Whither Windsholme? and a #giveaway

by Barb, first post from Key West for 2020

Hi All. A winner of the giveaway has been chosen and notified. Thank you for the comments.

The eighth Maine Clambake mystery, Sealed Off, was released in New Year’s Eve. The Wickeds thought you might be a little tied up with the holidays, so Sherry, Edith/Maddie, and I held off announcing our new releases until this week. One lucky commenter on the blog will win a brand new copy!

Sealed Off cover

There’s a major subplot in the book about a diary found in a sealed off room in Windsholme, the abandoned mansion on the island where my fictional Snowden family runs their authentic Maine Clambakes.

Recently, Sherry Harris asked me if I knew from the first book, Clammed Up, that Windsholme would become a central character in the series.

The answer is –100% no. I don’t remember now why I put a decrepit mansion on the island in that first book, though you’ll find echoes of the theme of abandoned spaces in many of my earlier books and stories. Even the first book in my new series, Jane Darrowfield, Professional Busybody, includes a community for active adults 55+ built on the grounds of an old estate.

The influences for these places are many.

In Clammed Up, the playhouse on the island, a replica of Windsholme, plays a large part in the story. My grandparents had a summer house in Water Mill, Long Island that was in a little enclave on the edge of an large estate. The playhouse that had originally belonged to the estate was our nearest neighbor. When I was a child a friend of my grandparents’ owned it and used it as her summer home. The playhouse is long gone, sadly, renovated beyond recognition, and finally knocked down to make way for a more expensive property. You can get a look at the original mansion here–all $18 million dollars of it. It looks very similar to the way it looked when I was a kid. Can you imagine the impact that place had on the imagination of a suburban child? Windsholme looks nothing like this mansion, but the idea of the playhouse was definitely an influence.

There are other abandoned and demolished mansions in my childhood. I told the story of two of them in this blog post.

(Spoiler alert.) I didn’t intend to burn down the mansion on Morrow Island. It was already crumbling, but I got to a point in the plot in Clammed Up where I realized I had no choice.

So now I had even more of a wreck sullying my tourist attraction, or “dining experience” as the Snowdens call it. The logical thing was to tear it down, though even demolition, carting the materials off the island, and paying to dispose of them was beyond the family’s means in the first three books when the business was teetering on the edge of foreclosure. I really didn’t want to knock Windsholme down, and I heard from some fans who didn’t want me to either.

So, I had written myself into a corner, which is something, perversely, I like to do. What to do? First, I had to figure out how to get the Snowdens, who run a modest family business, the money to fix up the mansion. (Iced Under) Then I had to come up with a rationale to fix it up. (Stowed Away) Then I had to get an architect and a plan in place. (Steamed Open) Finally, in Sealed Off, the work has begun.

Windsholme has never been more than subplot in any of the books, at most. But I have had the opportunity along the way to write about the family history and why the mansion is unlived in. (Mostly in Iced Under and Sealed Off.)

I’m working on book 9 now. It takes place largely on the next peninsula up from Busman’s Harbor, among the oyster farms on the Damariscotta River, so Windsholme and Morrow Island are not really a part of it. After that, who knows? Will there be more books? Will the renovation ever get finished? We’ll all find out if and when I write myself out of the holes I’ve most recently dug for myself.

Readers: Is there a place that lives in your memory and informs your imagination? Tell us about it in the comments below or just say “hi” to be entered to win a copy of Sealed Off.

106 Thoughts

  1. I love to travel… in October this past year I was on my way to Omaha to go to a luncheon with Alex Kava… anyway I’m chatting with a friend and I get close to an exit ramp and realize something looks wrong with the picture… as I got closer it was a roll of carpet, no big deal… closer still and the roll began to look “off”.. I’m right beside it when I look at it and the top looks like a dead body is rolled in it while the bottom looks like a normal rolled up carpet… my friend said I hope you are going to call the cops and I was like no it would be my luck they would think I did it…

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  2. My great grandmother’s house and my aunt’s house in San Leon on the bay.. Congrats Barbara! Would love to read this book!!!

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  3. I hope there are more books!!! This is my favourite cozy series by far and I hope it never ends. 🙂 I love the characters and the setting and the storyline always surprises me.

    Going to the cottage as a kid still informs my imagination. Dirt roads surrounded by trees is just such a comforting sight to me still.

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  4. My grandparents’ house in Westchester, NY. It was designed by my grandfather in the 1960s and was very mid-century modern. I loved every aspect of this forward-thinking, yet still modest, home. Of course it was torn down in the early 2000s to make room for a larger, new home. I wish one day I could replicate it to every last detail.

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  5. Oh goodness, I have read several sites back and forth that have been facinating. I am enthralled with the amazing stories. The remembrance of discovering the your own love of books, the where and when. How magnificent to be able to put old photos to the story, fabulous. Things change so much in this era. I grew up with forests all around and my only neighbors my dad’s parents, that was so wonderful.
    Now it is a Huge Mall😣 my dad and grandparents are in Heaven but my memories have been recorded in photos and hand written stories I did growing up and adding pictures to them. I
    It’s sad No place I can go back to, my library was the school and it has been destroyed for a much newer bigger.
    I loved the school library, we went on Friday so I had all weekend to read. I took out as much as I could fill my arms with. Pure joy 🙂 I could sit in an Apple tree an read all day no
    Bother from anyone, or grandma’s garage attic, it was warm and has Windows to see both our yards. Clean, warm and quiet, it had an old stove on the main floor.
    I see we all have stories of destruction😣 it is terrible
    Folks do not take time keeping old beautiful buildings.
    Thanks for such wonderful ‘fall’s about your books and your
    Thoughts.

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