Ellen Crosby Goes Rogue – In the Rogue Limelight

by | Nov 29, 2019 | Extraordinary Guest Bloggers | 6 comments

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?
                                                                    –ELLEN CROSBY

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       


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  1. Lisa Black

    I loved Russia, but I love the Blue Ridge Mountains too! And the intrigue surrounding wine is fascinating to me…probably because I have no ‘palate’ at all! I could be totally fooled by any hustler in the world.

  2. Robin Burcell

    I envy you your international experiences, Ellen! That has to be great background for writing, actually experiencing that which the rest of us can only imagine. How funny that you ended up writing about the U.S.! Thanks so much for stopping by. I'm looking forward to reading the next in your series!

  3. Ellen Crosby

    Thanks for inviting me here, Karna. Though I loved traveling and living all over the world, it has been good to be back home and settled in Virginia. Plus there is so much history here that I always stumble over something I didn't know that interests me for a future book.

  4. Ellen Crosby

    Thanks, Robin! I think what helped even more was my experience as a journalist–which taught me to pay attention to detail and to take good notes. It also gave me a real love of settings, especially exotic places–though exotic places can be anywhere! (And thanks for the recent help; hope you made your deadline!)

  5. Ellen Crosby

    Russia will always be endlessly fascinating to me, Lisa, so I'm glad I wrote about it when I did. And I never expected to be writing as many books as I have done that are set in Virginia!

  6. Kathleen

    I finish Angel Share last month and just finished Multiple Exposure. I really have enjoyed reading the entire Wine Country series. Ghost Image is next to me right now and I can't wait to start it. I am glad I read this article because I had noticed the chang in cover style and titles. (I like the current ones best.) When will the next Wine Country books be out? Will you right any more Sophie books?