Author Interview – Barbara Barrett

Barbara Barrett

I am thrilled to be able to introduce you to my friend Barbara. We both belonged to the same local RWA chapter several years ago. She now lives in Florida but happened to come back to Iowa to spend her summer. We had lunch and a chance to catch up and she told me about her first sale. I truly find the writing process interesting. I hope you enjoy this interview and maybe pick up something that will help with your writing process.

VirginiaWhere are you from?

Barbara – I was born in Burlington, Iowa, which just happens to be the setting of my debut novel, ‘The Sleepover Clause.’ After graduating from the University of Iowa, I moved to the Des Moines, Iowa area, where I’ve lived ever since. Three and a half years ago, I became a resident of Florida and now live there half the year (guess which half) just outside the Disney Parks in the shadow of the Mouse.

VirginiaHow long have you been writing?

Barbara – Much too long to admit, considering this is my debut novel. I guess I’m the new poster girl for “persistence pays off.”

VirginiaWhat do you write?

Barbara – I write contemporary romance fiction right now. My goal is to expand my writing efforts to include cozy mysteries and maybe even tackle a screenplay. I stay in touch with both through my membership in the RWA Kiss of Death and Scriptscene chapters. (I’m also a member of the Spacecoast Authors of Romance chapter.)

VirginiaTell us a little about your publisher and agent.

Barbara – Crimson Romance, an imprint of F+W Media, Adams Media, is a new epublisher focused on romance fiction. The first releases came out in early June, with several more added each Monday. They provide five categories: Contemporary Romance (my area), Historical Romance, Romantic Suspence, Paranormal Romance, and Spicy Romance. Their website can be found at

I don’t have an agent.

VirginiaI know that last time we talked you’d sold your first book. A little bird told me you might have some more news?

Barbara – I wish I could tell you, but since it’s not a done deal, I’ll have to get back to you on that.

VirginiaDo you outline?

Barbara – Sort of. Whoever invented the Table function on Word made writing so much easier for me to lay out my plot line and get a sense of sequencing. I start out with each entry being just the main purpose of the chapter and/or what I want to take place in that chapter. Although I still tend to overwrite the first draft, that method helps eliminate scenes that don’t progress the story. Later, I add columns for the POV character, scenes, time, time elapsed from the beginning. Eventually, I add page numbers.

VirginiaAbout how long does it take to finish a book?

Barbara – Much too long! Easily two years thus far. Now that I’m being published, I will need to step up the pace.

VirginiaWhat is your writing day like?

Barbara – I tend to write best from mid-morning to late afternoon and during the early evening. I try to write sequentially as much as possible for continuity’s sake, but that doesn’t preclude me from jumping around, especially when I’m doing revisions. I learned from this first publishing experience that in the future I have to do a much better job keeping notes as I go along for later reference. As I can work it in, I want to learn how to use either Scrivener or OneNote to do that.

VirginiaCan you tell us how you found a publisher and/or agent?

Barbara – I wish I could recall whose note I saw on which loop that spread the word about the new epub, Crimson Romance, that was seeking submissions so that I could give them credit, but that information escapes me now. I went to the Adams Media website and read the Call for Submissions there.

Virginia When will your book come out?

Barbara – Monday, September 3

VirginiaWhat are you working on next?

Barbara – I’m currently working on the second book of a trilogy about a residential development here in Iowa. The H/H in the first book are two architects who have been assigned to come up with the design plan. This second book is about the developer and the general contractor. The final will involve the marketing and interior design end.

VirginiaDo you have some words of wisdom for the rest of us?

Barbara – Nothing very original – be persistent and believe in yourself. Keep writing and improving your craft. Don’t be afraid to promote yourself. Write about what appeals to you most; writing about what you know also helps, but you can always research that part.

Thanks Barbara, hope you have a great book launch. Now everyone let’s go check it out.


What’s Happening Wednesday

I continue to work on my story but I also took a little time to work on a short story. I am attending the Montezuma Writer’s Conference September 15th and decided to enter a short story for their contest.
Because I plan to mail it out tomorrow, this post will be short. Will let you know who the winners are. My friend Cheryl Sease has won for the past two years so I know how stiff the competition is.

If you are a writer in the central Iowa area and would like to attend. Go to the website for Montezuma All-Iowa Writers’ Conference. The one day event is only $25 by mail or at the door. You can google it for more information. This will be the third year for this event and I have a feeling each year it will be getting better. My friends Sparkle Abbey will be on a panel as well as a few other writers I know.

Hope to see you there.


Tuesday Tip

I don’t know about you but every four years we get pulled into this political insanity. I believe that everyone has a right to their opinion but I am tired of it already. They shove it down your throat with commercials, they call you night and day for surveys, they knock on your doors, and it gets old. I get enough from the political parties. I don’t want it from authors. I don’t care who you support, it’s your business but I do care about what you write and if you piss me off, I won’t read you.

I may not have sold a book, yet, but I’ve sold a few houses in my day as a REALTOR for fifteen years. There are certain things you don’t discuss with a buyer and politics is one of them.  It is easy to get sucked up into the political rhetoric and I’m not saying you can’t have a view, but if you are an author and you are in the business of selling books, I’m not sure you need to share your view with everyone. The elections will be over in a few weeks. Will all of your readers still be interested in your books when it’s over?

Yes it takes talent to write a novel but it is a business and no matter what you think, there are people who will disagree with you. People who may decide not to buy your books because of something you said that offended them.

I am not talking so much about the big authors out there who have made it because, they can pretty much do what they want to do. But if you are not there yet, why push away possible readers because of politics?

Just my humble opinion.


Monday Motivation

I live in a suburb close to the state fairgrounds. In case you didn’t know it, our state fair was the one the movie State Fair was really about, at least the original movie. For two weeks every year, the volume of traffic explodes. They have to set up temporary lights and have police officers direct traffic, every day. It is so busy, I usually drive out of my way to get to downtown Des Moines, to avoid it on my way to work.

Our state fair is a big thing here. People actually drive in with big campers to stay for the duration.  Unless you are a farmer, I never really understood that.The attendees come from all over the United States and probably the world.  If I go at all, it is usually just for a few hours, one day. I have to confess, I have not been there in a few years. My husband and I used to meet another couple in the evening to listen to the Blues Band.

What amazes me is that we are a state that feeds the world and for 10 days each year, we stuff ourselves with food that is not good for you. I grabbed this photo from a share site so don’t think we actually had a Road Kill vendor but the big thing this year was bacon wrapped corn dogs. There are deep fried Twinkies, candy bars, and butter. Funnel cakes, root beer, lemonade, and of course the Bud tent. Don’t picture a small carnival here. This takes up several acres and includes animal barns, a varied industries building, a grandstand for shows and more. You can go see photos that have been judged as well as cooking. Antiques and quilts. The local media set up stages so they can report from the fair daily. On top of that is the midway with all the rides and of course fireworks every night. 355 days a year people work, raise families, attend sports events and are basically pretty normal until the fair comes and everyone is ready to party.

Write about your fair experience. Write about the crowd of people, what they wore, the smells, the sounds, the tastes.

If you have not had a chance to experience a real state fair, mark your calendars for next August in Iowa.


What’s Up Wednesday

This has been a fun, busy week. Had two meetings Saturday. Iowa Romance Novelists met in the morning and Sisters in Crime in the afternoon. Katy Madison from the Kansas City chapter of RWA presented a program in the morning – Writing Blind – Revising Brilliant. She is a pantzer who whips through her first draft as soon as possible and then spends her time revising. She broke it down in the steps that she uses to revise. This was a great workshop with six pages of detailed information.  Very thorough. She must be doing something right, she is a 2012 Daphne Award winner.

Sara Humphries gave a talk at the Sisters in Crime meeting about ‘Fifty Shades of Red: A Study of Reader Expectations and the Contemporary Mystery. This lady likes details. She found “Twenty Rules for Writing Detective Stories by S.S. Van Dine from 1928 and we discussed whether each rule was relevant for contemporary mysteries.

We meet the third Saturday of the month and it feels like a monthly mini-conference. I always leave feeling motivated.

I have been writing a scene a day on my current story and feel like it is finally starting to come together. I understand that this will take me a while to complete and will keep pushing forward.

Lots of writing events coming up. The Montezuma Writer’s Conference is mid September and I am going to a Debra Dixon Workshop for ‘Goal, Motivation,and Conflict’ the end of September so I am trying to get as much writing done before those events.

If you live in the area and want any information on either the group meetings or workshops, feel free to comment. I would be happy to share that information with you.

Have a great week writing.


Tuesday Tip

Here is a tip, I learned recently at a workshop. Whenever you get stuck with your story and have no idea what to do next. Get up and move. Take a walk. Stand up and flap your arms or do air push ups where you raise your arms above your head and act like you are pushing up.

I sometimes take a break and vacuum. I have a two story house and that is a pretty good workout. Moving and doing something that I don’t have to think about leaves my mind open to work on my story.

The act of moving gets your adrenaline going and helps you think better. Janet Evanovich has a treadmill next to her desk. After writing for so long, she hops on and walks for about 20 minutes then she goes back to writing.

I like to walk before I start writing. I tend to think about my story as I move. Try to keep a notepad or a tape recorder handy in case a brilliant idea pops up.

Do you use activity to break through a block? What are some of your tricks for moving forward when you get stuck?

Have a great writing week!


P is for Perfection





“Perfectionism is the voice of the oppressor, the enemy of the people. It will keep you cramped and insane your whole life and it is the main obstacle between you and a shitty first draft.” – Anne Lamott



I was lucky enough to meet Anne Lamott a while back when she was an author for the AVID event here in Des Moines. AVID is Authors Visiting in Des Moines and is a program that the local library funds each year. They bring in a handful of authors who speak and sign books from April through June. It’s an event I look forward to each year and try to attend as many talks as possible.


Anyone who writes has heard of Anne Lamott and her ‘Bird by Bird’ book on writing. If you have not, you need to get it and read it now. She is one of the writing guru’s I turned to in the beginning. The title came from when her brother attempted to write an essay on different birds. He waited until the last minute to write it and then found himself stuck not knowing how to actually do it. His father told him to not look at the big picture, to take one bird and write about it and then another and another until he completed the report.


I suffer from perfectionism in many areas of my life but especially in my writing. I use it as my crutch or my excuse. If I only have 10-15 minutes to write, it’s easy for me to say it isn’t worth it, what can I possibly get done in that amount of time? Even when I do schedule my writing time, I often catch myself editing the life out of my work and ultimately stopping my forward momentum. Then I can’t figure out why I can’t go forward. Just as if I was a log stuck in quicksand, I get stuck trying to be perfect and instead of finishing the project, it sinks and is never seen again.


I have murdered too many projects because of perfectionism. Like another writer friend Shirley Damsgaard, who writes a witch mystery series as well as the Jess McConkey books told me, “Sometimes you just have to write the damn thing.”


I am so there now. I will spill the words out and worry about mopping up the bad stuff with revision.


As Nora Roberts said, “You can’t edit a blank page.” So I have to get past thinking my first draft has to be perfect.


Are you able to write that first draft and not worry about how bad it is or are you like me and tend to fix it as you go, never getting far from your beginning?


How do you cope with writing that first draft? What are your secrets?


Here’s to writing to the end this week, and not worrying about perfection.




Little Black Dress – Book Review

Susan McBride wrote a perfectly charming romance with a touch of magic. I thoroughly enjoyed reading this book. I loved the concept of a magical dress that made any woman look wonderful and caused a vision of their future.

The story is told by two characters, Evie, the mother and Toni, the daughter.

Toni is having dinner with her longtime boyfriend.  She thinks he is about to pop the question but instead he gives her a key to his apartment. Disillusioned, she doesn’t have time to give him an answer when her phone rings. Her mother is in the hospital. She rushes out and finds her mother has had a stroke and is in a coma.

Each chapter alternates between Evie and Toni. Evie is remembering her past and her sister Anna while in the coma. Toni keeps herself busy sorting out her mother’s life after she becomes aware that her mother may not have been coping so well since her father’s death as she waits for her mother to wake up.

The story is about a little black dress that Anna bought before her own wedding from a fortune teller. The dress foretold Anna’s future and because of the vision, she cancelled her wedding. It caused hard feelings between her family and the groom’s family who both owned local vineyards.  Anna disappeared leaving her family heartbroken.

Evie eventually tried on the dress and saw a vision of her future husband while Toni also gets her chance. Though the women are all different sizes and shapes, the dress adapts to their bodies and makes them all look more desirable.

Toni learns about her mother and aunt’s past and also what she needs to do to be happy.

Characters were well rounded with flaws that made them seem more real. I loved the magical aspect of the story and how sometimes things don’t work out the way we want them to but in the end that was what had to be.

Would recommend this book to anyone who likes a little romance spiced up with magic.


What I’ve Been Doing Wednesday

I had to change the theme for Wednesday. Not that I haven’t been working on my project but because I don’t feel I have enough to share each week. I have written another scene even though this past week was one that I was busy pretty much every day. Before I started writing, I spent a great deal of time, ironing out my story line. I finally feel like I have it where I want it. I can’t share much about the story because I am one of those writers who has to be surprised myself. If I tell the story here before I’ve actually written it, I won’t want to finish it. I will feel like I’ve already told the story.

My word count was so small, I hate to even admit it. I wrote only about 240 new words. Ouch, that really hurt but as I said, most of my time was spent working on my outline and I do like the direction I am going now.

Other than writing, I do read a little every day, usually right before bed. I finish a book within a week or two that way. The last book I read was Susan McBride’s ‘Little Black Dress’. Loved it. I have a review to post tomorrow night about that.

I try not to watch too much television but I do look at it as research. Watched the season finale for ‘Longmire‘, a mystery series set in Wyoming. Longmire is the Sheriff. Lots of story lines that kept getting more tangled as the season progressed. Longmire is a widower and the season opened with his grieving and trying to get on with life. His right hand man, is a woman. She is married but spends so many hours on the job, her marriage isn’t looking too good. His other deputy is running for Sheriff against him, as well as sleeping with his daughter. That all came to a head toward the end of the season. Each week, there is another murder to solve. Longmire has a dry sense of humor and actually reminds me of a more laid back Indiana Jones type cowboy. I know that probably doesn’t make sense. Watch it sometime, you’ll see what I mean. If you missed it, check out the re-runs. I will be waiting for next season.

Spent my day off with friend Sara in Winterset. Where they filmed ‘Bridges of Madison County.’ We drove out to Roseman bridge, the one from the movie. Sara was surprised to see how far the bridge actually was from Winterset. It is out in the middle of no where on a gravel road. There is a house next to it that is now a gift shop. It was closed while we were there. And this is a little tidbit not shared in the movie. They say a man was hung on that bridge and that it is now haunted. Didn’t see any ghosts. Did take lots of pictures maybe to use sometime on my blog. Another little tidbit. One of my writer friends, who has since moved from Iowa to Florida, her son played Francesca’s son as a little boy in the movie.

Well, I have to get back to my novel. Hope to have a much higher word count by next week.

Happy writing,


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