Today I have the pleasure of interviewing author Barbara Barrett (photograph above).
Barbara Barrett can’t help being a bit schizo when it comes to her lifestyle, since she lives half the year in Florida (guess which season) and the other half in her home state of Iowa. She believes she has the best of both worlds, with visits to the Mouse in winter and her six grandchildren in summer. Although she has been writing romance fiction for several years, her debut novel, The Sleepover Clause, was just released this September by Crimson Romance. While she has refined her craft, she has also been active in RWA, particularly the Kiss of Death chapter (someday she’s going to start that cozy mystery series), chairing their annual conference planning committee for two years, including New York City.
Welcome to my quirky web site, Scribbles.
Thank you for having me.
1. What/Who influenced you to become an author?
I was ripe for a midlife crisis in my mid-thirties when Felicia Gallant came on the scene. Remember her? She was a character on the daytime drama, “Another World.” We owned one of the first VCRs in town just so I could tape my favorite show everyday while I was away at work and watch it at night as soon as the kids were fed and doing their homework. Among other ventures, flamboyant Felicia wrote romance novels. Those were the years of shoulder pads, large hair and the notion that romance writers led lives as fabulous and exciting as their characters. As long as I had Felicia (and my red Chevrolet Cavalier convertible, license plate, BLRSC, Barb’s Little Red Sports Car), and the notion that I, too, could write a novel, I survived those years without the need to “find myself,” because I already had.
2.How long have you been writing?
The answer depends on how you define ‘writing”- school papers, church-sponsored writing contests, teen gossip columns, journalism, graduate thesis, or work documents like letters, memos, and reports. I dabbled in all of them before I actually became an “author” of romance novels. My fifth grade teacher planted the idea that I might have a flair as a writer. How one knows that from short essays at this age, I don’t know. Maybe it was just one of those “teacher tactics” aimed at inspiring a student. Whatever, the thought stuck. When I was fifteen, I placed second in my church denomination’s essay contest. In high school, I wrote a column, “Teen Talk,” for our local newspaper, the Burlington Hawk-Eye, and was one of the editors on the school newspaper. My writing skills were a great boon to me as a graduate student in American History at Drake University with my thesis on the foreign policy of Herbert Hoover. During my thirty-plus years as a human resources analyst in Iowa state government, I was the go-to person when something needed to be written. And then I discovered that I might have a knack for writing fiction. See the response to the first question for the rest of the story.
3. Who/what inspires you the most while writing?
Three pictures hang on the wall of my office in Florida: headshots of Nora Roberts, Linda Howard and Janet Evanovich. Nora is there for her command of language, Linda for her plotting skills, and Janet for her sense of humor. (If I ever find a fourth frame that matches, Susan Elizabeth Phillips will join them. No one brings tears to my eyes and cranks up the emotion meter like Susan.) I gaze up at the ladies for inspiration when the words or ideas won’t come.
4. What is your food/drink of choice while writing? Music?
I had to revamp my eating habits this summer after I learned I am mildly diabetic. The chocolate peanut clusters and chocolate chip cookies are now just fond, caloric memories, replaced with carrot sticks, celery and fruit. So far, though, I haven’t been able to let go of the Diet Coke habit for water, just cut back.
would love to say I listen to classical music while I’m writing, because that sounds so high brow and because I did play the violin for nine years from fourth grade through my senior year of high school. (I was even concertmistress for two years.) But no, iinstead the TV is on in the background. Bad, bad habit that’s been with me since studying for high school classes, and it followed me through college to now. But I do turn it off when I want to read a scene out loud.
5. Do you have a pet as a mascot? If so, what kind?
I was going to say “no,” because we no longer have pets, given how much we travel and our busy schedules. Then I remembered the little Florida gator stuffed toy that looks down at me from the top of the filing cabinet next to my desk in Iowa. In Florida, it’s the Snoopy as the Statue of Liberty that I bought in the Disney store across the street from the Marriott hotel where the RWA National Conference was held in 2011.
6. Authors are rather mysterious. What would you like to share that most people don’t know about you? I love quirky!
Mysterious? Quirky? Me? My brain is working overtime trying to come up with something really good to report here. The best I can come up with is something I haven’t done in years but used to do almost every summer – catch nightcrawlers. Ever gone outside after dark after a rain when the grass was still wet and shined a flashlight on the ground beneath you? It’s like Saturday night at the drive-in when I was a teenager, makeout night for worms! They’re so easy to capture when they’re, well, you know? Slimy, slippery, but the thrill of the catch used to be too much to ignore. This from the woman who’s never been able to bait a hook when fishing. Go figure. I don’t do it anymore, because my knees give out. Ah, the pain of aging.
7. What have you written?
So far, my fictional writing has focused on contemporary romance novels. With a Masters Degree in American History, you’d think historical writing might suit me more, but I spent so much time and effort formulating my thesis, I decided to go a different direction with my fictional writing. My tagline is “Romance at Work,” because I tend to weave my H/H’s occupations into the storyline.
8. Tell me about your latest novel and why you felt compelled to write this particular story.
I’m currently working on the second novel of a three-part story about the building of a residential community in Iowa by a former hometown boy who’s made it big in the entertainment world. I have become a huge fan of HGTV and wanted to bring that world – home design, home building, real estate, interior decoration – into a storyline. I also haven’t set a novel in my home state of Iowa since my debut novel, The Sleepover Clause, although I somehow manage to mention it in most of the others.
9. Is there anything else that you’d like people to know?
In addition to the tagline I mentioned earlier, “Romance at Work,” I’m discovering that my writing, particularly the motivation and conflict, tends to revolve around family relationships. Thus far, that hasn’t been a conscious effort; that focus seems to have just settled into my thinking as I’ve developed my characters and plots. To my mind, character development is the most difficult challenge I face in my writing, plot and dialogue come easier for me. So it’s not surprising that, unconsciously until now, I’ve strived to create my characters through plots motivated by family relationships.
10. Where can people buy your books and learn more about you?
My debut novel, The Sleepover Clause, from Crimson Romance, is available on Amazon, B&N and iTunes. Although I don’t yet have a publication date for my second novel, And He Cooks Too, from The Wild Rose Press, it will probably be available in the same places.
Here is a brief of synopsis of Barbara’s debut novel,
The Sleepover Clause is the tale of an interior decorator who hides out in the Iowa town of Burlington while the ruckus caused by a job gone wrong on the West Coast dies down. She can’t resist meddling in the personal affairs of the three brothers who own the customized motor coach company where she has been sent to finish the interior of her sister’s touring coach. The younger brother, in particular, to whom she is attracted, needs prodding to tell his brothers how much he’d rather sit for the bar than work on motor coaches. It’s only when her problems in California track her down that he considers returning to the lawbooks.
Just what is the Sleepover Clause? When the brothers make her to agree to a list of “conditions” for working in their garage, she retaliates with her own list of requirements, one of which is that they provide her with sleeping quarters for those nights when she has to stay late. Though she never intended to invoke the option, before long, she finds herself a “guest” in the firehouse cum garage, which is also the brothers’ living quarters.
You can learn more about Barbara on her website at http://www.barbarabarrettbooks.com.