YESTERDAYS WINNER! Joan Emerson, earliest riser with the right answers! Email me (Hallie "at" HallieEphron dot com) to select your prize...
HALLIE EPHRON: So a week ago I was sitting on the porch of a little cottage on Peaks Island in Maine reading Barbara Ross's new novel, CLAMMED UP, her first Maine Clambake Mystery. I felt
like I was IN the book which is set on a Maine Island with a clambake
catered wedding. My daughter had a fabulous clambake wedding on Peaks
four years ago.
Of course my daughter is the furthest
thing from a Bridezilla, still the issues that seem so huge before a
wedding resonated. But in CLAMMED UP, when the best man was discovered
... let's just say "indisposed," I happily settled into the realms of
So what I want to know,
Barbara is to what extent you're drawing from your own experience when
it comes to writing Maine islands, clambakes, and Bridezillas?
BARBARA ROSS: Actually, like a good writer, I was drawing on someone else’s history. Maine writer Lea Wait had
mentioned casually to me that one of her daughters had her wedding
reception on a private island that did a real Maine clambake. So when my agent asked me what I thought about a clambake for a series, the wheels began to turn.
sure Lea’s daughter was the furthest thing from a Bridezilla, too. And I
have to say, the poor bride in my book is provoked. Interestingly,
Lea’s latest mystery novel has a wedding in it, too—SHADOWS OF A CAPE
HALLIE: The food, the scenery, the short, glorious summer -- it makes Maine a great place to be in August. What are its advantages of Maine as the setting for a mystery novel?
BARBARA: There is something about Maine and mysteries, isn’t there? And mystery writers—from Mary Roberts Rinehart to today’s Sarah Graves, Paul Doiron, and all my peeps over at Maine Crime Writers. And that’s just crime fiction. Stephen King, Richard Russo….
think it’s the variation—the sea, the mountains, the lakes, the woods,
the wealthy in their summer mansions, the rural poverty. There’s pretty much not a theme you can think of you couldn’t play out in Maine.
main character is delightful. Julia is trying to rescue her family's
business (that's a REAL clambake under way in the photograph below), her
family island, and herself from insolvency and the questionable
decisions of her brother-in-law Sonny.
Did you know how much trouble she was going to get into when you started writing?
knew Sonny was the antagonist and would give Julia a run for her money.
By the time she arrives back in Maine, she’s a dyed in the wool New
Yorker, used to change everyday. Sonny’s a traditionalist, conservative
in the non-political sense (though probably in the political sense as
well). She has all these new ideas to save the clambake business, and he
I always start by leaving a body in some difficult place and then writing the story to figure out how it got there and who would have had motive to put it there. So in that sense, I had no idea how much trouble Julia would get into.
a mystery on a tiny island is just the kind of thing Agatha Christie
would... in fact, DID do in And Then There Were None (aka Ten Little
Indians). Did you have that in your mind as you were writing and what
are the challenges and opportunities that the island setting brings with
BARBARA: Well, of
course Agatha was a genius at what she did. But let me tell you, the
real challenge would be writing a second mystery set on that island. How many people can you kill off on a little Maine island?
things appeared to be huge advantages for a mystery—no cell phones, no
internet, the geographic isolation. But as much as I gained from these
features, they also presented challenges. It was like, “Man, I’ve got to get everybody out to the %^&* island again. Where’d I leave the #$%^ boat?”
HALLIE: Me: LAUGHING!
Tell us what you're working on, and when can we expect the next Maine Clambake Mystery?
BARBARA: On September 1, I handed in Book 2 in the Maine Clambake Mystery series. Boiled Over will be published in May 2014.
And I’m working on the next anthology from Level Best Books,
Best New England Crime Stories 2014: Stone Cold, which will be released
in November. I’m really excited about it. And, if I can say, so I love
my story in the collection, “Bread Baby.”
Thanks, Barbara! Do you have any favorite island memories to share? Any
weddings where you'd happily have committed murder? Share!
Extra points to anyone who knows why a "real" clambake include a hard boiled egg.
Barbara will be giving one lucky commenter a signed copy of CLAMMED UP.