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Between the lines with Maggie Barbieri (Q&A)

Maggie Barbieri's 'Once Upon a Lie' is available now from Minotaur Books.

Today, Hartford Books Examiner welcomes Maggie Barbieri.

Though best known for her popular Murder 101 series, Ms. Barbieri recently staged a reinvention of sorts with her novel, Once Upon a Lie (Minotaur Books, $24.99)—the first in a new series featuring protagonist Maeve Conlon. The Murder 101 series is comprised of seven titles; both Murder 101 (2006) and Quick Study (2008) were Washington Irving Book Selections (chosen by the Westchester Library Association), and the latter was also a Romantic Times Magazine Award Nominee for Best Mystery and Suspense Novel/Amateur Sleuth. In addition to writing fiction, Ms. Barbieri edits college textbooks. She makes her home in the New York metro area/Hudson Valley with her husband and their two children.

Published last month, Once Upon a Lie has received acclaim from critics and contemporaries alike. Publishers Weekly awarded the book a starred review and praised, “[A] riveting tale of ordinary cruelty and complicated heroism … Barbieri skillfully avoids tipping her hand until the last possible moment, leaving readers both breathless and unnerved by the novel’s conclusion.” Further, #1 New York Times bestselling author Lisa Gardner enthused, “An excellent, edgy thriller. Maggie Barbieri breaks new ground with this new novel showcasing one burnt out mother’s desperate determination to protect her family’s future by facing down her past. Secrets, betrayals, stunning revelations. This book has it all.”

From the publisher:

Maeve Conlon's life is coming apart at the seams. Her bakery is barely making ends meet, and one of her daughters spends as much time grounded as the other does studying. Her ex-husband has a new wife, a new baby, and a look of pity for Maeve that's absolutely infuriating. Her father insists he's still independent, but he's slowly and obviously succumbing to Alzheimer's. And now, her cousin Sean Donovan has been found dead, sitting in his car in a public park in quiet Farringville, New York, shot through the head.

There was never much love lost between Maeve and Sean and she's not exactly devastated by his death, but suddenly the police are poking around asking the family questions. It's just one more hassle Maeve doesn't have time for, until she realizes that her father, whose memory and judgment are unreliable at best, is a suspect in the murder. Maeve is determined to clear his name, but is she prepared to cope with the dark memories and long-hidden secrets that doing so might dredge up?

Maggie Barbieri will mesmerize readers with Once Upon a Lie, a gripping novel about family, justice, and the choices we make that define who we are.

Now, Ms. Barbieri shares a few pages from the book of her life …

1) As a child, did you wear your literary lust loud and proud or were you a closet bibliophile?

Indeed—loud and proud! I got my first library card when I was seven; I then immediately attended story hour and listened to the librarian read STONE SOUP. For some reason, sitting on the second floor of the old Dutch Colonial that was our library has stayed with me for over forty years. I read everything I could get my hands on and insisted that my parents take me to the library as often as they could so I check out more books each week. Then, one day, my neighbor gave me a stash of Nancy Drew and Bobbsey Twins’ books and I was hooked on mystery from that day forward.

2) What book(s) were you likely to be caught keeping company with under the covers?

I kept company with the aforementioned Nancy Drews and Bobbsey Twins’ books and read every one in each series. When I was a teenager, I will admit to becoming a closet reader of Harold Robbins’ books. I break out in a sweat just thinking about some of the passages that he included and that I read at the tender age of 15.

3) What are you reading currently & what is your initial impression?

I am reading TRANSATLANTIC by Colum McCann. Right now, we’re in a section that is completely historical in nature so while not my favorite kind of reading, I know from past experience that this passage will relate to later ones and everything will become clear by the book’s end.

4) What one book do you always recommend when asked?

Colum McCann’s LET THE GREAT WORLD SPIN. Are you sensing a theme here? This is in the top five of my all-time favorite books. Growing up in 1970s New York—a place and time that the author, an Irishman, captures perfectly—made this a book that resonated with me greatly. I remember vividly Phillippe Petit’s walk between the “Twin Towers”—what we now call the World Trade Center—something that the author writes about extensively in this book. You know how some books just stay with you? This is that book for me.

5) Which of your own books would you suggest to readers & why?

THIRD DEGREE, the third book in the Murder 101 series. The reason? It’s my husband’s favorite. I have to say, though, that my latest book, ONCE UPON A LIE, ranks right up there for me. It’s definitely a departure for me, as a writer, and for fans of the Murder 101 series, which is funnier, lighter, and more romantic in tone.

6) Is there a book or author that readers would be surprised to know you’ve read and liked?

The aforementioned Harold Robbins’?

7) Who is the one author that would, or did, make you weak in the knees upon meeting?

Probably Stephen King. I’ve read almost every book and short story he’s written and learned a lot about character and plotting, as a result. I also think his ON WRITING is a must-have for any writer. I return to certain passages every now and again to remind myself that there is no “right” way to do it when you’re writing. I think I’ve read THE STAND no fewer than six times; that’s another book in my top five.

8) Has there been an “I’ve made it” moment in your career?

I did get a lovely review in Entertainment Weekly for ONCE UPON A LIE and that was pretty awesome as was the next week’s mention on EW’s “Must List.” Those two mentions made me very happy. And yes, my family bought multiple copies of each issue.

9) What is your greatest literary ambition?

My greatest literary ambition is just to keep writing—a book or maybe two per year—and have people enjoy them. Nothing loftier than that, I admit.

10) Fill in the blank: Hartford Books Examiner is _____.

… my go-to for great, on-the-money reviews.


With thanks to Maggie Barbieri for her generosity of time and thought.

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