Seasonal Spirit: Barbara Ross on ‘Eggnog Murder’ (Q&A)

Today, Barbara Ross offers a virtual toast to the holiday season.

Barbara contributed the story “Nogged Off” to the new holiday mystery collection, Eggnog Murder (Kensington), also featuring authors Leslie Meier and Lee Hollis. She also writes the Maine Clambake Mysteries; the fifth entry, Iced Under, is due out on December 27th. The first book in the series, Clammed Up was nominated for an Agatha Award for Best Contemporary Novel, the RT Book Reviews, Reviewer’s Choice Best Book Award for Amateur Sleuth and was a finalist for the Maine Literary Award for Crime Fiction. Barbara is co-editor/co-publisher of Level Best Books, which produces anthologies of crime stories by New England authors. She writes at her home overlooking the harbor in Boothbay Harbor, Maine.

Author Barbara Ross.

Praise for Eggnog Murder:

“This anthology boasts three terrific tales of yuletide murder in coastal Maine … Ross’s ‘Nogged Out’ [is] a creepily convincing tale of tinsel-decked, cookie-scented psychopathology. It’s not just the nog: sparkly writing and emotional depth link this trio of holiday cozies.”—Publishers Weekly, starred review

“These three tales of deadly eggnog will make you pause before indulging in the holiday treat … This collection of short cozy mysteries set in Maine and featuring delicious recipes serves as a great introduction to these authors’ series for new readers or as a bite-sized delicacy to tide established fans over until the next book.”—Library Journal

From the publisher:

With the fireplace crackling, the tree twinkling, and the carols humming, few things in life are as picture perfect as Christmas in Maine—until murder dampens the holiday spirit. It must be something in the eggnog . . .
When a gift-wrapped bottle of eggnog—allegedly from the Real Beard Santa Club—proves to be a killer concoction for a Tinker’s Cove local, all Lucy Stone wants for Christmas is to find the murdering mixologist who’s stirring up trouble.
Food and cocktails columnist Hayley Powell has never cared much for Bar Harbor’s grouchy town librarian, Agatha Farnsworth. But after the Scroogy senior has a fatal—and suspicious—allergic reaction to supposedly non-dairy eggnog, it’s up to Hayley to ladle out some justice.

Julia Snowden’s tenant Imogen Geinkes seems to be jinxed. First, her poorly named “Killer Eggnog” gives all her co-workers food poisoning at the holiday party, then her boyfriend’s body shows up in Julia’s moving truck as she’s headed back to Busman’s Harbor. Now Julia has to get moving to catch the cold-hearted culprit.

Cozy up with a glass of eggnog and enjoy the spirit of murder and mystery in a Yuletide treat perfect for those winter holidays . . .


Now, Barbara Ross offers some holiday spirit …

John Valeri: Tell us about your involvement in Eggnog Murder. How does this project illustrate the sense of community that exists within the mystery world?

Barbara Ross: Hi John! My publisher Kensington approached me through my agent John Talbot about contributing a novella to Eggnog Murder. I knew Leslie Meier, whose Lucy Stone mysteries are set, like mine, in a fictional town in coastal Maine. Leslie lives in Massachusetts and has been active in Sisters in Crime and we’ve done a few events together. In keeping with what you said about the sense of community in the mystery world, she very generously blurbed the first book in my Maine Clambake Mystery series.

I knew of Lee Hollis, whose books are set in Bar Harbor, Maine, but I didn’t know him. Or her. Or really them. Lee Hollis is the pseudonym of the brother and sister writing team of Rick Copp and Holly Copp Simason. But, since we’ve been thrown together we’ve all worked together on blog posts and other publicity.

As Lawrence Block has said, “No one has to fail so I can succeed.” That’s the spirit that makes the mystery writing such a supportive community.

JV: What inspired your contribution, “Nogged Off” – and how do you find the process of writing short stories to compare to that of writing novels?

BR: When Kensington asked me to contribute a novella to Eggnog Murder, it seemed like a happy coincidence. I had been sitting on an eggnog anecdote for more than thirty years, and it is the germ of what starts of the story of “Nogged Off” and sets the events in motion. How many people have an eggnog anecdote at the ready, I ask you?

I loved working in the novella length. I had never written one before, but my short stories are always too long and my novels are always to short, so I suspected it was a good format for me.

JV: In your opinion, what is it about the holidays that lends itself so well to stories of murder and mayhem – and, despite these deadly doldrums, how do they ultimately celebrate the reason for the season?

BR: The kind of mysteries I write are about disturbances in the normal world. My suspects and victims are rarely career criminals. They’re normal people going along and then—yikes, a murder! And then justice must be done so order can be restored.

I think at the holidays we all look to the comforts of tradition and ritual, so when something disturbs that, the stakes are even higher. Plus everyone knows the tension between the happy memories we are creating and dealing with the quirks and worse of family. It’s a time of year when getting it right can be so meaningful and having it go wrong can be so horrible.

JV: What are your gift-giving book recommendations this year? Also, have you ever received a particularly poignant literary memento? If so, do share …

BR: Well under our tree will be—for thrillers, Chris Holms’ Red Right Hand. Police procedural, Bruce Robert Coffin’s Among the Shadows. Non-fiction, Kate Flora and Roger Guay’s Good Man with a Dog. Historical mysteries—Jessica Estevao’s Whispers Beyond the Veil and Edith Maxwell’s Delivering the Truth.

I don’t remember who gave it to me, but I have a bookmark taped over my desk. On it is a quote attributed to George Eliot, though as I understand it, no one has ever found the source. “It is never too late to be what you might have been.” I have been inspired and nagged by those words for more than twenty years.

JV:  Leave us with a teaser: what comes next?

BR: I’m working on the sixth Maine Clambake Mystery, Stowed Away, due—ulp—March 1.


With thanks to Barbara Ross for her generosity of time and thought.

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