Once upon a Crime: Marty Wingate

by Lindsey A.

In October, Oak Harbor Library will present Once upon a Crime, a series of programs featuring local authors of mystery, thriller, and suspense novels. On select Tuesdays, authors will visit the library to talk about their books and the craft of writing mysteries. This week we feature an interview with Marty Wingate, whose British mysteries combine two of her passions: gardening and birding.

Marty is a Seattle-based writer with a love of Britain. In the Potting Shed mysteries, Pru Parke is a middle-aged gardener and American transplant living in England. In the Birds of a Feather series, birder Julia Lanchester runs a tourist office in Suffolk. A devoted gardener, Marty writes for Country Gardens and The American Gardener, and has led garden tours throughout Britain. She’s a member of the Royal Horticultural Society, Mystery Writers of America, Sisters in Crime, and the Crime Writers Association.

Marty was kind enough to share a conversation with Sno-Isle Libraries staff member and mystery enthusiast, Marie B.

Interview with Marty Wingate

Marie: Have you ever based characters on people you know?

Marty: Oh dear, yes. But not so as they would actually recognize themselves – at least, I hope not.

Marie: What (or who) inspires you when creating characters who kill?

Marty: I don’t know who said this first, but mystery authors are always reminding each other that the murderer – in his or her own eyes – is really the hero. So, I start out thinking perhaps any one of the characters could be a killer – could convince him or herself that there may be good reasons for this action.

Marie: Gardening plays a big part in both of your mystery series. Why is that?

Marty: I am a gardener and have written garden books and magazine articles for many years, so there’s no escape! I love drawing in plants and gardening information when writing a Potting Shed mystery (with correct horticultural details!), and bringing in both the natural plant world and cultivated gardens to the Birds of a Feather series.

Marie: You lead garden tours in England. Which is your favorite English garden?

Marty: This is a tough question – and the answer changes often, depending on my passion of the moment. Right now, because Best-Laid Plants is coming out on Oct. 17, I would have to say the Arts-and-Crafts masterpiece Hidcote Manor is my number one. The gardens at Glebe House (in Best-Laid Plants) are, shall we say, inspired by Hidcote (with a nod to Prince Charles’s garden, Highgrove).

Marie: What mystery in your own life could be a plot for a book?

Marty: Some people think it’s a mystery that I can write two books a year! Perhaps there’s a story there – what happens if I missed a deadline, even though the book had been written. It all began when there was a knock at my study door…

Marie: What was the last amazingly good book you read?

Marty: Himself by Jess Kidd. It’s a fantastic sort-of mystery with a bit of otherworldliness to it. It’s set in Ireland, and I lived in Dublin briefly many years ago, so I have an affinity for the country.

Marie: What do you enjoy most about interacting with fans?

Marty: I love hearing about the gardens they’ve visited or the birds they’ve seen, of course. But it always touches an author’s heart to hear fans pick out specific characters or events from a particular book and talk about them as if they are real – because, of course, they are real to us. (I have one reader who knows my characters better than I do!)

Marie: Which authors do you enjoy most, and what do you like about their books?

Marty: I love the Ruth Galloway series by Elly Griffiths, because it’s set in Norfolk (just the next county up from my Birds of a Feather series) and because Ruth is an independent woman with lots of worries and insecurities. The Bruno, Chief of Police series (by Martin Walker) draws me into murder and intrigue, but as the books are set in the Périgord region of France, there’s a lot of food and drink involved. And I’m having great fun with local author Wendy Delaney’s Working Stiffs mystery series.

Marie: What do you do when you’re not writing?

Marty: I take walks and think about characters and story lines! Also, I love to travel – how convenient, as I have to check out all those places in Britain that I write about. When we are in Europe, my husband and I love to travel by train. I also enjoy cooking and baking – I’m always thinking up menus and cakes to write about in my books, and so then I must try out the recipes. (I must say, my husband and my writing group really benefit from this!)

Marie: What was your favorite book as a child, and why?

Marty: Little Women – what female writer didn’t want to be Jo? By the time I was in junior high, I was drawn into Ray Bradbury’s world. I’m not much of a sci-fi fan, but his writing is so much more. The first time I heard him speak I was 13 years old and the last time was just a few years before he died. He was a truly remarkably man who loved words and stories with a passion.

Marie: What is the worst job you ever had?

Marty: In college, I spent a week in training to sell vacuum cleaners. (What was I thinking?) The last day, we were told to try out our spiel on a friend – just to practice. I asked my assistant pastor and his wife. A real salesman went along with me, and as soon as I finished my bit, he immediately went in for the hard sale. I was appalled. I returned him and the vacuum to the company and that ended my career in sales.

Marie: What is your favorite thing about being an author?

Marty: Now, that’s a tough question! I love telling stories, I suppose. I enjoy researching a topic or place or time in history for a particular book I’m writing (my excuse is that writers always need to know more than they put in a book, but really I’m a lifelong student), and I love being able to weave those details into the story of these characters who have come to life.


Below is a list of Marty’s books in our collection and the titles mentioned in the interview.

Meet Marty Wingate at the Oak Harbor Library on Oct. 3 at 2:00 p.m. She will not be selling books, but all future Once upon a Crime author events will have books from The Book Rack, available for purchase and signing.

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One response to “Once upon a Crime: Marty Wingate”

  1. […] This week we feature an interview with bestselling crime writer Robert Dugoni, who will be at the Oak Harbor Library on Oct. 10. This is part of the series Once upon a Crime, in which local authors of mystery, thriller, and suspense novels visit the library on select Tuesdays to talk about their books and the craft of writing mysteries. Last week we shared an interview with Marty Wingate. […]

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