I am so happy to have Barbara Barrett visit today!
Tell us a little bit about yourself.
Some might call me a snowbird; I prefer the term “seasonal.” My mom was the snowbird. I grew up, carried out my career and raised a family in Iowa. When I retired a while back, I became a Florida resident, although I return to Iowa for summers. I’m a wife, mother and grandmother. I trained to be an instructor in American History; both my undergrad and graduate degrees are in that discipline. When I was unable to find a full-time job in teaching, I took a position in human resources for Iowa State government. There, I learned how to develop and validate employment tests, classify jobs and determine appropriate pay grades. At the end of my career, I was the state’s program manager for workforce planning. For my romance novels, I considered the jobs of the hero and heroine almost secondary characters; I even named my website “Romance at Work” until I started writing cozy mysteries.
What are three things most people don’t know about you?
- I learned to play the violin when I was in fourth grade and continued until I graduated from high school. I was concertmistress of our high school orchestra my junior and senior years.
- I love Trivia games. Watching “Jeopardy” has become a nightly ritual with my husband and me. On one of my favorite TV programs, “Midsomer Murders,” they call it their “pop quiz.” For the longest time, I thought they were talking about some class in school.
- I’m a big fan of Oscar night. I’ve missed very few. Until my recent diet, it also used to be a fun pig-out night. My favorite treat, buttered popcorn with M&Ms or some kind of chocolate. Just a faint memory now.
What is the first book you remember reading?
Readers: can you remember the first book you read? I can’t, at least with certainty. I remember Golden Books like The Poky Little Puppy and The Little Engine that Could, but I think those were read to me by teachers. My first clear memory of a book I read was either Heidi or a Nancy Drew book. A few years later, when I was around thirteen, I read Exodus. It was one of the longest books I’ve ever read, and I took great pride in the fact that I finished it.
What are you reading now?
I just finished reading The President is Missing by Bill Clinton and James Patterson for my book club. I loved the twists. My goal is to craft the same caliber of twists in my own stories. I will soon begin Becoming by Michelle Obama for book club. Looking forward to it. I am also reading other cozy mysteries, currently, To Bead or Not to Bead by Janice Peacock.
What made you decide you want to write?
I feel like I should be wearing my purple feather boa to answer this question because the inspiration came from a soap opera character, Felicia Gallant on “Another World,” who wrote romance novels and had these wonderful adventures along the way. And wore feather boas while she worked. When I was in my late thirties (please don’t ask me how long ago that was), I wanted more challenge in my life, as if raising two growing children, being a good wife and trying to be a competent cook, attempting without a lot of success to keep our three-story house clean and surviving work politics weren’t enough. Felicia seemed to be doing pretty well in her writing career, so I reasoned maybe I could be a successful author too. I was kidding myself, but by the time I realized my folly, my first book had been published.
Do you have a special place you like to write?
In my dreams, I’m typing away on my laptop in a cozy cabin in the woods or a beach bungalow. In real life, I added a few chapters to my new book while on a cruise through the Panama Canal a few months ago. But mostly, I prefer my offices in both homes. We’ve dedicated guest bedrooms for my writing both in Florida and Iowa. Both have a sofa for lounging (when I need to “brainstorm,” of course) and a television set because I can’t break the habit that’s been with me since high school of having it on while I’m working.
Where do the ideas for your books come from?
These days, the ideas start with the game of Mah Jongg, since my four protagonists met playing this game and continue to play weekly, said game being featured at the beginning of the story and at the end. The titles incorporate Mah Jongg terms. Aside from that, since my protagonists live in a central Florida town and are retired, many of the activities I write about are those things I know about from my life in Florida like senior education classes, planning cruises, having coffee together and fundraisers like a follies.
What books have most inspired you?
Let’s start with the Holy Bible. It grounds me and provides the moral center of my life.
When I was pregnant with my first child, I discovered Agatha Christie at the library. I can’t recall which book I read first, but among the ones I devoured during that period were The Murder of Roger Ackroyd, The Mysterious Affair at Styles and The Murder at the Vicarage. Although I read the Hercule Poirot books, I liked Miss Marple better. This is where my love of the cozy mystery started. Years later, when I began writing, I started first with romance novels because the chances for publication seemed better. Only recently, after publishing eleven romance novels and two romance novellas, have I returned to the cozy.
Is there anything about writing you find most challenging?
Devising plausible suspects. It’s one thing for a person to dislike another, even hate them, but enough to murder them? A major leap. The real murderer’s motivation has to be credible. Of course, keeping the identity of the murderer in plain view and yet disguised enough so the reader doesn’t see it until near the end is also difficult.
What makes your books different from others out there in this genre?
My Mah Jongg Mystery stories feature four protagonists. The same one took the lead in the first two books, but now I’m alternating that role amongst all four with succeeding books. Each character is distinguished from the others with at least one different personal characteristic: leadership, analytical abilities, creativity, and planning. That characteristic is the overriding factor in how each new case is pursued.
What’s next on the horizon for you?
I want to do at least two more books in the Mah Jongg Mystery series, hopefully, more, but I’m also considering a new series. The rights to some of my romance novels should be reverting to me in the next year; when that happens, I plan to reedit, update and self-publish them. This year I’m attending two, possibly three mystery/crime conferences to expand my readership. There might even be a play or a screenplay in my future, because I love to write dialogue.
More About the Author
Barbara Barrett started reading mysteries when she was pregnant with her first child to keep her mind off things like her changing body and food cravings. When she’d devoured as many Agatha Christies as she could find, she branched out to English village cozies and Ellery Queen.
Later, to avoid a midlife crisis, she began writing fiction at night when she wasn’t at her day job as a human resources analyst for Iowa State Government. After releasing eleven full-length romance novels and one novella, she returned to the cozy mystery genre, using one of her retirement pastimes, the game of mah jongg, as her inspiration. Not only has it been a great social outlet, it has also helped keep her mind active when not writing.
Bamboozled, the second book in her “Mah Jongg Mystery” series, features four friends who play mah jongg together and share otherwise in each other’s lives. None of the four is based on an actual person. Each is an amalgamation of several mah jongg friends with a lot of Barbara’s imagination thrown in for good measure. The four will continue to appear in future books in the series.
Anticipating the day when she would write her first mystery, she has been a member of the Mystery/Romantic Suspense chapter of Romance Writers of America for over a decade. She credits them with helping her hone her craft.
Barbara is married to the man she met her senior year of college. They have two grown children and eight grandchildren.
About the Book
Connect the Dots (Mah Jongg Mysteries)
3rd in Series
Bowker (February 2, 2019)
Paperback: 278 pages
Digital ASIN: B07NCB5199
How could a thirty-something man fall to his death from a fourth-floor balcony he knows is defective? That’s the question freelance writer Micki Demetrius is asked to answer by the man’s grieving mother, Clarissa White, who refuses to believe his death was an unfortunate accident. But when the authorities determine it was homicide, Micki is shut out of her investigative efforts.
Giving up is easier said than done for Micki. She can’t resist a mystery, and suspicious characters won’t leave Clarissa alone, from the woman claiming a stake in the victim’s life to a cagey character who wants his business. As the threat to Clarissa grows, Micki feels compelled to help her in spite of the danger.
Micki’s three mah jongg pals—Sydney Bonner, Marianne Putnam and Katrina, Kat, Faulkner—are drawn into the mystery, but the retirees have their own challenges. Syd and husband Trip do grandparent duty while their daughter deals with marital issues. Marianne “finds herself” by writing a one-act play. And Kat must decide how public to go with her growing friendship with the sheriff. Together, they must connect the dots in a nefarious web of greed, neglect, secrecy and murder.
Praise forConnect the Dots (Mah Jongg Mysteries)
by Barbara Barrett
This is another great book that showcases friendship possibly even more than murder!
~A Wytch’s Book Review Blog
Connect the Dots by Barbara Barrett is a five-star read that kept me entertained and wanting to know what happens next . . . Ms. Barrett’s mystery, characters, and the setting were fabulous.
~Baroness’ Book Trove
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