Oh, the Sacrifices We Make for Art!

Hi. Barb here.

Most of the Maine Crime Writers have written about the things they must do to make their books feel believable. Paul, as we know, is a certified Maine Guide who also follows the doings of the Maine Warden Service closely. Paul http://mainecrimewriters.com/pauls-posts/maine-guide-tips. Gerry has wandered the woods where his Jack McMorrow books take place http://mainecrimewriters.com/gerrys-posts/a-book-begins-commence-the-wandering. Jim has researched both schizophrenia http://mainecrimewriters.com/jims-posts/metamorphosis-ii-becoming-abby-quinn and post traumatic stress disorder http://mainecrimewriters.com/uncategorized/ptsd-a-frightening-possibility . And we know Kate will go to any lengths to make sure both her true crime books and her police procedurals are accurate http://mainecrimewriters.com/uncategorized/the-other-tools-of-the-trade.

Both Kaitlyn http://mainecrimewriters.com/kaitlyns-posts/decisions-decisions and Lea http://mainecrimewriters.com/uncategorized/october-17-1777-lea-wait have written about the research and work that goes into their historical fiction. Sarah really does do all those home repairs http://mainecrimewriters.com/uncategorized/location-location. And who knew Vicki‘s day job as a realtor was so dangerous? http://mainecrimewriters.com/uncategorized/my-scary-day-job

So the time has come when I must sacrifice myself in the name of authentic, Maine crime writing. And I have been doing this by

–taking harbor cruises and eating lots of lobsters and steamers.

It's a tough job, but we all have to make sacrifices

It’s a tough job, but someone has to do it.

My new series of Maine Clambake Mysteries is about a woman who leaves her Manhattan job as a venture capitalist to save her family’s failing clambake business. Her family offers a harbor cruise to a private island where guests are served a full Maine Clambake. (Yes, the food served at clambakes varies throughout the northeast United States, but a Maine Clambake always includes lobster.)

The series was “inspired” by an actual clambake. However, when I wrote the proposal, in October, I had never actually been on this excursion and it was too late in the year to go. My contract was signed in the winter, which I’m kind of glad about, since I had months to make up my family and my island and my clambake business, which are all, quite happily, distinct from the real one.

But you can imagine how excited I was when this summer rolled around and I was actually able to make the trip. I signed my husband and myself up for the first clambake of the year, which is fantastic because the first novel in the series, CLAMMED UP, starts on the first day of the season.

The real Cabbage Island Clambake

Everyone in the Moore family, who actually own the island and run the Cabbage Island Clambake, was very accommodating and answered my tons of questions, as did the captain of the boat that took us over and many of the employees. Like-

What’s the capacity of this boat? What kind of boat is it? How do you get the food out here? The wood? What happens to the trash? Where does your water come from? How long do you cook that? How many people work here? What would you do if you had a group of customers who were really causing problems?

I kept telling everyone that the fictional clambake business in my books would be portrayed in a very positive light (except of course for all the killings) which the family members seemed to find more amusing than reassuring. I think it had honestly never occurred to them that someone could see a happy day spent with family and friends eating lobster in a negative light.

It was also fantastic listening to the comments of the other diners and meeting the people who take the cruise.

Here’s the website for the real Cabbage Island Clambake–in case you want to go. http://www.cabbageislandclambakes.com/index.htm

All and all, a hugely successful day. I’ll let the pictures tell the rest of the story.

We passed the Burnt Island Light on the way to the island. Harbor porpoises gamboled next to the boat.

The mixed hardwood for the clambake. (The clambake in my book is done a little differently.)

At 91, Mrs. Moore, the matriarch, still works in the little island gift shop.

Can you imagine being the island cat at the clambake?

My husband Bill is so supportive--anything for my art!

About Barbara Ross

Barbara Ross is the author of the Maine Clambake Mysteries. Her books have been nominated for multiple Agatha Awards for Best Contemporary Novel and have won the Maine Literary Award for Crime Fiction. She lives in Portland, Maine. Readers can visit her website at www.maineclambakemysteries.com
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11 Responses to Oh, the Sacrifices We Make for Art!

  1. Lea Wait says:

    Barb – Now, why didn’t I think of that! I first went to one of those Cabbage Island bakes when I was in college, with a fellow Boothbay Playhouse employee, after the season was over. One of my daughters had her wedding reception there — and one of my nieces loved it so much she was married there!

    Really looking forward to reading your take on the place. It is surrounded by a lot of rocks …. and I suppose you could cover the body with rockweed and steam it.

    By the way — I’m sure you know — but for anyone who hasn’t been to a lobster or clam bake — the way you know your lobster, clams, potatoes, corn etc are done is … you also steam some eggs under that rockweed. When the eggs are hard boiled (hard steamed, actually …) then everything else is ready to eat. Mmmm.

    I think I’m overdue for some culinery research.

  2. thelma straw says:

    You made me feel I was right there ! I could taste, smell, feel, see — enjoy — and I LOVE the picture of the island cat! That is a whole story in itself! Thelma Straw in Manhattan

  3. Alice Duncan says:

    Sob! Wish I could do research like that! Unfortunately, we don’t have too many lobsters here in Roswell, NM 🙁

  4. Ang Pompano says:

    That looks like research that I could get into! I’ll bet you didn’t have to ask Bill twice to go along with you.

  5. Barb Ross says:

    So true, Ang. Though Bill’s book is set in the North End of Boston, and I did get to go to a feast….so quid pro quo.

  6. Barb, you are hysterical! You’ve got this research thing down pat…poor Bill, he will have suffer though…Just like John and Ang at the drag bar in Key West:)

  7. Great photos and blog, Barb! Isn’t research tough!

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