Monday, 28 October 2013

Meet A Writer Monday Presents...

...Barbara Winkes


1. Tell me about your book Secrets and where you got your inspiration for it?

Marsha, who is a cop turned PI, is doubting the decisions she has made lately, both career- and relationship-wise. In order to clean up her life, she decides to get away for a few weeks. On the way to her destination, she meets a hitchhiker. While she’s almost instantly attracted to her, Marsha knows that Jessie isn’t telling her the whole truth about where she is going, and why.

Someone with very bad intentions is watching them.

It’s hard to pin down the inspiration for this one. I wrote a big part of it last summer after signing my first contract with Eternal Press. We had the kind of constant great weather that just gets you thinking about road trips, romance and what could happen on the way. I could never pick a favorite, romance or mystery, and so it was a matter of time for me to go there--I’m thrilled that Secrets was accepted, and hope the readers that enjoyed Autumn Leaves and Winter Storm will give “my darker side” a try.

2. Who has had the most influence in your life? What lessons did this person teach you?

I think my parents had a big influence in my life, and it’s something that you can’t really start to sort out until you reach a certain age yourself. For example, I can’t remember a time when there weren’t many books in the house. Unlike many other folks in their generation, they thought it was important for a girl to get an education first, which is something that served me extremely well. Faith is something important, but you can never use it as an excuse to bash anyone. It irritates me when people who oppose lgbt rights claim that we want to redefine marriage. My parents made it to 53 years, and that’s an example I’m looking up to.

3. If someone came up to you and wanted to tell you about an idea or a book they were writing, what would you do? Or what advice would you give?

I’d be willing to listen, and share my own experiences over a coffee or two…For starters, it’s true what everyone else says--read a lot, write a lot. If there’s already a story there that needs to come out, even better. Goals (and dreams) evolve over time, and it’s important to define what you want, and when you get it, what the next steps will be. Thanks to the internet, and blogs, you’ll have no trouble finding people who are willing to share their publishing story.

4. How do you react to a bad review of one of your books?

I sulk for a bit and then move on…Seriously, good or bad, there’s always a gut reaction, the question “Can I take away anything from it for the future?”, and the fact that everything, books, movies, paintings are out there for everyone to interpret once you put them out there.

Readers vary in what motivates them to pick up a book. Friends’ recommendations are more important than strangers’ opinions, according to a recent article. When they pay attention, it’s more to the average score than the number of 5 or 1 stars. I try to keep all of that in mind.

5. Would you rather write for children or adults?

I prefer to write for adults, because obviously, you have a lot more freedom there…However, I am in awe of YA writers who can bring a strong message across. Books with portrayals of strong female characters, for example, LGBT characters, can make a big difference for a teen looking for identification.

6. Have you ever killed someone in a novel and regretted it later?

Unless it’s a serial killer, I have some regret for every character who dies in the course of the story. As I reader, I’ve been burnt with character deaths in my favorite series (and on top of that, I read a few years ago that Tess Gerritsen planned to kill Jane Rizzoli at the end of book one, but then decided otherwise--me and the millions of other fans are grateful!). As a writer, I avoid it whenever I can. I can live with a world where primary characters don’t die. It’s not realistic? Well, every single fiction book comes with a made-up reality.

7. Which do you find more embarrassing to write, violence or sex?

I find neither embarrassing, but both can be frustrating to write sometimes. In the case of violence/action things happen very fast, so you have to pay credit to that. The sex scenes have to fit the overall feel of the story and the characters’ relationship. Basically, how can you come up with a new way to describe the same thing? Of course, the scenery and details change, but it’s within a certain range of options.

8. Who would play you in a film about your life?

According to my wife, that would be Kelli Williams. We’ve been joking about that movie before, because our story is pretty movie-like: We met online, started talking about books and TV and everything. When we found out that we were both planning a vacation in Paris for the summer (back in ’09), we decided to meet for a coffee. By the time we actually met in person, we had every day pretty much mapped out. Cupid did the rest.

9. Do you research your novels?

Yes. Of course, a lot of it can be done online, but I’m also a bookaholic and love learning about various subjects. I like making up names for the cities where my stories take place and mix it with real ones, so I have to have an idea about the geographical region. As a reader and writer, my focus is on the characters, but research is the meat on the bones.

10. What are books for?

Escpapism, education, evolution. Some do all at the same time, like Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale. It’s one of my favourite books ever, but I have a hard time picking it up these days, because it’s too close to reality, or heading there, in too many parts of the world. I think that if fiction evokes strong emotions, it does its job.

We go there to escape everyday reality, but at the same time it can reflect real life issues, and inspire change. I also read books about female investigators by the dozen. There’s quite a bit secondary literature out there on the fascination with the woman detective. While it’s pure pleasure (not a bit of guilt) to me, the genre also contributes to the idea of women in power.

11. Are you jealous of other writers?

Jealousy is just something that makes you feel bad and gets you nowhere. I do listen closely to what other writers tell about their experiences, whether they are about to be published or have been bestselling authors for a long time. There’s always something to learn. You can’t always go and do the same thing, but you can identify what works and what doesn’t, for them and for you. A funny fact: According to a German online store, Autumn Leaves was sold a few times together with the Fifty Shades of Grey. Do I wish every person who bought the Fifty Shades had bought Autumn Leaves? Sure, but that’s not the same as being jealous. In fact, I’m thrilled that some of the readers of what has become such a phenomenon, picked up my books too.

Wait--I’m a bit jealous of Andrew Gross, I must confess. He collaborated with James Patterson on what where some of my favorite books of the Women’s Murder Club series, and began a successful career as a thriller author from there. I love these women, and yes, I think every author who got to get their hands on them, so to speak, is very lucky.

12. What are your current projects?

I finished the first draft of Spring Eternal, book three of Callie and Rebecca’s story. For now, it’s going to be their summer, and then I’ll get to work on one of the stories from the Works-In-Progress folder. I’m not going to run out of ideas soon…Of course, there’s a new book to promote, so I’m thinking of creative ways to do that as well.

13. When did you first consider yourself a writer?

I know I started making up stories before I could write, but I guess my first “serious” attempts were at a pre-teen age. I always liked stories where a girl character was at the center of the adventure, solving the case etc. Come to think of it, some of my earliest characters were a trapeze artist and a pilot.

14. If you woke up as Angie Harmon what would be the first thing you’d do?

Get online and start a Kickstarter campaign for a Women’s Murder Club movie, like Rob Thomas and Kristen Bell did for Veronica Mars. Okay, that’s the selfish version. It would be great to have the power to make the world a better and more just place…That would probably mean I’d have to wake up as someone I don’t like a lot and totally change them around. Wow, this question comes with some serious implications.

15. Name one thing that drives you crazy.

Wilful ignorance. We have enough numbers from science, history, economics--we have numbers, facts, and we know what works. People who chose to ignore that, especially when they have some sort of power, trouble me.

16. If you could have an unlimited storage of one thing, what would it be?


17. If you had your own talk show, who would the first three guests be?

Angie Harmon, Jon Bon Jovi and Sandra Fluke. I’d hope the network would keep me around for a bit, because I’d have more of the Women’s Murder Club (actresses and creators), Bon Jovi and feminist/LGBT activists I admire--and many fiction authors.

18. If you gave one of your characters the opportunity to speak for themselves, what would they say?

I think that depends if you ask them in the middle of the story (“WTH are you doing to me?!”) or at the ending. I believe in making things right, but there will be obstacles and detours on the way.

19. Do you prefer ebooks, paperbacks or hardcovers?

I must admit I’m slow adapting to the reality of ebooks. I’m getting there. They are practical in so many ways--and great when you’re still a fairly new author. However, I don’t think they can ever completely replace physical books.

Thanks, Sonnet, for having me on Dusty Pages!


Disillusioned with the direction her life is going, Marsha Taylor wants to get away, to find out what’s left of her dreams. Picking up a hitchhiker along the way wasn’t her intention, but Jessie, a woman with troubles of her own, is hard to resist.

A mishap on the road forces them to make a stop in a small town called Diamond Lake. Residents are on edge since a brutal murder happened in the area not long ago. Everyone has their secrets…some of them are deadly.

Secrets Excerpt:

“For all you know, I could be a serial killer preying on unsuspecting, should I say, ‘naïve’, hitchhikers.”

Jessie regarded her intently, long enough to make Marsha uncomfortable. “You’re a good person,” she said.

“There are some people who would beg to differ.”

“Then they don’t know you.”

You do? “I thought you weren’t going to say a word until we’re there,” Marsha reminded her.

Jessie shrugged, unimpressed, already checking out the CDs in the glove compartment. “I kept your money, by the way. I figured we might get a snack along the way.”

“You’d like to drive too? Never mind,” Marsha said quickly when the look Jessie gave her was all too eager.

* * * *

It had been a long time since he’d last seen something interesting for breakfast. He debated his choices, unsure. He hated that feeling. Normally, he made his decision quick, acting fast, no mistakes. He’d been unusually sloppy and distracted the last time. That couldn’t happen again.

Today, the menu looked interesting. He had to weigh the risk and the challenge. Looks could be deceiving. He had excellent people skills, could peel away the layers of a person’s façade and expose their weaknesses. On occasion, he had peeled away some skin too. The memory made his heart beat faster.

There were four women in the room. He’d identified the waitress’ car easily by the pacifier in the window, children’s clothes in the back. She’d be missed right away. Too dangerous. There was the woman with the husband towering over her--no. He’d miss her if only for having no more punching bag and might assume that she’d run away from him. He drank his café au lait slowly, leisurely, regarding the woman who was sitting by herself in the corner. Not an easy treat, he was certain. Her stance revealed wariness. She was observing the room just as much as he was. The only difference was that she was trying to identify a threat. He was looking for a kill. She was alone.

Available from Friday!

About Barbara

Barbara Winkes, a psychologist/trauma counselor, left her native Germany to live with her wife in Québec City. Her debut novel Autumn Leaves, published by Eternal Press in November 2012, is the love story between two women in a small town, where neighbors take an interest in the life of others. Her other published works are the follow-up, Winter Storm, and the standalone thriller, Secrets.

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