.
I'm on Book Five of a six-book series featuring older women sleuths (Menopause Murders)and have come to some of the same challenges and conclusions as you have. Thanks for sharing with us.
Ellie Sullo

Marni said...

Thanks to all for your comments! This is one challenge I'm embracing while trying to enjoy the process along the way.

Mollie Bryan said...

I'm definitely going to check your books out. I love your titles and I love the way you think about your sleuth. Did you come up with the titles?

Kathy said...

I prefer to read a series rather than single books. Once I like a character, I want to continue reading about them. Nora sounds like a character I would want to read a about. I'll be adding you to my book lists folder.

Sheila Webster Boneham said...

Another great post, Marni! Useful, too, as I think about my third series book. Thanks!

J K Maze said...

I loved your article and agree with what you say about writing a series. I love mysteries, especially series mysteries and am working on #3 myself. Everything you say is absolutely true. You've also sparked my interest and I am going to read your series.


Jane R said...

I love a series that continues to build with each book. I am constantly in awe of authors who handle the details and continuity so well. To me, that would be one of the most difficult and time-consuming aspects of writing a series. Copious notes and attention to detail would be the key, not to mention a high level of organization. The Nora Tierney mystery series sounds so interesting. It's already on my book list and I'm looking forward to meeting Nora! Thanks for the very interesting post.

Polly said...

I thoroughly enjoyed The Blue Virgin and look forward to the next book in the series. I find some characters in series annoying, but not Nora. Cheers, Marni, on a great series debut.

traveler said...

I enjoyed learning about your compelling series which interests me greatly. Series are always appealing since I can follow the characters. Books written with locales in Britain are my favorites. saubleb(at)gmail(dot)com

petite said...

Your novels sound unique and appealing. Your settings and the storyline is fascinating. This series is one that I must read. British authors have a way with words that is unique.

Marni said...

Thanks to all who left such great comments...makes my fingers itch to keep writing!