Monday, November 16, 2015

An Interview with Nancy Martin

By Pamela James

MM: Nancy, give us the backstory on why, when and how you became a mystery author? 

After college, I became a junior high English teacher for a while, but quickly realized I wasn't cut out for teaching.  (My hat is off to teachers! What a difficult job. I'm much better on my own. Wearing yoga pants.) So I used my maternity leave to try to make it as a writer, and luckily that effort paid off. I started out writing romance novels, but since mysteries are my first reading love, I gradually turned away from sex and started killing people. My dad was a lawyer and my mother was an avid mystery reader, so when I was growing up our dinner conversations were always a little strange.  I'm pleased to report I brought my kids up the same way. Some of my best story ideas have come from my family. Like using a polo mallet to kill somebody.

MM: Where is your favorite place to write?

I wish I could write in a trendy coffee shop or even on a city bus while traveling to a cool day job. But I like quiet, so write in a recliner in my living room. When my attention wanders, I tend to think about re-decorating.

MM: Take us thru a typical writing day?

I should skip this question.  There's no way to make my work day interesting. I go to the gym. I come home to shower and write. My husband comes home at six, when I usually quit. In the evenings I usually read. Sometimes I have lunch with writer friends, which is always a welcome break---and a hoot. I call my mother at 5pm. But to someone looking in, my life probably looks as entertaining as drying paint.

MM: Tell us about where you live? Be our tour guide but the twist for you is tell us thru the eyes of your protagonist? 

Nancy lives in a brick prairie-style house that's 100 years old, with stained glass windows, a temperamental fireplace, creaky hardwood floors and a collection of very pretty plein air landscape paintings on all the walls. But the main thing? There are books everywhere. On shelves, tables, the floor, in baskets, piled beside all the beds. The house is drowning in books!

MM: If you could sit down with five other mystery authors (dead or alive), what would you want to learn from them? What will you discuss with the authors? Would you have a meal, just drinks, host a dinner party or maybe just have a order in relaxed conversation night ? 

Oh, I love dinner parties! We grill steaks or roast a fish, open some bottles of wine and let the conversation roll. If I could choose five mystery authors, I'd pick Agatha Christie, of course (because I want to know what really happened when she disappeared, but also because she came up with the best story twists. How did she do that?)  And Mary Higgins Clark (because she's a great raconteur.) I'd love to meet Mary Stewart, too, who probably inspired me to become a writer, and her way with words was wonderful. My token male might be Lawrence Sanders, who was brilliant with dialogue, and he wrote several series, so he was versatile.  And my last choice would be a current writer friend of mine who's very witty, very smart, but also kind and clever, and I know she'd be a good addition to the table.  (I'm not mentioning her name.  Let's see if she figures it out!)

MM: What are your future writing goals? 

My primary goal is to continue making a living at writing. And I want to keep myself engaged and entertained by whatever I produce. I figure my duty as a writer is foremost to entertain. And I must entertain myself first.

MM: Give us an example of when writing advice worked for you?  

When I was struggling with my first book, my brother-in-law was very helpful. He was a non-fic author and taught at the Columbia School of Journalism. I kept going back to the beginning to re-write and fix all my problems, which meant I wasn't making much forward progress. He urged me to keep writing until I reached the end.  He said I could always fix problems later.  Getting the first draft done was key. He was so right!

MM: Okay fun questions time: What is your favorite song, meal, dessert, place to vacation, top of the list on a place you want to visit? 

Favorite song? Blackbird, of course! (I was listening to the song when I was creating the Blackbird Sisters Mysteries, and a lightbulb went off in my head. The name fit perfectly!) Meal? Anything as long as my kids and grandkids sit at the table. Dessert? Blackberry pie. Place to vacation? Somewhere with a lounge chair and an umbrella, where my husband and I can read.  And maybe snorkle.  Place to visit? My husband and I have started a bucket list, and Pompeii is high on that list. But right now we spend our travel budget on visiting grandkids.  We figure they'll enjoy us until they're about ten, when their own lives kick in. So we're making the most of these years. 

MM: Tell us about your series and definitely your latest book? 

I Have a totally new book coming out in November----MISS RUFFLES INHERITS EVERYTHING isn't part of the Blackbird Sisters Mysteries (which are about a trio of Old Money heiresses in Philadelphia, and the books include vintage clothing and high society mayhem, not to mention a hot Mafia boyfriend.) MISS RUFFLES is a very different--a cozy set in Texas, where my daughter moved. I have come to love Texas---it's so crazy and huge and different from where I live in Pennsylvania! The story is about Honeybelle Hensley, a flamboyant wealthy woman who leaves her forture to her dog.  Which makes the whole town of Mule Stop, Texas, furious. Then the dog gets kidnapped. And Honeybelle's dogsitter, Ohio-born Sunny McKillip, springs into action to find Miss Ruffles. I think readers are going to like Sunny's impressions of Texas as she struggles to understand the the place and the people. The chapter headings were especially fun for me.  I took famous quotes about Texas and the west, and I bet they'll make you laugh. A sign in a boarding house that says, "No boots in the bathtub," for example. MISS RUFFLES has been optioned for TV, so my fingers are crossed they'll be able to cast my various unique characters!

MM: Do you have any television, Netflix series etc...that you binge watch or never miss the show/s?

I never missed Downton Abbey, and now I watch the Poldark series. But I'm a big fan of Frontline and Charlie Rose, too. Not to mention Project Runway and just about anything on HGTV. Oh, and professional bull-riding. (There are lots of reasons why I wrote MISS RUFFLES INHERITS EVERYTHING.) No Game of Thrones for me, sorry to say! I can't stand the gore.

MM: Is there some you would like thank for all they have contributed to your success as an author? Maybe a teacher, family, friend or other people? 

The smartest person I know is my mother. If I have an obscure question about history or culture or politics or what happened when.....I know I can ask her. She's also read just about every mystery ever written, so she's great at plot. I can call her and say, "So I need to kill a grumpy old man. How would I do it?" And in five minutes, she can give me ten ideas. Okay, it's a little weird that I talk about killing people with my mother, but honestly, people talk to her on airplanes and pretty soon they're crying on her shoulder. So she's versatile. And only slightly the inspiration for Honeybelle Hensley.

MM: What do your characters know about you that we the readers do not know about you?  

I write the story first.  Then I go back and make it funny.

MM: Plain and simple what is the one word that describes you? 


MM: Now leave us with the one word that describes your protagonist? 

Sunny McKillip is tender-hearted. Is that one word or two?


  1. Nancy - I look forward to Miss Ruffles!

  2. Just picked up my signed copy of Miss Ruffles from the Poisoned Pen and can't wait to read it! It may be one of the few actual books I take with me on my cruise next week, since I'm bringing my e-reader. I'll be reading and snorkeling a lot on this cruise!! Have a great Thanksgiving!

    1. Oh, enjoy the cruise! And especially the snorkeling. Isn't Poisoned Pen fantastic? Such nice people.

  3. I'm looking forward to this book, and trying to guess to which of your witty, kind friends you are referring. Hugs. <3

  4. This is a wonderful interview. I can't wait to read about Miss Ruffles. I also want to know who your witty friend might be. LOL


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