Straight Talk with Kathryn Barrett
I close my eyes. In a quiet place, I clear my mind, and let the character whose book it is tell me who she (or he) is, where she is, what she does. What’s his profession? Who—or what—is she afraid of? What does he want—or desperately not want? I become intrigued by their lives, especially the bits they leave out, and that’s what inspires me to write their stories.
Do you usually begin a book with a character or a plot?
Character, definitely. I struggle to find a plot, but amazingly a thread of a plot will appear at some point, and that just organically develops as I continue to focus on the characters. It must involve some magic elixir because I really do have a blind spot when it comes to plot. While writing Temptation, I had no clue who the “culprit” was until the very end!
Do you have any hobbies or special interests you’d care to share?
A couple of years ago I signed up to foster for Irish Retriever Rescue—they bring unwanted golden retrievers and mixes from Ireland, where there’s a huge overpopulation of dogs. We were given Sparky, a spunky Irish lad with some behavioral issues that made him hard-to-adopt. Of course we fell in love with him and kept him, and ever since then I’ve been immersed in learning about dog behavior and training. He’s a work in progress, still, but we love him to bits and wouldn’t trade him for a “perfect” dog.
Do you have any advice for aspiring writers?
Learn craft. Inspiration and motivation only get you so far. These days craft articles and workshops can be found online, but don’t ignore old fashioned how-to books. One that proved most valuable to me was Sol Stein’s Stein On Writing, but there are many books on the craft of writing out there. (On my blog I compiled a list of my favorite how-to books here: http://kathrynbarrett.com/ten-books-that-will-help-you-write/ )
Did you have any interesting experiences when you were researching your book, or getting it published?
I visited Amish country in Ohio to research Temptation. I was able to go into Amish homes, learned to drive a buggy, and even had dinner with an Amish family. I discovered the daughter of one family had recently published a cookbook. I bought it and made a few dishes from it—they all called for lots of sugar and fat, so I was perplexed as to how the Amish weren’t all the size of barns. I guess it’s all the hard work.
Who are your favorite authors? What authors have influenced your book?
My favorite authors are Susan Elizabeth Phillips, one of the few authors whose books I’ll read again, and Nora Roberts—I love how her characters all have interesting professions, which I can experience vicariously in her books. Yet all the writers I’ve known have influenced me to some degree. There’s nothing like talking to fellow writers—we think the same way, see life through the same lens. One of the problems I had when I moved overseas was the lack of writers in my friend-sphere. I realized I felt adrift and my writing suffered, not having a sounding board to call on when I needed inspiration or troubleshooting help. The time difference was the biggest problem: My friends back home were all asleep when I was writing in the mornings. I’ve finally met a few writers here, and I’ve discovered Twitter is the perfect place to find writers who are awake and will listen to me whine!
Where does the magic happen? Where do you write?
I’m lucky to have an office, because I really prefer working on a desktop computer. (I don’t even have a laptop!) I wish I could write outdoors, or in a coffee shop, or in a flower-strewn bower, but I really need the boring space of my office, with bookshelves full of research and reference books lining the walls.
Aside from writing, what do you do in your free time?
There is so much to do here, and as an American living temporarily in England I feel a compulsion to do All The Things. I want to clamber around every castle, stroll through every stately home, traverse every stone circle, and see every West End play I can get to. I also walk my dog every day and try to get to the gym three times a week. That way I don’t feel so guilty sitting for long periods at my desk.
Discover Kathryn’s debut novel, TEMPTATION, which released February 18th!
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