Barrett answers 4 questions on working process

Posted by: Barrett on Aug 4 2014, 6:38 pm in , , , , ,

I’m delighted and honored that the irrepressible Jody—one of the bright new stars in the Bedazzled TOTS Brigade—chose me. (Look for her new book, Empath soon)

 

On with the questions.

1. WHAT AM I WORKING ON?

At the moment, I am working on revisions to book 3 of the Damaged series, Dispatched With Cause. After books 1 and 2, Damaged in Service and Defying Gravity, I needed a mental-health break and worked on a brand-new romance, Balefire.

The Damaged series was started in 2009. At the time, the story manifested so quickly, I could hardly keep up let alone worry about grammar or punctuation. That was a painful mistake that I am still correcting.

After some wonderful editorial coaching on my earlier works, I needed to make some signification changes to the third book in the series. In addition to cosmetic changes, I wanted to amp up the tension since this is the third book of four, it needs to produce a major turning point.

Now that I have pushed Zeke and Anne to another new challenge, I will begin work on revising book four.

 

2.   HOW DOES MY WORK DIFFER FROM OTHERS IN THE SAME GENRE?

I guess I would say that the major difference is the story arc, which is deliberately written over a span of four books.  I envisioned the story like a television drama. It would be an end to season with a cliffhanger, then resume with the next season. Evidently, that’s not how commercial fiction is written. Who knew?

If you read the series, you’ll know that cliff-hanger was not a popular option for many of the lesfic community. They wanted HEA – happily ever after, as well as all the loose ends tied neatly.

I radically changed the story in book 2, but needed to keep the storyline intact. (Note: writing “by committee” is not the wisest direction.)

I consider this series romantic intrigue. However, that wouldn’t describe each individual book. Yet there are strong elements of both romance/love and intrigue in all.

 

3.   WHY DO I WRITE WHAT I DO?

 

Like many others, I write the kinds of books I want to read. And in fact, it’s one of the things that make it difficult for me to read them critically. Almost every time I start to don my editing cap, I get caught up in my characters lives and don’t see the minutia. It makes me lousy editor. But…a good reader!

Recently I had this discussion with a friend and told her that I enjoy writing romance because I want to learn to be a better writer. I want to learn the craft by reading and writing stories that resonate with so many people.

When I’m ready, I have at least three books in my head that will be much closer to literary fiction. In the meantime, there are at least three or four manuscripts already written that I want to revise and submit.

And besides, I can’t NOT write.

 

4.   HOW DOES MY WRITING PROCESS WORK?

Glad they saved this one until last.

I would best be described as an imaginative, unrepentant, undisciplined, procrastinating Panster (someone who writes from the proverbial Seat of her pants). This is the polar opposite of a plotter (someone who lays out a foundation with a plan, notes, and or an outline.) I attended a conference with a very successful plotter who brought her outline in the form of an excel spread sheet 12 feet long!

At that moment I feared that I just didn’t have the fortitude to become a writer. But, at some point, I realized my strong suit was story-telling. I come from a long line of Gaelic story tellers.

Most of the stories I’ve created initially character driven, so I begin by creating the individuals around whom the story will grow. For the purpose of this blog I’ll use Balefire is an example.

I scoured several name lists to find Kirin Foster and Silke Dyson. I made up birthdays and did horoscopes on each woman, including their compatibility.  I threw them into an actual situation based on a true story to see what would happen. I knew I wanted a Romance that was fairly uncomplicated. (Insert snickering)

I transported each woman to the airport. Coincidently, both left from the Milwaukee airport, where their paths did not cross. During this process, I found out who the secondary characters were. I also learned some of the back story.

Each scene unfolded moment-by-moment depending on whose point of view I was writing from. If it was Silke’s point of view, everything was painted with a level of anxiety, resignation, and her visual disability.

When I was with Kirin, I became a type A impatient, irritated, and disconnected frequent traveler.

Voila! The scene is set and I just need to navigate my two characters through it. The rest comes from my own history of traveling the same route, from the same airports, with the same conditions. The only thing I needed to change was the point of view. Then add to the mix a circus-trunk full of imagination.

One scene begets the next scene. For me, it’s linear and organic. I don’t create scenes independently and try to fit them into the story. On rare occasions, when I have been asked to move the scene or event to another part of the story, it’s been incredibly difficult, because each piece of the story is built on the information provided by previous blocks.

I have tried outlining a new story first, and I’m stopped at the gate. My brain just doesn’t work that way. I can use the structure to evaluate AFTER the story-line is written.

The downside of the linear approach is breaking the scenes and chapters into manageable pieces, while still keeping the reader turning the pages. I like to take breaks 😉

The upside? I love to makeup stories and then “Spackle” them with ambiance and emotion. It’s been fifteen years since I started writing the Epic Medical Mystery with 22 characters and 6 subplots, all from a singular omniscient narrator.

Thanks for stopping by!   I’d be interested if anyone has questions, please share.

 

 

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Holiday Time is Movie Time

Posted by: Kari Bovee on Dec 23 2012, 2:00 am in , , , ,

It’s Christmas and Holiday time yet once again! It’s time for parties, goodies, friends and much merrymaking. It’s also the time of year when the newest movies hit the silver screen. 

I haven’t had too much time to visit the theater, but I did get to see Anna Karenina and Lincoln. While Anna Karenina had me tilting my head in wonderment at the theatrical interpretation of Tolstoy’s novel, Lincoln had me laughing, crying, mad and happy, all at the same time. Exactly what a good movie is supposed to do.  In my opinion, what makes a movie spectacular is not only the cinematography, editing and acting, but mostly THE WRITING. A good movie inspires me to learn more about my craft and become a better writer. I am going to share with you five of the movies that have made me want to write the next best-selling novel (with movie rights!)

#5 The Man in the Iron Mask (1998) starring Leonardo di Caprio, Jeremy Irons, John Malkovich, Gabriel Byrne and Gerard Depardieu.

Aside from the awesomeness of the cast, this version is huge due to its being a conglomeration of Alexandre Dumas’ D’Artangnan Romances and The Vicomte de Bragelonne, the 1929 film version starring Douglas Fairbanks, and the 1939 film version directed by James Whale.

Although the movie diverges a bit from historical accuracy, it is still a riveting story about the militaristic and cruel King Louis XIV and his sweet-tempered twin brother Phillip.  When they are born, the twins’ father sends Phillip away to save France from dynastic warfare. For 21 years, he has been hidden from the world and must wear an iron mask to protect his identity. When Louis comes to power, retired and aging muskateers, Athos, Porthos, Aramis and D’Artagnan devise a plan to replace the despotic Louis with the more benevolent Phillip. Porthos  is entirely fed up with aging and is constantly thinking of ways to end his sorry life, but never acts upon it.  Aramis has become a devout Jesuit who masterminds the switch of the Princes. Athos a devoted father, whose son Raoul, a besotted soldier, has become caught up in a love triangle with the beautiful Christine and none other than Louis himself, must avenge the murder of said son by Louis. And D’Artangnan, ever steady and loyal to his beloved friends, lover, and King, is in great conflict with the overthrow plot and the ensuing threat to his friends.

This mish-mash of literary and film versions does not offer any great or awe-inspiring social commentary or profound message, but it doesn’t lack in action, love, valor and great story telling. 

#4 The Man Who Would Be King (1975) directed by John Huston, starring Sean Connery, Michael Caine and Christopher Plummer.

Again, another fabulous cast. This movie was based upon a novella written by Rudyard Kipling in 1888. The story is about Danny Dravot and Peachy Carnehan, rouge non-commission British officers of the Indian Army who decide to resign from the army and set off for Kafiristan (somewhere in Afghanistan) – a land where no white man has set foot since Alexander the Great. They are certain that if they can only get there, their dreams of Kingship, wealth, women and an easy life will be obtained.

They fight blizzards, avalanches and numerous bandits along the way. In one of their battles, Danny is struck by an arrow and is miraculously unharmed. The arrow sticks into a bandolier hidden beneath his jacket. The people of Kafiristan decide that Danny must be a god. He and Peachy go along with the ruse in hopes of fulfilling their dreams. But, as the old adage goes, “beware what you wish for.” The rest of the story depicts the pitfalls of power, greed and Illusions of Grandeur.

When I was in college I attempted to write an adaption of this story for the stage, but as you can imagine, it was a bit more than I could handle!

#3  It’s a Wonderful Life (1946) directed by Frank Capra, starring James Stewart and Donna Reed.

What Christmas season would not be complete without an annual viewing of this American masterpiece? It was nominated for five Oscars and has been recognized by the American Film Institute as one of the 100 best American films ever made. It was based on a story called “The Greatest Gift” written by Phillip Van Doren Stern in 1939 and privately published by the author in 1945. I wonder why? Could he not sell it? If so, those publishing houses made a big mistake! Self-pubbed authors, there’s hope yet for the big block-buster!

 If you haven’t seen it, which I cannot imagine that anyone has NOT seen this film, but there might be some,- it’s about George Bailey, a man in a small town who has constantly given up his dreams for the sake of others. When he learns that all of his efforts have culminated in bankruptcy, George is ready to end it all. His dramatic suicide attempt of jumping from an ice covered bridge into frigid waters is thwarted by an angel named Clarence who has come from Heaven in the hopes of obtaining his wings. Clarence shows George what life in the community would be like without him and his sacrifices. Of course that life is bleak and heart -breaking, and George is finally convinced that the world is a better place with him in it.

Clarence is successful in saving George, thus obtaining his wings, and George returns to his life with renewed happiness and appreciation. This is a story about focusing on what you have, not what you want. A good lesson for everyone.

Clarence:  Strange isn’t it? Each man’s life touches so many other lives, when he isn’t around he leaves an awful hole, doesn’t he?”  “Remember George, no man is a failure who has friends. P.S. Thanks for the wings!”

#2 To Kill a Mockingbird (1962) starring (dreamy) Gregory Peck, Robert Duvall and Mary Badham (as Scout)

This American favorite was made from Harper Lee’s novel, published in 1960. The novel was an instant success and won the Pulitzer Prize. In 2003 the American Film Institute named Atticus Finch the greatest movie hero of the 20th century. Who could argue? Wouldn’t you want Atticus Finch as your  lawyer, neighbor, husband or dad? Peck’s stoic portrayal of the controversial home-town hero is moving beyond words.

The story was based upon Lee’s observations of her family and neighbors during an event that happened in her small town when she was ten years old. It is a gothic story with the primary themes involving racial injustice and the destruction of innocence. It also addresses issues of class warfare, courage and gender roles of the deep South. From the view point of Scout, Atticus’s six year old daughter, the story unfolds about a black man who is accused of raping a white woman.  Atticus, a lawyer and man of honor, integrity, and strong convictions, agrees to defend him which causes mayhem in the small, fictional Alabama town.

Scout and her brother Jem also learn a life’s lesson in their dealings with the reclusive Boo Radley, a neighbor, who terrifies them and fascinates them at the same time. He is never seen outside but often leaves small tokens and gifts for the children in a nearby tree. Fueled by their imaginations, Boo, in their minds, is someone horrible and evil, but they soon learn that he is immensely brave and kind. This subplot of misconception, misunderstanding and prejudice dovetails beautifully with the main plot.

“You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view. . . you climb inside of his skin and walk around in it.” Atticus Finch

#1 Dead Poet’s Society (1989) directed by Peter Weir, starring Robin Williams.

The screen play was written by Tom Schulman based on his life at the Montgomery Bell Academy in Nashville, Tennessee. Dead Poet’s won the Best Screenplay Academy Award in 1989. I had the great pleasure of once meeting Mr. Schulman at a Santa Barbara Screen Writers meeting. I don’t think he remembers the occasion quite as well as I do!

The movie is about English teacher John Keating who returns to his alma mater, the conservative and aristocratic Welton Academy in Vermont, 1959.  It is Keating’s ambition to inspire his students through is teaching of poetry in unconventional ways. His methods include, having his students call him “O Captain my Captain,” referencing the poetry of Walt Whitman. He also regularly takes them out of the classroom and meanders throughout the school instilling in them the idea of Carpe Diem, or living life to the fullest. “Carpe Diem. Seize the day boys. Make your lives extraordinary.” He shocks and astonishes his students when he has them rip out the introduction of one of their books he thinks ridiculous, and has them stand on their desks to “see the world in a different way.”

This movie is an English Major’s dream. It’s full of references to the beloved classics we all studied and lost sleep over in preparation for numerous essays and discussions. It’s also aesthetically pleasing with a particularly surreal scene shot in slow motion of the boys escaping at night through the dense forest to start their own version of Keating’s former literary club, The Dead Poet’s Society.

“No matter what anybody tells you, words and ideas can change the world.” John Keating

 

And with that wonderful sentiment, I wish you all Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays and many visits to the magical world of movie-land!

               

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Rebecca Gault: The inspiration behind The Rebecca contest

Posted by: Kathy Flake (writing as Kathryn Barrett) on Jun 18 2012, 8:07 am in ,

When I moved to Albuquerque, I’d just finished my first book. I joined LERA right away and posted a message on the email loop asking for a critique of my manuscript. I didn’t realize what a big ask this was at the time, but I was glad when someone responded. 

Her name was Rebecca Gault, and she became my critique partner, my mentor, and my best friend. 

We met up at a book store and discovered we both had red hair and daughters named Leah. And while I’d always considered myself a “grammar queen,” Rebecca had a few things to teach me—lessons I’ve never forgotten. (And never once have I misspelled “sentence” since they day she informed me it had no “a”.)
 
Rebecca was blazingly clever. She had a PhD from Georgetown in German Literature and Linguistics. She worked for the New Mexico Coalition for Literacy, helping New Mexicans in her adopted state learn the most valuable life skill. Her dream was to adopt a child from foster care—she had so much to share, she told me as she showed me a photo of the little girl she hoped to adopt.
 
I soon learned Rebecca had a wicked sense of humor—very, very wicked. When we decided to attend RWA nationals in New Orleans, she asked me to share a room with her—so she could swear with abandon. 
 
Two redheads shared a room, and the walls turned blue. She even taught me a few good German curses.
 
Rebecca’s critiques were spot on. She dug deep, finding meaning in passages I’d not considered, suggested connections and images that had escaped me. Best of all, she loved my writing, despite the first-novel awkwardness. I remember beaming with pride over my salad as she told me all the things she loved about the book of my heart, Redemption
 
She slayed my self-doubt, that monster on my shoulder. If this smart, witty, accomplished woman could like my work, maybe someone else would, eventually.
 
She’d just finished a novel, too, but before I could read the last chapter, she got The Call. Her book, Into the Blue, would be published by Five Star. We celebrated the news together, and continued to meet regularly for critiques and laughs and encouragement. When I got The Call from an agent, she was the first person I called, even before I told my husband. 
 
It was because of her that I finished a second novel, knowing she was eagerly waiting to read another chapter. And when I began my third, I was counting on Rebecca to help with some of the tricky German bits. 
 
I still remember the morning she called to tell me she wouldn’t be able to make lunch that day. It was really silly, she said, but her doctor had admitted her to the hospital after she’d complained of side pains. They figured it might be her gall bladder. 
 
But by the time I visited her in the hospital that afternoon, they were already using the C word. We laughed at the absurdity. I offered to donate my hair when she lost hers, knowing there was no way Rebecca could have cancer. She told me no thanks—I’d look terrible, she said, in a pixie cut.
 
We laughed together, and a few days later we cried together, as the diagnosis came back: stage four colon cancer. 
 
I was the only one who was sure she’d make it, despite the prognosis. Her five sisters gathered, her children, her friends. From the phone calls I fielded, from friends back East as well as those nearby, I realized Rebecca had made an impact on many people’s lives. Her own life would be cut short, but the number of people she’d affected was enormous. 
 
I’ll never forget the day I returned her daughter to the house Rebecca had just bought. (Rebecca had completed the adoption process a few months before she was diagnosed with cancer.) By then Rebecca was in a coma—the end would come at any time, the hospice nurse had told us. 
 
I sat next to her, watching her breathe. Finally I accepted, deep down, that she wouldn’t recover. I touched her hand—it was cold. I moved my hand to her forehead, and found it warm. My thoughts were incoherent, unusual for a writer, but somehow I tried to convey the sense to her that I was at peace, at last, with her passing. 
 
I left, and five minutes later received a phone call. She was gone—she’d drawn her last breathe by the time I reached the door. 
 
Rebecca had left us with a promise: whenever we saw a feather lying on the ground, that would be her, she said, a message from beyond, where ever she was. 
 
And we told Rebecca, before she died, that the LERA unpublished writers’ contest would be named for her. It was appropriate—she’d touched so many friends, influenced so many writers, encouraged so many dreams, during her time on earth. 
 
The prize for that first Rebecca contest was a tiny silver feather.
 
I’ve had more than my share of struggles with writing. I’ve given up many times. Yet there was always a voice urging me on, castigating me for quitting—in typical salty language. And just when I most needed encouragement, I’d see a perfect feather, lying on the ground. 
 
I hope anyone who enters The Rebecca contest hears that voice, and sees a feather. 
 
And damn it, whatever you do, don’t quit. 
 
Kathy Flake, writing as Kathryn Barrett, will be published next spring by Entangled Publishing. Her novel, Temptation, contains only a few German curse words. She currently lives in England, where she’s still looking for feathers.

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