by Barb, in Boothbay Harbor, Maine, where the beautiful weekend weather has turned cold and gray
I turned in the manuscript for Iced Under, the fifth Maine Clambake Mystery, in May. When I first proposed, and Kensington bought, books 4-6, I pictured all three books taking place during the off-season in my coastal resort town. But then I had a chance to write a holiday novella for the collection Eggnog Murder, and that meant I had written three off-season stories. I didn’t know how my readers would feel after reading them, but I was ready for sunshine and clambakes and trips to Morrow Island. I suggested to my editor that we ditch my proposed book six and he agreed. (Though I still love the premise, so in my mind, I’m not ditching it. I’m saving it for another time.) So that has left me footloose and fancy-free for the next book. Or should I say, screw-loose and plot-free?
One thing I know will happen in the next book is that renovations on Windsholme, the empty and damaged mansion on Morrow Island, will begin. The mansion’s been a part of the island landscape from the first scene in the first book, Clammed Up. And in Iced Under, we learn more about Julia’s mother’s family–like who built the mansion and when. But now that I’m renovating, I need to know a lot more about the house itself. We know it was built in 1880, but is it Queen Anne, or Shingle Style or New American Colonial?
(For the mansion that appears on my bookmarks and website banner, I told the artist to use the inspiration of Edith Wharton’s house in the Berkshires, The Mount. That turns out to be a little too recent for Windsholme.)
I make sure the research I do for the clambake books is about subjects that interest me, but I have hit the jackpot with this book. I have always loved houses. When I played with my Barbies, I was more interested in the “set ups”–the apartments we created in the bookshelves and toy boxes, than in the melodramatic plotlines that inevitably resulted from having too few Ken dolls to go around.
I have to work not to over-describe the houses my characters live in and visit. “Is the protagonist an architect?” a member of my critique group once inquired, way too politely, after my narrator had gone on and on and on about some building or another.
But for now, I am happily surrounded by house porn, researching away. If you’re looking for me, I’ll be on the front porch with a big book on my lap.
Readers: Do you love houses, or could you care less? Do you envy me with all these big books full of houses on my lap, or is that your idea of bor-ing?