... Barbara Winkes
1. Tell me about your book Autumn Leaves and where you got your inspiration for it?
It’s the love story between two very different women. Rebecca, a married mother of two, has spent a great deal of her life in Autumn Leaves, a small, dreamy town. She becomes friends with her new neighbour Callie, a writer who has fled the big city life in order to finish her latest book. Rebecca’s world is turned upside down when she falls in love with Callie, not just in terms of her drastically changing self-image, but also the reactions of her family and friends.
I had an idea of a movie I’d love to see, and I simply sat down and wrote the story.
2. Where do you gain your inspiration/ideas from in general?
That differs greatly. This story had more of a theoretical approach--what happens if someone faces a challenge like this, a late coming-out? What changes in the way they see themselves, and in their environment? I go from there and let the characters tell me the story.
In other cases, it can start with a random image. A children’s lost glove on the side of the road together with the question “What happened here?” can be the beginning of a book.
3. When did you first become interested in writing?
Pretty much from the time I could write. As a child, I considered reading and writing powerful tools, and I couldn’t wait to be able to use them. The ability to disappear in a different world, or, as a writer, create it, has never lost its fascination.
4. Was there ever a time when you nearly gave up on becoming an author?
Writing was always important to me, but getting published was a dream for a long time. I don’t think I ever gave up on it--I just wanted to build a certain foundation first. I became a psychologist and trauma counsellor and worked part-time in a rehab clinic, meanwhile I was sharing some of my works in online communities.
I guess it takes a goal, a game plan, a plan B and a little luck.
5. What advice would you give to someone still trying to become an author?
Most of all, read and write, as much as you can fit into your everyday life. Try a daily or weekly word count, and get the story out. The internet is a great source for everything that comes after that. Online writers’ groups, chats and blogs can help with the next steps, getting feedback on your work, learning about the publishing process, etc.
6. Who is your favourite character/s you’ve created?
I’m pretty fond of Rebecca. She goes through an interesting and often tough process, even makes mistakes along the way, but she’s willing to question herself and learn.
There’s also Elena, a cop from a yet unpublished mystery set in a French-Canadian town who has an old case coming back to haunt her.
7. If you could hang out with one of your characters, what would you do together?
I think Callie would be fun to hang out with, because she’s a writer, too. We could swap ideas! I’m not so sure about hanging out with any of my mystery characters, because they tend to live a rather dangerous live and could easily drink me under the table.
8. Is there anything you particularly like to write about? Is there anything you don’t?
I like the archetypal strong female character, whether it’s in a romance or a mystery setting. I like drama with a touch of comic relief. Fight scenes, when necessary, are the most difficult for me. As for genre, I have learned that dystopian is not for me though I love reading it from time to time.
9. What do you enjoy doing outside of writing?
Reading, a handful of TV shows, photography (very amateurish), travelling…
10. As an author, who and what do you recommend reading?
Read as much as you can, in your genre and others! It’s hard to pick just a few. I tend to go on reading binges sometimes, especially when there’s a subject to research. As for fiction, Tess Gerritsen, James Patterson, Val McDermid, J.M. Redmann, Stieg Larsson and Ken Follett are familiar names on my bookshelves. All of them have created unforgettable female characters, and that’s something I admire.
11. What was your favourite book as a child?
I always liked mystery-type books where kids were hobby detectives, but to my chagrin, often the girls were told to stay home as soon as it got dangerous. At about eight years old, I discovered the Jill Graham mysteries about a teenage girl who solves a variety of “cases” pretty much on her own. I loved her.
12. What’s your next project? What do you look forward to in the future?
Alongside of promoting my book, there’ll be the next NaNoWriMo story. I wrote the sequel to “Autumn Leaves” in 2011, and after some other projects in between, I’ll do the third part this year. Next year will be a big travelling year as my wife and I are planning to go to Europe to visit family and friends in Germany.
13. What was the last book you read?
Last To Die by Tess Gerritsen. The first time I picked up a novel in this series was in 2006. I went back to read all that came before and pre-ordered the new ones since then. I love characters that you want to shake and hug at the same time. Two smart, capable women working together makes it even better.
14. If you could be a superhero what kind of super powers would you have?
That depends on the situation…After having seen The Avengers recently, I think super-strength would be the most helpful. Although, being able to make oneself invisible would be pretty cool.
15. If you were having a dinner party and could invite four guests, dead or alive, real or fictional, who would you have?
As for fictional characters, some of my own? I also think the ladies of James Patterson’s Women’s Murder Club series would be fun to entertain.
16. If I came to your home and looked inside your refrigerator what would I find?
Bread, milk, juice, vegetables…nothing so special. On certain days, you’d find chocolate in the drawer.
17. What’s your favourite thing to do on a Sunday?
The weekly schedule has changed a lot since coming to Canada and moving in with my wife. Back in Germany, I always tried to squeeze in as much writing as possible on the weekend, now I write five days a week at least, and on Sundays, we try to take it easy, for example a lazy afternoon with a movie or a book or a walk in the park that’s two minutes from our front door.
18. What was the last movie you went to see?
The Hunger Games. I’m usually picky when it comes to book adaptations, but I had read all of the series prior to seeing the movie, and I loved it.
19. Star Trek or Star Wars?
Honestly, none of the above. I’ve always enjoyed contemporary fiction in the “real” world most, though I make exceptions under certain circumstances for dystopian, superheroes and maybe even the occasional vampire…Anything “space” is where I have the hardest time to relate to.
20. If you were offered a free ticket to anywhere in the world, where would you go?
Probably move up that previously mentioned trip. New York and San Francisco are also on the wishlist for the future.
Rebecca has everything she ever dreamed of in life: a family, a beautiful home and good friends. When Callie moves into the house across the street, Rebecca is quick to welcome the young writer into the tightly-knit community of Autumn Leaves. She has no idea that Callie will confront her with a truth about herself she might not be ready to face.
All Callie wanted was to flee the big city and finish her latest book in peace, but life in the small town comes with unexpected temptation and danger.
“I’m not dating anyone at the moment,” Callie said. There was always a little teasing in her voice whenever that subject was broached. Today, Rebecca could deal with it. She’d had a very good Saturday morning that had indeed made up for holding the fort all alone for two weeks.
“Is it okay if I just bring myself or is it going to be awkward?”
“Oh no, of course not. I want you to meet David.”
“I know one thing about him already.”
“He’s got good taste in women.”
Rebecca shook her head, flattered rather than mortified. “Wouldn’t he just love to hear that. I’m sorry, I have to run. Come at seven—bring yourself. There’s gonna be food, wine, and a little small-town gossip.” She didn’t quite know why she kept doing this. Rebecca loved living in Autumn Leaves. It seemed like she had to say things like this as a preemptive strike. Not that Callie had complained about anything regarding her new home.
“That’s great. Thank you so much.”
“Come on. It’s just dinner.”
Callie had followed her outside on the porch, laying a hand on Rebecca’s arm as she spoke. “No, I mean, really thank you. In the days I’ve spent here, people have been okay to me. Polite. You were the only one making an effort.”
“Yes, you did. I just want you to know I’m not taking it for granted.”
Rebecca was aware that at that moment, a lot of unspoken things hovered in the air between them, things that had nothing to do with Callie’s life choices or what Rebecca thought of them. There was more, but there was no time to go there now.
“David has to go back on the road on Wednesday. How about we talk more then, have a girls’ night out? Well,” she corrected herself, “girls’ afternoon out anyway. Can’t stay out late on a school night.”
Callie smiled gratefully. “I’d love that.” Rebecca wondered if a hug might be misunderstood in this situation. Unsure about it, she aborted the impulse, just smiled back at her young neighbor, and turned to leave.
Barbara Winkes is a psychologist/trauma counselor by training and a writer by choice who moved from a small town in Germany to Québec City where she lives with her wife. She writes romance with the focus on the ‘L’ in GLBT, sometimes crossing over into mystery.
Find out more on her blog “Word Affair” at firstname.lastname@example.org.