Tuesday, June 21, 2022

Death at Fair Havens - An Interview & Giveaway

I'm pleased to welcome Maria Mankin and Maren C. Tirabassi to Cozy Up With Kathy today. Maria and Maren write the Rev and Rye Cozy Mystery series. Death at Fair Havens is the first book in the series.

Kathy: In Death at Fair Havens we meet Wanda Duff, an unconventional New England clergywoman. Wanda winds up working with high school vice principal Prudence Rye. Would you prefer a career in education or a more spiritual line of work?

Maria: Well, as it happens, I worked in education, teaching preschool and working as an admin for about ten years before I was able to split my time between writing and taking care of my young children, and Maren has been a pastor in the United Church of Christ for 41 years. We are definitely fans of the “write what you know” method!

Kathy: Originally from Buffalo New York and living nearby, I know all about wings. How did you decide Wanda would be addicted to them?

Maren: Well, first of all there is this amazing place in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, called Wing-Itz. Best wings I have ever eaten. But, also, I wanted to differentiate Wanda from me and I am a pizza person, eight inches taller, different coloring and marital status, and I don’t wear high heels (see eight inches mentioned previously!)

Kathy: You write as a team. How does that work? Does one person work more on the plot while the other writes the actual words?

Maria: We’ve been writing together since 2000, so we have fairly seamless process. It’s not as cut and dried as one person focusing on one element and one the other – we each have characters that we write first drafts on, but the plotting, editing, and finetuning overlaps all the time. We have many meetings to discuss ideas and new directions, and we find that when we start talking about one option, the ideas usually start flowing and we may end up someplace totally different! It’s a great feeling, and I know our stories are more fun because of the opportunities we have to hash things out together.

Kathy: What first drew you to cozy mysteries?

Maria: We love to read cozies and are always checking the shelves at the library or online forums for new series. We’ve written in other genres (mystery, sci-fi, poetry, religion) and enjoy it very much, but there’s something about writing the kind of book you want to read for pure pleasure…it’s just special.

Do you write in any other genres?

Maren: We do. Maria has a thriller. I’ve published science fiction short stories, a book of Christmas stories, books of poetry and many single poems in magazines. In the mainstream Christian market, we have published books on youth ministry, LGBTQI marriage resources, self-care for caregivers of people with dementia, anthologies of gender inclusive language worship, and global worship anthologies.

Kathy: Tell us about your series.

Maren: “The Rev and Rye Cozy Mysteries” follows the sleuthing of Rev. Wanda Duff and Stoneridge High School Vice Principal Prudence Rye as the unlikely pair solve crimes in north central Massachusetts. In the first novel, the death of a man living in a memory loss unit could easily be passed over as a part of his illness if the two don’t risk their livelihoods and their lives investigating the tragedy. Wanda may be known as a “laughing pastor,” but she is serious about murder; Rye may be the enforcer of school rules, but she’s willing to push every boundary when a student may be at risk.

Kathy: Do you have a favorite character? If so, who and why?

Maria: This is an impossible question. I love Rye and Wanda too much to choose between them. I also love the supporting cast of characters and it’s hard to pick just one, but if I had to, I would say Rye’s father, Hardy, has a special place in my heart. He raised his daughter alone while working full time and made a lot of mistakes (as all parents do), but he also believes in his daughter’s competence and strength without question and trusts her instincts. He accepts her with love, and although they don’t always get along, he is secretly deeply happy to have her living back at home again.

Maren: Two favorites … Tony, the hotwired and helpful church musician with heart who’s willing to play classical, country, or show tunes as needed at a funeral, and is Wanda’s best friend. Jenny Fjelstad is based a bit on my mother – funny, caring and, when she lived in a memory loss unit, she, too, expected me to bring in a new Norwegian joke every time I visited.

Kathy: Did you have a specific inspiration for your series?

Maren: For me, it was more that I woke up and Wanda Duff was in my head, and I asked Maria, “Do you have a character who needs to live? I think we should write fiction and it should touch on issues of inclusion in our communities in story form rather than just serious essays.

Kathy: What made you decide to publish your work?

Maren: In early days we published anthologies and were glad to publish the work of folks whose voices needed to be heard. Some were youth, some, were folks from around the world for whom we needed translators. We accepted all submissions, if the writers were willing to be an edited and did not express offensive views. Publishing is sharing. It is not often becoming rich or famous, but it is connecting with others. We have simply applied that good advice to our own work.

Kathy: If you could have a dinner party and invite 4 authors, living or dead, in any genre, who would you invite?

Maren: If I was asked every day for a week, I’d have four each day, but today … I would invite Nyle DiMarco whose Deaf Utopia confirmed so many of the things we tried to gently slip in about Deaf Culture. It would enliven the table to have an energized ASL speaker and an interpreter. Because I’ve heard them interviewed as a mother/daughter team of writers, I would love to have Rhys Bowen and Clare Broyles. I am just a huge fan of everything written by Laurie R. King.

Maria: Neil Gaiman, who has been my favorite author since I was ten years old and has introduced me to many dark and delightful stories that fill me up; David Sedaris, who I first fell in love with while waiting on a friend to get ready for a party (that friend, as it happens, is now my husband); Glennon Doyle, who binds me together with other women in a way no writer ever has before; and Lynne Cox, who has spent her life doing things that terrify me and writes about them with grace and awe.

Kathy: What are you currently reading?

Maria: I just finished Jacqueline Winspear’s A Sunlit Weapon (A Maisie Dobbs novel) and The French for Murder (A Lady Eleanor Swift Mystery) by Verity Bright

Maren: Kerry Greenwood’s just published book of short stories, “The Lady with the Gun Asks the Questions,” Jessie Sutanto’s “A is for Aunties,” and Anne Hillerman’s “Sacred Bridge.”

Kathy: Will you share any of your hobbies or interests with us?

Maren: I am passionate about rescue dogs and live with two amazing ones, Willie and Bug. I am a hand-patching quilter. I need to walk at least an hour a day or I am … cranky. I need to read an hour a day or it’s even worse. I am looking forward to visiting the Iona Community in Scotland this summer.

Maria: I recently got a cargo bike that both of my kids fit on and we’ve been having the best time going on adventures together. I also love to swim, so I’m glad summer has arrived (although I also still like sledding, so winter was delightful too). I’m a big indoor gardener – my favorite is the mint garden, with five varieties, because whenever I cut leaves, it smells like my mother is in the room with me.

Kathy: Name 4 items you always have in your fridge or pantry.

Maren: Local maple syrup, very dark chocolate, grapefruit, and lots of greens.

Maria: Pasta, peanut butter, tea, and chocolate chips

Kathy: Do you have plans for future books either in your current series or a new series?

Maria: Yes. Our plan for The Rev and Rye Mysteries is a five-book arc. The second one is already in the hands of our agent and publisher!

Kathy: What's your favorite thing about being an author?

Maria: When I sit down to work on a story or poem, it feels as though everything is just as it should be and the world can be organized perfectly, for at least a moment. Nothing else in the world gives me that feeling with the same consistency as writing does. As a reader, finding a book that fits me just right is a gift I never get tired of, and getting to share our book with people who feel the same way is just the best.

Maren: I am not sure I can say it any better than my daughter does. It is the writing, not the promotional work that feeds my spirit, but when I have a chance to talk with a reader it is wonderful, and I always learn more. I also do book coaching, so I spend time telling a little-bit-shaky authors that they are giving readers a gift. I try to listen to myself.


 Death at Fair Havens by Maria Mankin & Maren C. Tirabassi

About Death at Fair Havens

Death at Fair Havens
Cozy Mystery 1st in Series
Setting - Massachusetts
Brain Mill Press (April 26, 2022)
Paperback: ‎ 318 pages

Wanda Duff is an unconventional New England clergywoman, addicted to chicken wings, high-octane ice cream, and saying yes to anyone in need of a prayer, even the folks her town might think don’t deserve one.

When parishioner Niels Pond dies unexpectedly at the Fair Havens assisted living facility, Wanda’s duty to minister to his family is beset by her suspicions about the circumstances of his abrupt passing. Wanda finds an unexpected co-detective in high school vice principal Prudence Rye, who fled town on graduation night a decade ago and returned only recently.

Rye puts her job on the line to investigate the mourning Ponds with the surprisingly edgy Wanda. As they expose difficult family truths and uncover a dangerous conspiracy operating out of Fair Havens, Rye and Wanda discover curiosity has an unanticipated cost.

Comfortably gossipy, with a fresh take on the characters and ethos cozy mystery fans will love, Maria Mankin and Maren C. Tirabassi’s Death at Fair Havens launches a series that celebrates intergenerational women’s friendship and the power of inclusion, curiosity, and love.

"Here’s small town life portrayed with humor and affection, peopled with quirky characters you’ll care about." —James Patrick Kelly, winner of the Hugo, Nebula and Locus awards

About the Authors


After teaching and working in early education for a decade, Maria Mankin has published six books with Pilgrim Press and has contributed to several anthologies. She is also a co-author of Circ, a mystery set in Skegness England, published by Pigeon Park Press, and Pitching Our Tents: Poetry of Hospitality. She is a regular contributor to Living Psalms, a collection in which the Psalms are reinterpreted in poetry and art as a reflection of God’s work of justice and compassion. She is currently working on a book of poetry and the third novel in the Rev and Rye Cozy Mysteries.


After trouping the country in the 70s as assistant manager of theatrical tours for choreographer Agnes de Mille, The National Theatre of Great Britain, The Royal Shakespeare Company and the Black Broadway production of ‘Guys and Dolls,’ Maren Tirabassi changed careers, to the surprise of everyone, to study at Union Theological Seminary in New York City and later Harvard Divinity School. Ordained in the United Church of Christ, she served as a bi-vocational pastor to seven churches in Massachusetts and New Hampshire while developing her writing career. Maren is the author of twenty-two books, fiction, non-fiction and poetry, the majority published by The Pilgrim Press.

A former Poet Laureate of Portsmouth, NH, and LAMDA Prize nominee for Transgendering Faith, Identity, Sexuality and Spirituality she currently facilitates programs for the NH Humanities Council with New Americans and people with cognitive difference and leads poetry and memoir workshops in prisons, recovery groups, churches and synagogues, hospice and survivor groups. She blogs at giftsinopenhands@wordpress.com.

With frequent writing collaborator, Maria Mankin, she is currently editing Death in the Woods, the sequel to Death at Fair Havens, as well as plotting the third novel.

Author Links

Website https://callingallcharacters.com/  

Facebook https://www.facebook.com/revandrye  

Twitter https://twitter.com/marenandmankin  

Purchase Links Brian Mill Press - Powell’s - Amazon - Barnes and Noble - Indiebound - Indigo 

  a Rafflecopter giveaway


  1. It is wonderful to be on "Cozy up" with, well -- you, the source of so many books we have enjoyed. You are pretty much an amazing resource and, wow, you did this interview with both of us! Brava and thanks so much.

    1. Thanks so much for stopping by. Your comment means a lot.