Please join me in welcoming the very talented Marilyn Baron to MurderBooks, where she tells us about her writing career, her writing process, and her newest book, The Saffron Conspiracy, a thrilling novel with elements of danger, romance, and history, set in Austria, against the backdrop of a centuries-old conspiracy.
MurderBooks: Tell us a bit about the book and why you choose to tell the story of The Saffron Conspiracy through the principal characters you’ve chosen? What inspired you to write the novel?
Marilyn: I took a Danube River Cruise last year and stopped in a picturesque town called Dürnstein, Austria, in what is primarily a wine growing region. However, I took the road less travelled and went on an excursion to a saffron farm. I was so fascinated to learn about saffron, the world’s most expensive spice, I decided to make a saffron farmer my central male character named Andreas. It turns out that the actual saffron farmer met his wife at a train station called Bahnhof St. Valentin’s and (like his wife), I thought that was romantic. So, I set up their chance meeting there in the first chapter. I had to give the heroine, heiress Savannah Sutherland, a back story. I had recently visited Scotland, so I made her mother the CEO of a successful Internet company called Signature Accessories, in Charleston, SC, and her father a Scot that she lived with every summer since her parents’ divorce. Andreas, who was reintroducing organic farming of saffron to the region, meets resistance from a powerful local vintner, Savannah’s uncle.
Dürnstein is also famous as the town where Richard I of England, also called “The Lionheart” was imprisoned in 1192. Although The Saffron Conspiracy is a contemporary romance, it does have elements of intrigue, suspense and historical—a Romeo & Juliet meets The DaVinci Code.
Andreas does research about saffron farming in the library of a local abbey and discovers a secret regarding a king’s ransom gone astray hundreds of years before, for which he is threatened with a deadly attack. Dark family secrets and an explosive, centuries-old conspiracy cast deathly shadows over the love blossoming between Andreas and Savannah.
There was also a murder at a nearby German POW camp during WW II that cemented the fate of Savannah’s uncle and sealed it for future generations.
MurderBooks: Do you know how a story is going to end, before you start writing, or is it something you discover along the way?
Marilyn: I can’t start a book without knowing the title and the names of the primary characters. I typically know the ending when I start writing but the plot can change a lot before I get there.
MurderBooks: How did you find your way into the novel writing world?
Marilyn: I majored in Journalism [Public Relations sequence] and Creative Writing in college and had a career in public relations with AT&T, The Florida Department of Offender Rehabilitation, and running my own corporate PR business. So, I’ve always been a writer. However, I started writing fiction when I joined Georgia Romance Writers.
MurderBooks: You have quite a few books to your credit, which tells me you must be pretty organized, with a pretty steady output.
Marilyn: Ha. If you saw my office, you wouldn’t call me organized. I still have a PR business, so my day might consist of doing client work or volunteer work for Roswell Reads or Atlanta Authors, and I fit the writing in when I can. If I have a new book being released, I focus on promoting that, which can be time consuming, and there’s often little time left for writing. As far as my writing process, I’m a pantser. I write and edit as I go along. The best piece of writing advice I’ve ever received from a number of well-known authors is ‘’Finish the Book. You can always improve a draft, but you can’t fix a blank page.’’ That’s always stuck with me. So, my ultimate goal is to finish the book. With my training in journalism, I’m very deadline oriented, so that helps my productivity.
MurderBooks: Which writers do you draw inspiration from, for your own work, and why?
Marilyn: I love Philip Kerr, who passed away last year. He wrote the Bernie Gunther book series. I also love reading William Kent Krueger, who writes the Cork O’Connor series and Charles Finch’s Charles Lenox Mysteries. For romance, I love Nora Roberts’ In Death series because I love the Dallas and Roarke characters. The same goes for Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander series featuring Jamie and Claire. So, character-driven books are my favorites, although my books are more plot-driven. I was also inspired by Kristin Hannah’s The Nightingale.
MurderBooks: Tell us a bit about what’s coming next from the pen of Marilyn Baron?
Marilyn: I am currently working on a book called The Romanov Legacy, a romantic thriller about a young single mother who discovers she’s descended from Tsar Nicholas II and becomes the best hope of a secret society—guardians dedicated to sparking a second revolution and restoring the monarchy to Russia. Diaries and a priceless heirloom the heroine inherits from her grandmother hold the key to her true identity and to the Tsar’s lost shipment of gold hidden in Siberia.
MurderBooks: What are the common themes in your books and why do you include them?
Marilyn: Many of my books are set in World War II, and involve The Holocaust and stolen Nazi art. My father was a top turret gunner on a B-17 during the War so after reading his war diaries, that topic has always fascinated me. I studied art history in Florence, Italy, in college and stolen Nazi art has always been something else I’ve enjoyed reading and writing about. There seems to be no end to the number of compelling WW II stories. My process is to take a unique nugget of history, an intriguing spark you stumble across that piques and holds your interest and makes you want to learn more and turn it into a novel.
MurderBooks: The Saffron Conspiracy is set in Austria and Scotland. Many of your books are set in international locations.
Marilyn: I love to set books in places I’ve traveled such as Bermuda [Under the Moon Gate], Italy [Stones and The Widows’ Gallery], Greece [The Siege] and Berlin [Stumble Stones] or on a cruise ship [Killer Cruise]. I also set books in places I’ve lived like Atlanta, Palm Coast, Florida, and Miami because it helps to write what you know. I worked for the Florida prison system for a year in Tallahassee and I wrote a book called The Alibi loosely based on that experience.
MurderBooks: You defy conventional wisdom by writing in a variety of genres. Why do you do that?
Marilyn: It’s common for writers to stick with their successful characters in a series. But I enjoy the freedom and diversity of reading a variety of books and writing in different genres. I started out writing women’s fiction, then switched to a psychic suspense series about an Atlanta cop who marries a psychic and starts a psychic detective agency. Those books were filled with serial killers and even vampires. Now, I’m mostly focused on historical romantic thrillers. I’ve written short stories, participated in anthologies and I’ve even written a musical with my sister, a Florida artist, called Memory Lane about Alzheimer’s, which will be produced locally with a reading/concert.
A huge thank you to Marilyn, for spending time with the MurderBooks readers, today. You can catch up with her, and learn about her other books at her Website, and on Twitter, Facebook, Goodreads, and her Amazon Author Page. And here’s where you can get your copy of The Saffron Conspiracy.
Marilyn Baron writes women’s fiction, historical romantic thrillers, romantic suspense, and paranormal/fantasy, and she has received writing awards in Single Title, Suspense Romance, Novel with Strong Romantic Elements, and Paranormal/Fantasy Romance. Marilyn was a finalist for the Georgia Author of the Year Award (Romance Category) in 2017 and 2018 for Stumble Stones and The Alibi, respectively. Her newest book, The Saffron Conspiracy: A Novel (Wild Rose Press–2019) is her twenty-fourth work of fiction. A public relations consultant in Atlanta, Marilyn is co-chair of the Roswell Reads Steering Committee that promotes the value of reading, literacy, and lifelong learning through the shared community-wide experience of reading and discussing a common book. She also serves on the Atlanta Authors Series Steering Committee, which gives prominent Atlanta area authors the opportunity to share what they’ve written. Marilyn is a member of Atlanta Writers Club, Georgia Romance Writers and Romance Writers of America.
Marilyn was interviewed for MurderBooks by Roger Johns, author of the Wallace Hartman Mysteries from St. Martin’s Press/Minotaur Books.