Nancy Means Wright - Nancy's Backstory


New in April 2016
The Shady Sisters


New in 2014
Acts of Balance


New Historical Novel:
    Queens Never
    Make Bargains


    Questions for
    Midnight Fires


Walking into the Wild
Broken Strings


Nancy's Backstory


Ruth Willmarth


Nancy's Books:
Mad Season
Harvest of Bones
Poison Apples
Stolen Honey
Fire and Ice
Mad Cow     Nightmare
The above 5 novels in print, and now
e-books, Belgrave House.
The Losing


Nancy's Books for Children:
The Pea Soup

Agatha Award 2006
Best Children's/YA Novel
Down the Strings
The Great Circus
    Train Robbery

Agatha Finalist


Make Your Own
Vermonters at
    their Craft


Buy Books
Find an Agent
Originality in
    Crime Fiction
How I Write
An Interview with
Another Interview
    with Nancy
Brief Bio For Busy Librarians (and other readers)
Contact Nancy

Nancy Means Wright

Cover photo of Midnight Fires

Published April, 2010, by Perseverance Press

Inspired by Nancy Drew, Wright's first novel, written at the age of nine, was a mystery about the kidnapping of a particularly obnoxious older brother. But, dismayed at what she considered an incipient criminal career, her mother destroyed it. So Wright gave up writing mysteries, but went on, through secondary school and then Vassar College, to write stories, poems, and the opening chapters of depressing novels.

A Bread Loaf Writer's Conference Scholarship helped launch her first published, autobiographical novel (1973) The Losing, about a young woman trapped in a boys' school who slowly anesthetizes herself with sherry. The cover depicted a hairy hand pulling back a diaphanous shower curtain—a scene created by the illustrator, not the writer! Embarrassed. she sent her husband and oldest child back and back to the local bookstore to buy up copies, and the bookseller only ordered more—he thought he had a best seller.

After that came more children (four in all) and more books—all written with one foot in the diaper pail: in '82 a YA, Down The Strings, engendered by a slumber party to which her daughter invited twelve kids but got 200; Make Your Own Change, a humorous family memoir; Vermonters at Their Craft, exploring the creativity of Vermont craftspeople, co-authored with daughter Catharine; two chapbooks of poems and short stories in Yankee, Redbook, Seventeen, American Literary Review and other magazines, the kind that pay in copies.

Nancy: Published in "Seven Days," '08
(Photo by Angela Jane Evancie)

"Can you eat copies?" complained her seventh generation-Vermonter husband By this time they were living on a tree farm in Cornwall, Vermont. Wright was running a craft shop in the barn and pushing a pen in between customers and plumbing breakdowns (for the first five years in that creaky 1795 house, there was no plumbing, no electricity; Wright wrote by kerosene light).

In 1990 came the upheaval—and the new career. A divorce, and then that catalytic news clipping about the assault on the farmers (no, her real life husband didn't run off with an actress—it was an amicable split). And with Mad Season, Wright entered a second career in mystery writing–—no one now to destroy the manuscript. She read Dorothy Sayers, she read Agatha Christie. She plunged in: no outline, no notes, not the foggiest idea of "whodunnit." She hung out with cows and learned how to milk them; she read old town histories and dug up family secrets. Every chapter held a new surprise! Characters setting fires, kidnapping young boys... And all those fractured relationships to piece back together in Harvest of Bones, and then Poison Apples, Stolen Honey and MAD COW NIGHTMARE, out in April, '05.

Nancy and a reluctant cow

Well, dear reader, Wright remarried: an English teacher she'd gone with back in her Vassar daze—he wouldn't change his name, but promised to read her manuscripts; he became an insightful critic, along with her grown sons and daughters. He welcomed her small grandchildren, despite getting smacked on the nose, at first meeting, by a flying bottle.

It wasn't the flying bottle that ended this marriage after ten years, but sadly, her husband's losing fight with prostate cancer. Wright returned to her 1825 house on a dirt road in Cornwall, Vermont, to her seven young grandchildren, and to the manuscript of Stolen Honey. Three years later a six-foot-two engineer named Llyn Rice, whom she'd met in her local Unitarian Universalist church, came to help her resolve a dozen computer glitches, rehang doors that had refused to open with the shifting of the old house—and stayed on as friend, reader, and helpmate. She has dedicated Mad Cow Nightmare to him.

So, dear reader, the writing goes on. In 2010 from Perseverance Press, MIDNIGHT FIRES, using the persona of the fiery 18th century feminist, Mary Wollstonecraft, a woman labeled by jealous contemporaries as "hyena in petticoats, Amazon, revolutionary." If her name isn't familiar, think of her daughter Mary, who married the poet Shelley and later wrote Frankenstein. And in September, 2011, a sequel, The Nightmare, set in 1792 when Wollstonecraft wrote her groundbreaking A Vindication of the Rights of Woman. A third will follow, set in Paris during the French Revolution, where she lost her head (metaphorically) to a feckless American.

BROKEN STRINGS, a contemporary mystery novel set in Vermont, featuring Fay Hubbard and other characters from the Ruth Willmarth novels. When puppeteer Fay finds a friend dead of poisoned yew and her half-sister strung up like a marionette, she and her family of foster kids track down the killer. The novel will be launched June 13, 2013 at Phoenix Books, Burlington, VT with a one act marionette show.

Cover photo of The Great Circus Train Robbery

Agatha Award Nominee for
Best '08 Children's/YA Novel

Out in June '06,  THE PEA SOUP POISONINGS, a humorous juvenile novel, from Hilliard & Harris: A young girl's grandmother dies after eating pea soup laced with insecticide—and young Zoe, with the help of neighbor Spencer, brings the perpetrators to justice! And in '08, a sequel, THE GREAT CIRCUS TRAIN ROBBERY. In 2013, a new historical young adult novel, WALKING INTO THE WILD.


Please check out Amazon Shorts at for Nancy's short stories, "The Outpost" and "The Great Hunger"—not mysteries, but you might have a few laughs. Only 49 cents each to download!

Quarry: Crime Stories by New England Writers

And in a copy of the anthology Quarry (Level Best Books), out in November '09, you'll find Nancy's story IVORY, about a Vermont pianist who tries to smuggle forbidden ivory (keys) through US Customs. Lots of other great stories in this collection! "BOX CAR," set in the 1930s, came out in the February '10 Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine.

And the poems keep flying out of her head and onto paper:

More poems:


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