Barbara Ross’ mystery novel The Death of an Ambitious Woman was published in August 2010. Two of her short stories, “Winter Rental” (Seasmoke, 2006) and “Key West” (Thin Ice, 2010) won honorable mentions for the Al Blanchard Award. Barbara was a co-founder and Chief Operating Officer of WebCT, Inc. and served as Chief Operating Officer of Wimba, Inc., both educational technology firms. She is a contributing editor for Level Best Books. Visit Barbara’s website at www.barbaraannross.com.
Your story in Thin Ice, “Key West,” is about a woman who has run away from her life. What was your inspiration?
There were a lot of inspirations for the story, but the seminal one came from being at my parents home in Key West and having that feeling of cognitive dissonance that you get when it gets dark early and yet is warm. If you’re from a northern climate short days mean cold weather at some visceral level. I was in a writing class, writing to prompts, and though I can’t remember what the prompt was, I wrote about a woman who had that feeling. I realized that she’d been in the tropics for a long time, but still had that momentary feeling of oddness when it was dark, yet warm and I decided to figure out why she was there and how she got there.
That scene ultimately didn’t end up in the story. Somehow my seminal scenes never do.
You’ve been a contributor to the Level Best Books anthologies in the past and now you’re an editor. What have you learned by moving to the editorial side?
I’ve learned some useful things about rejection. Level Best gets far more excellent stories than it can print. If we turn you down and say, “This story is wonderful, we just can’t use it this year,” that’s exactly what it means. Don’t look for hidden meaning or doubt the story.
What are you working on now?
I just finished a short story and I’m plugging through rewrites in my second novel. It’s about a woman who finds meaning in her life after early retirement by becoming a “professional busybody.” Sort of a Miss Marple update. We’ll see how it goes. Then a new Chief Ruth Murphy book.