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Monday, June 02, 2008

Interview with Barbara Phinney

Susan: Barbara, it’s great to have you here. Your suspense books are real page turners. I can’t wait to read Keeping Her Safe, which releases June 1 from Love Inspired Suspense. Tell us a little about the plot.

Barbara: Thanks, Susan. I’m thrilled to be here, as well. Keeping Her Safe is a forgiveness story about a young man, Hunter, who went to prison for his mentor. Just before he’s due to be released, the mentor dies, but not before asking him to protect his daughter, Rae.

Only Rae wants nothing to do with him. In her mind, he destroyed everything her family held dear. Only after realizing the serious danger she’s in and that Hunter may well be innocent, does Rae learn to trust her life to him, and more importantly, learn forgiveness and healing. And through his growing love for Rae, Hunter learns a valuable lesson on trust, too.

As an aside, my sister-in-law knows a woman whose husband has the name Hunter Gordon, and we conspired one evening to write a story with an ex-con of that name. When the woman later heard about it she thought it was hilarious because it’s as far from her husband as possible.

Susan: Your storyline features a man who has been in prison. What kind of research did you do for Hunter’s story?

Barbara: Why, I went to prison! No, seriously, my husband works at the prison featured in the story, Dorchester Correctional Facility, and I asked a lot of questions to anyone who knew anything about the place—of which there are plenty around. My husband has learned some inside things about prison life. It can be surprisingly relaxed in some ways, and cruel and tough in other ways. The story is set in a carpentry shop, and I have been in a few in my day, so it was fun to incorporate my memories of them.

Susan: How did that story come together?

Barbara: Actually, Keeping Her Safe started as a Silhouette Intimate Moments, but got rejected. I asked to write for Love Inspired, but wasn’t ready to rework the story. Then, after my last book, Desperate Rescue, I opened Keeping Her Safe again, and all the faith elements and revisions just fell in place. I love the area, west of Moncton, New Brunswick, and that helped, too. It must have all worked out, because Romantic Times has given me 4 stars for it! I’m thrilled, too, with the write-up on it.

Susan: You spent time in the military. How did that help with your writing career?

Barbara: Sometimes I wonder if it hasn’t been a hindrance. Having worked with so many men, I didn’t really get a good feel for women’s reactions and emotions, apart from my own. I think I’ve been re-programmed to think like a man! But on the other hand, it’s really helped with time management, learning to get a job done right the first time, and accepting rejection. I’ve been yelled at enough in my career that all those nice editors can’t really hurt my feelings, unless they show up at my door to cut off my hands. Which I used to say to myself. I’d keep on writing until they did that.

Susan: Is there a character in your current book to whom you relate and who made an input on your life?

Barbara: In Keeping Her Safe, I think I really identified with the heroine. She worked in an area predominated by men, as I did in the military, and has lost her father. Since I have lost both my parents, I called upon those emotions to show how she was dealing with the grief herself. My heroes aren’t always big, strong alpha heroes, but men who get mixed up with their own emotions and make mistakes as well, and Hunter in Keeping Her Safe did that and more.

Susan: What is the number one thing you’ve learned from your writing journey?

Barbara: By far, the number one thing is perseverance. And to give it my all. There are days when I think, “Oh, this will do”. But I stop myself and say, “No, it won’t.” It may do for right now, but it will be changed so I can give it a bit more. I’ve also learned to trust God more. I pray before I write, asking that I do His will first, then mine, and for determination. God hasn’t failed me yet.

Susan: Any future plans for your writing that you’d like to share? Any specific dreams you’d like to accomplish in the area of writing?

Barbara: To hit the New York Times Bestseller List! Why not? There’s a poster at my kids’ school that says, Shoot for the moon. Even if you miss, you’ll end up in the stars. That’s a great motto. But for the immediate, I’d like to be able to write more often for Love Inspired, and submit some cozy mysteries to other publishers. I have one submitted at Heartsong, but haven’t heard back. I just love that story, so I hope it’ll find a home.

Susan: Many of our readers are aspiring writers. Can you share any tidbits of wisdom on getting published, perhaps specific to the Love Inspired Suspense line?

Barbara: I’m finding the editors at Love Inspired are real go-getters, and don’t like to wait. It kind of matches my personality, I think. But as for writing, if you love to read Love Inspired Suspense, I say study the line in depth, before you write, but make sure your characters have real issues, and these issues are logical. Editors are amazingly logical, so make sure everything makes sense.

And keep writing. Don’t give up after a couple of years, because it takes longer than that. I know we all hear stories of those who get great contracts after mere months of writing, but those people have been studying the lines and writing in other ways long before they got a contract. Most people also have to learn the hard way, by making mistakes and working darn hard.

One more thing. You have to rewrite. Remember, only one thing was written in stone, so your words can be changed. Let them cool for a while, and then go back and rework, reword, and revise. It’s amazing what even a few hours of doing something totally different can do for finding mistakes.

Susan: Which is harder for you to maintain in your books—the suspense thread, the romance thread, or the faith thread?

Barbara: Boy, that’s a tough question! It used to be the romance thread, to make sure the characters actually moved closer to each other. But now, it’s the suspense thread. As I said above, it’s got to make sense, and sometimes we have to do a lot of research. I’d prefer to just start writing, but I know I’d get bogged down sooner or later. The faith element isn’t as hard usually because I know ahead of time what kind of lesson each character must learn, and as I’m always studying the Bible, I’m always seeing how Bible characters handled things.

Susan: What is the process you use when writing a mystery/suspense?

Barbara: I allow a story to interest me first, be it the setting or the characters or one part of the plot. Believe it or not, it was the name Hunter Gordon, and going to prison, that interested me with Keeping Her Safe.

I then sit down and write a couple of chapters, just to get the feel of the whole story, then, I need to sort out the plot. Since I usually know the faith element, and parts of the other, then I have to work out a logical sequence for things to happen. The synopsis is awful at first, but I’ve learned to polish it as I go. Once the synopsis isn’t half bad, I’ll polish up the first three chapters and then bounce back and forth between the rest of the book and the synopsis, which is to a certain degree, flexible.

Susan: What is your system to keep the story/clues organized?

Barbara: I don’t! To my own detriment, I’m afraid. I have learned lately to print out a copy of the art fact sheet that Harlequin uses, to keep information handy. I take lots of notes and when my first draft is done, I return to those notes. Things like, “Check to see if he calls heroine before leaving house first morning.” Or “Villain must not say…. Thing before page….” I fix them all after I’ve finished the first draft. My editor asks for many revisions and I organize her notes the same way.

Susan: How can our readers learn more about you and your books?

Barbara: I’m getting a new website, www.barbaraphinney.com but it’s still under construction. www.loveinspiredauthors.com has some info on me. My books are on Amazon, and Barnes and Noble, among other sites. As for learning about me, my husband says he knows me, and yet at times, claims he doesn’t! My sister-in-law says she knows me very well, but I’m not sure that’s a good thing. And my kids call me goofy. One thing is for certain. I’m just an ordinary person who makes tons of mistakes each day, and yet, tries to reach people through books about people just like you and me.

Thank you so much, Barbara! Readers, don’t forget to leave a comment to be entered in the drawing for a copy of Keeping Her Safe.


Blogger Carolynn W. said...

Thanks for the interview, I really enjoyed it! The book sounds great! I look forward to reading it!

3:47 PM  
Blogger tetewa said...

Glad to see you here today and sunds like my kind of Suspense!

10:00 PM  
Blogger ChristyJan said...

I enjoyed reading this interview with Barbara. KEEPING HER SAFE sounds like a wonderful book.

9:37 PM  

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