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
KEEPING A SERIES FRESH
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