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!
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.