Please welcome Maggie Barbieri, author of the Murder 101 series (and a forthcoming series–see below!).
What’s your idea of a perfect day?
My perfect day would include: weighing five pounds less on the daily scale check (never happens; you can’t eat potato chips every day and lose weight); a nice walk along the Hudson; an output of one perfect chapter in whatever book I’m working on. Oh, and no laundry. Yes, that would be the icing on the cake.
Do you have a signature accessory, color, fragrance, phrase, or meal?
“Tell your story walking, pally” is something that I say to my kids when they start complaining about some perceived injustice. Saying that serves two purposes: 1) it tells them how I feel about their “pain” and 2) makes them laugh. Every single time.
Excluding family, name three people who either inspired you or influenced your creativity.
My college poetry professor was a huge inspiration because he was the first person who encouraged me to write.
My good friend, Alison, has been instrumental in my writing career as well. She was the first person with whom I work-shopped any writing and who always gives me terrific and spot-on feedback.
My editor at Minotaur encouraged me to break out of my comfort zone and try something new. She was right—I had another book in me and it wasn’t part of my existing Murder 101 series. So grateful for her support.
Do you listen to music when you write?
I do! I’m on an Adele kick right now because her last album is all about heartache and loss and my latest book is about the same. There’s also some revenge in there and I’ve got that as well.
If your latest book were chocolate, what kind would it be and why?
Dark chocolate with hazelnuts. Every mystery needs a nut or two and dark chocolate is so much more sinister than its milquetoast counterpart, milk chocolate (which, incidentally, is my favorite).
What made you interested in writing this particular story?
For the new series that I am writing—still untitled—I got my inspiration after I did a brief stint at my friend’s bakery last year, just as her business was getting off the ground. I started thinking about the bakery as a setting for a new story with a new female protagonist, thinking about what it would be like to be a suburban mom with a business, a father with encroaching Alzheimer’s, and a police investigation into a family murder. How would someone juggle everything and maintain her sanity?
What themes do you regularly (re)visit in your writing?
I love the idea of people with secrets. As someone who has always lived her life as an open book—perhaps too much and to her detriment—I am fascinated by the fact that people can live lives that look one way on the outside yet are completely different on the inside.
I also revisit the idea of missed opportunities. What if we had gone through one door instead of another? Taken the express train instead of the local? How do seemingly inconsequential decisions affect our life long-term, if at all? I use this idea in THIRD DEGREE, the fifth installment of the Alison Bergeron/Murder 101 series. During a scene together, she and her boyfriend discuss something that had happened years ago when she was a college student and he was a rookie cop. Turns out that they had met and not remembered until that moment. That was something I always wanted to do in the series and think I found a natural place to do it.
Tell us about your main character’s psyche or personality. What led her (or him) to be the person s/he is today?
For Alison Bergeron, losing her parents at a young age definitely contributed to her feeling of being unmoored in the world and keeps her tethered to her best friend, Max, someone who tries to have Alison’s back and sometimes fails. For my new series protagonist, Maeve Conlon, an abusive relationship with a family member informs just about everything she does.
Describe your protagonist as a mash-up of three famous people or characters.
Alison Bergeron = Lucille Ball + Nancy Drew + Suzanne “Pepper” Anderson (Angie Dickinson’s character in “Police Woman,” a show that Alison loves and often refers to)
If you could host a mystery-author dinner party, who are the six writers (living or otherwise) you’d include?
Well, I know that Carolyn Keene is a pen name for the various writers who started and continue to write the Nancy Drew mysteries. I would love to meet the person who conceived of that character so many years ago and ask them how they came up with a teenaged girl sleuth way before women were as empowered as they are today. If Stephen King counts as a mystery writer (and I think he does, at least for this purpose!) would also be at the dinner because I would love to be in the presence someone whose imagination knows no boundaries. As for the other four? Sara Paretsky, Sue Grafton, Harlan Coben, and Jan Burke.
What’s next for you?
I have a new series which will debut next fall. It is untitled but is about Maeve Conlon, suburban soccer mom, bakery owner, and caretaker to a father with dementia who may or may not have committed murder. Maeve has a complicated backstory and a busy present and keeping everything together while trying to keep her father out of jail drives the story. Please return to my web site after the new year (www.maggiebarbieri.com) to get more information about the publication date and most importantly THE TITLE.
Maggie Barbieri is a freelance writer and editor who lives in the Hudson Valley of New York State. She is the author of the Murder 101 series, the seventh of which will be published in December of 2012. When she’s not writing or editing, she pretends that the kayak in her back yard gets used every day, that she loves fitness, and that she willingly passes by the jar of M&M’s on one of her client’s desks when they meet. She lives in a 1920s Colonial with the smallest bathroom known to mankind, her husband, two children, a needy West Highland Terrier, and a large, but docile, Maine Coon cat. You can find her at www.maggiebarbieri.com or on Twitter at @maggiebarbieri (Maggie says, “I can’t process pithy tweets but I’ll let you know when important stuff is happening…or what I had for breakfast…I’m not the best tweeter”).