Here’s my first post on the Wickeds blog ten years ago. It was titled So Who Is Barbara Ross. The interview was done by Liz Mugavero/Cate Conte. New info is in italics for those who want to skim.
To continue our month-long anniversary celebration, I’m giving away a hardcopy of Irish Coffee Murder and an Advance Reader Copy of Hidden Beneath to one lucky commenter below.
Liz: I love to chat with my wicked cozy sisters – they’re such interesting people, and I find out new nuggets of information every time! Today I’m talking to Barbara Ross, author of Clammed Up, to get an idea of what makes her tick.
Barb, how long have you been writing? What did you start out writing?
I always wrote. My mother has an embarrassing illustrated story about a wild horse circa second grade that she’s saving to blackmail me with some day.
My mother has died since the original post, so I am now in possession of the incriminating wild horse tale. I swear I wrote about it on the blog here once, but I can’t find the post. Maybe that’s just as well.
Who has influenced you?
So many people! Like a lot of girls, I graduated from Nancy Drew to Agatha Christie to Dorothy Sayers. Then I wandered in the desert of contemporary American literature for awhile and found my way back to mystery via P.D. James, Ruth Rendell and Colin Dexter.
This one is still true. P.D. James, Ruth Rendell, and Colin Dexter taught me everything about mysteries and series and writing and reading. I am forever grateful.
Who do I buy as soon as the books hit the stores? In mystery, Louise Penny, Deborah Crombie, Julia Spencer-Fleming.
Also Tana French, Ann Cleeves, and Kate Atkinson
Who would I say has most influenced my series? Cleo Coyle, Sheila Connolly, Kaitlyn Dunnett, Sarah Graves, Leslie Meier, Lucy Burdette, Lea Wait.
This one is still true, too. These are the authors who convinced me I could write a cozy mystery.
Who would I trade my soul to write like? Alice Munro.
Still true. Also, Diana Gabaldon. I know, economy versus expansiveness, but I love them both.
Talk about your past life in the business world. How has that influenced your fiction?
Julia Snowden, the protagonist of Clammed Up worked at a venture capital firm and I knew quite a few people like that when I was a tech entrepreneur. One scene in the book is a direct lift from the life of a young investment banker I knew.
I always worked in start-ups, and starting your own little author business turns out to have a lot of similarities. And a lot of differences, but the similarities do help.
What’s your connection to New England?
I was born in Chelsea, Massachusetts, but my family left when I was just a few months old. It tool me 22 years to get back, but the instant I moved to New England, it felt like home. Currently, I live with my husband in Somerville, MA and we have a summer place in Boothbay Harbor, ME which I’ve highly fictionalized for the Busman’s Harbor in my Clambake mysteries.
In 2017, after my mother-in-law who was living downstairs died, we sold the Somerville house and moved to Portland, Maine and haven’t looked back. We sold the Boothbay Harbor house in 2019 and have consolidated our lives in Portland. We love it there.
What’s your favorite thing about New England?
The people. Hands down. And the variety. City, country, ocean, lakes, mountains, rivers, winter, spring, summer, fall, history, contemporary. You never get bored or run out of things to do.
Still the same.
What would people be surprised to learn about you?
People are always surprised to learn that I’m a scrapbooker. I think it doesn’t fit with my personality, but it’s a hobby I enjoy.
The fiction writing has pretty much killed the scrapbooking. I still have all the supplies and very soon I either need to pick it up again or admit that it’s not happening and get rid of all the stuff.
What are you working on right now?
Book two in the Maine Clambake Mystery series, Boiled Over. Reading all the submissions for Level Best Books where I’m a co-editor. Getting ready to open registration for the New England Crime Bake, where I’m co-chair.
Seven years ago, my group of editors turned publishing the Best New England Crime Stories annual collection over to new group of editors. The franchise has since changed editors again and is now Crime Spell Books. I spoke to one of the current editors at Malice Domestic and they are busily reading this year’s submissions. As for me, I’m writing Book 12 in the Maine Clambake Mystery series due (ulp) July 1. I’m no longer involved with the New England Crime Bake, except as a happy attendee. I am now happily involved with the Maine Crime Wave.
Why cozies? Do you write anything else additionally?
Cozies because I love a good mystery. I also write short stories.
I would add cozies because I love writing a series. I also write novellas. I haven’t written a short story in years. I’m always distracted by my book and novella deadlines (and I’m always behind).
Which are the top five books are in your to-be-read pile?
There Was an Old Woman–Hallie Ephron
The Clover House–Henriette Lazaridis Powers
Zinsky the Obscure–Ilan Mochari
Together Tea–Marjan Kamali
Kneading to Die–Liz Mugavero
Okay now it’s…
Murder on the Homefront–Jessica Ellicott
Final Cut–Marjorie McCown
The Ingredients of Happiness–Lucy Burdette
Dead Man’s Wake–Paul Doiron
And one book for a blurb that I’ll keep to myself for now.
Liz: Thanks for sharing, Barb! Can’t wait to read Clammed Up – and I love the title Boiled Over too. Looking forward to your book.
Readers: I found reading over my answers from ten years ago to be quite satisfying. A lot has happened and been accomplished, but I’m still me. Do you ever reflect on your life five or ten years ago? Comment for a chance to win Irish Coffee Murder and an ARC of Hidden Beneath.
Ten years later! I gave up being the Head of the ESL program I started 21 years ago in my town. I’m working part time now and trying to figure out my next chapter now that I’m not consumed with work!
Congrats on 10 years! Yes, I like to reflect back. Especially on how things have changed throughout the years. Thanks for the chance!
It is so good to have a little space to figure things out, isn’t it?
It’s so interesting to take stock at a milestone, isn’t it? I didn’t know you’d laid down scrapbooking – hope you get a chance to pick it up again!
We’ll see. It’s either pick it up or get rid of all the crafting stuff–and all the print photos in boxes.
Yes, I like to look back and reflect on changes from 10 or 20 years ago – what seemed so important back then either faded away or just turned into a nice memory.
So interesting how a little distance gives us perspective.
Your attitude toward scrapbooking is kind of like mine toward counted cross stitch. I want to pick it up again, but there always seems to be something that needs to be done first.
It may be because I spend the day sitting at a table, so that’s not what I want to do in the evenings. It has a lot to do with the change in television. I used to do a lot of scrapbooking while waiting for a show I wanted to see. Now I only watch things I want to see and I can watch them at anytime, so no need to fill in the empty time.
Isn’t it amazing that if we stay true to ourself, whether it be 5 years or 10, we are still the same – maybe older or planted in a new place, but still WHO we are.
Like you we moved after the death of my Mom who lived with us for 5 years with Alzheimer. We found our forever happy place. But changing locations didn’t change who I was. In fact, it confirmed who I am and I’m extremely happy about that. Downsizing was also good. It had us taking a hard look at things figuring out what was “stuff” that could go and what we really wanted to keep. When I reflect back to the 6 years before we moved here, I’m amazed at how much happier we are to be where we want to be opposed to where we needed to be. I don’t regret the past (because it made better me who I am today), but I’d rather look ahead to today with more dreams about tomorrow.
Thank you for the chance to win the hardcopy of “Irish Coffee Murder” and an ARC of “Hidden Beneath”. What a fabulous and most generous giveaway! Shared and hoping to be the fortunate one to not only win, but to be able to read and review them too.
2clowns at arkansas dot net
I certainly second looking ahead. It’s amazing to be in a place that is your choice and not dictated by good school systems, or requirements of elder care or jobs or anything else.
Fun to read the earlier interview! I do reflect about the last ten years, since major changes have occurred, a balance of happy and challenging. Looking forward to the next phase, with many possibilities to explore, gardens to create, and your books to enjoy.
Looking forward is the way to be.
I remember that post! It has held up remarkably well, and you will nail that July deadline!
I had to stop and think about looking back. I don’t do it too often. I like to think I learn the lessons and then move forward! Ten years ago I was putting the finishing touches on my first soon to be traditionally published novel, five years ago we were in the throes of recovery from Hurricane Irma and I was a month away from breaking my wrist! Hum, think I’ll keep looking ahead!
I enjoy looking back, but without regrets. You can’t change it so don’t fret about it. Irma, I remember. Thanks for the deadline encouragement.
It’s interesting to look back and see all the changes, some good and some not. Family, friends, jobs, and my sweet pets.
Even as the world changes, it’s those closest to us that matter.
I often reflect on the changes in my life. Having a grandson constantly brings back memories of my son as a baby/child. In addition, I retired ten years ago and often look back at my work life compared to my current life.
I do that, too. I left my last day job in 2010 and often look back with fondness about my colleagues from that era of my life.
I love that you suggested doing this Barb. It’s so fun to see where we were and where we are!
There were fewer changes than I expected.
I reflect about my life and how the world has changed in just three short years since Covid. I have definitely read a lot more and love a good cozy mystery. You have written a wonderful series that I can’t wait to read what is coming next. You also have made Maine a place I want to visit.
I hope you get to come here, Jackie.
I do look back and remember good times with family and friends fairly often. I lost both my parents in 2005 and they both come to mind quite often. They would have been thrilled to become great-grandparents last year and overjoyed at the recent birth of twin great-grand babies. So I don’t take stock every five or ten years but with both milestone events and everyday remembrances. Thank you so much for the chance to win not one but two books Barb!
I lost my parents in 2011 and 2013 and think of them often–and my grandparents, too.
I marvel at the changes, the majority good. That’s inspiration for more changes. I can’t shake the thought that I’m writing for eternity on the journey to my forever home.
What a lovely sentiment.
I love this post it was like a full circle moment. I selfishly am happy writing your books keeps you busy so I can read them!!! I have read every book in the series and hope there will be many more to come!!!
There’s at least one more!
I love this series and am happy to hear Julia Snowden’s about to become entangled in a new mystery!
She can’t seem to stay away, can she?
Cheers to 10 years of sharing all these wonderful books with us!
Not a lot of changes in my life over the last 10 years. My dad passing and finally having my first pet are probably the biggest things. But small things- it’s interesting to think back on how things may or may not be different today based on something insignificant. Hopefully I’m a little wiser (but no promises!) and I wonder what my life will be in another 10 years.
The butterfly effect. It does make you wonder.
HAPPY 10TH. ANNIVERSARY, Barb! Time flies when you are having fun, they say, and it is absolutely true. Though so much has happened to you, you are still you 🙂
I am also still me, but 8 years ago I was working and traveling 110% of my time, and was getting ready to retire from the business world. Now, I am retired from my airline career, but am still working in my travel agency business and became an avocado rancher. Life is good, because I am my own boss…the best (or worst) boss I ever had. Love your books, Barb…every single one of them…even the stories, the novellas, and of course…JULIA…Aaah…what an exciting thing to think about when I consider that Hidden Beneath is popping up next month! Thank you, thank you, thank you. Luis at ole dot travel
I love the title “avocado rancher.” I sincerely hope your boss isn’t too hard on you.
Isn’t that a funny term? My fourth grade teacher’s parents owned an avocado ranch and we took a field trip to it. I even got to wear PANTS to school!
I love the Then and Now interviews. It’s actually pretty amazing how little we change even as we age and the world changes around us. Ten years ago I started driving a school bus and did that for 5 years. I’m glad I did it and just as glad I no longer am (Covid stopped that.) I see the changes that 10 years make in my yard. I love almost out of control plants and it takes years for that to happen. I don’t like what 10 years has done to my body, but all-in-all, It’s been a good 10 years. No need to enter me in the drawing as I have already won these book and am so excited about that!
Congratulations on your win!
It is amazing how much is still similar. (No need to enter me in the giveaway.)
Right? It feels like there’s been a lot of change. There are a few things I didn’t mention, like grandchildren. But Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose.
It was such fun to read the updated version of this! I do reflect on my life and how it has changed quite often. I also like to imagine an equal distance into the future!
I can’t wait to read yours!
Quite honestly, I don’t reflect on my life from five or ten years ago very often. I am more inclined to reflect on my life from fifty to sixty years ago! I wish that I could have changed a few of the decisions that I made during those years. Still, I know that I cannot change the past and that the past does not define who I am today. I am grateful to have a beautiful life today!
What a lovely thing to have a beautiful life today regardless of what happened in the past.
Barb, I love this call and response to your 10 years ago you. What a great reflection!
I can’t wait for yours!
Completely agree with your assessment of why live in New England and also with loving Portland! We find something new every time we go- And I’m adopting your attitude towards scrapbooking “I still have all the supplies and very soon I either need to pick it up again or admit that it’s not happening and get rid of all the stuff.” Made me laugh out loud, I’ve had stuff for years but don’t have even one album put together, just random pages 😆 We recently had “rain” down our dining room chandelier as a pipe upstairs burst in the January cold snap – as we cleaned up the mess and emptied the room to be renovated I reflected a lot on all the stuff I had stored in there and why I kept. Some of it was a real head scratcher!
I’m sorry about the leak, but I laughed at the head scratching.
I do reflect on my life at different times in it. In 2009, I decided that after 38 1/2 years of teaching and trying to make it to 40 years, that it was time for me to say Sayonara and I could not do any more. It had become too time consuming, and I did not seem to have a home life. I taught English and we did a research paper, AP Art History and Art History. There was no curriculum for the AH and I had to do it all. It was a hard decision to make at that time, but it was the best decision. Hubby Dearest had already retired 6 years earlier in a forced retirement. So, now we could do things together any time of the year though sometimes being together 24/7 is a bit much but the pup makes it all better. I do have dreams, or should I say nightmares about still teaching and the kids are awful and the parents worse. I loved your reflections. I have never been farther in NE that Glen Falls, New York with a foray at skiing in Vermont to visit friends. I would love to visit, but not when it is snowing.
Laughing about the 24/7 challenge.The dedication at the front of the first book in my series, Clammed Up, says, “This book is dedicated to Bill Carito, my best friend, the love of my life, who has supported me in everything I’ve ever done. Honey, I’m sorry I got annoyed at you for breathing while I was trying to write.’
And I have bought and read all of your books. Fantastic. Though I don’t like the breakup.
Congratulations on The Wickes tenth anniversary. My Sister and I frequently reflect on our childhood and family and friends. We also talk about some of the crazy stuff we’ve done and wonder what we were thinking.
Laughing about the crazy stuff. Age does bring perspective.
Congratulations on 10 years!! I look back at times that are memorable for changes motivated not by me and those times that I was motivated to change.
It does seem to matter a great deal whether we initiate the change or whether it is thrust upon us.
Yes. I have been doing a lot of that lately with the death of my Mom in January. There are things that come up that I feel in some ways happened yesterday, but in fact were many years ago. Thank you so much for sharing. God bless you.
I am so sorry about your mom.
I do look back to ten years ago and I marvel over how much has changed and how much I have accomplished. The kids were little then, and I was in the early days of homeschooling. Now my son is in college and doing exceptionally well and my daughter will be graduating from high school next year. She is also doing well. They grow so fast!
Children do remind us how fast time goes. Now that mine are grown with families of their own, I often use my grandparents’ expression, “The kids are getting old.”
Congratulations on 10 years of creating my favorite cozy series! So, of course, I would love a copy of any book you have written! I so envy you for living in New England. One of my close college friends is from Westbrook, Maine and has lived in Portland with her family for years. Have you ever been to Scratch Baking Company in South Portland? It’s owned by a woman I went to high school with here in NJ. Small world!
I do. The important years of my life were 1975, 1980, 1985, 1990, and 1995.
Isn’t that pattern interesting.
Ten years ago I was clinically depressed. Five years ago I was in a great place, socially active. Then Covid hit.