Welcome one and all! Grab a beverage of choice, something sweet and sinful. 😉 Take a comfy seat for another, or a first, spin in the Round Pen.
I’m thrilled to welcome my talented guest today, Barbara Barrett, who is sharing Keeping It Casual with us!
Please show Barbara some real Ranch love!
Before I get to the questions, please, tell us a bit about you.
Thank you, Calisa, for the warm welcome to the Ranch.
A little bit about me. I lived most of my life in Iowa, and since I’ve retired, I now spend my winters in Florida just outside the Disney Parks and my summers in Iowa. I started my college career majoring in anthropology, but when I realized I’d have to do field work to gain higher degrees in this area—you know, tents, bugs, no air conditioning, no Diet Coke—I switched my major to American History. My plan was to teach at the community college level once I received my Masters Degree, but when I could only get hired on a part-time basis, I took a job in human resources management with Iowa State government, although we called it Personnel Administration back then. My husband and I were both floor counselors in the dorm system our senior year in college. I met him in sensitivity training. The class focused on non-verbal communication. The thought freaked my future husband, so he spent his time making faces. Needless to say, I wasn’t impressed at that point. It took running into him a few more times to convince me this was the guy for me. We now have two grown children and eight grandchildren.
When I’m not working in my lovely new office upstairs, my writing area is my easy chair in the living room. What does your writing space look like?
My writing space is my own private retreat in both locations. Both are comfy with either a loveseat or sofa for relaxing when breaks are needed. The walls of both are filled with pictures and items that are special to me. Framed photos of three of my favorite authors, Nora Roberts, Linda Howard and Janet Evanovich, stare down at me and provide motivation in my Florida office. I gaze out on six palm trees in the courtyard below. In Iowa, I look out on a boulevard. All day I see people walking their dogs, parents and grandparents with strollers and kids and adults on bikes, roller skates and skateboards. I love to watch all the activity. Some of the teapots and teacups I’ve collected over the years adorn two sets of wall shelves. Since it is just my husband and me, I enjoy long periods of uninterrupted writing time, which I cherish. But if I have to, I can be mobile with my writing space, since I use a laptop.
For a lot of writers it’s a life-altering event coming up with titles and character names. Others it comes as naturally as breathing. Which is it for you?
Most of my books have experienced more than one title prior to publication. I needed to get into the book, maybe even finish the first draft, before the essence I wanted to convey in the title came to me. I struggled naming the first book in my “Sullivan’s Creek” series. It features two architects with very different approaches to design who are forced to work together. At first, I focused too much on their occupation; I kept trying to find catchy ways to use “Blueprint.” Finally, I realized what really brings them together is the Salsa dancing class they teach together so they can learn more about their target audience, baby boomers. Once I came up with Saved by the Salsa, I’d set my course for the next two books in the series. I had my two titles before I had any stories for them. Tough Enough to Tango was released last year and Not Your Mama’s Mambo should be released later this year. But here’s a caveat: as much as I love those titles, finding covers has been a challenge.
My latest release, Keeping It Casual, just came to me, because that’s the whole point of the story, until the H/H realize what they have with each other is much more than casual. It was originally going to be titled The Escape Clause, because the first book in the series was titled The Sleepover Clause and I wanted “clause” to be in each title. But that just didn’t work for the second book. I wanted something “sexy” but not overtly sensational. After much thought, I finally arrived at Seduction on Wheels rather than The Travel Clause. I probably agonized over that one and Salsa the most.
What advice would you offer aspiring and new writers?
From others, never stop learning. With yourself, never stop analyzing your own work.
I recently attended a Michael Hauge workshop at the RWA Annual Conference in San Diego. I’ve heard him speak before on more than one occasion, but this time his words and writing advice struck me differently because I had more writing experience under my belt. When I returned home, I reread my current work in progress and, thanks to his class, realized why this manuscript wasn’t resonating with me. I didn’t need to rewrite the story, but I did need to add more depth to my characters. His advice was invaluable.
The constant shift of the industry makes me often scratch my head and ask ‘what next?’ So, what do you think it takes to be a successful author at the moment?
Don’t I wish I knew, but I’ll give this a shot. First, every writer needs to determine for herself what “success” means to her: having a bestseller, making lots of money, getting published, seeing your name online somewhere. I’m still at the point in my career when a heartfelt fan letter is much appreciated. I don’t need to know that I changed someone’s life, but it’s wonderful to learn that for the space of time it took them to read one of my books, they learned something or applied something I wrote to their own life or, and this is my favorite, I made them laugh.
I write because I have to write…for myself. It gives me great joy to bring my imagination to life on the computer screen. Every book is a journey that starts with a protagonist desiring something they don’t have or cannot do without overcoming what at the start appears to be an insurmountable challenge, and it’s up to me to guide them to a satisfactory end.
Who would you like to meet in the publishing industry- dead or alive- and why?
For romance novels, I wish I would have had the opportunity to meet Kathleen Woodiwiss. I never imagined myself writing a romance novel until I read Shana and then The Flame and the Flower. Yes, she wrote of damsels in distress who needed the strong alpha male to help them save themselves, but she also conveyed deep emotion that touched the heart and made you want to root for the heroine up until the last page. And to be frank, her sex scenes struck another kind of note that made you keep reading long after midnight.
For mystery novels, I would have liked to meet Dame Agatha Christie. Where Woodiwiss focused on emotion, Christie highlighted the cerebral. Figuring out whodunit before the end of one of her mysteries was a favorite pastime, because her heroes, Miss Marple and Hercule Poirot, in particular, used their “little gray cells” to discern motive and then apply it to means and opportunity to solve the case. I’m more a fan of the mystery than the suspense or thriller.
It’s time for some fun! I’ll ask the questions and you answer them in one word. 😆
Favorite animal? cat
Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter? spring
Favorite food? pizza
Well done! J So let’s share a bit.
What are you working on now?
Not Your Mama’s Mambo is currently in galley stage and hopefully will be out before Christmas because it ends on that holiday. I’m also working on a new series, yet to be named, that features different types of cable interest shows.
What are you sharing today?
Talent manager Alex Appleby needs Geoff McKenna’s help. Her vicious client is threatening the reputation of Alex’s television-star father if Alex can’t convince her stepsister to go along with the client’s demand. Alex turns to Geoff to make the case to her sister.
Geoff has his own proposition for Alex. Thus far, his case of multiple sclerosis has been mild, but he’s unsure of his future. When his girlfriend pushes for a stronger commitment, he enlists Alex as his new pretend love interest so his girlfriend will break things off.
When they discover they actually are attracted to each other, they agree to keep things casual, since Alex is only in town briefly and Geoff isn’t interested in anything serious. But fate intervenes as their feelings deepen. Alex must decide whether to relocate to Iowa from LA, and Geoff must place faith in his future.
Around a hundred miles, he turned onto I-29 to go north.
He pulled off at the first exit and headed for a fast food place. This had been fun. Best time he’d had in days. He sat back and slapped his thighs.
Alex returned an “I-told-you-so” look.
In response, without giving it further thought, he gripped her shoulders, brought her toward him, and kissed her.
When he released her, she breathed out, “That was unexpected.”
“For me, too. But not at all unpleasant.”
She remained only inches away, her breath grazing his face. Her eyes didn’t leave his. Without uttering a word, she invited him to return to the scene of the crime. So he did. Big time.
When she didn’t back away, he increased the pressure on her mouth, drew her closer, his arms encasing her, his right hand massaging her back. His left hand remained at her waist, awaiting its destination.
Though spontaneous—yeah, there’d been some kind of vibes going on since Pella, but it wasn’t like they’d been flirting or engaged in more serous sexual byplay—neither seemed shocked nor turned off by their actions. It was like they’d both been waiting for some sign from the other since the day they first met.
When had he last made out in a car? Not since college. Maybe even high school. Forgotten how the intimacy of front seat lip lock could give a guy such guilty pleasure. Could send his insides into overdrive, even in broad daylight.
Broad daylight. Right. Get control of yourself, man.
Where can we find you and your books?
Facebook: http://bit.ly/2aXZvG9 (This is new and could use your likes.)
Where will you be next?
August 31, www.zarawestsuspense.com/blog
September 9, Nancy Fraser Blog, “Reading Other Genres”
September 12, Burlington Community Library, 3-4 p.m.
November 17, Authors Bare All, www.casimclean.com
Here’s a question from me to your readers: For a romance novel (steamy but not high heat) what grabs your attention on the cover that gets you to read the book?
Thank you so much for playing along, Barbara! Wishing you much luck with your book and writing. I hope you’ll come visit again one day.