Sunday, September 13, 2015

"Oh, Kaye!" interview with Margaret Maron

I have missed you guys!

Sorry to have missed last month, but it's been a very tough summer.  I appreciate Debs asking if she could help by filling in for me last month.  What's better, really, than good friends who know when you need a hug or a helping hand?

And sorry to be here a week late this month, but well - you know, life happens.

And speaking of life.

Have any of you been wondering what Margaret Maron's life might be like "After Deborah?"

Me too!

So, I asked her . . .

I am a lucky gal.

I have some of the most wonderful friends on God's green earth.

So many of them are smart, funny, and so talented they make my head spin.

One is Margaret Maron.

I don't get to see her as often as I'd like, but whenever I do I always walk away feeling motivated and energized, but at the same time - feel as though I've been touched with a calming hand. There's just something magical about Margaret Maron.

And I've come to feel that way about her husband Joe.

Donald and Harley and I have been lucky enough to spend a little time with the two of them in the spot they came back to from New York. Home. Margaret's family farm.

They've built their home, they've added on and they're surrounded by a bounty of nature's beauty. It's lovely. It's peaceful and it reflects a lifestyle of, in Margaret's words, "scruffy comfort." No pristine "House Beautiful" here. In fact, Joe's always saying, "We're not on the tour." Because they've done most of the work themselves, I admire what they've created enormously, and with a bit of awe. Margaret Maron's pretty darn handy when it comes to built-in bookshelves, lemme tell you.

There are no words for me to explain what they've built together, it has to be witnessed. And felt. Felt as you sit with the two of them talking and allowing the conversation to meander and wander wherever it may - perhaps with Margaret getting up to pull out a book to show us a picture of the latest critter they've been patiently watching, a spider spinning a web. Or a tiny egg found under one of their bushes.

Felt as you take a morning stroll around their property and sit quietly in a special grove. Or walk down to smile at the whimsy of flamingos who have found a home here.

And enjoyed as you sit down to one of Margaret's breakfasts. Maybe Granny Knott's Baked Toast.

While we were there visiting recently, I asked Margaret to talk to us a little about herself and about Joe. They're both such private people, I'm not sure, really, that it has occurred to them just how cherished they are by so many. (Yes, Joe - You too!).


This is how it went . . .

Margaret, I am in love with your home and every inch of the grounds and gardens surrounding it.

You have created for yourselves the most perfectly wonderful, lovely, peaceful home imaginable.

I'm imagining some very peaceful days here, but I'd like to hear what a typical day is like.

"Joe's up early every morning and these days I'm usually up by 8. A bit of breakfast, read the paper -- I do the puzzles, he reads the bridge column -- then we check our mail and do the morning chores. We usually wind up walking around outside, nibbling blueberries, figs, grapes, whatever's in season. Then I go to my office and he goes to his studio. We may or may not meet for lunch depending on what we're absorbed in, but we usually do eat supper together. Afterwards we may watch the news, snarl back at the talking heads, or read. He goes in to read or watch TV around 9, I'm more of a night owl. Seldom get to bed before one a.m., but it's been known to happen as I get older."

Now, I'm a nester, and also pretty lazy in addition to being a bit of an introvert. So, honestly, I'd be content to stay right here and never leave. But that's not everyone's style, or hardly anyone's style, really. So - How 'bout you? Any traveling planned? Any trips back to Italy? Will we continue to see you at some of the mystery conventions like Malice and Bouchercon?

"I'm starting to cut back on trips. If I can't get there by train, I really don't want to go. We'll both be at Bouchercon and the next Malice and I'll be visiting a couple of Sisters in Crime Chapters, one in Florida, the other in NYC."

To say that many of your readers were stunned by your recent news about ending your Deborah series is a bit of an understatement.

I'm sure you heard from many. Would you care to share some of that with us?

"Kaye, I've been touched and completely overwhelmed by the incredible outpouring of love for Deborah and her family, especially for her daddy. So many have said it felt like a death in the family to realize there would be no more news from Colleton County, North Carolina. When I first started writing, it seemed as if I were dropping my books down a rabbit hole and no one was reading them. Now I feel as if I could go to any family reunion in the country! But really, it was time to wrap up the series. 20 books! I feel the story of the Knott clan has come full circle, back to the mystery surrounding her mother's cigarette lighter that was mentioned in the very first book and learning how Kezzie, a backwoods moonshiner, wound up married to Sue, a town girl with a smattering of college."

I've been a fan for a long, long time. There's not a bigger Margaret Maron fan alive. I will miss Deborah and the whole Knott clan (especially Kezzie, oh Laws, how I will miss Kezzie!). I missed Sigrid for many years and was thrilled when she returned. Do I understand correctly that your next book will be a Sigrid novel? Will there be more Sigrid novels? Will we, perhaps, see Deborah in a Sigrid novel? 

"Just because I won't be writing another Deborah novel, doesn't mean I'm going to stop writing. She may pop up in a short story. Who knows? In the meantime, yes, I'd started a Sigrid Harald short story that demanded to be a novel, so I've just shrugged my shoulders and am going with it. But no more deadlines. It'll be finished when it's finished. I'm through with imposed pressures."

One of the things that many of us have enjoyed about Deborah is that she has taken us to many spots around the state. She's visited some of my favorite places - the coast, the mountains, the High Point furniture mart (still one of my favorites), and convinced me I was way overdue a visit to Seagrove. I came home from Seagrove with some pieces of pottery that I dearly treasure.

"This aspect has certainly been one of the major pluses about the series for me, too, Kaye. I thought I knew my native state, but after I started writing these books, I realized I was almost as ignorant as an outlander. There's such a rich variety to this strip of geography that stretches from Appalachia, where you were one of my tour guides, to the Outer Banks. Didn't we have fun that day that we prowled through all those different potteries at Seagrove? Donald was so patient. Do you still have that little pink piece?"

Seagrove was wonderful!  I know I would never have discovered some of those little out of the way potteries if you hadn't been willing to take me there.  It was fun meeting so many of your friends.  Let's do it again. That little pink piece - - - you know I adore that piece, you little scamp.

I've loved every minute of our prowling around time - time for you to think about another visit to Boone, maybe?   

I have always loved reading your books for a lot of reasons (have I mentioned how much I love Kezzie?). One of those reasons is your ability to weave some social commentary through your stories with such seamless ease. You've written about race relations, conflict between land developers and conservationists, conflict between land developers and long time locals, illegal immigration, political corruption. I admire you for even being willing to do that. You've taken some chances by doing it, I'm guessing. (It seems to rank up there with "Don't Kill the Cat!"). Often I have heard readers say that they would rather not see that in fiction. I am in the other camp. I think many of the things we're witnessing in our country, certainly in North Carolina, bear being talked about. Need to be discussed. Why not within our novels, if pertinent to the story? And frankly, some of what I read in the papers and see on the news sounds a lot like fiction, but sadly, is not. Do you hear from readers chastising you for including some of these things in your work? Do you respond?

"I don't reply to out-and-out vitriol, Kaye, but yes, I do answer most of my mail. if I get a courteous letter with a difference of opinion, I'm willing to have a dialogue. Some readers seem not to understand that Deborah is a political animal. She has to run for that office and she's very opinionated. She's also liberal to her toenails. I try not to let it get out of hand, but I don't try to hide it either. It seemed dishonest to say I was trying to portray our state, warts and all, and then shy away from race or politics or how our General Assembly seems bent on taking us back to the 1950s. As for killing a cat, I've done it twice and not one single person has ever written me to protest, so maybe it's not as big a deal as we've been led to believe? I wouldn't do it gratuitously; but each time, it was necessary for the plot."

Which brings this to mind - - Do readers sometimes write to you to say "I have this great idea about where Deborah should/could/oughta go next?" Do you respond? Have you ever followed their advice?

"I try to answer all my mail, but I won't read anyone's work in progress (my agent and editor forbid it) and I don't give writing advice beyond "Finish the book." But yes, I wouldn't have known about the High Point Furniture Market had someone not suggested it. Same for the rendition airport in Buzzard Table and for Sand Sharks, which is set in a judges' conference. They invited me to attend, made me an honorary judge and even gave me suggestions for which judge I ought to kill.

Judges and lawyers, too, have also given me great courtroom stories over the years as well as some heartbreaking ones. For instance, in divorce cases, a judge handles the ED - the equitable distribution of marital goods: who gets what. There are various categories, one of which is for marital goods of no value that neither partner wants. In most cases, that's the broken lawn mower, the ratty couch, the ugly set of chipped china. One judge told me about a couple who tried to list their special needs child in that category. Can you imagine?"

I cannot imagine.  Hard to believe anyone could be that despicable - sounds  to me like they deserved to stay married.

Do you, have a future character already in the works? And if so can you tell us a little about what we can expect?

"I used a young Roman girl from 197 AD in a short story, "Yo, Saturnalia!" and I think I'd like to do a set of linked stories from childhood until her early 30s when she is exiled for meddling in affairs too close to the Emperor."

I hope you do this! 

I'm dying to hear what's next for Margaret Maron professionally. Indeed, I think everybody's dying to hear what's next for Margaret Maron! Taking some time off now or jumping right into something new? Will we see more mysteries, or perhaps something a little different?
Do tell!

"I honestly don't know precisely where I'm going, Kaye. I just know that I will continue to write and the short story form allows me to explore different personae. Don't forget: Deborah began as a short story ("Deborah's Judgment") so you can never tell."

Thank you, Margaret - I think I can very safely say that we will all stay tuned to see what's next.


  1. We've missed you, Kaye . . . thanks for the wonderful visit with Margaret (and Joe). How delightful to have a glimpse into what comes next.
    Friends are truly a treasure . . . .

  2. What a wonderful column today. You are back, Kaye, and we got a delightful glimpse into Margaret Maron's life. Thanks.

  3. Glad you're back, Kaye! Love this piece — Margaret and Joe sound amazing.

  4. What a good day! Kaye is back, and she brought Margaret Maron with her!

    Margaret, thanks for the glimpse into your and Joe's piece of heaven on earth. Love the idea of grazing on the edible landscape. One of my dreams.

    Twenty books is a lot, and quite an accomplishment, for anyone, but especially for someone who is still writing other books. Even though it's one of my favorite mystery series, I so appreciate you sharing Deborah and Kezzie with us. Thank you. It must feel good to put a firm period to the end of that sentence, and to know you wrapped it all up in a bow.

  5. This gave me a deep warm glow inside --- and a ray of sunlight against what I see in the world and hear on the TV and radio and read in the papers. Thank you both... I love North Carolina!!!! Thelma Straw in Manhattan

  6. What a sweet visit! Thanks, Kaye -- and thanks Margaret for bringing a bit of class even if it does bring with it the news of no more Deborah novels. Can't wait to read what she comes up with next.

  7. Welcome back, Kaye, and thanks for such a treat--a visit with Margaret Maron. I just finished Deborah's last story--and am thankful I didn't know that as I read it! I have enjoyed every book in this series and always eagerly awaited the next. My roots are in Kentucky--where I still have a sprawling bunch of 'cousins.' My grandfather was a sheriff of his county at one time--and his father was a moonshiner, or so one of my uncles recently confided--so the Knott clan always resonated deeply with me--their love of land and family is something I grew up with. Thanks for the many hours of pleasure, Margaret!

  8. Oh, my goodness, what a complete TREASURE! I mean, both of you.

    This is such a master class in gently taking control. To be surrounded by nature like that makes you realize there's a bigger picture in the universe, it's blueberry searson season, and then it isn't, and that's exactly how it is with the cycles of writing. So Margaret knows Deborah is just where she's supposed to be. I love how she's saying she's not gong too pressured any more. Wow--she's earned it. And she is such a n inspiration.

    YOu all know Margaret's being honored at Bouchercon, so that'll be a wonderful time for us all to gather and give an extended standing ovation.

  9. Ah the words of wisdom for today: . . . a lifestyle of, in Margaret's words, "scruffy comfort."
    “ . . . no more deadlines. It'll be finished when it's finished. I'm through with imposed pressures."
    Perfect! Sad as I am to have a beloved series end, I applaud the wisdom of writing a satisfying close to the saga. There's a contented sigh, an all is well feeling. If short bits surface later, they can be a bonus, a special treat. Hugs and thank you. <3

  10. I'm not sure how this has happened given my fondness for both North Carolina and mysteries set there, but I've yet to read a Deborah Knott novel! So thank you both Kaye and Margaret for bringing this serious oversight to my attention. And, brava, Margaret on being through with "imposed pressures." Something for all of us to aspire to.

    Off to go get the first in the series.



  11. Hi, guys!!

    Thanks so much for the nice welcome back. Sending you each a hug.

    Now how did I know you would all love a visit from Margaret?! Who doesn't love Margaret Maron?

    Tricia - do pick up Margaret's series. If you have a fondness for NC and for mysteries, I can guarantee you are in for a treat. I would recommend reading them in order. Especially the later ones. But reading them in order gives you a good feel for how perfectly Margaret writes character development. And please let me know how you like the series.

    I'm also a huge fan of the series featuring Sigrid.

  12. Hi Kaye, welcome back, hope life is smoothing out for you...

    Love Margaret Maron and this interview, thank you for bringing it to us. It's nice to hear her talk about cutting back on imposed deadlines and travel--that house and writing life sound as though they really feed the spirit!

  13. Thanks for sharing this interview with us Kaye. I love Margaret and I'm so happy to hear she'll continue to write and perhaps there's another Deborah story out there ready to be told, when the time comes.

  14. Kaye, so good to see you back here for your monthly post. I always look forward to that first Sunday in the month (or today is close enough). Every year, I use January as my series catch-up month, and this coming January, I have Margaret Maron scheduled for the series I've been wanting to read forever and haven't gotten to yet. I do plan on reading The Bootlegger's Daughter before Bouchercon so that I will at least have one book before meeting this super star author.

    Margaret, I know I have so much great reading to look forward to with your series. I'm impressed that you felt the series had run its course and decided to end it. I'm sure that fans would have kept gobbling it up for many books to come, but you made an artistic decision about quality, and I so respect you for that. Of course, when I get started on the books and get to #20, I might not be so inclined to agree with its ending. Your beautiful home nestled in nature seems like a little bit of heaven. I love the flamingo herd. Hahaha! I can tell you are a gal after my own heart. Enjoy your paradise and the release of pressure from deadlines.

  15. Hi Kaye, dear! So happy to see you back. You have been much in our thoughts.

    And what a treat to have Margaret Maron and get a glimpse of her life. I must catch up on the Deborah books.

    And I must say that right now writing a book that "will be done when it's done" sounds like heaven:-)

  16. So glad you're back Kaye. I have enjoyed the Deborah Knott stories for years. Love her family and friends and their antics. I so enjoyed following the Deborah-Dwight thread through the years and seeing where it went. Hopefully we will get some more short stories to read.

  17. One of the things that you mentioned is one of my favorite things about this series: it doesn't back off from depicting and commenting just a bit on what's going on in our wonderful state. Taking us back to the fifties is right, and showing it here is a great way to call it to people's attention. Obviously the series has many other virtues too, but the willingness to comment politically is all too rare and I really appreciate it.

  18. What a wonderful interview - so great on both ends, with Kaye and Margaret having a chat!
    I've been a bit star struck knowing that Margaret is going to moderate my panel at Bouchercon in a few weeks and after reading this, I feel like I have a sense of who she is as a person - versus simply knowing her as a huge talent - and see that her personality is as wonderful as her writing. can't wait to meet her.
    Thanks for doing such a great job, Kaye!

  19. I take one day away from all things on-line and what do you do? You post an interview with quite possibly my all-time favorite mystery writer!

    I respect and even admire Margaret's choice and her instinct to pull back from external deadlines and pressures, but I am sure going to miss my annual visit with the Knott family. They are like out of state relatives I don't get to see regularly but I sure enjoy the visits. I'm still clinging to the hope that Margaret will miss them, too, and end up providing some short story insights into the progress of their lives.

  20. I'm really hoping that I will be able to meet Margaret at Bouchercon!

  21. How about a completely new character :)