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!
After spending more than a decade as a corporate executive in the jewelry business, Barbara decided 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 this story.
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.
Between 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 forward.
|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?
I’m currently 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
Pragmatic, independent 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?