Full Circle by Marni Graff

George Eliot said: “It is never too late to be what you might have been,” and I am living proof of that.

I’ve been in love with books since learning to read before kindergarten, thanks to a mother who read to me in a big green chair, sounding out Mother Goose tales until I began to understand the words. Hooked on reading, I started writing poetry in junior high and while I ended up in nursing school, I wrote articles for a nursing journal in addition to my day job and took evening classes for the writing profession I swore I would have one day. Others took summer vacations at the beach; I studied screenplay at NYU, and fiction at the University of Iowa Summer Writing Festival, and wrote things that will never see the light of day.

The years sped past. I published an essay in an anthology, and multiple poems. In middle age, my goal became to write a novel of what I enjoyed reading most: murder mysteries.

Reading mysteries voraciously educated me in the conventions of the genre, noting why my favorite authors kept me anticipating their next novel. I decided a strong sense of setting was important, as was digging into the psychology of the main characters. People are complicated. My characters would face the same heartaches and decisions in life that I did.

I managed to convince the publisher of Mystery Review magazine that I was a wealth of information on mysteries, and should do interviews. For the next seven years, as my nursing career began to wind down, I interviewed my favorite authors. Picking the brains of writers whose work I read helped me to formulate my own writing style. I learned from each author, meeting many in person, among them Val Mc Dermid, Ian Rankin, and Deborah Crombie.

When I finally wrote my first mystery, set in Manhattan, it revolved around a retired detective assigned to guard valuable relics on display at the Frick Museum. I was also finishing a degree in English at St. Joseph’s college. The manuscript had just been completed when our home burned down. Our precious memories were lost, as well as our pets, and all of my writings to date.

The next year passed in a blur as our family moved to North Carolina. I wrote columns for the local newspaper, titled “Southern Exposure,” about a Yankee settling in the south. I decided not to resurrect that New York mystery, but decided to write a series set in England.

In 2000, I was invited to Oxford University to study literature. I jumped at the chance to spend three weeks in that hallowed city where I set my first Nora Tierney English Mysteries. While there, Mystery Scene arranged an interview with my favorite mystery writer, P. D. James. The gracious octogenarian, always my idol, impressed me and encouraged me to consider eventually writing a second series, one about a nurse who worked as a medical consultant for a movie studio. She insisted that my favorite real-life nursing position was one readers would enjoy learning about. After writing several of the Nora Tierney’s, I did just that.

The Trudy Genova Manhattan Mysteries were born out of that initial meeting, with Trudy having a nose for murder while she works as a medical consultant for a Manhattan movie studio. Once James became my mentor, we remained friends for fifteen years until her death, which is why the first Trudy book, Death Unscripted, is dedicated to her.

And now there’s a second, Death at the Dakota. Set at the home to millionaires and celebrities, remembered as the place where John Lennon died, Trudy’s new case runs alongside that of her boyfriend, NYPD detective Ned O’Malley. In reality, The Dakota doesn’t allow filming in its interior, but in Trudy’s world, they do. Two victims and two murderers, with two cases to solve.

I finally have a mystery series set in New York. I like to picture James talking to St. Peter, explaining that this series is all down to her.


Death at the Dakota, a Trudy Genova Manhattan Mystery, is available at bridlepathpress.com, on Amazon in paperback and Kindle, and this fall on Audible. Marni Graff is also writes the award-winning Nora Tierney English Mysteries, and a crime review blog, www.auntiemwrites.com. She is a member of Sisters in Crime and of the International Association of Crime Writers. Graff lives along a NC river with her husband and two Aussie Doodles.

Marni Graff

@GraffMarni   www.auntiemwrites.com

The Trudy Genova Manhattan Mysteries:

Death at the Dakota Book 2

Death Unscripted Book 1

 Finalist: IAN Mystery Award; Shortlisted: Mystery and Mayhem, Chanticleer Book Reviews

The Nora Tierney English Mysteries:

The Golden Hour Book 4: Shortlisted: Mystery and Mayhem Award, Chanticleer Book Reviews

The Blue Virgin: Book 1 WINNER: Classic British Cozy, Chanticleer Book Reviews
The Green Remains: Book 2 WINNER: Classic British Cozy,  Chanticleer Book Reviews

The Scarlet Wench: Book 3 Shortlisted: Best Mystery, Chanticleer Book Reviews


  1. I have always loved the Dakota for its history and of course Jack Finney’s Time and Again. I am so looking forward to reading Death at the Dakota and meeting Trudy! Wonderful story of following your heart and dreams, Marni. And following it all up with a big dose of creative fortitude. Thanks so much for sharing your story with us~

  2. Thanks so much for sharing your story. How I envy you meeting P.D. James. I remember reading An Unsuitable Job for a Woman and being blown away. Can’t wait to read your new book! Susan

    1. Susan, i was so fortunate to know her—she was an amazing woman and had a grand sense of humor. Her notes for the Anglican Church Council, where she served for many years, were in her file cabinet under “God!”

      1. I love even her filing system! Marni, thanks so much for sharing your writing life with us. It really is inspirational. And just what we need to hear during a week when I’m focusing on fear in writing on the blog.

  3. What an inspiring story! I’m with Susan on the envy bit. She is one of my all-time favorites. So loking forward to reading your next book!

  4. Love hearing about this Marni! (Except for the house fire, traumatic for so many reasons.) Your story should inspire many writers to jump in ‘at any time.’ And hey….. great picture of us at Malice in the latest SinC magazine (well, great of you, I think I needed to wear more make up!)

  5. We are both late bloomers, Marni! Thanks for sharing your amazing journey. I cannot imagine losing everything in a fire. I credit you with courage and perseverance. And your interview with P. D. James! I must look that one up. #impressed #tinybitjealous

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