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Writing Crime

Q&A: Barb Ross, NOGGED OFF
By Kathryn Gandek-Tighe
Posted: 2019-09-26T11:00:00Z
Do you enjoy Barb Ross's Maine Clambake Mystery series? NOGGED OFF is being released as a novella on October 29th, and she answers our questions about the book including an inspiring eggnog anecdote.

How would you describe the plot of the book?

Julia Snowden returns to clean out her apartment in Manhattan and finds her subtenant in a flood of tears. The poor young woman has lost her boyfriend and her job. But that’s not the whole story.

What was the a-ha moment that made you write this story?

When Kensington asked me to write a novella about eggnog, I was thrilled. I had been sitting on an eggnog anecdote for thirty-plus years. As a young manager I asked a prospective employee why she wanted to leave her current position. She said, “I food poisoned everyone at the office holiday party with my eggnog.” I said, “Oh my gosh! Were you fired?” And she said, “No, but when you’ve been in the ER hooked up to an IV being rehydrated next to your boss and your boss’s boss it’s hard to believe you have much of a future with the company.”

Which of your skill sets were useful constructing the plot?

The story of the office holiday party food poisoning is the inciting incident, but then, of course, I needed a whole plot. And I needed to tell the whole story in approximately 30,000 words. There were certain elements I knew I wanted—a stolen moving van, the items abandoned by the side of the road, which came from another story an interviewee told me. I also didn’t know if I would ever be asked to write another Christmas story, so I included every tradition I could from my little Maine coast town. I guess you would say I have an ability to reposition stories I’ve heard and my experiences in service of the story, but I think that is true of every fiction writer.

What was the most interesting thing you learned writing the book?

I know way more than I wish I did about food-poisoning.

What meal and drink do you think would pair well with your book?

Eggnog and Christmas cookies, of course! Just buy the pasteurized or be careful how you make it.

Barbara Ross is the author of seven Maine Clambake Mysteries. The eighth, Sealed Off, will be released in December 2019. Barbara’s novellas are included in the anthologies Eggnog Murder, Yule Log Murder, and Haunted House Murder. Jane Darrowfield, Professional Busbody, first in a new series was released in June 2019.

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