Today's guest in My Writing Corner is romance author, Barbara Barrett. Tell me, Barbara, have you always wanted to be a writer?
Although writing came easily to me in school as well as my job, it was only when I was in my late thirties that I considered writing fiction, and then primarily because one of my beloved characters on my favorite daytime drama, “Felicia Gallant” of “Another World,” was a romance novelist. When other women my age were having midlife crises, I turned to my typewriter. (Okay, I did break down and get a red convertible about then; we all have our moments.) Writing was there for me several years later when I discovered I had breast cancer, and it’s been there for me ever since.
Tell us a little about your newest book, Saved by the Salsa.
Saved by the Salsa is about home design, residential communities, baby boomers and Salsa, the Latin dance. Encompassing all of that are two architects, Lacey Rogers and Jack Dalton, my heroine and hero. Lacey is an upcoming junior architect in her firm and Jack is the firm’s golden boy, accustomed to doing his own thing as long as it pleases the client and working alone. When the head of the firm teams him up with Lacey on the largest project ever to come the firm’s direction, Jack begins to wonder if he’s slipping and needs an assistant. Maybe this is why he hasn’t been named principal yet. They clash frequently over their different approaches to design, despite their mutual attraction. Working together leads to more intimate collaboration.
What gave you the idea for this story in particular?Several years ago, my husband and I designed and built a new home in a suburb of Des Moines, Iowa. About the time I started “Salsa,” we were beginning to discuss downsizing to a smaller home now that our children had grown. Though I would have gone with a condo, he wanted a larger workshop for woodwork once he retired. When I first met my husband, he told me he planned to be an architect. Though his career path went a different direction, he still wanted to design our homes. Because I wanted to assure that the features I wanted made their way into the plans, I learned to read blueprints as well. All of this was floating around somewhere in my brain bank when I decided to do a series about the design, building and selling of a residential community. I chose to dust off that interest in home design as I wrote this first book in the series and focused on two architects.
What do you start with when you are writing a new book – characters, the plot or an idea?Usually, the idea comes first, based on a “what if” question. The plot emerges from there and then I get to the characters. In the case of “Salsa,” it started with wanting to do something about my own baby boomer generation while still working with a younger H/H. As noted above, downsizing to a smaller home was prevalent in my thoughts. What if two architects were assigned to work together? Despite their immediate attraction to each other, their different approaches to design have them at odds. On occasion, I come up with the title first. Case in point, the third book in this series, Not Your Mama’s Mambo. Still developing the character and the plot but loved that title.
Give us an idea of how you develop your characters.I am a huge proponent of Debra Dixon’s “Goal, Motivation and Conflict” approach to novel writing. I spend hours drawing up grids for the heroine and hero with their GMCs, both Interior and Exterior. I go through numerous drafts, attempting to simplify and refine until I’m down to one or just a few-word phrase for each space on the grid. Dixon also discusses how character development overlaps/relates to the grid. I start with the “dominant impression” of the character (a technique she attributes to Dwight Swain), an adjective and descriptive noun which best describe the H/H. From there, I add detail explaining how that characteristic is affected by the character’s GMC.
Do you always know how your story is going to end?No, although from the beginning I know what my H/H both need to meet their GMCs: what the obstacles are to their getting what they want (the conflict). Then I just have to figure out how they overcome those obstacles (the rest of the plot).
Although I tend to write in sequential order, once I’ve got that final chapter nailed down except for refinement, I go back to the opening and redo it to foreshadow how the book will end. I call this my “organic whole,” although that’s just my term for it; where I start must bear a direct relationship to where I end.What are you working on now?
I’ve just completed the second book in The Sullivan’s Creek Series, Tough Enough to Tango, which is about the construction phase of Sullivan’s Creek. I’ve just contracted with The Wild Rose Press to publish The Sleepover Clause, the first book in The Matchmaking Motor Coach Series and will be researching the second book in that series, The Travel Clause, as we drive to Arizona next month. In the meantime, I’m back reworking the first book I ever wrote, which I mentioned earlier, and updating it to 2014 themes. It’s called Journey into Morning.
What do you read when you are not writing?I try to stay current with my genre, contemporary romance. I just finished Hers by Request by Karen Ann Dell, her debut novel. I read cozy mysteries just for fun and love the work of my pals, Sparkle Abbey. I am a member of two book clubs; they tend to read bestsellers from the last few years. I’m currently reading Kathleen Grissom’s The Kitchen House.
What are your favorite things to do when you are not writing?Love having lunch with friends. I’m addicted to Mah Jongg, both the National and the Wright-Patterson versions. And now that my husband has retired, we’re enjoyed numerous day trips.
How can readers reach you or find you online?Website and blog: http://www.barbarabarrettbooks.com
Email: email@example.comFacebook: http://on.fb.me/11jvO3Q
Pinterest: http://www.pinterest.com/barbarabarrett7/Amazon Author Page: http://amzn.to/WTcmgu
Goodreads Author Page: http://bit.ly/1tHg6im