Saturday, April 7, 2012

Author Interview: Barbara Silkstone

"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:

For more visit Barb's Wire or follow Barbara on Facebook.


The Secret Life of Alice in Wonderland, Age 42 and Three-Quarters
                                               Amazon US  UK  B&N

Wendy and the Lost Boys Review Amazon US  UK  B&N

London Broil                              Amazon US  UK

The Adventures of a Love Investigator, 527 Naked Men & One Woman
                                               Amazon US UK


Indie Chicks                  Review  Amazon US UK  B&N  Smashwords

Also mentioned

Daughters by Consuelo Saah Baehr         Amazon US  UK

Sweet Ophelia by Kenneth Rosenberg      Amazon US  UK  Paper

His Wife for A While by Donna Fasano    Review  Amazon US  UK

Saving Rachel by John Locke  
                                       Amazon US UK B&N Smashwords Paper


Mel Comley said...

Love Barb's snarky humor! I've been on the end of it more than once! :-)

Barbara Silkstone said...

BigAl, Thank you! I love being here. Wonderful place to spend a holiday weekend. :)

Linda Welch said...

I'm a huge fan of Barb's books. Fantastic interview!

Julia Crane said...

Great interview and a wonderful writer.

Anne R. Allen said...

Wonderful interview that show's Barb's fantastic sense of humor. I think she's right that humor and horror are connected. I recently read an article that said just that. Their example, "I have the heart of a child; I keep it in a jar in my study."

Glad to hear Zo White is making its debut this summer. Keep them coming Barb!

Lynn O'Dell said...

Nice interview!

Anna Elliott said...

Great interview, Barbara! I can't wait to go and check out your books!

Barbara Silkstone said...

Thank you Anne and Anna!

Anne, that is a great line. I used to attend all the Horror conferences. I loved those wicked one-liners. :)

Barbara Silkstone said...

Thank you so very much. I really appreciate your comment. :)

?wazithinkin said...

Great interview, Al! Barbara, I have all your books in my TBR pile, I will have to move them up to the top. I can't wait to read them.

BooksAndPals said...

Thanks for all the great comments. Having a good interview subject makes all the difference.

Barbara Silkstone said...

Thank you. I love climbing out of the TBR pile. Let me brush myself off! There... that's better.

Barbara Silkstone said...

Thank you. That's awfully sweet of you. You are one of the 3% guys.

Pj Schott said...

Great interview. THANK YOU. Love Barbara Silkstone!!

Unknown said...

Lovely interview. Barbara always comes across as a very sweet person as well as having a great sense of humour.

Unknown said...

One couldn't fail to notice that you were the only guy to comment here, BigAl.

So... where angels fear to tread... count me among the fools...

I'm surprised you got such a low response from the men on the, "would you die for the woman you loved" question - shocked really. I mean if you are placed in the situation where you get the chance to save the one you love; is there a more "life affirming" way to go?

BooksAndPals said...

... is there a more "life affirming" way to go?

When I was reading the book my thought was that I would find it impossible to answer the question with a blanket yes or no. I suppose it is a good sign that my answer isn't a flat out no. *shrug*

Without knowing what got us to the situation where I'd have the opportunity to do that, I don't think I can answer. Of course, we can't know how we would react in a situation until we're actually there and I'd like to think I would try to save the woman I loved, even in a situation where it might be trading my life for hers.

But I think it is telling, maybe not in a good way, that if asked the same question about my daughter or grandkids, I would give a blanket yes. (Did I just warn all the women of the world to stay away from me?)

Vicki said...

Wonderful interview, Barb.

I've just added The Adventures of a Love Investigator, 527 Naked Men & One Woman to my reading list. :)

Unknown said...

I think my answer is dictated by the answer I'm sure my wife would give - and maybe my ego; but for me there's no distinction between my children and the mother of my children.

Great interview, btw, enjoyed Barbara's witty comments. I hope she'll forgive me for not wanting to read about 500+ wimps :) (you're in that 3% Al, for sure).

Suzanne Tyrpak said...

Al, thanks so much for the great blog! Barbara rocks as a writer and she's s fantastic person.

Sibel Hodge said...

Thanks for sharing, Al and Barbara - love Barbara's books - such fun! :)

Gerry McCullough said...

Great interview, Barbara and Al!
Barbara, you are so lucky to have met Robert B. Parker, one of my all time favourite writers. (I blogged about him recently.)
I love your books as you know. It's always really interesting to find out more about the person who's written them.

Christy Hayes said...

Great interview. I love your comment about bungee jumping off the refrigerator!