Marty Wingate writes mysteries with birds, gardens, and a library full of mystery books! The Librarian Always Rings Twice, is the third book in her First Edition Library mysteries, which is the third series of mysteries she has written. The others are the Potting Shed mysteries and the Birds of a Feather mysteries, and they are all wonderful, set in various spots around England, as is her historical novel, Glamour Girls.
It’s my honor to know Marty, to have served with her on the board of the Puget Sound chapter of Sisters in Crime for two years, and to call her a friend.
What is your favorite book (or other source) about the craft of writing? Why?
Marty: That’s a difficult one. I don’t read books that are meant to inspire or tell me how to write a story. I love to listen to writers talk about their craft and give advice on how it should be done, and I will always sit in on author-interviews-author at conferences. I just don’t read the book. I come from a nonfiction background—writing how-to garden articles for newspapers and magazines, and so the books that come immediately to mind are the classic The Elements of Style by Strunk and White and A Writer’s Coach by Jack Hart. I can name one book that influenced me in writing fiction: Don’t Murder Your Mystery by Chris Roerden. Actually, it wasn’t her book—it was attending a workshop of hers just as I was starting to write my first mystery, The Garden Plot.
Sarah: Thank you for once again pushing the boundaries of my original question. Why was I so stuck on books about writing? Of course listening to other writers share about their writing is a great way to learn.
What do you like most about writing a first draft?
Marty: Not writing one? At least, not in the traditional sense. When I begin a story, I start with a few pages and then go back and edit them. Then, I write a bit further and go back and edit that. A progress line of my writing would look like a series of loops—always looping back to edit before pushing forward. By the time I get to the end it’s much more than a first draft, although certainly not yet a final draft. What I like most about my process is that there is enough detail in the manuscript that I often find some inadvertent detail (a description, a bit of backstory, a line of dialogue) that I have written in while editing that turns out to be useful further along the line. Sometimes a key plot point!
Sarah: I really want to try this, looping back, like a backstitch, securing what you have and moving forward again. I always feel like if I’m not moving forward I’m not getting anywhere, but you’re clearly successful with this.
What is your favorite part of revision?
Marty: I love to see the story emerge. Scenes shortened, moved, or deleted; dialogue sharpened; characters defined, redefined or eliminated altogether—those all make the manuscript better.
What book (not about writing) are you reading right now or have you recently finished that you would recommend to others? Why?
Marty: I am reading The Fortnight in September by R. C. Sherriff, which was a bestseller in Britain in 1931. It’s about a family that takes its usual two-week holiday in Bognor Regis (a seaside town). Through multiple viewpoints, used in a subtle way, we see what the time means to each family member. It’s a quiet story, full of detail that puts me in the time and place. I’m enjoying it.
Can you give an example of how you have been kind to someone else recently, in real life or through one of your characters?
Marty: I can’t say anything about one of my characters, because you would suspect something. In real life, I recently put aside what I needed (or was it what I wanted?) to do in order to do nothing but listen. It sounds like an easy thing, but I have a difficult time shifting my attention!
Sarah: I hadn’t even thought of asking this question as potentially leading to spoilers 😎. Listening takes a lot of energy, and is a great kindness.