I write contemporary romance, thus far of the “sensual” variety.
What inspires you to write?
I do well speaking to groups, but in casual conversation, I tend to hang back and wait for the other person to finish speaking. Frequently, someone else beats me to the punch and the process of waiting to speak repeats itself. The practice of raising your hand to be recognized was meant for me. So I guess I write because the computer lets me have my say (unless it refuses to acknowledge the tab settings I want, which was the case today). A supportive teacher in grade school encouraged me to write. A little encouragement apparently went a long way. These days, what inspires me to write is usually a “what if” question, as was the case with my most recent book, And He Cooks Too. I wondered what would happen if a cooking show host really couldn’t cook. From there I was off spinning my tale.
Do you listen to music or set the mood somehow to get writing?
I listen to television. Is it distracting? Probably. Could I be more productive without it? More than likely. It’s a bad habit I developed in high school and then college while I studied and haven’t been able to shake. However, I am pretty successful blocking it out. Sometimes the credits will be rolling before I realize a program is over, because I’ve gotten so engrossed in developing the latest chapter.
Do you come up with the plot or characters first?
Plot. I already alluded to the “what if” process. I’ll come across an interesting situation and then start playing around with “what would have happened if x had been y instead?” or some version of that speculation. I don’t get very far with the plot, though, until I’ve explored the question, “what kind of person would wind up in a situation like that?” That’s when character development occurs. I develop a rough sketch of my main characters using Debra Dixon’s “Goal, Motivation and Conflict” method (What does the character want? Why do they want it? What prevents them from having it?), then I return to the plot. I fall somewhere between being a pantser and plotter. I need a “roadmap” to write my story: how my characters get from Point A to Point Z, but the points in between occur as I think of them.
Do you have a favorite book of yours?
No, not yet. Two of my books have been published. Obviously, those top the list. I love the first, The Sleepover Clause, because it was the first and it takes place in my hometown of Burlington, Iowa. I love the second, And He Cooks Too, because of the cooking aspect. I became a huge fan of Food Network programs as I was doing research on the book. But I also love the three or four other manuscripts in some phase of development because I’m continuing to learn my craft and incorporate new ideas I’ve picked up from my editors, my writer friends, readers, and my own experience.
Who would you consider an influence on your writing?
Three pictures hang on my office wall, my muses. Whenever I feel the need to improve the exposition part of my writing, I turn to the works of Nora Roberts for inspiration. Her descriptions and narrative are poetry. I love the way Linda Howard spins a plot, especially the numerous unexpected twists. And Janet Evanovich’s sense of humor underlies my interesting in writing on the light side.
Tell me something quirky about yourself.
I’ve lived in Florida the past four winters. Although I’ve heard about the gators in the area, I never saw one outside a zoo or enclosure until this year. A month ago, I went on a narrated cruise of the St. John’s River in Blue Springs State Park, ostensibly to view the manatees, but in reality we were able to be more up close and personal with the alligators there. After having the first two or three pointed out by our captain, I started spotting them on my own, now knowing what to look for. It became a game, to see if I’d notice them before the captain, and I did pretty well on a couple. I brought that interest home with me, especially since it’s “mating season” for gators, which makes the males less shy. Not that I’ve been trekking around the various retention ponds – I’m not that brave, or stupid – but as I’ve been driving by certain water spots, my eyes search the shore, seeking the critters. There’s one, in particular, that’s out about every sunny day. What’s the payoff? I have no idea. That’s what makes this quirky, because I can’t explain my fascination, just follow it.
What do you aim to make people feel when they read your books?
Satisfied. Whatever promise I make with the story question is fulfilled. To get to that point, I want readers to be intrigued by the plot and find it credible, to care for and root for my characters, and to accept the story resolution. If my stories take them out of their lives for just a bit or they learn something from the story, that’s great too. (If they cry at the end, that’s a bonus.)
What’s next for you?
Writing-wise, I’m currently working on the sequel to The Sleepover Clause, working title, The Travel Clause. I’m also revisiting two manuscripts I wrote sometime back. One is a chick-lit I’m now describing as Women’s Fiction and the other is about a soap opera. I want to finish that revision before all the current network soap operas disappear. I’m also continuing to expand the promotional efforts for my books and further develop my brand, like seeking more reviews, creating a trailer for my books and attending more reader events. I recently gave a presentation on romance writing to a group at Stetson University in Celebration, Florida and discovered how much I enjoyed doing that sort of thing; I’d like to do more of that in future months.
Do you sing in the shower?
Only in the car. When I’m alone. And only with songs I really love. I get the best radio reception for a Top 40 station, so I’m up on names like Mumford, Keshia, Bruno Mars, although if I hear Taylor Swift having “Trouble” one more time, which I will, I’m going to turn it off. But don’t I wish our books got so much play.
Barbara Barrett spent her professional career as a human resources analyst for Iowa state government, and that training has stayed with her in her writing of contemporary romance fiction. The theme of her writing, “Romance at Work,” reflects her fascination with the jobs people do and infiltrates her plots almost to the point of becoming a secondary character.
A member of Romance Writers of America and several of its affiliate chapters, she was first “published” in sixth grade when a fictional account of a trip to France appeared in her hometown newspaper, the Burlington Hawk-Eye. Years later, she was fortunate enough to visit the subject of her essay, although in it she never envisioned that she would trip on a curb near the Arc d’Triomphe and have to limp her way through the Louvre.
Now retired, Barbara spends her winters basking in the Florida sunshine and returns to her home state of Iowa in the summer to “stay cool.” She is married to the man she met in dormitory advisor training her senior year of college. They have two grown children and six grandchildren. When she’s not writing, she’s busy lunching with friends or playing Mah Jongg.
Her first book, The Sleepover Clause, was released by Crimson Romance in September of 2012. Her second book, And He Cooks Too, was released by The Wild Rose Press on March 22.
She loves talking about writing romance and welcomes invitations from book clubs to join them via phone calls or the Internet. Check out her contact information to request she visit your book club.
Contact Information for Barbara Barrett