Take Out (Grand Central, June) is the ninth and final novel featuring New York detective Sigrid Harald from MWA Grand Master Maron, who’s best known for her Deborah Knott series. It may be her last novel ever.
After 29 books and multiple awards, including the Edgar and the Agatha, will you really just stop writing?
No. I do have stories I want to tell, but at my own pace and at a shorter length. I’m ready to be done with contracts and deadlines, but not with writing. My career began with short stories almost 40 years ago. I was trying to visualize a new series when Sara Paretsky invited me to contribute to an anthology she was editing, A Woman’s Eye. Suddenly, Deborah Knott walked into my head running her mouth and wouldn’t shut up. Bringing my writing home to the rural South let me be part of the new wave of American regional mysteries.
When you’ve lived with characters as long as you’ve lived with yours, do news stories and current events suggest new ideas you want to use or explore?
Yes and no. When I first began writing about Deborah, I made her a district court judge so that she could hold court all over the state. I was so proud of North Carolina and wanted to celebrate its progressive policies. We had politicians of both parties who had a sense of civic duty and worked to promote the common good. I wanted to write a warts-and-all view of the state, but these last few years, the warts have been coming so thick and fast that I’ve become disheartened.
Can you be more specific?
Every time I’ve let Deborah stray into partisan politics, I get indignant letters: “Keep your liberal politics to yourself. This isn’t why I read a mystery novel.” To write truthfully about the depressing changes in North Carolina means standing on a soapbox, and how much fun would that be for any of us?
If you’re no longer going to write novels, what are you going to do? Skydiving? Travel? Marathons?
There are so many other things I want to do. I want to linger over lunch with my husband of almost 60 years. Read all the books on the lists I’ve been compiling for so long. I’ve learned to never say never, though. While I truly have no plans to write another North Carolina or New York City novel, who knows if an interesting new character might show up and demand a book? In the meantime, I plan to savor life in the slow lane.