Mary Marks is an award-winning quilter and author. She’s created over one hundred quilts and has just released her fifth book in the Martha Rose Quilting series, Knot What You Think. With a love for quilting and writing, what could be a better combination than creating quilts and murder on the page?
A late start
“I spent the first years of my retirement from an administrative job making quilts,” Marks said. “Lots of them. Then I got bored. So for a change of pace, I took writing classes at UCLA. My first book, Forget Me Knot, was published when I was 70. I’m now 74 and along the way I’ve won awards and have been on the Best Seller’s list. I’m quite astonished by this success so late in life, but also very grateful. I’m living proof it’s never too late to try something new and follow a dream.”
Facing challenges head on
Marks added, “Like Martha, I also suffer from fibromyalgia, and some days the chronic pain gets the best of me. But I still sit down and write because, like Martha, I refuse to be a victim.”
She also said she’s saddened by developments in our society. “We’re so polarized these days, we’ve abandoned the common decency and civility I was taught growing up in the 50s. We’re missing the ability to listen to those who think or live differently than we do. We’ve lost the ability to laugh at ourselves. So I try to draw my characters as whole people. The good guys have foibles and the villains don’t always start out with evil intent. I find this makes for more interesting reading and provides me with lots of material for laughter.”
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While Marks doesn’t set out to write about issues, they always seem to seep into her writing. She said, “The protagonist in my stories is older, overweight, disabled, Jewish and a woman. She already has five things going against her. Everyday life for Martha can present both physical and social challenges impossible to ignore. But she’s both smart and assertive and confronts those trials head on. Martha is too sassy to be a victim. I inject a lot of humor and quirky characters to keep it light.”
Knot What You Think — the plot thickens
Marks would be classified as a pantser, a writer who doesn’t create a detailed plot and lets her characters run the show. “The story emerges from some hidden place in my head, and I give them the lead, because my characters often have a better grasp of what needs to happen than I do.” As with many pantsers, Marks said she’s surprised when the story comes together neatly in the end.
One character in Knot What You Think is Jazz Fletcher, a successful men’s fashion designer with a boutique in West Hollywood. He and his little Maltese Zsa Zsa were so popular in the previous book that Marks brought back in a starring role. She felt the best way to do this was to put Jazz in danger of being arrested and charged with murder.
“Martha is a loyal friend with a sensitive radar for injustice,” Marks said. “When her friend is falsely accused of murder, she plunges head first into an investigation to clear his name. Along the way, they break into the victim’s house in the dead of night, visit a psychic, attend a séance, and interview an aging female impersonator.
“She also wrestles with an active love life, juggling two men who are rivals for her affections. Her 80-year-old Uncle Isaac wants her to marry one of them. He reminds her to ‘Take all the time you need to decide, but hurry up. You’re not getting any younger.’ However, Martha can’t seem to find the courage to get past her trust issues and make a commitment.”
Will there be more quilts?
“I don’t sew anymore because writing uses most of my creative juices. But when I was quilting, I made blankets for all my friends and loved ones. I’d spend dozens of hours hand stitching and praying for that person. I was told many times, ‘I don’t know what it is, but I just sleep better under your quilt.’ That was so deeply satisfying.”
Marks does have one quilting project she’s working on. “Recently, a close quilting friend of mine died. Her daughter handed me an unfinished quilt her mother had been making for her when she passed away. The daughter said her mother wanted me to finish it. How could I say no?”
Learn more about Mary Marks at marymarksmysteries.com.