Welcome to my weekly Author Spotlight. I’ve asked a bunch of my author friends to answer a set of interview questions, and to share their latest work.
Today, Anne Barwell – Anne Barwell lives in Wellington, New Zealand. She shares her home with two cats who are convinced that the house is run to suit them; this is an ongoing “discussion,” and to date it appears as though the cats may be winning.
Thanks so much, Anne, for joining me!
Comment on this post for a chance to win an ebook copy of Cat’s Quill, book 1 of Anne’s Hidden Places series.
J. Scott Coatsworth: As a child, what did you want to be when you grew up?
Anne Barwell: A librarian, and despite a few detours along the way, I’m now working in a library. I also wanted to be a writer, and I’m doing that too. It did take me a while to get there, as both of those have only been within the last ten years. I’ve also worked in clerical positions, and on the counter at NZ Post, and was a music teacher for many years while being a stay at home mum, before I did my teaching degree, which I used for a whole year.
JSC: When did you know you wanted to write, and when did you discover that you were good at it?
AB: I knew I wanted to write in primary school. One of my favourite fantasy series ended, and I wanted more, so some friends and I wrote a sequel. It wasn’t great, but it was fun. When I got creative writing prompts at high school, I always did a lot of world building with them, far beyond the short story we were supposed to write.
Then in 2000 I got my first PC, and discovered fanfiction on the internet, and thought ‘oh cool, it’s not just me, and I could do this.’ And, after getting my first original novel length story accepted by Dreamspinner Press, the rest, as the saying goes is history.
As a side note, I read, and wrote, online fanfic, for that fantasy series I read in primary school too.
JSC: Tell me about a unique or quirky habit of yours.
AB: When I start reading a book, I always flick to the back of the book and read the last few pages first, even if it’s a mystery detective story. It’s probably one of the reasons I prefer reading hardcopy as I can’t do that with ebooks, and it’s frustrating!
JSC: How would you describe your writing style/genre?
AB: I don’t write in just one genre. As a reader, I love crossing genres and reading across a wide range, so my writing does the same thing. My favourites are fantasy/SF, and historical though I write contemporary and have a mystery/detective series I want to write too. Often I have a mixture of genres in one book which makes it difficult to work out how to promote it!
I’ve never really thought about how to describe my writing style. I work in a library and have English Lit and Teaching degrees so my characters are often well read and there are literary references in there. On the flip side, I’m a huge graphic novel/comic book fan, so look out for pop culture references too. I’m also a musician so music tends to play a part in my books in some form or another as well.
JSC: Were you a voracious reader as a child?
AB: Yes, very much so. I read a lot of SF as it was difficult to find fantasy in the library, although I read what I could find of that too. Some of my favourite books were The Dark is Rising series by Susan Cooper, and A Wrinkle in Time by Madeline L’Engle. I loved Andre Norton’s books, Robert Heinlein’s YA SF, and a series that is now out of print and not many people seem to have hear of—The Chris Godfrey series by Hugh Walters. My dad introduced me to Alan Dean Foster’s Pip and Flinx series very early on, and we used to discuss them after we’d read each new one. Sadly he wasn’t able to read the later ones in the series as his eyesight had deteriorated and they weren’t available in large print.
I also read a lot of comics, and used to get into trouble for reading them in the local bookshop on the way home from school. Comic shops in those days used to hang signs that said ‘This isn’t a library!’.
JSC: What was your first published work? Tell me a little about it.
AB: Cat’s Quill is a contemporary fantasy story, which takes place partly in our world, and in another called Naearu which exists parallel to our own. While our world embraced science, Naearu took the path of magic. Time also moves differently there so six years in their time equates to about ninety in ours.
Here’s the blurb:
Tomas Kemp has two successful novels to his name and the true belief that a successful sequel is only a matter of a little inspiration. When Tomas meets a mysterious stranger under the branches of an old oak tree, he feels compelled to tell him about a book he holds dear and the sequel he wants to read. But Cathal doesn’t share that deep belief that the sequel Tomas seeks ends happily. Cathal has seen enough of a world where stories are real to know that happy ever after is sometimes the dream that won’t come true.
But stories have never let Tomas down, and as he follows Cathal across the reality shift between their worlds, he learns that Cathal is right: Happy ever after is never just given—but sometimes, it can be fought for and won.
Cat’s Quill is book one in my Hidden Places series. The third book—although it’s a side novel to Cat’s Quill—is called One Word, and will be published by Dreamspinner Press on 6 November.
JSC: Would you visit the future or the past, and why?
AB: I’d visit the past. I love reading about history and I’d love to see some of it first hand, although at a safe distance as my favourite time periods are the world wars.
On a more personal note, I’d love to be able to see my dad again. He passed away nearly five years ago and I miss him.
JSC: What’s your writing process?
AB: I love notebooks. By the time I start a story, I’ve already got lots of scribbled notes about the characters, and the plot. Each series has its own notebook but I have another one I also write notes in for those which don’t have one yet.
When I start a story, I start a word doc called title_outline. I type up the character names, descriptions and any information I have for them. I then do a bullet pointed outline of the story I have so far. Often this changes as I write the story, but I figure it’s good to have a plan even if the characters ignore it and go their own way. I print out this doc and scribble notes all over it as I write – as well as adding to notes in the notebook. Some of the notes are continuity stuff rather than what’s in the story I’m writing, especially as I often write in series. For my fantasy series, there’s also a lot of world building notes, and for my historical, a lot of research connected to the time and place I’m writing.
I then start writing, sending chapters to betas as I finish. That way if something needs addressing I can catch it early on. I also have a couple of betas who read the completed manuscript, and give me overall feedback once the story is finished. Once I have the betas comments back, I work through them, and do another proof read at the same time before I submit. Often I’ll go back and tweak earlier scenes so everything meshes as I have characters who tend to look at my outlines, laugh, and I find myself writing scenes I didn’t intend to, or they throw out a curveball of information about themselves I didn’t know.
JSC: What pets are currently on your keyboard, and what are their names? Pictures?
AB: They wouldn’t dare get on my keyboard, but they get as close as they can to it, and often sit on my mouse while I’m trying to type.
I have two cats. Kaylee is a tortoiseshell with the temperament to match. She’s very territorial, is convinced my bed is hers, and brings home dog bones that she steals from neighbour’s dogs. One summer during BBQ season I got cooked chicken legs and sausages left on my doorstep.
Frappy is a ginger tabby. She is much more laid back than Kaylee though fur flies when the two of them fight. I’ve had her attack Kaylee so Kaylee leaves my lap, and then slide into her place when it’s vacant. My lap and sofa are often home to WWIII between the two of them. Fraps isn’t much for meowing and instead still has a kitten like squeak. Kaylee makes up for it with the amount of meowing she does—I swear she loves the sound of her own voice.
JSC: What are you working on now, and when can we expect it?
AB: This year is a busy one for me, book wise. Comes a Horseman—book 3 of my WWII series Echoes Rising—will be published by DSP Publications on 6th August. One Word—book 3 of my fantasy series Hidden Places, although this one is more of a contemporary romance with a bit of mystery detective, releases on 6th November with Dreamspinner Press. Prelude to Love, a contemporary New Zealand set romance, is contracted with Dreamspinner Press as part of their Dreamspun Desires range, with a projected release date of January/February 2018.
Once I get a break from promo/edits, I’ll be starting back work on The Harp and the Sea, an historical with a touch of fantasy set on Skye in 1745 that I’m co-writing with Lou Sylvre. When Lou is writing her scenes, I’ll be writing A Sword to Rule, the 2nd and final book of my Dragons of Astria fantasy series.
And now for Anne’s new book: Comes a Horseman:
Sometimes the most desperate struggles take place far from the battlefield, and what happens in secret can change the course of history.
Victory is close at hand, but freedom remains frustratingly just beyond the grasp of German physicist Dr. Kristopher Lehrer, Resistance fighter Michel, and the remaining members of the team sent by the Allies—Captain Matt Bryant, Sergeant Ken Lowe, and Dr. Zhou Liang—as they fight to keep the atomic plans from the Nazis. The team reaches France and connects with members of Michel’s French Resistance cell in Normandy. Allied troops are poised to liberate France, and rescue is supposedly at hand. However, Kristopher is no longer sure the information he carries in his memory is safe with either side.
When Standartenführer Holm and his men finally catch up with their prey, the team is left with few options as they fight to keep atomic plans from the Nazis. With a traitor in their midst, who can they trust? Kristopher realizes he must become something he is not in order to save the man he loves. Death is biding his time, and sacrifices must be made for any of them to have the futures they want.
Echoes Rising Book 3, sequel to Winter Duet
“He’s late.” Matt glanced toward the door again. Although he was trying to appear nonchalant, hiding his nervousness was growing more difficult.
Their journey to Gernsbach had gone too smoothly, and that made him edgy as hell. After one night there, he’d suggested they keep moving for a couple more hours until they reached Bischweier. He’d been to Bischweier years ago when he’d lived in Germany before the war. The local priest was an old friend of Father Joseph’s, the man who had run the orphanage where Matt had grown up in Pennsylvania after he’d lost his family in a fire.
“Not that late.” Michel shrugged. “If we’re not back by two, Ken knows not to stay in Bischweier.”
Michel and Matt had gone ahead to Rastatt to meet their contact in the back room of a local Kaffeehaus. The owner—a member of the local Resistance—had been kind enough to leave them some coffee to drink while they waited.
“They should be safe if they stay in the chapel,” Matt said. He hadn’t been surprised to learn that Father Markus was working with the Resistance. He was a good man, and Father Joseph had spoken highly of him.
“You didn’t trust our contact in Gernsbach,” Michel said. “Why?”
“Just a feeling.”
Now they were finally heading toward home, he kept expecting Holm or one of his men to turn up. Standartenführer Holm wouldn’t give up easily, and Matt doubted he would have spent all this time looking in the wrong direction. The last few weeks had gone too smoothly, reminding Matt of the way a cat played with a mouse, waiting until the right time to finally pounce.
“Holm is not going to give up until he’s captured his prey,” Michel said. “It’s better that both Kristopher and Ken stay away until we are sure it is safe here.” He offered Matt a cigarette, but Matt declined.
“Kristopher is the one Holm is after,” he said cautiously.
“Officially, yes.” Michel lit his cigarette and took a long puff of it. He wasn’t usually very forthcoming with information, and this was the first time he’d implied he knew about Ken’s history with Holm.
At least to Matt.
“What has Ken told you?” Matt asked. Until they’d met up again in Freiburg, he’d only met Michel briefly in Berlin. He still knew Kristopher better, as he was not as reticent. Matt had gotten the impression Michel didn’t have much time for social niceties. He was pleasant enough, though, and it was obvious as hell he cared a great deal for Kristopher.
“We spoke briefly in Stuttgart.” Michel shrugged. “Holm is a dangerous man, and once he has made up his mind to achieve something, he doesn’t let anyone or anything get in his way. Do not be fooled by his manner. He’s the type who would shake your hand while putting a knife in your back.”
“I’m well aware of Holm’s less than charming nature, thanks all the same,” Matt said. His meeting with Holm was not one Matt would forget in a hurry, if ever. Nor would he forgive him for killing Elise. “He’s a cold-blooded murderer.”
“That’s a polite way of putting it.” Michel narrowed his eyes and swore under his breath.
Although Matt’s French wasn’t that good, he knew enough to appreciate the sentiment.
“I believe Ken was foolish enough to promise not to harm him,” Michel continued in German. “I take it you have no problem in doing whatever needs to be done?”
“No problem at all,” Matt said grimly.
Anne Barwell lives in Wellington, New Zealand. She shares her home with two cats who are convinced that the house is run to suit them; this is an ongoing “discussion,” and to date it appears as though the cats may be winning.
In 2008 she completed her conjoint BA in English Literature and Music/Bachelor of Teaching. She has worked as a music teacher, a primary school teacher, and now works in a library. She is a member of the Upper Hutt Science Fiction Club and plays violin for Hutt Valley Orchestra.
She is an avid reader across a wide range of genres and a watcher of far too many TV series and movies, although it can be argued that there is no such thing as “too many.” These, of course, are best enjoyed with a decent cup of tea and further the continuing argument that the concept of “spare time” is really just a myth. She also hosts other authors, reviews for the GLBTQ Historical Site “Our Story” and Top2Bottom Reviews, and writes monthly blog posts for Authors Speak and Love Bytes.
Anne’s books have received honorable mentions four times and reached the finals three times in the Rainbow Awards. She has also been nominated twice in the Goodreads M/M Romance Reader’s Choice Awards—once for Best Fantasy and once for Best Historical.
Website & Blog: http://annebarwell.wordpress.com/
Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/sylvrebarwellhoffmann/
Dreamspinner Press Author Page:
DSP Publications Author Page:
Queeromance Ink Author Page:
New Zealand Rainbow Romance Writers: