Welcome to Miss Demeanors, Marni!
CONNIE: We are beyond delighted to have you join us. In fact, your debut blog is scheduled for this Wednesday, October 12. I can’t wait to find out what you have to say. I have a few questions—because we all want to know you better! So let’s begin: How were you first drawn to the written word, and when did you know you wanted to be a writer?
MARNI: I learned to read very early thanks to a mother who read to me every day, and in kindergarten was one of only two in my class who knew how to read when we started. The other gal and I were drawn to each other and became best friends, and still are, all these years later, connected by our love of books. I think when you find someone who loves reading as much as you do and who understands your need to always have a book in your hand, there’s a strong connection there, a moment of identification. Yes, I know who you are. So despite a successful nursing career, where I wrote on the side, it was always my desire and intention that someday I would write full time and bring to other readers that same sense of connection I felt to books and readers.
CONNIE: We share a similar story as I, too, had a mother who read to me constantly. That is such a good thing, isn’t it? I used to read to my two sons before bedtime, making it a “privilege” to stay up just a little later because a book just had to be read. Tell us a bit about your family, Marni.
Life Can Take You in Unexpected Directions
MARNI: My husband and I raised three boys, all grown now. When our NY house burned down, we made the decision to move to North Carolina, to a rural area where we’d bought land for a vacation home and built a house along a river. We changed our lives, and my life changed along with it as I moved away from nursing and into writing.
CONNIE: Wow—that was a significant change for your family, and I’m betting you’d do it again. I’m interested in your nursing career. Obviously, that was an important part of your life as well. How did you make the transition to writing?
MARNI: Nursing taught me skills such as organization and research that I was able to apply to writing as I studied different forms. I joined a critique group that formed out of a novel-writing course at The University of Iowa Summer Writing Program. The members all knew how to write and also how to helpfully critique. It’s not enough to tell a writer you didn’t enjoy their story. You need to explain why to be helpful. Along the way, a residency at the Vermont Studio Center led to my being signed by an agent from Curtis Brown, Ltd.
CONNIE: Marni, that’s an incredible story!
MARNI: Yes, you might think so, but several books and years, and many rejection notices later, the editors at that time basically said the same thing to my Agent Who Knows All: we like her stories, and she can write, but our marketing department put the stop on. They had concerns about an unknown writer with a series set in England getting noticed.
CONNIE: Something else we share in common—especially an unknown writer who isn’t British. So where did you go from there?
If At First You Don’t Succeed…
MARNI: Then one of the members of my critique group started her own press. My agent kindly told me to go ahead and publish with this indie press, and I’ve never looked back. I knew I wanted to be a part of it, despite the added work, and have since worked my way up to becoming Managing Editor of Bridle Path Press, where I can shepherd new writers’ books into production, paying it forward, so to speak.
CONNIE: I love that story, especially knowing that you had some pretty amazing encouragement in your writing journey. I’m dying to learn about your connection with the late PD James.
A PD James Connection?
MARNI: I met PD James at her London townhouse when I was studying Gothic Lit one summer at Oxford. The magazine I was writing for at the time, Mystery Review, asked me to conduct interviews with storied crime writers. I was excited to meet a writer who was my contemporary idol. I found PD James charming, with a wry sense of humor. After the interview, she made me coffee in her kitchen, and we sat for two more hours, talking about my planned English mystery series. She was generous with her knowledge, and it was at her insistence that once I’d written a few of my planned English mysteries, I started a second series set in New York, with the protagonist a nurse who worked as a medical consultant for a TV/movie studio, based on my favorite real nursing job.
That eventually led to the Trudy Genova Manhattan Mysteries, and I’m working on the third in that series. We remained friends for fifteen years until her passing. She introduced me becoming to Joyce McLennan, her PA, who is now a beta reader for me. I was honored to be invited to her memorial in London and flew over for that. While there, I met up with two writers who were also under her wing, Nicola Upson and Mandy Morton, who have become close friends and also beta readers now. Their Cornwall cottage will be the setting for the sixth Nora Tierney English Mystery. I like to think that James is the gift that keeps on giving!
CONNIE: Absolutely! I’m green with envy. How many books have you published over the years? Do you have a favorite—or is that like asking a mother which is her favorite child?
Let’s Talk Books!
MARNI: I’ve published seven mysteries to date, five in the English series and two in the Manhattan series. I enjoy alternating the two series as Nora and Trudy are very different, as are the settings, of course, so that keeps me fresh. It’s difficult to choose a favorite as each book when I’ve finished is my favorite, but if I was pressed to make a choice, I’d say The Evening’s Amethyst from the English series is high on my list. It was the first time I’d included a subplot of a cold case, and I’m happy with the way the main plotline and this cold case end up overlapping. It was a challenge to write, but from readers telling me how much they liked it, I think it comes off well.
One Final Question
CONNIE: One final question: what makes you happy—as a person and as a writer?
MARNI: Having a goal you yearn for come to fruition over decades is a blessing. Having a supportive husband and family help, too. Now my days are filled in our rural North Carolina home with walks with our two Aussie Doodles, Seamus and Fiona, and afternoons at my desk writing or researching or playing the What If? game writers play. And I’ve never been happier.
Again, Welcome to Miss Demeanors, Marni!
CONNIE: Thank you for allowing our readers a glimpse into your life. Please say hello to Marni in the comments below–or join the conversation on our Facebook page. And here’s a question: Have you discovered Marni’s books?