Interview with Marty Wingate, Author of The Skeleton Garden

18 Mar 2016
Tell us a little bit about your new release, The Skeleton Garden.

The story takes place in Hampshire, in the south of England. Pru Parke, middle-aged American gardener and the protagonist for the series, hops around a bit (previous books have been set in London, Sussex, and Edinburgh), but is happily settled with her husband living in a house that friends own. There is a Second World War theme running through the book. As Pru gets to know the older brother she’d only recently discovered (and he’s a gardener, too), they dig up a German fighter plane and the remains of … someone. When a local fellow dies and Pru’s brother is the prime suspect, she gets to work figuring it all out.

What or who inspired you to become an author?

I can remember writing stories when I was in elementary school – reading and writing. I would stay in from recess to finish writing something. Anything for the story! An enormous inspiration for me was Ray Bradbury – even though I don’t write science fiction. I heard him speak to a group when I was thirteen, and his enthusiasm for writing was contagious. I was so fortunate to attend a lecture of his several other times, the last one in 2000 – many years after that first lecture!

Your new release takes in England and the plot focuses on a mysterious garden. How much of the story is inspired by your own experiences gardening and traveling?

I feel like a sponge when I’m traveling – absorbing ideas from the people around me, the conversations I listen in on (yes, I’m an eavesdropper!), the pubs, the gardens, the plants, the shops – it’s all fodder for an upcoming story. Mrs. Wilson, a recurring character in the series, is based on a woman who ran a London B&B where my husband and I stayed and the German fighter plane buried in The Skeleton Garden is based on a story told to me by someone who lived in Hampshire.

How do you like to spend a rainy day?

Avoiding all housework, if possible. Make a pot of soup (although Pru is no cook, we do share a love of soup), have a cup of tea, read a book.

What will your next adventure be?

Book five in the Potting Shed mysteries (out in August!) is set at the Chelsea Flower Show, and although the manuscript in out of my hands by now, I feel compelled to make a return visit to the show. I’m also doing more exploring in Suffolk, where my other mystery series (Birds of a Feather) is set. I do love Britain!

What’s the best advice you’ve ever received?

Just put the words on the paper – in whatever fashion suits me (by hand, by computer). Once a scene is written, it doesn’t matter how bad I think it is, I can always go back and edit. Editing is a miracle.

What’s your favorite quote or scene from The Skeleton Garden?

That would have to be when Pru tries to make a Christmas pudding and instead, makes a huge mess. She’s never been a cook, but asks herself how different could it be from mixing a batch of fertilizer? Apparently, quite different.

Do you have a motto, quote or philosophy you live by?

Don’t put anything off – start now.

Marty Wingate - Random House

Marty Wingate is the author of the new book The Skeleton Garden.

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