Friday, May 19, 2017

Francine Mathews--Death in Nantucket

DEBORAH CROMBIE: One of the (many) blessings attached to writing crime novels for twenty-plus years is the writers you come to admire--and the friends you make--along the way. For me, one of those is Francine Mathews. You may know her as Stephanie Barron, for her wonderful novels featuring Jane Austen as a detective, or for her brilliant and original stand-alone novels. But I came to Francine's books with her first series, featuring Nantucket police detective Merry Folger, and those books have remained in my sacred shelf of favorites ever since.


Luckily for all of us, new readers now have a chance to know Merry, too, and there is a new novel to boot! Here's Francine (my favorite ex-spy) to explain how it came about.


FRANCINE MATHEWS:
WHEN YOU NEED AN ISLAND IN THE WORST WAY

Twenty-five years or so ago, I was working as an intelligence analyst at the CIA. I’d been assigned to Eastern Europe, because the Berlin Wall had recently fallen and the lack of knowledge on the part of the US was staggering. For example, I was supposed to study the region but I knew not a single East European language. I’d been researching Brazil in graduate school when I was hired. But the situation was dire--none of the Iron Curtain apparatchiks we’d been following for years was in power any longer, and none of the old intel assumptions applied. I spent my days researching and drafting psychological profiles of emerging leaders, people who’d been dissidents for years, like Vaclav Havel of Czechoslovakia and Lech Walesa of Poland. It was interesting work, but I suffered from something of a Princess Complex. I hated having to be at my desk from 8 a.m. until 6, regardless of whether anything life-shaking was happening in the world; and I figured out quickly that NOBODY is really capable of nine solid hours of mental effort. Most of us pretend we’re working for at least half of that.

How much more efficient, I thought, if I simply put in a good four hours of work each day? --And did it at my own desk, instead of the Agency’s?

So I proposed the idea to my husband. What if I quit my job, stayed home, and tried to write a bestseller?

He was a little bemused by the suggestion. But he took me seriously enough to offer me a challenge. Don’t burden your dream with the necessity of financial success, he said. That’s too much pressure. Everybody has a good idea for a novel. Very few have an entire book in their heads. See if you can FINISH a story. And if you can—we’ll talk about you quitting.

I mention all this because it catapulted my writing career.

I knew it was a mistake to attempt the Great American Novel straight off the bat. The sort of people who’d taught in my college writing program—Toni Morrison, Joyce Carol Oates—specialized in those, but it seemed a tall order to me. This was essentially an exercise designed to convince my spouse I deserved to work in my pajamas, right? I cast about for a story template, something I could analyze (like an unknown East European leader) and emulate. I hit on my favorite kind of reading: The murder mystery.

I’d been devouring detective stories since I was a kid. I’d been watching them on PBS. I was inspired by authors like P.D. James and Elizabeth George (and later Deborah Crombie) who advanced the puzzle plot into a complex study of the psychological development of characters. I was also impressed by the strong sense of place and social order that certain localities, particularly British-based mysteries, gave to the world these authors created. I began to think seriously about setting interesting people in a distinct landscape and burdening them with violent conflicts that absolutely could not be ignored.

I chose Nantucket Island to live on, for the next nine months or so that my writing project required. Why Nantucket? I had first seen the island at the age of four and had loved the place forever, it seemed. I had spent my seventeenth summer as a nanny exploring the terrain with a three-year-old on the back of my rented bicycle. But I got there from DC all-too-rarely, now. If you have to inhabit a place in your mind on a daily basis and torture its inhabitants, it had better be a place you passionately miss. 



It seemed to me then, and still does today, that small New England villages offer delights similar to those of Agatha Christie’s St. Mary Mead. I would go further and argue that they have the same sterling qualities peculiar to Jane Austen’s universe of “two or three families in a country village.” Intimate observation of character, penetration of motive, and familiarity with ordered traditions—as well as the ways they can be violated—are the gifts of the amateur detective. They work for Emma Woodhouse in Austen’s eponymous novel as well as for Miss Marple in Nemesis.

In my case, however, I chose to make my protagonist a professional: the first female police detective on the Nantucket force, an institution run by her father and grandfather before her. Merry Folger is descended from one of the four founding families of the island, a lineage that dates back to the early 18th century. She knows Nantucket on an instinctual level, but her island is no longer an isolated, windswept and foggy world teetering on the edge of the Continental Shelf. It’s a tourist destination half the year, slowly overwhelmed by the rarified economics of outrageously wealthy Summer People who invade in jets every three seconds during the peak months of July and August. The potential for violent strains in a small community is amplified by the cultural divide between islanders and off-islanders, natives and Summer People. I’m particularly obsessed with the Nantucketers who sustain the island’s police, firemen, schools and basic services—but can barely afford to live there. They feel displaced and usurped and yet vital to a community that is their birthright; and those emotions often express themselves in violence. 



I managed to finish my Spousal Exercise. It had a beginning, a middle, and an end. I gave it tentatively to a few people to read. One of them was my mother-in-law, a newspaper editor with an acquaintance who was a literary agent. Without informing me, she sent it to him—and a few months later, I had a two-book deal.

I quit my job and moved to Colorado.

I eventually wrote four novels in the Merry Folger Nantucket mystery series during the 1990s, before exploring other themes that intrigued me, in standalone espionage and the long-running Jane Austen mysteries I write under the pen name of Stephanie Barron. The Nantucket years were golden. They coincided with the childhoods of my two sons, whom I carried off for summer weeks among the dune grass and the wind. I would spend hours researching such things as fishing fleets and heroin addiction and climate-based beach erosion and the dying scallop industry and the impact of lawn fertilizer on the algae bloom in the Harbor—or occasionally, how FBI forensic psychologists approach serial killers. But in between, I’d buy fresh harpooned swordfish and cook it on the charcoal grill for my sunburned boys while they played baseball in the yard with their dad. It was perfect.

A year or two ago, Soho Crime asked me to consider republishing the entire series, which had gone out of print, and write a new novel in Merry Folger’s life. The books had never been digitized for eBook download, and this was a perfect opportunity. I agreed to the idea, on one condition: That I be allowed to bridge the twenty-year gap that now existed between Merry’s original outings and the current Nantucket reality. That meant I would have to reread and revise the first four novels I’d ever written...twenty-seven novels later.
Friends and relations, there is no more hideous assignment on earth.

Sitting down with that Spousal Experiment for the first time in two decades convinced me it should never have seen the light of day, much less a literary agent or publisher. On the one hand, it was comforting to recognize that I’d learned something in all the years I’d been writing. On the other, it was embarrassing to think that I’d put my name on this thing in the first place. And a blessed relief to be able to edit it again before it was offered to current readers.

I decided to bring the action forward from the 1990s—nobody’s favorite decade—to an achronological present. That way, the new fifth novel—DEATH ON NANTUCKET, due out in hardcover from Soho June 6th—moves seamlessly from the previous book, DEATH IN A COLD HARD LIGHT. Moreover, all kinds of tech advances in the intervening years have transformed police work. Consider that there was no DNA analysis when Merry debuted, much less cell phones or electronic crime databases, and you begin to get the idea.

My favorite thing?
New covers.

The reissued Nantucket books are gorgeous trade paperbacks instead of mass market editions, graced with the images of Cary Hazelgrove, a longtime Nantucket photographer whose work I’ve collected over the years. They offer moody, atmospheric visuals that perfectly capture the whole world I wanted to describe in print, all those years ago.

My husband and I went back to Nantucket last May to research DEATH IN NANTUCKET. In mid-May, the Summer People have not yet arrived. Most of the restaurants aren’t even open. You can easily find a parking space on Main Street. Painters are scaling ladders to brighten the clapboard fronts of the gray-shingled buildings and landscapers are sticking hydrangeas in the ground. We drove an open jeep all over the island, revisiting the places we’d loved with our boys: the turtle-fishing pond in Madaket near the Town Dump; the hedge-lined houses we’d rented on Eagle Lane and Carew Street; the ice cream place in Sconset. For a few days, it was our island again.

In my heart, and Merry Folger’s, it always will be. 



DEBS: Readers who aren't familiar with the Merry Folger books, you are in for such a treat. 


AND we have an extra-special gift for today's commenters--Francine is giving away two complete sets of the five Merry Folger books!!!!

So tell us in the comments if you would like to get to know Merry, and tell us your island of choice for a dream getaway!

Meanwhile, I am dreaming of Nantucket...

Here's more about DEATH IN NANTUCKET.

"Mathews takes readers on a holiday tour with an ocean view, complete with a murder mystery as twisted as the emotions that family can evoke."
   —Publishers Weekly


Spencer Murphy is a national treasure. A famous correspondent during the Vietnam War who escaped captivity in Southeast Asia, he made a fortune off of his books and television appearances. But Spence is growing forgetful with age; he's started to wander and even fails to come home one night. When a body is discovered at Step Above, the sprawling Murphy house near Steps Beach, Nantucket police detective Meredith Folger is called in to investigate.
The timing couldn't be worse: It's the Fourth of July, Merry's planning her wedding to cranberry farmer Peter Mason, and her new police chief is gunning for her job. Merry is inclined to call the death at Step Above a tragic accident . . . until another member of the Murphy clan comes to a brutal end. As Merry grapples with a family of unreliable storytellers—some incapable of recalling the past, and others determined that it never be known—she suspects that the truth may be forever out of reach, trapped in the failing brain of a man whose whole life may be a lie.


 



117 comments:

  1. Goodness, Francine, what an amazing story. And now I need to put the delightful-sounding Nantucket on my list of places I’d like to visit.
    I must admit to being a bit partial to Hawaii, having had the pleasure of vacationing there once. All those lovely flowers . . . .

    I’m curious to know if it was difficult to update the books to include the technological advances in police work without significantly altering the story.
    And since I’ve not had the pleasure of reading your Merry Folger stories, I’m really looking forward to having the opportunity to meet her.

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    1. Joan, I've never been to Hawaii, if you can believe, but I'm scheduled to get there for the first time next February. Looking forward to it immensely.

      Updating the technology was both a boon and a hassle: a boon, because such things as databases that can be immediately consulted (whether at the Coast Guard or through national law enforcement networks) are so much simpler than the old method of faxing the mainland I originally employed! But that also means--as we all know in a 24/7 online world--that the pace of the book changed. Immediate answers mean that my detective's investigation is that much shorter. And yes, with an existing book, that sometimes means major plot reconstruction...
      And by the way, this is only allowing me to respond as Stephanie Barron, for some reason. But it's really Francine!

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  2. Congratulations, Francine with the reprinting of the Merry books. I have not read any of them.

    Nantucket is one place I would like to visit.

    But like Joan, after going to Hawaii a few times, I would have to choose O'ahu as my favourite island. The sun, stunning natural beauty, the food and people make it a magical place to visit.

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  3. Yes, a fascinating story, Francine. I think I would cringe if I reread my first novel, too. I'm writing a new series set in a fictional village on Cape Cod (near the ferry to Nantucket). I might have to have my protagonist cross the water to the island in one of the books - but only after I've read yours. I've only been to Nantucket once, and come to think of it, we rode in an open jeep, too!

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    1. I'm fairly sure everyone who reads things they've written in the past would cringe way on down the line.

      Heck, I was cleaning out some stuff and came across this fledging attempt at a story I wrote in high school. It was so bad, I didn't just throw it away, I shredded it, then burned it.

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    2. Three of my sisters live on the Cape, so I'm there quite often. It's a great choice, Edith.

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  4. So glad the books will be coming out as ebooks. I love being able to get one at 3 AM. For island living, I assume I have all the money I need? I thought of the San Juan Islands at first. Then I thought, why not go big? So my island of choice would be Manhattan.

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  5. I would LOVE to get to know Merry. I know that when I started reading Hank Phillippi Ryan's Charlotte McNally series when it got republished it gave me a whole new set of books to love and I'm sure that would happen with Merry as well.

    As for an island I would love to go to, I would still have to go with Hawaii. Not sure on a particular island there just the entirety of the state. My mom always wanted to visit but never got the chance. So if I did somehow get the chance to go away on a trip, Hawaii would be the choice.

    Congrats on the novels getting reissued and the new addition to the series!

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    1. Thank you, Jay. My mother-in-law grew up on Hawaii, and attended the same prep school as President Obama, so she's partial to the place. I'm looking forward to seeing it with her next year.

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  6. Oh, I love Nantucket! It is where my husband and I met, and it will always be very special to me.
    And I am so taken with your focus and determination… What an inspiration!
    And your revision exercise really made me laugh. What kind of things did you change? Not like cell phones, but in your writing?
    Thanks for this wonderful journey…

    ( when I updated my first series, I remember having to change the preflight speech that the flight attendant gives , and I had to take away everyone's pager! )

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    1. Hank, that's a great question. I discovered that I was dreadfully prone to Purple Prose in my (relative) youth, and the majority of the revision was CUTTING miles of it. I also felt that my protagonist, Meredith, seemed far too tentative, too dependent upon the men in her life, too insecure, too young. In the intervening years I've grown up--and I felt that to appeal to a younger generation, she needed to grow up a bit, too. It was a fascinating window on my former self.

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  7. My kind of books. I cannot wait to read about Merry and her island! A couple of my favorite series takes place on the other island and I have always wanted to know more about Nantucket. It is on my bucket list to someday go there.

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    1. When the first book in this series was published--DEATH IN THE OFF-SEASON--Philip Craig simultaneously published OFFSEASON, set on Martha's Vineyard. I loved his books, and was able to sign with him once in Edgartown at Bickerton & Ripley. He was jovial, kind, and had a huge personality to go with his large fisherman's hands. I mourned him when he died suddenly of, I believe, a heart attack. His series remains one of my favorites.

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    2. I loved his books too and every once in a while when I need a little vacation I'll reread one of his.

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  8. Merry sounds fantastic! And I love going back in time with those beginning books. I hope Francine doesn't feel too much shame in those first stories because people do treasure them, even set in the awful 80s and 90s (oof, those decades are so full of embarrassing details), not just because they are nostalgia for what we once read but because they show us the underpinnings of the explosion of women writing crime, the birth of Sisters in Crime, and show those of us who are in (what we hope is just) the beginning of our writing careers how to grow our skills and story-building chops with the kind of hindsight that only comes looking back so far.

    As for my "dream" getaway - it's the place I visit every few summers, Folly Beach, SC. Just east of Charleston, it's a stretch to walk the whole island but doable; I'm close to a dear friend, Dorothy McFalls; and, in late August when we go, mostly deserted as SC schools are back in session. The drive, though. I-95 is a cruel mistress, indeed. :)

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  9. I have fond memories of teaching in Jamaica, so while it's not the most glamorous, I'd love to spend time there, coconuts and mangos fresh from the trees, swimming in the ocean, listening to reggae. Yes! Everyt'ing irie! <3

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  10. Welcome Francine. I'm the Resident Reader here, and I am fascinated with your story. A real CIA agent! BTW, apparatchik, is a favorite word, which has taken on a new meaning for me lately.

    Favorite island? How odd that this comes up. I have English friends who are "doing" Texas, and they are in Galveston this week. It's fun to see their reaction to a familiar place in my childhood. However, my favorite island is not an island at all but is Bolivar Peninsula, just across the bay from Galveston. We had a beach house there for decades, gone now is a hurricane. If I could only spend one more afternoon there, I'd die happy.

    How wonderful to be able to edit those early books. I just put them on my TBR list, which is higher than I am. With a little bit of luck, perhaps I will be one of the lucky winners. I'm always looking for a new series to fall in love with.

    Ann in Rochester

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    1. My favorite island is Vashon Island, which is off the coast of Seattle, WA.

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    2. I have never been to the Galveston area. But I can imagine the pain of losing a house--and all the ghost memories one carries.

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  11. Thank you, Deb for introducing Francine to this forum. This has been a fascinating back story and I look forward to meeting Merry Folger and getting to know her.
    My favorite island getaway is St. George off the Forgotten Coast of Florida. I enjoy spending time there in the off season when I can walk the beach practically alone or hike through the windswept dunes of the state park discovering artifacts surfaced from the changing shoreline.
    Best success on the revised series.

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    1. I spent a summer as a reporting intern on the Miami Herald, and got to Sanibel Island--but I'm not sure where the Forgotten Coast is!

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  12. I don't know that I have a favorite island. I've lived on the Cape most of my 50+ years, but I've only been to Nantucket once. Crazy, right? I do remember having a great time, in spite of the sunburn and crowds. My mom lives in Eastport, ME, which is technically an island, but now connected to the mainland by causeways. It's a nice place to visit, but I can't say my heart belongs to it, as my mom's does. Barbados was great, and I adore Bermuda, so maybe Bermuda, if you don't count the British Isles.

    I am unfamiliar with your Nantucket series. I'm not sure how I missed it, but I will have to rectify that very soon. I am definitely intrigued!

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    1. If you go back to Nantucket one of these days, try September. It's many people's favorite time on the island.

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    2. Yes, that's a good idea. September is a great time of year on the Cape, also.

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  13. Francine, the fact that you could go back to those first novels after all your success and find something to revise suggests what that agent must have seen all those years ago. I'm looking forward to the latest Merry story--I'm intrigued by the Vietnam vet angle of the story. I remember watching episodes of the tv series 'China Beach'--and crying all the way through. I finally realized that although the politicians had ended the war, the human cost--the human stories--had been left unfinished--the Vietnam War was still with us and it resurfaces time and again. Wishing you the great success with all your work!

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  14. I would love to read about Merry and enjoy her stories. My favorite island to escape to for relaxation and peace is Amelia island.

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  15. Oooo, the Nantucket mysteries sound delicious. I've read one of Francine's books already, under her Stephanie Barron pseudonym, and it was fascinating. I still think about one of the plot twists. I'll be sure to check these out. As for islands, assuming we don't count Great Britain or Ireland, I'm with MaryC on opting for Bermuda. It's a fabulous combination of history, tradition, relative isolation, locals, tourists, grand cathedrals, limited fresh water supply, and mystery roses. Plus, every now and again, it gets hit by a hurricane. The people, scenery, and beaches are lovely, and as an international banking center, I'm sure there's enough greed and nefarious activity to fuel at least one plot. Hmmmm . . . maybe I should write that one myself.

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    1. Gigi, your description of Bermuda is lovely and is making me long to go back to Bermuda. I think we need to go there and write a book together. We just need to find someone to finance the project. LOL.

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    2. One of my relatives used to have a boat in the Newport to Bermuda race, several years running, and a culminating weekend in Bermuda was always the high point of the race's end. I never got to go, but the pictures made me add that island to my bucket list.

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  16. This post was fascinating and wonderful. Merry is delightful and the books would be a treasure to read. A captivating, quiet and most interesting island for me is Vancouver island.

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    1. I agree. Any island in the Pacific Northwest is a keeper. And similar in its weather to Nantucket.

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  17. I would love to get to know Merry and congrats to Francine on the new release! I found the story of Merry's creation very interesting, right down to how the Folger family had been on Nantucket for so long. My island dream getaway would be somewhere warm, maybe in the Pacific? The water always looks so blue!

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    1. People have commented that Nantucket names seem to be associated with coffee. Starbuck is another of the original founding families of the island, along with Folger, and the Macy family that founded the eponymous department store. I think the reason is fairly simple--whaling families traveled the world in trade, and brought home a lot more than just spermaceti and oil. Then, too, several key events collided in the space of two years--kerosene was invented around 1848, driving down the international market for whale oil in lamps, which affected the Nantucket economy; the sand bars at the mouth of the harbor began to silt closed, preventing the deep-drafted whaling ships from entering; and finally, in 1849, gold was discovered in California. A number of whaling ships abandoned Nantucket as their home port and sailed instead for the Pacific Northwest, their crews joining the gold rush or settling in the Seattle area. Some of them must have started trading in coffee....

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  18. What an interesting story! I've read and enjoyed the Jane Austen books and now there is a different series to look forward to. I visited Nantucket a few years ago, something I have wanted to do since childhood. Must have been a book I read. I went alone, spending a few days satisfying my whims and it was as wonderful as i thought it would be. (before tourist season) I'd love to go back. But favorite island? I grew up near the beautiful and uncrowded Thousand Islands on the NY/Canada border and I've been back a few times over the years. We almost planned a vacation there this year and it made me realize just how much I'd like to do that.

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  19. Either the North or South Island of New Zealand is my dream island getaway. I had the good fortune to visit both 10 years ago before my cancer diagnosis, treatment and cancer-free status. The re-issue of Francine's Merry Folger books is perfect timing: an author new to me who includes Nantucket as a character. Looking forward to this series.

    ~Tricia

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  20. I haven't read these, and they sound wonderful. I am looking forward to reading them. I work at your alma mater and hope you come back for Reunions in a couple of weeks.

    I would love to go to Prince Edward Island, it has always sounded like one of the most beautiful places in the world.

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    1. Believe it or not, my son Sam Mathews '17 is graduating this June 6th. And I CAN'T GO. My younger son is graduating the exact same day and time from high school here in Denver. So my husband (a Yalie) and his dad are attending Sam's graduation, and I'm attending Stephen's with his grandmother. Divide and conquer. But my heart will be in Old Nassau.

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  21. This series sounds fantastic! I'm looking forward to reading it.

    I've never been to Nantucket but as a life-long Michigander, I can't help but see parallels to Mackinac Island. It's a summer tourist destination but there are locals who live there all year.

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    1. Do they still prohibit cars on Mackinac?

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  22. What a wonderful experience--a second debut and the opportunity for a redo at the same time. I love Nantucket and Vancouver Island, but probably the U.K. is my favorite island destination--though it's larger than just a seasonal location. Great post. Loved the chronology.

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  23. I shouldn't say this as a Maine resident, but Nantucket is my favorite island, too. I've visited for a writing retreat for a week or two every winter for the past three years, and every year I wish I could stay longer. Nantucket has its own special genius loci, especially in its off-season.

    Rereading and rewriting your first novels sounds like one of the labors of Hercules, Francine, especially considering the pace of change in personal technology. I've had readers quiz me as to why no one in my first book has a cell phone. The answer is, I started writing the thing in 1998 and finished it in 2000, and no one I knew had a mobile phone in that period. Now, of course, we have to consider nearly everyone is carrying a palm-sized computer on their person. Imagine if the great detectives of yore could have simply Googled their questions!

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    1. It's ridiculous to realize the things that no longer are true. For example, I had a blackmail letter in my first novel. A LETTER! I had to change it to an email. Nobody would bother to send a letter from Brazil any longer. The simplest things have changed in the most profound ways, Julia.

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  24. Francine, welcome to Jungle Reds! I have several questions. I read your fictionalized account of JFK in 1939. And this was after I read your Jane Austen mystery novels as Stephanie Barron. Jane Austen and JFK had something in common: they both had Addison's Disease. I wonder if you knew this before writing about Jane Austen and JFK?

    Your Merry Folger books sound intriguing! When I saw the name, I thought of Folger's Coffee.

    How did you come up with the name Folger? I can see Merry because I often saw this name Meredith in Puritan America history.

    And how did you come up with the name Stephanie Barron as your author name? Or did your editor pick that name?

    How far is Nantucket from Martha's Vineyard?

    Are you going to Bouchercon 2017?

    Lots of questions here. Hope you do not mind all of these questions.

    Yes, I noticed that we have DNA, cell phones and other new technological creations since the 1990s. I am grateful to have a cellphone, as a person with profound hearing loss. I can send and receive text on the cell phone. Before cellphones, I had to ask people to make phone calls for me. If I was fortunate to use a teletype to voice service, then I used that.

    I would love to win a set of your Merry Folger books.

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    1. If you have a moment, read my reply about coffee and Nantucket names further up in this thread! It's an excellent question. Yes, I was aware that both JFK and Austen had Addison's Disease, although in the case of Jane it's harder to prove--it's a posthumous diagnosis on the part of modern medical observers, derived from her own description of her illness and its effects. Some analysts believe she might simply have suffered cancer, or even long term arsenic poisoning.

      Stephanie Barron is my middle and maiden name. I chose it when I wrote the first Jane mystery, as a different publisher bought that series than the one that had been publishing the Nantucket books. Eventually, they all ended up at the same place, but I had separate reader constituencies, and maintain the two names. I write my spy novels and Mathews, and any efforts at standalone women's historical fiction as Barron.

      Nantucket is just about ten nautical miles apart from Martha's Vineyard, but over two hours by ferry. A short commuter flight takes about 15 minutes to connect the two. One can see both islands from the air; the Vineyard is much closer to Cape Cod, about 16 nautical miles to Nantucket's 25ish.

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  25. Hi Francine! I, too, am a fan of Nantucket. Looking forward to our book event together June 14 at the Savoy Bookshop & Cafe in Westerly RI (a new outpost of Mystic's the wonderful Bank Square Books). I loved your Stephanie/Jane Austen mysteries.

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    1. We would love to see photos of your book event together in June.

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    2. Isn't that going to be a kick, Hallie? I'm so looking forward to it. My first visit to Westerly. From there I'm heading to the Nantucket Book Festival for three days. And yes--we'll post a selfie!

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  26. I've told Francine how much I envy her having the chance to update these early books. However, I'm not sure the Merry books needed much other than technical updating, as they were VERY good the first time round!! And having read the new book, I now want to go back and reread the first four...

    Francine, do you know if there will be more Merry books?

    As for my own island question, I've never been to Nantucket but think I would adore it. And I've always wanted to go to Bermuda--it sounds the perfect combination of British and tropical. Afternoon tea with beaches:-)

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    1. I've been asked for another Merry book, Deb. Just haven't drafted a proposal, yet. On my To Do list for this month.

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  27. Somehow, I've missed this series, but it sounds like something I would love - a relaxing location filled with murder and mayhem. That's a genre I really do love!

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  28. I read and liked the original novels and was excited to learn she has written another. Would love to win the set!

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  29. This sounds like a fun series. I would love to get acquainted with Merry. If I win a set, I'll review them on LT and GR. As for an island, I've always been fascinated by the history on the Aran Islands. I'm hoping to find a way to visit them in a couple of years.

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    1. Agree. I very much want to see the Isle of Skye and others off the coast of Scotland, as well. I'm betting Debs has been there.

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  30. Hi, Francine! We recently signed together at Cozy Con the Poisoned Pen - it was delightful meeting you! I am in awe of the varied content of your work - Nantucket to Jane Austen to a forthcoming Jennie Churchill (if I remember right?) work. Having spent many vacations on Martha's Vineyard, I am really looking forward to spending time with Merry in Nantucket. Now I must go share the news of this fabulous giveaway!

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    1. It was wonderful spending that day with you in Scottsdale, Jenn--you're such an engaging presenter. As far as Jennie Churchill is concerned, that book was just finished in rough draft--no submission or pub plans as yet--and it's a straight historical novel, not a mystery. Fingers crossed it finds an audience! It's a Barron book.

      If you have a chance to read the Folger books, lemme know what you think. Maybe we'll run into each other at Bouchercon!

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    2. Definitely! I would love to hook up and compare war stories on raising teenagers again - LOL!

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  31. I haven't read these books but they sound like something I would enjoy. From past reading, I've always thought I'd like to visit Nantucket.

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  32. I look forward to reading this series and "spending time on Nantucket". I have only been once but would love to return!

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  33. Can't believe that I have somehow missed reading any of Francine's books. I would love to start with the Merry series; they sound very appealing!

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  34. I would love to see Hawaii someday this sounds amazing I would love to win

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  35. What a cool background, Francine! I realize the settings are quite different, but do you draw on your CIA days in your mysteries?

    I love most islands because they are surrounded by water (the exception probably being Riker's Island!) but my favorite would have to be Fiji and its hundreds of smaller unspoiled islands. The beaches, the people, the reefs and the food are all amazing.

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    1. Ingrid, you probably wouldn't add Three Mile Island to your travel itinerary either. :D

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    2. Fiji is another bucket list entry of mine.
      And yes, Ingrid, the Agency tends to seep into a lot of my writing, I'm afraid. I've written seven standalone spy novels as Mathews, some contemporary, most historical; and in this Merry Folger, there's an element of intrigue involving Laos I couldn't resist dropping into the plot. I think it sprang from the fact that so many great foreign correspondents from the Vietnam era have recently passed away, and a number of them had second homes or retirement homes on Nantucket. (David Halberstam, for instance.) That wove its way into Spence Murphy's story.

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  36. Nantucket sounds like a great place to visit or live the books sound amazing and would love to win the set and get to know the author

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  37. I would love to read these books
    My dream Island is Hawaii!@

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  38. My favorite seaside vacation where I get away from Silicon Valley is called Sea Ranch on the border of Sonoma and Mendocino counties in Northern California. I have been renting a house there at least once a year since 1998. My dream island vacation is, of course, Great Britain. I just completed my bucket list trip there. I would love to read the Merry Folger mysteries and will look for them.

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    1. I spent three years in NoCal and absolutely love the coast. Driving from SF to Bandon, Oregon in July--cannot wait.

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  39. This sounds like a good series. I'm not much of an island person but I'd like to go to Martha's Vineyard someday.

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  40. That was so interesting! I'm landlocked and would love to spend time on any island. Especially Hawaii or Nova Scotia. And I am looking forward to getting to know Merry. 😊
    Dianne

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  41. Would love to explore this "new to me" series. Thanks for the chance to win.

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  42. My dream island would be Jamaiica. It's been many years since I've
    been there but we had such a good time. I know things have changed
    but there would still be lots of good places to stay. This would
    be a new series for me. I'm always looking for new authors and
    the people who populate their stories. So glad your husband and
    MIL were supportive of your decision to quit a "real" job and start
    writing. Best of luck for the future. Thanks for the offer of
    the books.

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    1. Yes, my late mother-in-law, Kay Fanning (former editor of the Christian Science Monitor before her death in 2000) was one of the most supportive women I've ever known, particularly of young writers. She changed my life. I try to mentor when I can, remembering how vital she was at inspiring confidence in me.

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  43. Well, I was going to say any island off the coast of Georgia for my favorite , but now I am thinking that in order for me to truly acquaint myself with Merry, it will have to be Nantucket!!

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  44. I LOVE Nantucket , went there every summer then fall until I moved south My DREAM all my life (still is) is to live on Nantucket all year round , for the rest of my days.
    I would be so excited if I turned out to be the lucky winner

    Debbie Carney (Carnes on FB)

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  45. I grew up on Long Island, particularly the peninsula of Rockaway. Rockaway felt like an island. However, if I were to hit the lottery, I would move to Galveston, TX.

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  46. One of my dream trips is to start in Maine and head south all the way to Key West, taking in Nantucket, the islands off the Carolinas, St Simons Island (actually lived there for a short bit while husband taught at the federal law enforcement academy) and anywhere else that looks interesting. Will it happen? Don't know. I loved Galveston Island as a kid since that is where we went to the beach. Your Jane Austen books are so good that I can't wait to check out Merry Folger.

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    1. That sounds like a trip I could get behind. I own a book that covers all the barrier islands of the Atlantic coast, and so many of them are so isolated...that's the quality that calls to me.

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  47. Nantucket now for sure it sounds awesome!

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  48. I am unfamiliar with this series and look forward to getting to know Merry. St. John had some of the most beautiful waters I've seen. I would really like to go to St. Martin and Nantucket some day. Dmskrug3 at hotmail dot com

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    1. Agree. One of my favorite places on earth is Bitter End, on Virgin Gorda, BVI.

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  49. I am new to the series but Merry sounds very interesting. My favorite island is Martha's Vineyard but I would also like to check out Nantucket. Thanks for the chance. Maceoindo (at)yahoo (dot)com

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  50. I would love to get to know Merry Folger! The only island I've personally been to was Maui (and I loved it!) but I so enjoy reading books set on little islands. It makes me feel like, just for a little while, that I'm a part of the tight knit community and slower, simpler (though not easier) life that seems to accompany island living. 🌴

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  51. I know I'm really late to the party today, but I would love to get to know Merry Folger, too! I especially loved the thinking that led her to try a murder mystery in a small New England town as her first foray into writing. Very shrewd, and obviously, it paid off! Also, I love that you were able to update the novels. If they're as good as Debs says, then it was just a double bonus for us readers to have them updated.

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  52. Nantucket honeymoon, during which we road bikes all over the island...and discovered that the half the roads on the map were sand! I would return in a heartbeat, especially for the daffodil festival. Margaretdotturkevichatgmaildotcom

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  53. This all sounds fabulous.
    I'm sending it to a friend who has summered on the Cape for years.

    No, I don't know this author or her books. Thanks to you, I now do.
    libbydodd at comcast dot net

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  54. The Merry Folger series is still one of my all-time favorite series. I was so sad when the series ended, and I'm looking forward to the new book. Nantucket is on my travel bucket list. My favorite island to visit--any one of the Hawaiian islands. I fell in love with Kauai. Thanks for the chance to win these fabulous books! cking78503(at)aol(dot)com

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  55. I would love to read the series! It sounds wonderful! I have always wanted to go to Hawaii! It's my dream and someday I will get there.

    Tracy Shafer

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  57. When, not if, I win the lottery, I'd love to take a basket making class on Nantucket. My islands of choice are Key West, Victoria Island (British Columbia), Prince Edward island, and Monhegan Island (Maine). Islands I would like to visit are Nantucket, Hawaii, and the Shetland Islands. As far as winning the lottery is concerned, my husband and I always end the day dreaming with "we've already won the lottery of life - good family, good friends, and goid health".
    Last year at my 50th high school reunion, a friend gave my letters that I had written to her while I was at the Univ. of Maine and then while living in Boston. I still haven't read them because of how embarrassed I know I'll be!

    And I'd LOVE to win your books😊

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    1. Are you interested in learning to make lightship baskets, Pam?

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  58. Make that "good health", not goid.

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  59. I would love to get to know Merry more. The Nantucket Island sounds good to me.

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  60. I would really enjoy reading this because I like books that take place in Nantucket. Its my one dream destination spot that I would like to visit that's on my bucket list. Thanks for this chance at winning!

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  61. I read the Merry Folger mysteries back in the 90's and loved them. I'm so excited to hear there is a new book in the series. I would love to visit Newfoundland, since I recently learned that there is a good chance my great-grandmother's family lived there.

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  62. Merry, you are a new author to me and I would love reading your series. My dream island giveaway would be staying at the Grand Hotel on Mackinac Island in Michigan.
    diannekc8(at)gmail(dot)com

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  63. Thrilled to be introduced to a new mystery writer, for me at least. I'd love to visit Nantucket and would love to have this set of books. Looking forward to reading them even if I don't get a set awarded to me.

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  64. This is so neat! So exciting to meet a new author and reads. So refreshing. Post was most intriguing do hope this will be a start. Della at deepotter (at) peoplepc (dot) com

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  65. I would love to get to know Merry better. I would like to visit Hawaii, so that would be my island of choice.
    cecilialyoung@gmail.com

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  66. I just realized that I read a couple of the Merry books but so long ago that they would be new to me now! And of course with the changes they ARE new!

    For many years we've been going to Chincoteague Island in Virginia. It seems like a second home to us, even though we don't necessarily rent the same house from one vacation to the next.

    But I must admit I love so many islands! I love Maui, which I've been to a couple of times, although not in this century! I love Sanibel Island, too, which I haven't seen since 1980. And Nantucket, where I spent ten days just before the season really got started, back in 1976. A beautiful place to ride a bike and have a picnic lunch somewhere along the way.

    Deb Romano

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  67. I have not heard of this author before so I will be looking her up. As for an island I would like to get away to I would have to say Ireland. I have always wanted to visit there. Thank you for the chance to win

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  68. Ok. Lost my comments twice. I'm left to beg. Please. May I read this series. Little Cranberry Island off of Maine is my pick. Thanks.

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  69. It was so interesting to learn that you can update novels to reflect recent technology. I always thought the only corrections that could be made were to correct factual errors, etc. Would be an interesting thread to look at classic books as re-written in 2017. As the author said, the challenges would be immense!

    It's always interesting to have those conversations with folks younger than yourself about things that just aren't around any more. I had to explain to my son why ladies had to "adjust the seams on their stockings" and why you used to have to roll your car windows up and down....

    Although no one in my family would believe it, as I am always cold, I have had a secret desire to visit Antarctica some day. Not in the winter, of course, but I would love to have a chance to just soak up the enormity of the solitude and the expanses of sky and water. I think it would be a great way to remove yourself from the commotion of modern life, at least for a while.

    I have to thank the JRW for continuing to play matchmaker between great mystery writers and readers who are always looking for new additions to their fictional friends and family. I definitely bond with my favorite characters/series and mourn when the series end or an author passes on. The only way to get by is to add new literary friends and keep reading!

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  70. I would love to get to know Merry! My island of choice would be Ireland - I love the music and culture and would like to explore it all in person.

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  71. I am new to this genre and would love to try this book.My island would be Ireland also. love the land and people.

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  72. I loved hearing about your evolution as a writer. It's good to have a supportive family. The plot line for Nantucket sounds fascinating and a page turner. Can't wait to read it!

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  73. I would love to get to know Merry Folger! The Island I love is the little island of Prince Edward Island in Nova Scotia, Canada, home to Anne Gables. Hope Canada can win!!!☺

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  74. Paula Jacobson I haven't read any of this series, but will definitely check them out. If I could, I would like to go to Nova Scotia. It just seems like it would be beautiful.

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