Submitted by Karna Small Bodman
We are delighted to welcome Ellen Crosby to the Rogue Limelight. She is a good friend and author of a terrific series of mysteries set in the Virginia wine country that include intriguing bits of history about the Founding Fathers paired with the search for documents and caches of bootleg Madeira.
|Author Ellen Crosby|
Where does she get her ideas and the inspiration for novels about wine and historic figures when she began her career in a totally different place? Here’s HER story.
I never intended to write the Virginia wine country mysteries—in fact, initially I only agreed to write one book. The Angels’ Share is the tenth book in the series and I just signed a contract to write two more.
I know. What happened?
In the 1990s my family and I lived in London where my husband was a journalist with the Voice of America. His previous assignment had been Moscow in the waning days of the Soviet Union, where I, too, worked as a
journalist for ABC News Radio. Moscow Nights, my first mystery was about to be published in England and was based on our time in Russia. My British literary agent wanted to know what my next book would be.
Though I wanted to write another standalone set overseas, I happened to tell her about a trip we’d just taken in the States with a friend who wanted to show us the Virginia vineyards. My husband is French and we had lived in France for five years where we visited some of that country’s world-class wineries. Our friend thought we needed to know about the burgeoning wine industry in the Old Dominion.
“That’s your next book,” my agent said. “You need to set a book at a Virginia vineyard.”
I said no. “I want to write a book with a foreign setting.” “Ellen,” she said, “you live in England. Virginia is a foreign setting.”
Hard to argue with that.
When I told her I didn’t know anything about the business of grape growing and winemaking, she had an answer for that, too. “You’re a journalist,” she said. “You’ll figure it out.”
Soon afterward we moved home to Virginia and I lucked out, discovering a vineyard in the charming village of Middleburg about twenty-five miles from where I lived.
It was owned by a woman who loved Murder, She Wrote and was willing to teach me what I needed to know. I also acquired a wonderful American literary agent who told me, “You do know this needs to be the first book in a series, don’t you?”
Well, I did now.
My books take place in a picturesque, idyllic region of Virginia known as horse and hunt country where rolling hills, checkerboard fields, country lanes, and pretty little towns are set against the backdrop of the dowager-humped Blue Ridge Mountains. The streets of Middleburg are named for the signers of the Declaration of Independence because they were friends of the man who founded the town in 1787. A local Civil War hero known as the Gray Ghost used to hide out with his soldiers behind miles of stacked stonewalls that crisscross the land, tuck into hidey-holes under homes, or roost up trees.
Although my series is based on a vineyard in Atoka, a town I invented next door to Middleburg, I have woven Virginia’s rich and fascinating history into each of the books.
In The Angels’ Share, Lucie Montgomery, my protagonist, searches for a 200-year old cache of bootleg Madeira her family supposedly owned as she tries to solve the murder of a newspaper magnate who may have discovered the whereabouts of potentially scandalous documents hidden by the Founding Fathers. (The story about the documents, or the mystery of Bruton Vault, is true).
I’m now writing book #11 with a plot that involves Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis (a Middleburg habitué) and Old Master paintings. Whoever would have thought there would be so many interesting ways to commit murder over a bottle of wine?
The plot of Ellen’s new mystery, The Angels’ Share, is described by Publisher’s Weekly as one where “threads come together in an exciting and satisfying conclusion. Crosby knows how to keep the reader guessing.” It was just released a few weeks ago and I can’t wait to read it, (while I anxiously wait for the next Middleburg adventure) You can check out ALL of Ellen’s terrific mysteries here Now thank you so much, Ellen, for being our guest blogger today and telling us about your fascinating writing career.
….Karna Small Bodman