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.
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.