Today it is my pleasure to interview N.A. Granger (otherwise known as Noelle at Saylingaway.wordpress.com) about her latest book, Death in a Dacron Sail – A Rhe Brewster Mystery. I have known Noelle for several years now, and have enjoyed getting to know her and her protagonist, Rhe Brewster. Rhe’s spunky, and smart, and courageous – all of which could be said about Noelle.
Why did you choose to write cozy mysteries, rather than any other genre.
While I enjoy reading science fiction and women’s literature, I’ve always preferred mysteries. They can be mentally challenging, and this fits with my background as a researcher doing her best to unravel scientific mysteries. So it was a natural for me to choose to write in this genre. Cozy appealed to me because it’s contained to a location, real or imagined, is driven by its characters, and doesn’t involve a lot of violence, gore and sex. Not that violence, gore and sex doesn’t have its own appeal, and I may travel that road in my writing at some point.
The Rhe Brewster Mysteries are set in Maine, yet you live in NC. Why Maine?
I grew up in New England, in just about the most New England-y town there is: Plymouth, MA. I had a great childhood doing the sorts of things Rhe Brewster was involved in when she was growing up, and I did think about setting the story in Plymouth. In the end, though, it made sense to create a town in the image I wanted, rather than fit the story to an existing place. You write what you know, and there is still time to move another Rhe Brewster book to NC!
Is Rhe based on someone or did you make her up from scratch?
I’d like to think I made her up from scratch, but in point of fact, she has my own type A characteristics and some of my experiences. Her leap-before-you-look attitude was derived in part from a fearless high school classmate of mine, Ann Brewster. And, of course, the last name.
You worked in academia for years. What has been the hardest part of switching careers? What has been the best part of the change?
Definitely the hardest part has been the loss of the multiple day to day contacts with student and colleagues. Writing is solitary. My contacts now are largely with my characters, and I derive great pleasure from my critique groups. I’m actually looking forward to getting out into the community with the marketing of Death in a Dacron Sail.
The best part of the change has been the ability to write what I want. The researcher is limited by the dictated organization of scientific papers and grants and the years it can sometimes take to derive the content. Now I can just sit down and write whenever an idea occurs to me. I still do research, but it’s people-based.
How have you used your training in anatomy in writing your mysteries?
Anatomy and forensics are always involved in the explanation of the initial death in each book. But I also became licensed as an EMT some years ago. Hence Rhe as an emergency room nurse was a natural, and I like to work the medicine I learned in that training into each book.
In Death in a Dacron Sail, a finger is found in a lobster trap. What kind of research did you have to do for those scenes?
I spent a glorious morning in Boothbay Harbor, Maine, on a lobsterman’s boat, furiously taking notes. Captain Clive Ferrin and his imaginatively named stern man, Cage Zipperer, introduced me to what it’s like. making your living catching lobsters.
What is next for Rhe?
Pumpkins, flying, arson – just a few hints. The book title is Death by Pumpkin.
More about Death in a Dacron Sail and N.A. Granger
Death in a Dacron Sail is the next in the Rhe Brewster Mystery series. On a cold February morning, Rhe Brewster, a tall, attractive emergency room nurse with a type A personality, a nose for investigation and a yen for adrenalin, is called to a dock in the harbor of Pequod, a Maine coastal town. Because she is a consultant to the Pequod Police Department, her brother-in-law, Sam Brewster, who is Pequod’s Chief of Police, wants her to look at a discovery by one of the local lobstermen: a finger caught in one of his lobster traps. There she meets the lobsterman, Peter Barnes, and his enigmatic brother, James. Marsh Adams, the state Assistant ME at the hospital where Rhe works, identifies the finger as that of a young girl, and Rhe’s job is to look at unsolved cases of missing girls in the state, to see if that finger might be linked to any one of them. There are four, one of which is a girl who disappeared many years before and who was Rhe’s best friend. The subsequent finding of the body of a young girl, wrapped in a sail on an isolated beach north of Pequod, sends the investigation into high gear because the finger belongs to her body. In the meantime, Rhe is having a worsening relationship with her husband, Will, who is mysteriously absent much of the time. He is both unhappy with Rhe’s pregnancy and resentful of the fact she is working with the police on murder investigations, and he lies about his absences. Rhe and Sam, along with two familiar FBI agents, Bowers and Bongiovanni, use information from the FBI to identify the girl and receive a valuable lead from her parents. Bowers follows up on the lead and almost dies, drugged and left in his car in a ditch to freeze to death. When rescued, he remembers nothing, and revisiting his search yields no results. When a second body is located, the search settles around Crystal Bog, where that body had been buried, and leads back to the original suspect, who lives near the bog. In the meantime, Rhe and her best friend, Paulette, locate the brother of Rhe’s childhood friend, Deirdre. He left Pequod with his father, leaving no forwarding address, soon after Deirdre’s disappearance. He is living on Swan Island, and when Rhe and Paulette visit him there, they learn the father had been abusing Deirdre. The investigation into the missing girls intensifies when Sarah, Paulette’s daughter, is abducted Then Rhe herself is snatched from a parking lot. It is Rhe’s job to free them both, along with the last missing girl. To do this, she must cross Crystal Bog in the middle of winter, fighting off hypothermia and trying to protect her baby at the same time, in order to get help. Will she survive? Will her marriage survive? And who is the kidnapper?
N.A. Granger is a Professor Emerita at UNC-Chapel Hill School of Medicine. After forty years of research, teaching anatomy to undergraduates, medical students and residents and raising a family, she decided to turn her hand and her knowledge of clinical anatomy to mystery writing. Dr. Granger grew up in Plymouth, Massachusetts, in a century-old house facing the sea. Descended from a family that settled in Maine in the 1700s, she spent her childhood summers on and in New England waters, some of the best times sailing off the coast of Maine. Her time in New England led to the creation of Pequod, Maine, and her protagonist, Rhe Brewster. Dr. Granger lives with her husband in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, but spends part of every summer in Maine. More of her work can be read on her blog: saylingaway.wordpress.com and she can be visited on Facebook (Noelle A. Granger and Death in a Red Canvas Chair) or on twitter @RheBrewster.