Sunday, January 12, 2014

Featured Author: Mary Marks

Mary Marks' new novel, Forget Me Knot, is book one in her new series, A Quilting Mystery, published by Kensington. I'm happy to talk to her today as part of her tour with Great Escapes Book Tours.

About the book:

Forget Me Knot is the adventure of Martha Rose, a sassy, sarcastic woman of a certain age and her two quilting friends Lucy and Birdie. The trio discovers the corpse of another quilter and days later the victim’s prize winning quilt is stolen. Martha is enlisted to draw on her knowledge of quilting to decode the secret messages the victim left behind. But the deeper she digs, the closer the killer gets to stopping Martha permanently.

Interview with Mary Marks

Mary, how long have you been writing, and how did you start?

I’ve always enjoyed writing, mostly journaling my private thoughts. After retirement, when I started quilting in earnest, I kept a photographic and written log of all my quilts. I realized this record constituted a sort of diary that I wanted to turn into my life’s story. So I enrolled in memoir writing classes in the UCLA Extension Writers Program.

I was shocked to learn how much I didn’t know about writing. I worked on the memoir for four years, honing my skills. Then I made a weird left turn and took a mystery writing workshop. I had never aspired to writing fiction—-let alone mysteries. But after that class, I was hooked. The next two years were spent in workshops learning to write fiction. The end product of all that work was Forget Me Knot, which will be published approximately ten years after I started my writing journey at UCLA.

How did you come up with the title Forget Me Knot?

It just popped into my head. And since my characters are quilters, I wanted to include a word that referenced sewing, so I changed the word “Not” into “Knot.” Now, all the titles in this series have the word “Knot” in them.

How would you describe your book in five words?

Funny quilty mystery with romance.

How did you create the plot for this book?

Like most of my plots, it created itself as I wrote. I had a bare-bones idea of a story and just fleshed it out as I went along. Many times the characters will tell me where they want the story to go. You have to have a lot of faith in your own intuition and subconscious to write that way.

How do you get to know your characters?

I write a character biography for my main characters. I need to know who their family was, where they came from, what their life was like, preferences and traits before I know how they’re going to react or think. For the minor characters, I just let them start talking or acting in a scene. It doesn’t take long before their true selves show up.

Which character did you most enjoy writing?

I love writing the quirky, humorous characters. But most of all I enjoy Martha Rose. She’s not a perfect human being. She’s sarcastic and funny, has a heightened sense of justice, and is often foolhardy.

What would your main character say about you?

"That’s what I want to be when I grow up."

Are any of your characters inspired by real people?

One of my main characters Lucy Mondello, is modeled after my late sister-in-law. Most of the other characters are composites of people I’ve known. My bad guys are often inspired by real-life. That’s the great thing about writing fiction. You can take villains you know and expose their crimes or kill them off with impunity.

I totally agree! Are you like any of your characters?

There’s a little part of me in all of my characters. Otherwise, how would I know so much about them? But I’m most like Martha Rose except I’ve made more mistakes than she has.

Tell us about your favorite scene in the book.

I have several favorites. But the chapters I had the most fun writing were when Martha is arrested and has to spend the night in jail—-from her horror and disgust to her clever way of surviving.

Who are your favorite authors?

How long can I make this list? In the mystery genre I love Elizabeth George, Martha Grimes, Sue Grafton, Jacqueline Winspear, and Preston & Child’s Pendgergast series. In the cozy mystery genre it would be Janet Evanovitch, Brad Parks, and M.C. Beaton. Other authors I love are Kent Haruf, Rumer Godden, Fannie Flagg, and Jan de Hartog.

You get to decide who would read your audiobook. Who would you choose?

Bette Midler.

Do you have a routine for writing?

Yes. I like long stretches of uninterrupted time to write. I don’t do well with short bursts. Normally I wake up Saturday morning and make a pot of coffee. Then I sit down in my jammies with my laptop. I usually stop by five or six in the evening. One Saturday, I wrote for twelve hours straight, but that was because I had a deadline looming. On Sunday and Monday I’ll repeat the process, winding up at around four in the afternoon. The rest of the week is taken up with other things.

Where’s home for you?

I live where Martha Rose and her friends live, in Encino, a suburb of Los Angeles.

If you could only keep one book, what would it be?

The Bible. It has great drama, mystery, romance, wisdom, and comfort.

Your last meal would be...


LOL! Great answer. Would you rather work in a library or a bookstore?

I worked in the Powell library on the UCLA campus when I was an undergrad. I loved the atmosphere. Would not like the commercial aspect of a bookstore.

You won the lottery. What’s the first thing you would buy?

A full-time cook.

You and me both! What three books have you read recently and would recommend?

The Golem and the Jinni by Helene Wecker
The All-Girl Filling Station’s Last Reunion: A Novel by Fannie Flagg
Auntie Lee’s Delights : A Singapeorean Mystery by Ovidia Yu

What do you like to do when you’re not writing?

My secret guilty pleasure is playing Hidden Object Adventure Games on the computer. The Mystery Case Files series are my favorites.

If you could live anywhere in the world, where would it be?

I’d split my time between Los Angeles and Israel.

What are you working on now?

I’m writing the third novel in the Martha Rose series called Gone But Knot Forgotten. (See what I mean about putting “Knot” in every title?”)

About the author:

Writer Mary Marks was born and raised in Los Angeles and the San Francisco Bay Area. After retirement from UCLA Administration, Marks became an award winning quilter. Writing about her quilts led to writing cozy mysteries. Forget Me Knot is the first in her new series. The author also contributed a chapter to an anthology based on Jewish mysticism, From Ashes to Healing. She has also been published online and in various newsletters. Marks is currently a reviewer of cozy mysteries for The New York Journal of Books.

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