Hello readers, I’m thrilled to post this interview with author Dr. Noelle Granger, professor emerita at UNC-Chapel Hill’s Department of Cell and Developmental Biology. This former dean at the UNC School of Medicine published her first mystery novel, Death in a Red Canvas Chair and now Death in a Dacron Sail has just been published. Before the release of her first book two years ago, Noelle’s only connection to fiction was through Silence of the Lambs when she was a technical advisor for the 1991 film. Noelle credits her success to her writing critique group and her blog—read on!
Alice: Where did the idea come from for Death in a Dacron Sail? I love your title, especially since I used to sail on racing boats in Charleston, South Carolina.
Noelle: On a road trip to Atlanta with my husband! We were chatting about my writing a second book and were chewing over Maine themes. We got to lobster traps and I thought, what if Rhe [the main character] found a finger in one of them? I needed the body belonging to the finger relatively intact when it was found and figured wrapping it in a sail would be a good way to go. The sail on the cover is from a boat I own with a friend, and that’s my daughter’s foot sticking out. We had great fun that cold day, binding her in a blanket before rolling her in the sail and taking off her shoe and sock!
A: What sets you apart from other authors writing in the mystery genre?
Noelle: There are so many good mystery writers out there! Perhaps the combination of a small coastal town and a woman sleuth, who happens to be a wife, mother and nurse (so I can bring in my anatomical and medical knowledge).
A: What’s your secret to making the characters in your books come to life?
N: I’d like to think I bring them to life because I see myself interacting with them, living in Pequod Harbor, Maine, and being in the middle of things. I’ve felt like I was leaving home when I finished writing each book.
Rhe is a bundle of contrasts—caring wife and mother but also a woman who thrives on the adrenaline of investigation and the chase, even when that chase puts her at risk. She’s definitely a confident Type A personality, and has a tendency to leap before she looks. This is what drives the tension with her husband, Will, and to a certain degree with her brother-in-law, Sam.
N: The first book I wrote in six months. That was when I didn’t know how to write anything other than scientific papers and grants. I just poured it out. Then I joined the Triangle Writers Group, specifically a critique group known as the Early Birds, and that group patiently taught me how to move from a scientific writer to a fiction writer. It was about four years before I felt Death in a Red Canvas Chair was ready to be published. The second book took a little longer, because I stopped along the way to do research. Once a researcher, always a researcher! The polishing took less time.
A: What’s the hardest part about writing mysteries?
N: For me, trying to manage the pace of the book. I want it to be exciting, but I can’t have an adrenalin-filled rush in each chapter. I need time to develop the characters and the relationships between the characters, introduce some humor, drop in the information from my research and background, and create new characters.
A: What are a few pieces of advice you would give a new writer?
N: This is the advice given to me when I was a newbie. First and foremost, join a critique group. You need to have other people view your writing with a critical eye. Your group will also give you wonderful ideas for your short stories, novels, screen plays etc. Be willing to take criticism. You may not always like it, but your writing will be better for it. Second. start a blog. This gives you a reason to write regularly, and you can write about anything. I post book reviews, memoir, history and short stories.
A: Besides writing, what other talents or hobbies do you have?
Sailing and swimming—I swim outside nearly every day between April and October. I guess I have to be in or on water to feel contented. Either that or I was a mermaid in a previous life. There are parts of my academic career that have continued: I am Chair of the North Carolina State Commission of Anatomy and Program Secretary for the Association of Clinical Anatomists, at least for a few more months. I have some undergraduate students at UNC who want to go to medical school, and I enjoy mentoring them. Other, more usual things: blogging, knitting, cooking. I make a great minestrone soup and for the gluten-free, black bean brownies!
Noelle Granger grew up in Plymouth, Massachusetts, in a century-old house facing the sea. Her father’s side of the family were early settlers in Maine, and since they were Irish, probably immigrated there during the potato famine in the mid-1800s. Her childhood summers spent in Maine led to the creation of Pequod, Maine, the setting for her novels.
She is a retired professor emerita at UNC-Chapel Hill School of Medicine, where she was a researcher and also a teacher of anatomy to undergraduates, medical students and residents for 30 years.
In addition to Death in a Red Canvas Chair, Noelle has published in the Deep South Magazine, Sea Level Magazine, Coastal Living and the Bella Online Literary Review. Her third Rhe Brewster mystery is on the way. More of Noelle’s work can be read on her blog and you can visit her via Facebook N.A. Granger The Rhe Brewster Mysteries or on Twitter via @RheBrewster.
She lives with her husband in Chapel Hill, and spends a large part of every summer in Maine.
About Death in a Dacron Sail: A Rhe Brewster Mystery
On an icy February morning, Rhe Brewster, an emergency room nurse with a nose for investigation, is called to a dock in the harbor of the small coastal town of Pequod, Maine. A consultant to the Pequod Police Department, Rhe is responding to a discovery by one of the local lobstermen: a finger caught in one of his traps. The subsequent finding of the body of a young girl, wrapped in a sail and without a finger, sends the investigation into high gear and reveals the existence of three other missing girls of the same age, plus a childhood friend of Rhe’s. Battered by increasingly vitriolic objections from her husband, the pregnant Rhe continues her search, dealing with unexpected obstacles and ultimately facing the challenge of crossing an enormous frozen bog to save herself. Will she survive? Is the kidnapper someone she knows? In Death in a Dacron Sail, the second book in the Rhe Brewster Mystery Series, Rhe’s nerves and endurance are put to the test as the kidnapper’s action hits closer to home.
For more reading links about Noelle Granger’s books, click HERE