Barbara Ross is the author of the Maine Clambake Mysteries, Clammed Up, Boiled Overand Musseled Out. Clammed Up was nominated for an Agatha Award for Best Contemporary Novel and was a finalist for the Maine Literary Award for Crime Fiction. Both Clammed Up and Boiled Over were nominated for the RT Book Reviews, Reviewer’s Choice Best Book Award for Amateur Sleuth (2013 & 2014). Fogged Inn will be published in February 2016.
Barbara’s first mystery novel, The Death of an Ambitious Woman, was published by Five Star/Gale/Cengage in August, 2010. In her former life, Barbara was a co-founder and Chief Operating Officer of two successful start-ups in educational technology.
Barbara and her husband own the former Seafarer Inn at the head of the harbor in Boothbay Harbor, Maine. When they aren’t in Boothbay, she and her husband live in Somerville, MA.
That is what her website says about her but we are going to get to know her better and more personally.
How long does it take to write a book ?
My first book took ten years! But now my contract with Kensington has a book due every nine months.
When and why did you begin writing ?
I'm not sure I remember. I've always written, the usual juvenile stuff, co-editor of the high school literary magazine (which was weekly!) etc., etc.
What inspired you to write your first book ?
My first book was The Death of an Ambitious Woman which was published by Five Star. It's about a female Acting Chief of Police in a large suburban city who becomes suspicious about the car crash that killed a stock broker who was also a young mother. I wrote it because I wanted to show a woman, in charge, with a lot of responsibility who was good at her job and happy in her home life. It was sort of a reaction to all the broken professional sleuths around at the time.
Does your family read your books ?
Yes. I am lucky that way. All my family are book people. My husband usually reads the manuscripts and offers comments before I hand them in. My son, daughter and daughter-in-law all get Advance Reader Copies and read them and tell me what they think.
What "technology" do you use for your writing ?
I write on a laptop, in Scrivener, which I love.
Do you read ? If so, what kinds of books do you read ? Do you have a favorite author ?
I do. Oh gosh, so many favorites. Louise Penny, Julia Spencer-Fleming, Deborah Crombie, Kate Atkinson and my original inspirations, P.D. James and Ruth Rendell.
What book are you reading now ?
I just finished a fabulous book called The Words in My Hand about Helena Jans, a maid in 1600s Holland who was the lover of Rene Descartes and gave birth to his children. It's only available in the UK and Germany right now, but it needs to be published here because it is fantastic. The author, Guinevere Glasford and I were work colleagues in a field totally unrelated to writing and I remember walking around Manhattan with her about seven years ago wondering if this would ever happen to either of u.
What do you like to do when you are not writing or reading ?
I'm in Key West right now (though I have to go home at the end of the month). When I'm here, I reward myself with time in the pool when I make my word count every day.
If you had to choose, which author would you consider your mentor ?
Oh, so many. Hallie Ephron is an incredible teacher. Hank Phillippi Ryan is one of the most generous people in the mystery community. Lucy Burdette has taught me so much about mystery writing and about the cozy genre. I couldn't be where I am without my sisters on the Wicked Cozy blog--Jessie Crockett, Sherry Harris, Julie Hennrikus, Edith Maxwell (Maddie Day) and Liz Mugavero. And my fellow Maine Crime Writers, especially Kaitlyn Dunnett, Lea Wait and another mentor, Kate Flora.
What question do you wish someone would ask you about your books that nobody has ?
How do you like writing cozies?
I love the world-creating that goes with the community setting and the ability to develop characters over the course of a series. I will always be more attracted to mysteries about crimes committed by individuals for individual reasons over stories about conspiracies or countries or mental deviance.
I do chafe just a tiny bit at some of the restrictions, especially limiting the swearing. I write about lobstermen and fishermen and I don't think they'd say, "Oh, golly," if they found a body!
The hardest part is always finding the hook to get the amateur sleuth involved--but I enjoy that part of the challenge.
How do you plan out your writing ?
Not well. LOL. I do what I call "scaffolding" which involves planning out scenes that are about ten scenes ahead of where I am currently writing. I usually know where I eventually want to end up, but there is a lot of murkiness along the way. I hate first drafts but love revising.
Do you write everyday ?
I try to. I would say almost every day. Sometimes life intervenes.
What made you decide to write cozy mysteries ?
My first mystery had a professional sleuth, but it was very much a village mystery. I wrote what I love to read. When I pitched my agent John Talbot, he was looking for cozy mysteries to sell. We went back and forth with ideas. When he said the word, "clambake," I said, "That's it!"
What are your hobbies?
I seem to have turned my hobby of writing fiction into my career, so I have to say scrapbooking and I just, just, just started a little family genealogy.
Not currently. I grew up with a mutt who followed my dad home from the park when I was five and lived until after I left for college. We also had a cat who moved in from next door when one of the daughters of the house came home with a dog and two toddlers while her husband was overseas in the military. I had a cat when I was single and a young married, then a mostly golden retriever when my kids were young and finally a rescue cocker. I miss having pets, but I also love the freedom of being able to walk out the door and forget about the responsibilities of home.
Have you always read mysteries?
Yes. Like a lot of female mystery writers, it all started with Nancy Drew. And then Agatha Christie and Dorothy L. Sayers, P.D. James and Ruth Rendell. I read other things, of course, mostly fiction, but I love mysteries.
What are some of your inspirations ?
For the Maine Clambake Mysteries I truly am inspired by the people and settings of coastal Maine. It's a remarkable place, geographically and historically. I feel like I will never run out of stories.
And now nosey ME wants to know more about your personal life and your residences.....
You have 3 residences, 1 in MA, 1 in FL and 1 in Maine.... How do you divide your time between
We rent in Key West. We're not THAT crazy. We're here January and February (and hoping for March next year), Maine in the summer, and Massachusetts the rest of the time.
Do you have a favorite ? Why ?
No, I really don't. That's the problem. I love the funkiness and walkability of Key West and Somerville, but I love to balance that out with the serenity of our porch overlooking the harbor in Boothbay Harbor, Maine.
Tell me about the former Seafarer Inn in Maine.....( I LOVE NH and Maine ) Is it still an operating Inn ?
No, it's not an inn any longer. My mother-in-law bought the Seafarer on a total impulse in 1987. She stayed for an unscheduled visit one night and agreed to buy it the next morning! She was a math teacher in Massachusetts so running a B&B for the short Maine season fit perfectly with her schedule. But as she grew older the work got to be too much. My husband and I bought it from her then. She still goes to Boothbay Harbor in the summer, and she lives downstairs in our two-family house in Somerville in the winter. Fogged Inn is dedicated to her.
Is Boothbay Harbor your inspiration behind your books?
Yes, I'm pretty open about that and I'm told people in town enjoy guessing the inspiration for different things. I made it fictional so I could move some things around and bring in some places from other Maine coastal towns. The inspiration for the Snowden Family Clambake is totally the Cabbage Island Clambake and I know fans of the series have visited there. The island and family are completely different, but the food is every bit as delicious.
And lastly .... When can I come and stay at the Seafarer for a spell ??
Yes! Just be aware it's not an inn. I am not a morning person. I've said I'd be willing to run a "Bed and Get-Your-Own-Damn-Breakfast, but sadly, there doesn't seem to be much of a market for it.
I'll let you sleep in then we can go to brunch....my treat !!!
Well looks like I have a trip to Boothbay Harbor to start planning..... How many books should I take ???
Check out her website for more about Barbara and her books.....
Interview by Missi S.