Straight Talk with Barbara Wallace
When you are getting ready to start a new book, what’s the first thing you do?
Buy a new spiral bound notebook. I do a lot of brainstorming and drafting long hand, and I love the idea of starting a fresh idea in a clean, uncluttered notebook.
How do you celebrate when you finish writing a book?
First I have a glass of celebratory wine. Then, because I probably logged a string of late nights getting to “The End” I take a nap. Later, my husband and I always celebrate by going out to dinner. By the way, funny story – once I pulled an all nighter to finish for a deadline. Having a celebratory glass of wine at 9AM – not the best idea.
If you could have dinner, coffee, or drinks with a fictional character, who would you choose and where would you go?
Oh man, there are so many! And so many different combinations. Okay, off the top of my head, I think I’d have coffee with Leonard Hofstadter from Big Bang Theory. He’s smart, so the conversation would be interesting. He’s got a sense of humor. He’s considerate, romantic, sensitive. Plus let’s face it – he’d be more fun than Sheldon Cooper. Besides, I’ve always had a teensy weensy thing for guys with strong science/math backgrounds.
Of course, if he’s busy, I’d then go for drinks with Dean Winchester. It’s okay if he doesn’t feel like talking; I’ll just look at him.
Do you usually begin a book with a character or a plot?
Definitely the character – I almost always find a character in my head that needs a story. Even on those rare times when I’ve had a “what if” kind of thought – the characters end up redefining the plot. In fact, plotting is frequently a bugaboo for me. I find my characters aren’t always sure what it is their story is supposed to be about.
How difficult is if for you to come up with a title for your books?
I am horrible with titles. I much prefer to let my editor come up with them.
Do you have any advice for aspiring writers?
The best piece of writing advice I can possibly give is something I learned at a workshop years ago: Never compare your journey to someone else’s. There is no right path to writing success. No is there one right definition to what success is. There will always be someone who appears to have things better than you – better sales, better contracts, better accolades. The best thing you can do – throughout your career, published or unpublished – is to be true to your own style, and stop worrying about others. By the way, this is a whole lot easier said than done. I can’t tell you how often I’ve had to relearn this lesson.
Who are your favorite authors? What authors have influenced your book?
I absolutely love Barbara Hannay – I’ll read anything by her. Deborah Smith is another. Her book Stone Flower Garden still remains one of my all time favorite books. I’ve been kicking myself that I haven’t bought her new one yet. Oh, and I have a PD James book on my desk that I cannot wait to open – Death Comes to Pemberley.
Are you a pantser or a plotter?
I am a hybrid. Since my books tend to be character driven, I don’t like to heavily plot my stories. Doing so, I find, makes me force action upon them rather than vice versa. On the other hand, I can’t go blindly into the mist either. I usually see what’s happening in three chapter chunks. Kind of like chipping away at a tunnel.
Where does the magic happen? Where do you write?
I find that in my case, the magic moves. Some days it’s in my office, some days it’s at Starbucks. Some days it’s in the car parked in the lot of an industrial park (seriously – I am a huge fan of car writing). Every day is a bit of a challenge to find out where the best place to work is going to be.
Aside from writing, what do you do in your free time?
Read, of course. It seem like I never have enough time to read all the books I want to read. And if I have time, I like to fool around with geneology, though I lack the patience to do the serious research required to do a proper family tree. My husband recently refurbished a 31ft sailboat that he’s launching this summer. I have a feeling a lot of my free time will now involve being on board.
What’s in the works for you?
I’m working on another short contemporary – this one a sort of cross between Anastasia and My Fair Lady. At least, that’s what I began with. But alas, the characters will no doubt hijack it soon and I’ll end up with something completely different.
About Barbara Wallace
Barbara Wallace has been a life-long romantic and daydreamer so it’s not surprising she decided to become a writer at age eight. However, it wasn’t until a co-worker handed her a romance novel that she knew where her stories belonged.
Barbara loves writing sweet, smart, ‘it-could-happen-to-you’ style romances. She lives in Massachusetts with her other loves – her husband, their teenage son, and three very spoiled pets (as if there could be any other kind). She also loves hearing from readers.