For this WOW blog tour, I had the honor of speaking with Barbara Barth, author of Danger in Her Words. If you haven't met her or had the chance to speak with her, Barbara is a lovely person. Here's a glimpse into her world:
Tell me how you came to be a writer:
I wrote a few children’s stories when I was younger, about thirty years younger, but nothing came of my attempts to get them published. My mother wrote when we were kids and I think the idea always intrigued me.
After my husband died in 2008 I had no idea what to do with myself. I’d retired early from the federal government, did not have children to worry about, and my only outlet was a small antique booth that needed very little attention. To stop myself from sending pitiful e-mails to my friends at all hours of the night, I started to write my feelings down in a journal. The more I wrote, the happier I became. Writing is a great therapeutic tool for me.
My memoir The Unfaithful Widow chronicles my first year on my own doing all those things I never thought I’d do again, with the help of a vintage Corvette, the best girlfriends, bad dates leading to good things, a bevy of dogs, and signs from the universe. I wanted to be out in life rather than surrounded by grief. I decided to take those experiences and share them in a book for others who had suffered a loss.
I’ve written almost every day since. It is part of me now and I can’t imagine doing anything differently.
How did you go from writing non-fiction to romance?
Much like my character Susan in Danger, a TV sitcom pitch gone wrong at a writers’ conference made me wonder about my writing. At that time I had only written essay style non-fiction.
At lunch all the women I talked to were writing more erotic novels. The book Fifty Shades of Grey had just come out. I went home and decided to try something new myself. That weekend I knocked out 7000 plus words and was horrified it read like porn. I decided to hold off going any further and tucked it away.
Last summer I had a big birthday, you know, the kind that makes you feel older than dirt, and wanted to do something different. I decided to revisit Danger and play with it. A story had been brewing that might pull together the best of all worlds – a bit of naughty fun, a romance, suspense, and my latest fantasy, living in a farmhouse. Once I got started again, the story took off.
Other than the sex scenes, was there anything else challenging about writing Danger?
My essays are written from real life, writing fiction required me to create a life for all my characters, complete with a past, a present, jobs, and friends. It seemed endless! Once I got writing however, the characters and chapters seemed to take on a life of their own. I’ve heard that many times from other authors. It was an awesome feeling.
I also had the beginning and end of my book and had to go back and fill in the middle. I wanted to be sure the events in the book seemed plausible and that the smallest details were consistent throughout the story. I wanted to build suspense, but still keep it light, as Susan’s research draws her into harm’s way. It was a fine line to maintain and kept me at the computer for hours at a time, day after day. I lost most of the end of last year to finishing my book.
What is one of your biggest challenges in writing?
I write in short increments, 1200 to 1800 words. My attention span seems to drop off after that. As an essayist that works very well for me. My widow memoir was a series of essays strung together over a year to form a book. Danger had to flow from beginning to end as a novel. The chapters in Danger are short. There are 39 chapters plus a prologue and epilogue. The book is approximately 74,000 words. The chapters are full of action and dialog and I hope it is a quick enjoyable read.
What kind of books do you enjoy reading?
I don’t read a lot of fiction. My taste runs to non-fiction, memoirs, and journals. I love to read about beauty in nature and life’s experiences. A favorite read when I was younger were the journals by May Sarton, an author who wrote fiction, but also on her life in Maine, and her experiences each decade as she aged.
I am a book lover, rather than an e-book gal. I want to hold and feel a book. It is a grand experience. I love vintage books with inscriptions from the late 1800s, written in flowing script. I still love children’s books. I have a huge collection of gardening books. If a book has a garden or a dog on the cover, it could come home with me, even if I never read it. I’ve loved books about renovating old houses, farm-life, and the light mystery.
My patience to sit and read is short, especially since I am now writing so much of the time. I want something I can pick up, enjoy a chapter before bed, and not feel lost the next night when I revisit it.
How would you describe Danger in Her Words?
I kid that Danger is my ‘naughty book’. I think it was just such a change in style for me, I had trouble with the fact I was writing about sex. The theme of my book dictated where I had to go to bring the story full circle. The sex is steamy and the girl-talk is great fun, not unlike conversations I’ve had with friends over Margaritas and wine. My characters are playful and teasing, those scenes are hot, but when they finally take the leap, the bedroom door closes.
Danger also brings on another dimension, it is a book within a book with insights into Susan’s writing process. Susan remembers (as I do) being in a class where the instructor warned that when writing sex scenes keep them in line with your character or your book will seem foolish. Susan does not want to write a sex book, she wants to write a good novel that is sexy as can be. I felt the same way and think I’ve accomplished my goal. It is not a book for the faint of heart, but it is a story that will hold your attention and raise your heart rate.
I loved the characters Susan and Jamie. Both are widows who have experienced loss and pieced themselves back together to have creative lives. They are strong, vulnerable, and while they sometimes don’t make the best decisions, they have learned how to laugh with life again.
Was the research you did for Danger anything like Susan’s research?
I think the quote in the front of my book gives insight to my research! Every author in some way portrays himself in his works, even if it be against his will – Johann Wolfgang von Goethe. Real life and fantasy are my fall back positions.
My character Susan had trouble writing the sexy scenes for her book, just like I had trouble writing mine for Danger. Susan turned to online dating for her inspiration and research and I looked back on some of the experiences I had reentering the dating world.
Anybody who has done online dating has probably come in contact with some of the characters I used. Hopefully not to the extreme I took it, with a predator. Although you do need to be careful as there are many scammers who do prey on women and not everyone is who they appear to be online. I was also surprised at how badly men will behave on a computer with a webcam doing things they would never consider when meeting a person face to face. In talking to gals of all ages it has been a universal experience, not just mine alone.
Danger is not meant to slam online dating sites. I know many women who have met nice guys and spouses through reputable sites. I met some truly strange men and wrote about them in my memoir. I dated a few good ones and wrote about them too. It seemed a natural flow to pull all of that together for Danger.
I thought I had picked a name for my fictional dating site that was unique. When I Googled it to be sure, I found it was an active site, although somewhat obscure. So I Googled every name I could think of until I came up with Love Me Cupid. To be sure it was mine alone, I bought the domain name! Now if I ever decide to start my own dating agency, I am set!
How did you decide to self-publish?
In 2010 I self-published my widow memoir with a company that offered many different design programs and services for varying fees. I had no idea how to do the interior files for print on demand or e-books and did not have the patience to try to find an agent and publishing company. I did have a strong vision for my book and chose a program with them that allowed me to have my book designed to my artistic whims and to use an original cover a friend created for me, rather than a stock cover they supplied. I was happy with the final results, but decided on a different route for Danger.
I knew from the beginning I would self-publish again but with some major changes. I turned to my sister this time and hired her for the book and cover design. She works with other authors with her company pd king designs. Coincidently, my mother started writing again at age eighty-five, so she handles my mother’s books too. I bought my own ISBN and the book is published through my own imprint, Gilbert Street Press.
After my sister completed her work she uploaded it to Amazon through CreateSpace and Kindle for free. My book was available for sale online within twenty-four hours.
Do you relate to any of the characters in Danger in her Words? If so, which one and how?
I think there is more of me in Susan than I like to admit! We both started dating the first year as a widow, then stopped. I found my path writing and adopting dogs. Susan found hers writing and moving to the farmhouse of her dreams. I looked at farmhouses an hour outside of Atlanta, and small Victorian cottages, wanting to move to a house that was different than the one I lived in with my husband. Susan’s farmhouse is a study of all the real estate I loved and lost! Decorating her farmhouse was fun. It is full of everything I love. And, last but not least, Susan has a strong core group of female friends and I am lucky to have the same.
What do you do when you’re not writing?
I am somewhat obsessed with writing and have to stop myself to get out and enjoy all the other things I love! My six dogs are my biggest passion. No, I don’t take them for walks, but we do frolic in my fenced back yard. They demand to be let out, fed, and played with, so they are my break from the computer.
I’ve sold antiques for as long as I can remember. In 2011 I opened a small shop of my own in a tiny town thirty minutes from where I live. It was to be an antique shop, but somehow I turned it into an art center, with book signings, writing classes, and art openings every weekend. It was a magical time, but I never made my rent. At the end of the year I had to close the shop and move back to selling in antique malls. Two months ago I decided it was time to give up the antiques business, except to be a sometimes picker for other dealers. This is my year to figure out what goes and what stays. I will always love finding treasures, but now pretty much just for myself now.
I love having lunch and dinner with friends. Good conversations over junk food! The writers’ guild I started when I had my shop still meets twice a month. My Book Talk blog is a continuation of my joy in helping promote other authors. I started it after I closed my shop.
Naps. There is always time for naps, especially when you have six dogs eager to join in!
How would you describe your writing style and what are you working on now?
With my essays, I like to think I write like I talk. As though we are friends sharing our thoughts and ideas. I try to find humor in everything and prefer to have a light touch even on tougher subjects I deal with. I am in the learning process with fiction. I love fast paced dialog. To be honest, I am never sure what direction I will take when I sit down. I do know I work on a piece until I feel I’ve gotten it right for me. While I hope my writing has an ease to it, it is difficult for me to find the words I want. I am cursed with typos no matter who reads for me.
Lots of goodies in the works. A memoir on living with six dogs as a single gal. A fictional book with a widow in her sixties as the main character. It will be another story within a story with a haunted spirit hanging around. The voices in my head get louder every day. Perhaps they do that to be heard over the yapping of my dogs!
Thanks for hosting me on your blog Vickie! It has been great meeting you through my blog tour with WOW.