Carole Marples is the author of the fabulous Merang Mysteries, all about the adventures and misadventures of lovable Helen Merang, who runs a tea room and cake shop in the fictional Yorkshire town of Buttersley. I’m a huge fan of these books, which have a winning blend of interesting characters, mystery and intrigue, plus a generous dollop of humour.

There are currently three books in the series, plus a prequel. The next book is called Copycat Death At Merangs, and it should be out in early 2024.

Carole, how would you describe the Merang novels?

I like to think there is always a mystery to solve, and I hope I provide enough clues for the reader to solve the puzzle. I hate it when the author blindsides us with a contributory fact we couldn’t possibly have known. Aside from that, the books are light hearted, I can’t resist poking fun.

Is the tea room and cake shop you use for your setting based on a real place?

Yes, I used to own a confectionery shop with  a tiny tea room attached. It was, and still is called, Marples. I sold the business in 2016, but I still work there now and again when the current owner wants a break. I miss having my shop, and Merangs is very much a fictional substitute. The Murder Above Merangs starts with a flood in the tea room coming from the flat above. That actually happened in real life at Marples, but I didn’t go on to find a dead body like Helen did.

What were your favourite cakes or sweets? I’d have found it difficult to resist eating too many!

Obviously you have to test them all on a regular basis to develop your product knowledge. I was very conscientious about that. 😆 I can’t resist salted caramels, and gin truffles always go down well.

Image of cakes

Your characters are so vivid, and I have to ask: were any of them based on real customers of your tea rooms? Has anyone recognised themselves?

With the behaviour and quirks of some of my characters, I couldn’t possibly link them to real people. I’d be sued!  But, as anyone who has worked in a shop will tell you, we all have names for regular characters. Merangs has ‘Don’t Mess With Maureen.’ At Marples we had ‘The Treacle Toffee Racist’ and also ‘Arthur Scoop.’ He always asked for half a scoop of ice cream.

Tell us about what you’re working on at the moment. What’s the most challenging thing about it?

I’m writing Summer Death At Merangs. It’s based around a stately home called Buttersley Manor and is about the local gentry. The most challenging thing, as with all books, is getting that first draft done. I’m on holiday at the moment, but I’m still tying myself up in knots about the plot.

I’m really looking forward to reading it. Do you have other books planned for the future?

When I’ve finished Summer Death, that should be 5 in the series. I’m going to leave it for a while and start a spin-off series based on one of the side characters who appears in the last book.

That’s intriguing. Do you have any plans for writing outside the ‘cosy crime’ genre?

I think I’m going to stay in the genre, but the next series will perhaps be more edgy. Maybe a bit more serious.

Have you always wanted to be a writer?

Like most writers, I’ve always been a big reader. I’ve always written bits and pieces. My proudest moment was having a poem published in the junior section of my local paper when I was ten. It was called, ‘When I Grow Up.‘ Sadly, I have not fulfilled any of my youthful expectations.

Image of colourful sweets

You’re being modest, Carole! Tell me, what was your ‘wow’ moment? What makes you proudest as an author?

I think it was when I first got favourable reviews from complete strangers. I first met you, Teresa, on a critiquing site where authors critique each other’s works. Apart from being constructive, it can be brutal, and we’re both scarred by the experience. So, for readers to say nice things was an unexpected joy. Just having books out there that readers seem to enjoy makes me proud.

I totally agree with that. Working on our writing via our critiquing group has undoubtedly taught me a great deal and made my stories better, but it can be hard sometimes to work your way through so many different opinions and decide what is useful and what needs to be discarded. What, for you, is the best thing about being a writer? And the worst?

You know the feeling of being transported to a different world when you read a book you love? Well, writing is like that with bells on. I feel that I’m living in that world away from my usual everyday traumas. The worst is overcoming the procrastination and getting words on the page.

What advice would you give to an aspiring author?

Just have a go and keep going. Don’t keep correcting that first paragraph.

Which three words would you use to describe your stories?

You say three, but I think you meant five, so I’m going for, ‘Whip smart cozies with attitude.’ I’ll drop the ‘with attitude’ if you insist.

No, that sounds very apt! I must add that your characters are very engaging, particularly Helen, and that the stories are great fun. So how do your friends and family react to your being a writer?

My biggest supporter is my sister-in-law. She’s an avid reader and has read all my books. We go on walking holidays together, and she tells everyone I’m a writer, while I stare at a pile of rocks in embarrassment. Needless to say, I don’t tell anyone. My partner, Nick, reads only motorbike magazines and has read none of my books. I’ve recently knocked him off my newsletter list.

Haha, yes, I understand. And finally, which books have shaped your life?

My three favourite authors are: Jane Austen, Agatha Christie, and P G Wodehouse. The first book I bought out of my pocket money when I was about 6, was Zip The Cowboy. The first books to really engage me were the Enid Blyton school books. I was a pupil both at St Clare’s and Malory Towers.

You can find Carole here:

You can also subscribe to Carole’s newletter here and receive a free book as a welcome gift.

Find out more about Carole’s books at: Amazon UK or Amazon US

Many thanks, Carole, for taking the time to talk to me. Wishing you all the best with your hugely entertaining series.

An Interview with Carole Marples

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