"What genre would have me?"
We’ll start with a question I usually save for later in the interview. Tell us about your route to becoming an indie author.
I’ve always had a passion to write humor and horror – closely related genres. In 8th grade I started an underground newspaper patterned after Mad Magazine. Unfortunately our nun did not appreciate my demented humor. Threatened with excommunication I took my paper underground until I graduated Catholic school.
Over the years I was able to take workshops with Stephen King, Robert B. Parker, and other greats. I began to hone my one-liners aiming to become a female Raymond Chandler or at least drive adverbs into extinction.
When I’d completed The Secret Diary of Alice in Wonderland, Age 42 and Three-Quarters I made the rounds of the Usual Suspects aka agents. Some were kind enough to write rejections questioning where I imagined my story would fit. What genre would have me?
I was referred to Authonomy by a Harper Collins editor. I snuggled in there and worked their system until my eyeballs bled. I came away with kudos and creaks in my neck. In early 2010 Amazon Kindle caught my eye. It was love at first sight. I had Alice professionally edited, whipped up a great cover, and she was ready to rock ‘n’ roll. Alice did so well I burned my query file and turned my attention to my next book.
You have three books in a series you call Fractured Fairy Tales series. Tell us about these books and the inspiration behind them.
A number of years ago I got tangled up in civil litigation. I discovered as the years of courtroom shenanigans dragged on I was living my life as Alice in Wonderland. I began to see the lawyers, judges, and litigants as the Mad Hatter, White Rabbit, and the rest of the crew. I realized how our lives are patterned after fairytales. If we can determine what tale we’re living we can find the happy ending.
The Secret Diary of Alice in Wonderland, Age 42 and Three-Quarters was greeted with such enthusiasm I knew I was on to something. I tackled a spinoff of Peter Pan and Wendy using the Bernie Madoff mess as a basis for Wendy and the Lost Boys. Some readers have been kind enough to liken this story to Indiana Jones. The book ends with Wendy one Egyptian icon short of completing her search.
In London Broil, Wendy and archaeologist Roger Jolley, get sucked back into the hunt for the last Egyptian icon during a killer heat wave in London. Note: I’m a terminal anglophile. Whenever possible my characters find themselves in England.
One thing that sets your books apart is their humor. Is this something that comes naturally, or do you have to work at it?
I have what I think of as an Alice in Wonderland mouth. Naïve but snarky. I was the little wiseacre kid in the back of the class who always spoke out of turn.
Who are your favorite “funny people,” whether in books, movies, TV, or elsewhere? What about their humor appeals to you?
I love pure silly. And to me that spells John Cleese. The Dead Parrot routine still reduces me to tears and I’ve watched it a zillion times. A Fish Called Wanda is one of my favorite movies. Certain faces inspire me to laugh just by looking at them. Owen Wilson cracks me up. Ben Stiller in Zoolander with his “Blue Steel Look” destroys me. I enjoyed the early Stephanie Plums but I think over time it’s hard for one character to carry the weight of comedy. There are only so many times a lead character can be silly. Eventually the character should wise-up.
That’s been one of the blessings and challenges of writing new leading ladies for each of my fractured fairytales. I’m now working on Snow White. She has to be different from Alice and Wendy and yet equally as funny.
What future installments do you have planned for this series?
Zo White will be released in August. She’ll be riding the crest of the Snow White wave. Two major Snow White films will be released this year. Julia Roberts stars in Mirror, Mirror this spring. Kristen Stewart (Twilight) will play the lead in Snow White and the Huntsman this summer.
I have a short story in the WG2E Spring Fling Anthology to be published in April. In that tale all three of my leading ladies show up, Alice, Wendy, and Zo White. They get to meet in a short caper, along with Algy Green, Knobby Seemore, and Kit the drag queen.
In addition to your Fractured Fairy Tales series you also have a non-fiction book called The Adventures of a Love Investigator, 527 Naked Men & One Women. Explain the premise behind this book.
I was coming through a really bad divorce. I’d lost all my premarital assets through the actions of a misogynistic judge. Most of my best friends were guys. I wondered how I managed to marry a man with such a poorly hidden agenda. I needed to know more about how men were wired and why my guy-friends were different from the men I dated.
It would take me one year to interview 1,000 men about life, love, women, and commitment … I thought. The rules were simple. I would protect their identities. In return they would open up the darkest most private areas of their hearts and minds. As long as they didn’t repeat themselves I would listen, not judge, not counsel. And I did listen and listen and listen. Who knew men were so eager to open up? Groan.
Six years later I’d accomplished a tad over 500 interviews. Not being trained in psychology, I was in over my head. I had no way of processing and putting aside the darkness, the sadness, the anger, I found. It was a good thing I have a sense of humor.
In The Love Investigator you interviewed men who covered the spectrum from “why would any woman be interested?” to a few who seemed like they’d be a great catch. However, you had one quality that you became obsessed with finding, a man willing to die for the woman he loved, and you found this was virtually impossible to find. Throughout the book I kept asking myself three questions: is that a valid requirement?, does the answer have to be a blanket yes or no?, and how many women would be willing to do the same for the man they loved? What are your thoughts?
I think I watched too many classic movies when I was kid. Heroes going off to war to lay down their lives for the women they loved. Half the men I interviewed were married, most professed to being happily married. And yet 97% of the men interviewed confessed they would NOT lay down their lives for the woman they loved. Is that question fair? I have no idea. It just surfaced and once the answers started coming I realized a pattern was forming… and it hurt my heart.
Would most women be willing to step in front of a gun to save their man? I don’t know and I don’t want to find out. Not in this life time.
I heard something on NPR the other day about an Easter Egg Hunt being cancelled this year. The reason is the parents refused to cooperate last year. They were so aggressive jumping the kids-only barrier to shove the other tykes away from the eggs and push their kids to get those darn eggs. Is this yet another pattern?
At many points while reading The Love Investigator I found it almost depressing and was embarrassed on behalf of my gender. But just when I needed it, you would inject your humor into the story, which was just what I needed to keep reading. But the humor was inserted after the fact. While doing your research for the book, did you find it emotionally draining and hard to continue?
I had two major melt downs during the six years it took to interview the guys. I couldn’t talk to people for weeks at a clip. I became the Woman Who Knew Too Much. During the interviewing an invisible imp sat on my shoulder making silent snarky remarks. I would jot those down to use later in the book.
At one point, I know you intended to do a similar book with women as the subjects, but I believe that plan was postponed or shelved. You can tell me the truth and I won’t tell (except for the readers of the blog, of course). You haven’t proceeded with this project because you discovered woman can’t be understood, right?
First I plan on bungee jumping off my refrigerator.
Other than continuing the Fractured Fairy Tales series, what other writing projects are on your agenda?
The WG2E Spring Fling Anthology
Zo White will be released in August.
Wendy and her favorite archaeologist are off to Egypt in December.
What do you like to do in your leisure time?
I remember leisure time. Hmm…
Since I got the ebook bug, I write, write, write. I have no other life. Waa….!
Once upon a time I flew hot air balloons, and indulged in falconry. But now it’s about getting those fairytales fractured. Where’s my hammer?
Who are your favorite authors.
Raymond Chandler, Elmore Leonard, Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Paul Levine, and Gary Braver.
Can you recommend three or four of your favorite books written by Indie peers and tell us why you like these books?
Daughters by Consuelo Saah Baehr – This is an epic saga similar but better than Love in the Time of Cholera. It should become a classic.
Sweet Ophelia by Kenneth Rosenberg – This book was a delight. It pulled at my heartstrings and took me to places I won’t soon forget.
His Wife for A While by Donna Fasano – I love Ms. Fasano’s books. I can always count on warm snugglies from her stories.
Saving Rachel by John Locke – What can you say after you say “John Locke?”
For more Barbara:
The Secret Life of Alice in Wonderland, Age 42 and Three-Quarters
The Adventures of a Love Investigator, 527 Naked Men & One Woman
Saving Rachel by John Locke