Barbara Barrett – Newest release: Driven to Matrimony
DRIVEN TO MATRIMONY will be FREE on Amazon Nov. 12-16
The Sleepover Clause (Crimson Romance) and And He Cooks Too (The Wild Rose Press)
Hi Barbara, welcome to the Snarkology!
Please tell us about yourself and your writing.
Please tell us about yourself and your writing.
I lead a “double life.” No, I’m not a spy. Now that I’m retired, I live seven months in Florida and five in my home state of Iowa. Some might call me a “snowbird,” but I’m not crazy about that term. My mother was a snowbird in Texas. I see myself living a different style of retirement, so I prefer “seasonal.” The continual relocation lends itself well to a writer’s life. My environment, surroundings and community change every so often, and that keeps my brain fresh and the muse alive.
I write contemporary romance even though my undergraduate and graduate degrees are in American History. I guess the research I conducted for my thesis on the foreign policy of Herbert Hoover spoiled me for further research for romance novels, although now that “Downton Abbey” has entered that period, maybe it’s time to rethink my decision. I’ve also started my first mystery, have notes for two children’s books and someday want to write a screenplay. A girl’s gotta plan ahead, right?
What does your writing space look like?
In a word, cluttered. I wouldn’t recommend my design style to anyone else. My desk is L-shaped. My laptop occupies the front of one end with the folders for my current projects and two dictionaries stacked behind it. In the corner is a small television set, which is on most of the time I’m writing. (Bad habit picked up in high school, too late to change. Don’t want to change.) The other side of the desk holds several stacks of other folders and paper tablets. Most of the time I write in this clutter. When I hit a wall in my writing, I tend to “clean.” Sometimes that means simply straightening the stacks, but sometimes I actually reorganize, and God forbid, pitch things I no longer need. Sometimes, that results in about two linear feet of clear space. I like clear space, just can’t maintain it long. Wonder what my productivity would be like if I were neater.
How long have you been writing?
I started writing fiction when I was in my late thirties, looking for an outlet beyond work. I was a big fan of the soap opera “Another World.” One of the main characters was a romance novelist named Felicia Gallant. To be honest, I got swept up in TV’s portrayal of her lifestyle and decided I wanted the same. My first manuscript took years to finish, because I lacked the discipline of writing every day – I did have a full time job, you know, and a husband, two kids and a dog. A few years later, I attended a meeting of a local RWA chapter and discovered how much I’d been doing wrong. That’s when I really became serious about my writing. Since then, I’ve finished seven manuscripts, although if you counted how many times I’ve rewritten all of them, the total would be more like 30. Three have now been published.
Do you have a process for coming up with character names and book titles?
Process, no; preferences, yes. With a few exceptions, I like my heroines’ names to be unisex and somewhat off the beaten path: Aubrey, Shae, Sloane, Landan and Reese, to name a few. I like my heroes’ names to be clearly masculine, usually one syllable: Brock, Jack, Ben, Nick, Mitch. I have more fun with secondary character names: Orville, Glenda, Cameron, Jocelyn, Leonie. I get my kicks coming up with those names.
Occasionally, I use a friend or relative’s name in their honor. I used my mother’s name, Evelyn, for the hero’s mother in my very first manuscript, still unpublished. Fortunately, I let her read that manuscript before her recent passing. I used my father’s name, Richard, for the name of the hero’s son in my newest release, Driven to Matrimony. My sister, Peggy, appears as a secondary character in my first published book, The Sleepover Clause. I’ve also used the names of two friends, Mary Ann and Jan, who believed in my dream for several years before I was published, although they are Marianne and Janice in the manuscript.
Lest you think I’ve got a good grasp of character naming, I have to confess something that slipped into my first book which will haunt me in the second book in the planned three-part series. The heroine’s sister in The Sleepover Clause, Jenna, becomes the heroine in the sequel, The Travel Clause. The hero is Graham (better known as Gray) McKenna. The day I realized what I’d done, I just about lost my cookies, and not the ones attached to my computer. But the more I thought about it, I kinda liked the joke on myself. Somewhere near the end of the second book, once the two characters realize they can’t live without each other, one of them is going to realize the joke as well, so my readers will know I was at least aware of what I’d done to myself.
As for book titles, which I’ll discuss in another question later, I like them “catchy,” when that makes sense. I came up with The Sleepover Clause because I thought the word “sleepover” would suggest steam and “clause” would indicate some kind of “bargain” my characters negotiate. Since then, I’ve learned I need to research future titles a little further; there is an entire “Sleepover” series for kids’ books. Mine tends to get lost in that long list. I hope some well-meaning parent doesn’t get confused and buy my book for her children.
The titles of the next two books in this three-part “Clause” series aren’t as catchy, but I want them to align with the idea, thus The Travel Clause and The Escape Clause.
What inspired your current book?
Several years ago, I read Carrie Fisher’s Postcards from the Edge, then saw the film of the same title with Meryl Streep and Shirley MacLaine. The general idea of the impact of a movie star mother’s success on her daughter’s life and self-image stuck and served as the starting point for my current book, Driven to Matrimony, although it has nothing to do with either Fisher’s book or the film. My daughter doesn’t have a drug problem and isn’t also in the business like her mother. In fact, she has steered clear of anything to do with Hollywood, choosing a career as a forensic accountant and living in the Midwest instead. But I still remember that scene on the stairs in the movie when MacLaine attempts to rationalize her maternal actions. Though the words didn’t stick with me, the context did; I strived to portray that same emotional schism between mother and daughter in this book.
Please tell us about your current work in progress. How do you come up with your book titles?
Besides the sequel mentioned above, I am also working a three-part series about the planning, construction and selling of a residential retirement community for baby boomers. The first book, which features two architects assigned to come up with the design concept for the project, has them struggling to figure out what boomers like, since neither has much experience with that generation. As part of their research, they wind up teaching several fifty- and sixty-ish folks how to dance the Salsa. A friendship which emerges from the class helps them gain a critical insight about boomers and winds up saving their project. From that, I got the title Saved by the Salsa. Loved the alliteration. It occurred to me that I should incorporate the dance motif into the three-part series, so I’m calling the collection, “The Dances of Sullivan’s Creek.” The next two books are tentatively titled Tough Enough to Tango and Not Your Mama’s Mambo.
· Favorite food? pizza
· Favorite color? blue
· Favorite animal? cat
· Biggest pet peeve? rudeness
· Dream car? One that runs on unlimited cheap fuel, refrigerator unit that holds Diet Coke, comfortable seats, reclining seats, great sound system. All that aside, how about a red Mercedes SL500 convertible?
Dina Maitland spends almost as much time extricating her movie star mother from personal messes as she invests in her forensic accounting job. So much time, she may no longer have a job once she cleans up her mother's latest fiasco, her engagement to a twenty-something film student. Vowing it's the last time she puts herself on clean-up duty, Dina sets off for South Carolina to stop the pending nuptials, and along the way, almost literally, runs into the father of the groom.
Ben Cutler has troubles of his own with his business under attack from competitors and a government audit looming. Not one to trust women, he must team up with Dina to balance his books as well as stop the wedding.
Though unwillingly thrown together Dina and Ben are surprised to find their interest and passion for each other growing. Can they face their pasts in order to create a union of their own?
Ben Cutler spotted the out-of-control sports car staggering for the open road as soon as he entered the parking lot. It moved in fits and starts, then seemed to gain speed as it headed directly toward him. Only quick reflexes and a last-minute dive out of the vehicle’s path saved him from an otherwise painful impact. The woman was a demon! Had she deliberately tried to mow him down?He dismissed the notion as the car continued to swerve back and forth across the roadway only to veer off and skid down an embankment. There it came to rest, sinking into what from where he stood looked like marshland.Had she injured herself? He broke into a fast trot and headed down the road to check. Foolish woman. Taking off like a runaway train when she obviously didn’t know the first thing about operating a stick. Just like so many so-called modern women. Independent. Know-it-all. Until they needed help, and then, no matter what a guy did, it wasn’t what they wanted.Ben slowed his pace when she emerged from the vehicle only to step into the muddy bog. Whoa! That misstep wasn’t going to improve her mood.He couldn’t have called it better.She struggled to unplug one foot from the gunk. When she finally succeeded, it was unclear whether a shoe still remained or had been left behind, buried, because dark mud covered the entire appendage. In order to remove the other foot, she was forced to stick the first foot back in the muck, and this time, it seemed to sink even deeper. As she realized the depth of her predicament, her reaction transformed from surprise to dismay to anger.He could have sworn he heard epithets not becoming a lady, but he wasn’t close enough to discern her exact words.She appeared unharmed, though she’d probably never wear those shoes again.He should be furious with her for leaving him behind and almost mowing him down. But despite her actions, her gyrations fascinated him as she tried to figure out the extent of the car’s troubles and how to extricate both herself and the little sports car from the quagmire. She was kind of cute trampling through the mire, tentatively lifting one foot, then the other to inspect the damage. She bent over and his breath caught. Cute became curvaceous.She tromped back to the car, got in, and discarded her shoes, pitching them over the door to the outside with a vengeance. Nothing happened when she attempted to restart the vehicle. It wasn’t even grinding or kicking up mud. Just emitting a half-hearted gurgle. Dina leaned over the door and frowned at her slimy surroundings. Despite the sleek cut of the auburn hair that hit just above her shoulder, she looked pathetic and vulnerable.Ah, hell, he needed to get moving. Time to put her, and the car, out of their misery. “Interesting parking technique, sinking it in the mud. Myself, I prefer the brake.”
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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 secondary characters.
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 actually visit the country, although in her earlier writing she never envisioned 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.
Contact Information for Barbara Barrett: