I met Barbara at
a booksigning, bought two of her books and knew I had to introduce her to Novel Rocket’s
readers. I believe you’ll see her climb to the top of this industry. I love her
books, and have pre-ordered Summer at Hideaway Key!
spending more than a decade as a corporate executive in the jewelry business, Barbaradecided to leave the
corporate world to finally pursue her lifelong passion for writing. The
Secrets She Carried was her first novel, published by Penguin/NAL in 2013,
followed by The Wishing Tide in 2014.
She currently lives in Dover, New Hampshire, with the love of her life, Tom,
and their beloved ginger cat, Simon. Sumer
at Hideaway Key is her third novel and releases on August 4, 2015. She is
currently working on her fourth book, anticipated in 2016.
What sparked the story for this novel?
The idea for Summer at Hideaway Key had been
percolating for almost twenty years, long before I ever believed I would write
professionally. As with so much fiction, the bones of the story are drawn from real
life, inspired by a pair of sisters, who as young girls, actually found
themselves abandoned at an actual poor farm. And while Lily-Mae and Caroline’s
stories are purely fictional, the tales of these two sisters and the
institution where they lived played in an enormous role in my desire to tell
Share a bit of your journey to
publication. Was it short or long?
My journey was
definitely a short one, almost ridiculously so. After being laid off from my
job in 2009 I was faced with a choice. Sell my house and move to another state
in order to get another job in my field, or leave the jewelry business and chase
my dream. For my husband it was a no brainer; I needed to chase my dream.
I was about
halfway through my first novel, The
Secrets She Carried, when I decided it was time to get some feedback. I
joined a local writer’s group, and at the second meeting a portion of my novel
was up for critique. As it happened, unknown to me or anyone else in the group,
a literary agent from New York was sitting at the table.
At the end of
the meeting she introduced herself and asked to see more of my novel. Somehow,
I managed to form the word yes. Two
weeks later, I had an agency contract, and three weeks after I finished the
book and we started shopping Secrets,
I had a two-book deal with Penguin. It was like a dream come true. Sometimes I
still have to pinch myself.
What would you do if you didn't write?
I spent about
fifteen years in the veterinary field, as an animal health tech and hospital
administrator. The hospital I worked with was heavily involved in animal
welfare, providing low cost or no cost services for shelter and rescue
organizations. It was hard emotionally, at times, but very fulfilling work, so
I think I would probably go back to doing something like that.
What makes you struggle as an author?
How do you handle it?
I think the
biggest struggle I have is trying to figure out how to balance actual writing
with the marketing and networking aspects—the business end of things, I guess
you’d say. It can be very time consuming, and it’s hard sometimes to know where
to put your energy at any given moment.
touring, interviews, signings, and appearances, it can be hard to nail yourself
in your chair and get actual writing done. I’m also a huge believer in paying
it forward, helping new authors learn the ropes and navigate the waters, so
that’s something else I have to consciously carve out time for. It’s a constant
juggling act, and I thank God for my Franklin Covey planner. Yes, I’m old
school. I write things down, and cross things off. It keeps me sane, and moving
My official office space
Where do you write: In a cave, a
coffeehouse, or a cozy nook?
I’m fortunate in that I
can write literally anywhere, as long as I have my MacBook. I do have an
office, which I just set up when we moved to our loft apartment in New
Hampshire. I also tend to write sitting cross-legged on my bed with old black and
white movies playing in the background, or in the car when we’re on our way to
the mountains or the beach. Like I said, I can write anywhere as long as
there’s no music.
Do you prefer the creating or editing
aspect of writing? Why?
I’d have to
say creating, because for me that’s where the magic happens. I love finding and
honing a character’s particular voice, and creating worlds my readers can hear
and smell and taste. I also tend to heavily edit as I go, so sometimes with my
process, the two blur together.
Do you consider yourself a visual
writer? If so, what visuals do you use?
I guess I must
be. As part of my outlining process—yes, I am a maniacal plotter and outliner—I
select and arrange photos that represent my ideals of each character and
setting in a particular book. I’m always on the lookout for images that put me
into the world I’m writing about, and refer back to them frequently.
What are your top 3 recommendations for
a new writer?
1)Read really good books in your chosen
genre - Study them for
craft and technique, make notes, highlight passages that speak to you, and then
ask yourself what those a-ha passages
have to teach you.
2)Learn to outline – Try more than one system until you
find one that works for you, then force yourself to stick with it and not quit
because it’s too hard. Plotting your story before
you begin writing can save you months of aimless wandering, and countless
scrapped drafts. (and your editor will absolutely love you!) Don’t be scared. You
can still be creative and flexible while working from an outline.
3)Seek feedback – Create a network unbiased critique partner (other
writers) and beta readers (non-writers) to read your work and give honest
feedback. Then, and here’s the most important part, listen to what they tell you, and if you feel it has merit, however
hard it may be to hear, get busy working on those areas.
Then what 3 things would recommend not doing?
1)Don’t confuse word count with productivity - Write every single day, but shoot for
quality, not quantity.The only
words that count are the ones you wind up keeping, so spend some time reaching
for those, and don’t worry about filling up pages.
2)Find your voice instead of using someone else’s - Don’t try to write like anyone else,
no matter how popular they are, or how much you love their work. Strive for
authenticity, not genius or style. Write from your heart, and tell your story
from your gut.
3)Don’t wait until everything is perfect to begin. Start now—today—and write what you
can in the time and space you have. You don’t need to win the lottery, quit
your job, or have a fancy office. You only need to put words on paper. Write
today. Write every day. Just write.
What's next for you?
working on novel number four, which is about a young woman who, after a full
year, is still grieving the suicide of her fiancé. She spends every spare
moment at the cemetery, trying to understand what happened and finally come to
terms with her grief. Then one day an old woman appears, clearly as grief-stricken
as she. She watches as the woman leaves a letter on a neighboring grave. When
the woman leaves, she can’t help herself. She picks up the letter and reads it,
and soon finds herself embroiled in a decades old family secret involving a
woman who’s been dead for thirty years.
Summer at Hideaway Key
Lily St. Claire has never been a beachgoer. But when her late father leaves her
a small house on Hideaway Key—one neither her mother nor she knew he
owned—she’s determined to visit the sleepy spit of land along Florida’s Gulf
Coast. Expecting a quaint cottage, Lily instead finds a bungalow with peeling
shutters and mountains of memorabilia. She also catches a glimpse of the architect
who lives down the beach…
But it’s the carton of old
journals in the front room that she finds most intriguing. The journals were
written by her mother’s sister, an infamous beauty whose name has long been
banned from the St. Claire home. The journals tell a family tale Lily has never
heard, of her mother and her aunt as young girls in Tennessee and the secrets
that followed them into adulthood. As she reads, Lily gains a new
understanding: about her family and about herself. And she begins to open her
heart—to this place, these people, and the man next door. But can she ever
truly learn to trust, to believe that love is not a trap but a harbor? And is
it true that hearts, even broken ones, can be forged anew?