Barr held the audience captive as she briefly spoke about the wide variety of paths she took before becoming a full time author. During her early career as an actress and doing voice overs for radio, Barr became interested in the environmental movement. As a result, she studied and became a park ranger, working during the summers while on hiatus from acting. She also worked as a travel writer and restaurant critic. Her first successful book, Bittersweet, was published in 1983 and was written during her 18-month career at Morgan Stanley. The book, proofread by a boss at the financial institution, dubbed her new novel as a “neo-gothic lesbian western.” Barr joked with her fans when she explained, “This is a very narrow genre. If you are a new writer, I wouldn’t suggest this venue.”
It wasn’t until a decade after the success of Bittersweet that Barr found her voice by merging her love of writing with her experiences as a park ranger, creating the well-known protagonist, Anna Pigeon. Barr’s first novel in the series, Track of the Cat, met with huge success, winning both the Agatha and Anthony awards for best new mystery novel. Since then, Barr has published an additional 18 Anna Pigeon novels with Boar Island being her latest. She is now a retired park ranger, working full time on her novels.
In addition to briefly speaking about her journey as an author, Barr also answered questions from the audience. Topics of discussion included whether or not she has a certain writing schedule (she doesn’t but wishes she did), what National Park setting she would like to include in her next book (Canyon de Chelly), and if she intended for Anna Pigeon to become a series (she did not.) The one question that was difficult for Barr to answer was whether or not she had a favorite National Park. Although she does not have a favorite, her heart is drawn to the National Parks near her childhood home in Nevada.
Before the event began, one could feel the excitement in the air as the fans and potential readers waited to listen to the well-known author. One devoted reader, Deb Fossum of Falmouth, enjoys the Anna Pigeon Series because each novel introduces the reader to a new National Park location. This informs the reader to different cultures, always providing some new and fresh information from which to learn.
Carole Center of Portland, another Barr enthusiast, loves Anna Pigeon's grit. Although Anna seems to find herself trapped in difficult situations, her intelligence and exceptional skills always lead her out of those tricky circumstances.
Claudette Simms from Gray has recently discovered Nevada Barr and her mystery series. She looks forward to listening to the adventures of Anna Pigeon on CD and believes she too, will soon become a big fan of the author.
The event ended with an author signing. Letterpress Books, 91 Auburn Street, Portland was available to provide Barr’s latest novel for purchase.
Nevada Barr was the first speaker in this year’s Pat Barter Speaker Series. Mark your calendars and be sure to catch future author visits and signings that include the following speakers:
Gerry Boyle, Maine author of Straw Man, June 16th
Roger Guay and Kate Clark Flora, Maine co-authors of A Good Man with a Dog, July 21st
Tess Gerritsen, Maine author of Playing with Fire (requires a free ticket, available on July 1st), August 17th
John Ford, Maine author of Suddenly The Cider Didn’t Taste So Good and Mark Nickerson, Maine author of Blue Lights In The Night, September 13th
All events begin at 6:30 p.m., are free and open to the public.