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Valuing her readers’ time: Mystery writer Barbara Ross

New book “Boiled Over” continues series set in fictional Maine harbor town
Wed, 06/25/2014 - 8:30am

    What's a mystery without some red herrings? Author and seasonal Boothbay Harbor resident Barbara Ross uses those false leads toward her goal of keeping the reader guessing until the big reveal.

    “You feel like you've played fair with the reader, when you've given them all the clues and they still haven't solved it,” she said. “That's the best thing you can do.”

    From what Ross, 61, has been hearing, her latest book, “Boiled Over,” meets that goal.

    There's a lot of work to get there.

    “In a traditional mystery there must be several credible suspects, so the author has to invent not just one person who is capable of murder, but multiple people who have motive, means and opportunity, not just to kill the victim, but to have done the deed a specific time and place,” Ross said. “The trick (is) to have enough red herrings, but not so many the reader can't keep track and loses interest.”

    Her job is to entertain readers, who are giving her their valuable time, she said; so she strives to make the best use of that time.

    A full-time writer since 2010, Ross doesn't wait for a moment of inspiration. She has contractual deadlines to meet.

    “What most writers of fiction will tell you is to put your seat in the chair every day. The work creates the inspiration, not the other way around,” said Ross, co-editor and co-publisher of Level Best Books. The company publishes crime and mystery stories by New England authors.

    “Boiled Over” is Ross' second book in her “Maine Clambake Mystery” series set in Busman’s Harbor. The fictional Maine town’s name and some other aspects of Busman’s Harbor resemble Boothbay Harbor, where Ross and husband Bill Carito make their summer home at the former Seafarer Inn.

    The couple live the rest of the year in Somerville, Massachusetts.

    Ross' mother-in-law Olga Carito was the last owner to operate the property as an inn.

    The “Maine Clambake Mystery” series follows heroine Julia Snowden’s efforts to solve murders she encounters after returning to her hometown and the family business, the Snowden Family Clambake Company. The acknowledgments in “Boiled Over” credit the 2012, self-written obituary of Boothbay Register employee David McKown with a line describing a character named Bud: “As far as he was concerned, terrorists and tourists were in the same boat, and hopefully it was sinking.”

    “I was inspired by the obituary, and I thought it was a great line that applied to a certain kind of character,” in terms of Bud’s eccentricity and his attitude, Ross said in an interview June 24.

    “Boiled Over” was released in May.

    Sherman's Books & Stationery in Boothbay Harbor has copies, Ross said; to order online or learn more about Ross and her books, go to

    Ross recently turned in the manuscript for “Musseled Out,” the third and possibly final book in the series; she's waiting to hear if Kensington Publishing will ask her to continue the series.

    “I hope to continue it because I love the characters and settings so much, and I feel I have more stories to tell about them,” Ross said.

    She'll be signing books at Boothbay Railway Village from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. on July 12, during the “Books in Boothbay” event there.