Sunday, October 12, 2014

Rocco's Guest...Barb Goffman!



Barb Goffman likes her crime short and sweet. Well, maybe not that sweet. She’s the author of DON’T GET MAD, GET EVEN, a short-story collection published last year by Wildside Press that recently won the Silver Falchion Award for best single-author mystery collection published in 2013. Barb also won the Macavity Award last fall for best short story of 2012, and she’s been nominated multiple times for the Agatha, Anthony, and Macavity awards for her short fiction. To support her short-story habit, Barb runs a freelance editing service, specializing in crime fiction. She also serves as secretary of the Mid-Atlantic chapter of Mystery Writers of America. Learn more at and



R: Welcome! Tell us a bit about yourself and how you became interested in writing!


Hi. Thank you so much for inviting me here. I’m a short-story writer by night and a freelance fiction editor by day (and night). I’m also a co-editor of the award-winning Chesapeake Crimes anthology series. I work from home, which allows me to spend a lot of time with my dog, Jingle, who is probably a beagle/dachshund mix. He’s small, but his bark is big.


How I became interested in writing? Well, I’ve always been an avid reader. I remember one day in the mid 1990s reading a book by Barbara Parker and thinking, “I could do this.” Of course, I didn’t actually know how to do it. But eventually I took a class on mystery writing, and that started me on my way. (And I actually got to meet Barbara Parker a couple of years later. What a thrill.)


R:  Tell us about your mystery short stories.


I’ve been writing short stories for about ten years. They range from cozy to dark, from amateur sleuth to police procedural. A lot of them have involved revenge. I find readers enjoy it when a horrible person gets what he (or she) has coming, and those stories are fun to write. Several of my stories center around teenage girls. Because their judgment isn’t fully formed, they can get into trouble that wouldn’t be believable for adult characters. And a bunch of my stories are set in the South. While I grew up in the Northeast, I sometimes will hear characters’ voices in my head, and they often have a bit of a drawl.


R: You do crime fiction editing.  Which do you prefer, writing or editing?


I can’t pick. When I’m writing, I love it. I get in the zone and hours pass without  notice. But editing is just as enjoyable. I love helping writers achieve their dreams, and I actually love the work. I do developmental editing, line editing, and copy editing. Last year, after my dog Scout died, I found that copy editing really helped distract me. I couldn’t get anything else done for a while, but I could do that.


R: You’ve been nominated twice for an Agatha Award. What was that like?


I’ve actually been nominated seven times for the Agatha Award and twice each for the Anthony Award and the Macavity Award. Last year I won the Macavity for my story “The Lord Is My Shamus.” This past August, I won the Silver Falchion Award for best collection of mystery short stories put out by an author in 2013.


Being nominated the first time (the Agatha Award in 2005) was thrilling. “Murder at Sleuthfest” was the first short story I’d had published, and I knew very few people in the mystery community at that time, so when I heard I was nominated, it was proof that people I didn’t know had read and liked the story. That was truly a wow moment.


Each nomination after that was just as wonderful, and winning the Macavity Award last year was a highlight of my life. My dad died a couple of months after that. He’d always been such a big supporter of my writing, so I’m especially glad I had the chance to share that honor with him.


R: Tell us about your latest release!


“The Shadow Knows” appears in Chesapeake Crimes: Homicidal Holidays. This anthology was published October 7th by Wildside Press. It has mysteries set on holidays throughout the year, including Halloween, Christmas, and Talk Like A Pirate Day. Arrr. My Groundhog Day caper story is set in a small Vermont town with its own official groundhog, Moe, who every single year predicts a long winter. Town resident Gus is sick and tired of it, and he realizes that if he’s ever going to enjoy an early spring, he has to get rid of that groundhog.


I have a second story coming out in just a few days. “It’s A Trap!” will appear in The Killer Wore Cranberry: A Fourth Meal of Mayhem (Untreed Reads Publishing).This anthology has ten funny Thanksgiving crime stories. In my story, two estranged sisters try to make peace on Thanksgiving. But as you may imagine, things don’t go quite as planned.


R:  Do you have an “how I got my agent” story you’d like to share?  How did you feel when you got the call your first novel had sold?


I don’t have an agent. My writing focus has been on short stories, and I don’t need an agent to sell them. But I do have a book published—a collection of my stories called Don’t Get Mad, Get Even. It came out last year from Wildside Press. I had been at the closing tea of the Malice Domestic mystery convention in 2012 when editor Carla Coupe from Wildside approached me and said she’d like to talk. I was the convention’s program chair at that time, was exhausted, and thought she wanted to discuss Malice, so I begged off, asking if we could talk later in the week. Imagine my surprise when Carla and I finally touched base and she said that Wildside wanted to publish a collection of my stories. Talk about delayed gratification. I was over the moon.


R: What’s a must have for you when you are writing? What aids the creative process?


I don’t have any specific thing. Sometimes music helps; sometimes I need silence. I went through a period where I listened to the Ally McBeal soundtrack over and over while I wrote. It helped get me in the zone. If I get stuck I sometimes clean my desk. A clean desk helps me feel more organized and in control and somehow helps me think more clearly. Or at least I tell myself that. 


R: If you had access to a time machine, which historical moment would you travel to and why?


I would go back to 1937, when my great-grandparents (my mother’s, father’s parents) and several other relatives went on a vacation from their home in Poland across Europe. (I only found out about this trip earlier this year, when my family was contacted by the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum, which had come into possession of a copy of home movies taken during the trip. I’d never even seen photos of my great-grandparents before, so to see them on video was amazing.) My relatives traveled throughout Western Europe on this trip, and if I had the chance, I would tell them to keep going west. To come to America. To not return to Poland. Because every single one of them died in the next few years during the Holocaust. My maternal grandfather, who lived here in the United States, used to talk about how he would get letters from his family back in Poland, and then during the Second World War, those letters stopped coming. None of those people was ever heard from again. If I could change that, I would.


R: What is one thing your readers would be most surprised to know about you?


This was a hard question to answer, so I turned to my friend author Sherry Harris, whom I’ve known about two years, and I asked her what she’d been surprised to learn about me. Her answer: that I’m an introvert. I’m comfortable with public speaking. And I can come across as very outgoing and chatty at times, particularly on Facebook and with certain people, including Sherry. But with many people, I find small talk quite difficult. I love spending time alone, and if there’s a snowstorm that keeps me stuck inside for a week, I’m okay with it (as long as I had enough time to stock up on Chinese food).


R: What is the craziest thing you've ever done? 


A couple of years ago, my job as an attorney for a Fortune 500 company was eliminated. Instead of looking for a new position in the legal field, I decided to open my own freelance editing business, offering developmental, line, and copy editing services, specializing in crime fiction. Business is good. I’ve been busy. But whether this decision will ultimately turn out to be one of the greatest or craziest things I’ve ever done remains to be seen.


R: What do you hope readers will most take away from your writing?

I hope they’ll have a smile or a sigh or a dropped jaw.

Many of my stories are funny, such as the stories I’ve had in each of the four The Killer Wore Cranberry anthologies put out by Untreed Reads Publishing. (How often do you read a crime story involving a food fight? Or a murder at a nude Thanksgiving?)

With other stories, my goal is that they resonate with readers. For instance, I when I wrote my story for an anthology called Nightfalls: Notes from the End of the World (Dark Valentine Press), I knew the editor wanted stories set on the night before the world was going to end. I write crime fiction, so coming up with a plot took some thought. If the world is ending, money won’t matter anymore, so all financial-related crimes were out. Ultimately, I realized that in the end, all a person has is love and self-respect. And revenge, of course. There’s always revenge. I wrapped all three things together and created my story “Bon Appetit,” which I’ve been told by a close friend is one of her two favorite stories of mine.  

The dropped jaw comes in when I create a story with a good twist at the end. “The Worst Noel,” “Ulterior Motives,” and “Dead and Buried Treasure” are just three of my stories in which I try to really surprise the reader at the end.

R: What are you working on at the moment / next?

The next story I plan to write will reprise the sheriff and deputy from my story “Suffer the Little Children.” “Suffer” is the only police procedural I’ve written because I’ve always been worried about getting the details right. But I’ve come up with a new idea for a murder that my sheriff, Ellen, can solve using old-fashioned detection, without having to rely on forensics and autopsy results and things of that nature. So that’s what I plan to write next. Fingers crossed the story works and the publisher I send it to buys it.

R: Are you a plotter or a pantser?

I’m a plantser. I’m a plotter but at a high level so parts of the story come at the seat of my pants. Before I start writing I need to know who my main characters are and what the gist of the plot is and how it’s going to end. But I don’t need to know every detail of the story. I liken it to a car trip where I know the starting point, the destination, and some of the stops along the way, but I don’t know the entire route before I begin driving.

R: Do you have any advice for beginning writers?


Three things: First, read, read, read. Read in the genre you want to write. If you want to write a mystery but never read any, you won’t have any idea of the basic rules of the genre. Every genre has them.


Second, write, write, write. Get your butt in your chair and write. It doesn’t matter if your first draft is horrible. Or your second. If you get your story onto paper, you’ll have something to edit. You’ll have something to learn from. You’ll have something tangible, which is so much more than people who merely talk about writing have.


Third: Find a class or a mentor or a critique group or an editor—someone who is not a beginner like you, who can give you helpful, honest criticism about your story, enabling you to understand what works and what doesn’t and to learn how to make it better. Then keep reading, keep writing, keep editing, and persevere!


Just for Fun:

Night or Day?  Day

Dog or Cat? (answer carefully)  Sorry, but I have to say dog. My dogs Jingle and Scout (who died last year) are my everything.

Beach or Pool?   Beach

Steak or salad?   Steak

Favorite Drink?  Coke

Favorite Book?   Bearing Witness by Michael Kahn.

Favorite TV Series?  Big Bang Theory or Project Runway.

Favorite Movie?  Very hard to choose. Today I’ll go with Music and Lyrics.

Favorite Actor: Sorry, can’t pick one.

Favorite Actress: Ditto.

Dirty Martini or Pina Colada? Coke. I rarely drink alcohol. I’d rather get my calories elsewhere.

Hawaii or Alaska? Hawaii

Finish this sentence:  If I could meet anyone in the world, past or present, it would be my fathers’ parents. They’ve always sounded wonderful.

If I had just one wish, it would be to have unlimited money so I wouldn’t have to worry about things anymore and could hire people to do the things I don’t want to do.

If I could trade places with anyone in the world, it would be Heidi Klum, but only for a day. I’d like to know what it’s like to be hot. And tall.



Thanks for a great interview!  Here’s all the places you can find Barb!

Facebook – Please send a message along with a friend request letting me know you read this blog. I’m careful with acceptances, trying to avoid scammers.


Barb will give away one copy of Chesapeake Crimes: Homicidal Holidays. US residents only, please. To enter leave a comment below. Winner will be chosen at random using Contest closes October 16 at midnight.

For extra entries you can:


* Follow my blog (+ 1 point)
* Follow me on Twitter (+ 1 point) (Link:
* Tweet about the contest (+ 1 point)
* Friend me on Facebook (+ 1 point) (Link:!/

* Mention the contest on Facebook (+ 1 point)
* Mention the contest on your blog (+ 1 point)



  1. Great interview. I know what you mean about snowstorm and being indoors. I would love it.

  2. It all sounds quite interesting and since I was born in MD and grew up in VA, Chesapeake has a special interest for me. I wish Barb continued success!
    I follow Rocco on the blog
    and on Twitter
    I tweeted about the giveaway
    I am a Friend of Human
    And I shared the post and giveaway on FB

  3. This sounds so good. I am very interested in reading this.

  4. A word from Barb (who is having trouble getting on good old blogger!)

    Thanks everyone for your interest in Chesapeake Crimes: Homicidal Holidays and for enjoying the interview. I'm having trouble responding to the comments, so I've asked Toni to upload this for me so you'll know that I'm reading all the comments and so appreciate them all. Thank you!

    Barb Goffman
    "The Shadow Knows" in Chesapeake Crimes: Homicidal Holidays now available
    "It's a Trap!" in The Killer Wore Cranberry: A Fourth Meal of Mayhem coming 10/15

  5. just want to remind our friends that we need your email addresses to enter you in the giveaway :)

  6. Great stuff, as always, Rocco.
    We are FB friends, I've linked to my FB page, and I visit every day.
    I don't tweet or have a blog
    libbydodd at comcast dot net

  7. Just wondering why I just received this today (the 20th) and everyone else has dated their comments on the 13th. I would definitely have commented and entered the giveaway if I had seen it. Can't enter now I don't imagine. Anyway, I love Barb's writing and have enjoyed previous books and will be looking forward to reading her latest.

    Thank you.

    ceblain(AT)tmlponline(DOT) net (in case it is not too late to enter