In the last of the Chistmas selection of posts, we revisit a real character, fellow writer Barbara Phinney.
Let me introduce Barbara Phinney.
Tell me a bit about yourself:
I’m 53 years old, married, and living in a big empty nest since our son joined the military. Both my husband and I served in the Army and have since retired to a community where his grandfather used to farm. We do a lot of volunteering, and every chance I get. When the house is quiet, I write.
What type of genre do you write?
I write in a number of different genres. My favorite is romantic suspense. But I have published romantic comedy, science fiction romance, and will have published in March, my first historical romance, set in the 11th century in England. All of my books are what we would consider “sweet”. That is, there’s very little or no sex in my books. I’m really not very good at writing a love scene.
What genre to you personally read?
My favorite genre to read is romantic suspense, but I do enjoy historicals in atypical settings and time periods. I don’t mind reading something a little different, a little quirky, or of the mixed genre. I don’t read paranormal, and while most of my books are Christian inspirational, I do not read a lot of preachy books. I love a good comedy.
Tell me about your latest book.
I always have a number of irons in the fire, so to talk about my latest I would have to say there are two in particular. One is an inspirational romantic suspense set in Bolivia, (remember, atypical settings) and the other is an inspirational historical romance that I am going to present to my editor. Both books are in the editing stage now.
Where is your book available?
My historical romance won’t be available until March, at places where you’ll find any Harlequin romances and also online. My other books are available here at Amazon http://www.amazon.com/Barbara-Phinney/e/B001HPFZ16/ref=ntt_athr_dp_pel_1
What sparked your passion for books and the art of a good story?
I think my parents, especially my father, instilled the love of reading. You have to remember that years ago, most places in Canada would only receive two or maybe three television stations and your parents often supervised the amount of time you sat in front of the television. My father always enjoyed reading mysteries and science fiction, so I grew to love books, too. As for the idea of a good story, I think I learned fairly early on the importance of having a well-rounded story arc. I think that aspect came from reading wonderful stories by Farley Mowat and Stephen Leacock.
What was the first book you wrote?
The first book I wrote was when I was 14 years old and so in love with the Gothic romance that made people like Daphne du Maurier and Victoria Holt so famous. Well, with a friend, I sat down to write this grand story of a woman fleeing across Europe for some reason that I can’t remember. I even drew pictures of her and made up the cover, and never got past the first scene. Like any 14-year-old, I gave up on that dream for a while. Then the years and years later my friend sent me my manuscript. All handwritten and folded up neatly. She’d found it in a book.
It was screamingly bad, horrible, and I laughed all the way through it. My next attempt to write was when I was an adult, and I entered it in a contest. It was a time travel, and when I had returned to me, the judge had scrawled in large letters across the top of the cover, the word “clichéd”. I was mortified, but laugh at it now, because it was indeed very clichéd. So much so that if I was to describe it to you, we’d both be on the floor laughing.
What was your inspiration for your latest book?
If we consider my latest book to be the romantic suspense set in Bolivia, then I would say the inspiration for this story was reading about the kidnapping of a child in the newspapers. In my story. the single mother must approach the estranged father, in order for them to find the teenaged boy who is missing. Missing children, anguished mothers, all tugged at my heartstrings.
What has been your best moment as a writer?
There are lots of really great moments when you’re a writer, and some of them can only be understood by other writers. Most of the time, it’s that moment when your story really starts to gel and the words just flow down your arms and through the keyboard. They are exciting moments for an author. But a more outwardly moment that’s the best would have to be when I first sold to Harlequin. We were in the middle of building our home. I lived in a little trailer, 26 feet long, with my husband and two kids and no furniture, no phone, and I’ve received the “call” by a registered letter. I ran in my sock feet all the way next door to my sister-in-law to give her the good news. She laughed at my excitement!
Do you have a beta reader/s, or a critique group?
I have a number of beta readers and a critique group, but we try not to exhaust ourselves too much. We don’t run every single thing past each other, but I’m grateful for them just same. I haven’t used them for a while, but this week I asked them to read over a synopsis. The feedback is brutal, honest, and absolutely necessary. I value every word. The rest of the time my critique group becomes a support group.
Do you see yourself in any of your characters?
I see myself in all my characters because I take parts of myself and my own experiences. Even when I am asking myself, what would this character do under the circumstances? I think even the most prepared and most plotter-oriented writer will give her characters a little piece of herself. Sometimes there’s more of myself in my heroine, but sometimes when my hero does something very physical or even violent, you can be guaranteed that there’s a lot of me in that. I’m gregarious, wild and sometimes angry person. A lot of time though, when my heroine is feeling insecure, I see myself in her.
What does your workspace look like?
My office is a lovely, sunny room at the front of my house that looks out into our front yard, and the pasture beyond. It’s a very peaceful scene. Other than that, it’s pretty utilitarian with a lot of hand-me-down furniture, a junkie desk, and a huge map of the world right above my monitor. I have lots of little pictures of my kids and my family, sticky tacked to the wall.
What do you do when you’re not writing? I think about writing!
What are the most important tactics to remaining sane as a writer?
If you’re a writer there is a good chance that a big part of you is not sane. Nor will it ever be sane. One of the most important tactics a writer can use to remain sane is to just simply get up and leave your writing and do something else. I own chickens and barn cats, I have the house to clean, and volunteer work to do, so I have lots of things that can keep me busy and insanity at bay. And if that doesn’t keep a person grounded, there’s always family. But will they keep you sane? The jury’s still out on that one!
What advice would you give to aspiring authors?
Aspiring authors need to take lots of courses, read lots of books, especially highly acclaimed ones, and just keep writing. It will take you years to master your craft. In this day and age of self-publishing, it’s easy to get published. And the glut of e-publishers out there make it even easier to find a home for your book, but never give up trying to improve your writing.
Who is your favorite character in your current release?
In Bound to a Warrior, due out in March, my favorite character would have to be the hero. He is the quintessential knight on a white horse. After studying the Norman conquest of England, I came across a number of real people from history and my hero is a mix of all of them. He’s a Norman Knight ordered to marry the abused widow of the Saxon nobleman. But his honor won’t allow him to hurt her further. Slowly, he earns her love through gallantry, humor, honor, and love.
Are the names of the characters in your novels important? How and why?
I think names are very important in a story. The above hero was originally named Prades, but it’s so unusual that my editor asked me to change it. He became Adrien, instead. But not willing to give up the name Prades, I made it his childhood nickname. Names are often associated with personality types, but you have to be careful not to overdo it, or else it will become clichéd. I’m very careful about thinking out the names of my characters. And it gets worse as you get older. You meet more people. You’re bound to know someone with the same name!
Do you travel to research your books?
I would love to travel to research all my books! I’ve been able to do a lot of traveling, having been to Bolivia twice, and to England many times, but sometimes you must rely on the Internet, tourist information and locals that you’ve been able to connect with.
Does the weather play in your books?
I live in Eastern Canada, where the weather changes by the minute. Many people in the world don’t really understand the Canadians’ fascination with weather because of their weather is fairly predictable and constant. In my stories, the weather is character onto itself. The weather can put a damper on a scene, creative mood, or force the characters to act and react in different ways. Not using the weather is similar to having a story take place in a single room over the space of 80,000 words. You’re cheating your readers and you’re cheating yourself at the excitement of using the weather.
What do you find most rewarding about writing?
I find the most rewarding part about writing is simply selling books. Knowing that someone has been interested enough in my books to purchase them is a huge reward for me. I’ll never get rich, but I’ll always have fun.
What does your family think of your writing career?
My immediate family are very supportive of my writing, and my husband often hears me say, Get out of the office! The rest of the family are less supportive because none of them read. Not a single word. They barely read the local paper, they hate reading that much. But I’m fortunate that the friends I have are very supportive.
Tell us about your favorite restaurant.
This is an excellent question! My favorite restaurant of all times? I love The Keg steakhouse, but there is also this little Mongolian restaurant in the nearby city that I like. It’s more important to me that there be a quality of food , rather than quantity, or setting or price. Oh yes, there is this restaurant in Cochabamba Bolivia, called Castors that make the best saltañas in the world!
After this book, what is next?
My upcoming jobs will consist of sending in a proposal for my next historical and publishing my Bolivian story. Since I also write science fiction under the name Georgina Lee, I hope to get to the next installment of my short novellas in The Twin Planets series. I have lots on my plate and hope someday to catch up!
I hope you’ve enjoyed reading my answers, and have been able to get to know me a bit better. Stop by one of my sites to say hello!
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/barb.phinney.7 Twitter: @BarbaraPhinney
And next Tuesday, the 10th I’ll bring you news of a joint project with my great friend author/character Mary Meddlemore. We’ve organised a joint giveaway of 6 of our works, including ‘The Man Who Never Was’ and my novella ‘Teamwork’ (part 2 of the series ‘Escaping Psychiatry’). By the way, any suggestions or ideas of how to promote our giveaway are more than welcome!
I leave you with a reminder of my offerings.
‘The Man Who Never Was’
And don’t forget my new series of novellas, Escaping Psychiatry about a psychiatrist and writer and her adventures.
‘Cannon Fodder’ (Escaping Psychiatry part 1)
‘Teamwork’ (Escaping Psychiatry part 2)
And ‘Memory’ (Escaping Psychiatry Part 3)
Thank you for reading!