How does a book start for you?
I’m open to any kind of inspiration, whether it be a newspaper article about a man who had a rook as a pet when he was a boy (and thus, Every Trick in the Rook) or the story of yet another Roman ruin being discovered in London (The Garden Plot). I have a degree in drama, and loved finding a place to sprinkle in long-ago memories of A Midsummer Night’s Dreamsummer production into a garden murder mystery (Midsummer Mayhem).
Who in your latest book has surprised you most – and why?
Lady Georgiana Fowling surprised me, because she died four years before the story opens. I thought she would be just wallpaper, but as it turns out, she’s a great character. Another character who surprised me is Mrs. Woolgar, secretary in perpetuumfor the First Edition Society. Only slivers of Mrs. Woolgar’s past emerge in The Bodies in the Library. I find her an intriguing person and readers will discover more about her as the series progresses.
When and/or where is your latest book set and is there a story behind that setting?
The Bodies in the Libraryis book one in my new series, the First Edition Library mysteries. I love the city of Bath and thought setting a series there would be the perfect excuse to go for that all-important on-the-ground research. But I didn’t want to write about Jane Austen—there are other authors better versed in Jane. Instead, I let my mind wander and came up with the idea of using the Golden Age of Mystery as a springboard for stories set today. I don’t actually steal anyone’s plot line, but merely borrow an idea or two (and give copious credit). So, for book one, The Bodies in the Library, I borrow from Agatha Christie. But all else is different—my main character, Hayley Burke, divorced single mother of a college-aged daughter and curator of the First Edition Library, is no Miss Marple. In fact, she’s never read a detective story in her life.
What are you working on now?
I’ve just recently turned in book two in the series, which has a Dorothy L. Sayers thread running through it. Talk about a snappy writer! After all, this is the woman who penned the legendary advertisement “Guinness is good for you” when she worked for Benson’s, an ad agency in Bloomsbury. She drew on her experience as a copywriter for the highly entertaining Lord Peter Wimsey book, Murder Must Advertisein which the victim dies in a fall down a spiral staircase. I considered giving Hayley a monocle in this one, but couldn’t quite fit it in.
Which question didn’t I ask you that I should have?
Do you drink as much tea as your characters?
Ha! I should’ve known that! Thanks, Marty!
USA Today best-selling author Marty Wingate writes three mystery series set in England. The Potting Shed books (Alibi) feature Pru Parke, a middle-aged American gardener transplanted from Texas to England, and the Birds of a Feather series (Alibi) follows Julia Lanchester, bird lover, who runs a tourist office in a Suffolk village. Marty’s newest series—The First Edition Library (Berkley)—presents Hayley Burke, the curator of a collection of books from the Golden Age of Mystery. The Bodies in the Library, book one, will be released October 8, 2019.
Marty prefers on-the-ground research whenever possible, and so she and her husband regularly travel to England and Scotland, where she can be found tracing the steps of her characters, stopping for tea and a slice of Victoria sponge in a café, or enjoying a swift half in a pub.