Barbara Samuel is one of the best respected authors in romance. She’s written category (as Ruth Wind), single title contemporary, historicals, and paranormals of various types. She has a shelf full of RITAs and twice had books named as RWA favorite books of the year. In other words, Barbara rocks!
She teaches online classes and her most recent women’s fiction, Madame Mirabou’s School of Love, was so wonderful that I not only reread it, but I’ve just booked a B&B to spend a few days in Manitou Springs, Colorado, where Madame Mirabou is set. (See more of her work at www.barbarasamuel.com )
Barbara Samuel is also one of the authors in Dragon Lovers, along with Jo, Karen Harbaugh, and me. Barbara, the other three novellas in the anthology are more or less historical, while “Dragon Feathers” has a contemporary setting. Could you tell us something about how you came up with the idea? What themes were you working with in the story?
BARBARA: My roots are deep in the southwest, and when the dragon ideas came up, we were actually sitting in a cafe in Santa Fe, so I wanted to brainstorm something in that arena. Qzecoatl is an Aztec god—a feathered serpent—and seemed perfect for my springboard. Santa Fe is also one of my favorite spots, so it was an obvious choice of setting.
MJP: Except for your historicals, most of your books are set in your native Southwest. Could you talk a little about how that sense of place colors your fiction?
BARBARA: As a writer sense of place is absolutely key to the work—the stories arise from their settings, because I believe humans are shaped by their environment, physically and socially. The southwest, with its dramatic mountains and skies and vast inland seas of prairie and desert, is a vivid landscape with a fascinating history and blend of cultures that I find absolutely fascinating. It’s a land that requires cleverness and integrity. It will test you—all through the southwest are tales of the land calling someone, or chasing them away.
MJP: Your novellas all seem to be paranormal, so I presume you like these opportunities to play with magic and dragons. Have you wanted to write longer paranormal books?
BARBARA: I’ve always been a big reader of sf/f, from way way back—everything from Twilight Zone to Bradbury to Tales to Tremble By. My scholastic book order was packed with fairy tales and ghost stories, and I collected ghost stories and reincarnation novels in particular. I’d love to do a big juicy ghost and/or reincarnation tale, something dark and intensely romantic and over the top—I think it would suit my voice. But there are only so many hours in a day!
MJP: I know people who still yearn for more Barbara Samuel historicals. What
did you like about writing them that was different from writing contemporaries?
Do you think you might ever do more?
BARBARA: I’m a restless Gemini and can’t stand to write the same thing all the time, so I seriously miss writing historicals and would happily have continued writing contemporaries and historicals forever. I felt that my brand of historical fell out of fashion for a bit, so I focused on other realms. I’m thinking about doing more now that the pendulum is swinging again. We’ll see.
MJP: Now for the more general questions. How long have you been writing?
BARBARA: Since fifth grade. I wrote five novels in spiral notebooks before I graduated from high school. I’ve been publishing almost 18 years. (Wow–how did that happen?!)
MJP: What was your first book, and how well do you think it characterizes your latest work?
BARBARA: My first published novel was Strangers On A Train, by Ruth Wind. It was a Silhouette Special Edition about a classical music composer whose husband had committed suicide. She falls in love with a literary western writer who pens tales of the Native American west…..hmmm. Yes, there’s my theme: redemption. Rising from the ashes. Every single book, even if I try not to do it. Also, the musical angle and the animals. There are animals, food, music and redemption in everything I write.
But we all do that. Someone said we are all writing to answer a particular question about life. Mine appears to be: how do people weather the trials of life? How do you rise after destruction or sorrow to find a triumphant life?
MJP: This is a theme that fascinates me also, Barbara. This is probably why I’ve loved your books ever since a friend of mine said I had to read Ruth Wind. I did, and she was right. <G>
What was the biggest mistake you made when you first began writing?
MJP: Which book, if any, was the most difficult for you to write, and why?
BARBARA: A Piece of Heaven, though I ended up loving it. I wrote nearly 300 pages before I realized it wasn’t a first person novel, and I needed the mosaic of all those viewpoints. (I think it ended up with six or seven narrators). To this day, it remains one of my favorites, though, so I guess difficulty is not always an indication of how it will turn out.
MJP: What do you consider key elements of a great story?
BARBARA: A sense of immersion and illumination. I want to fall into a book and drown in it and never want to leave it. It can be funny or intense or dark or terrifying, but I want to dive all the way in. When I’m writing, that’s the experience I hope to offer my readers.
MJP: Are there any trends you hope to see in romance in the next few years?
BARBARA: It would be nice if there was more variety on a regular basis. I love all kinds of stories, but it bugs me when all the publishers climb on one bandwagon—chick lit or vampires or babies & brides or whatever the flavor of the month is. What if there is lots of variety all the time? Costume dramas and big sweeping historicals and vampires and babies (maybe not together) and medievals and ghosts and Regency and —
Barring that, I would like to see that pendulum swing away toward dark historicals again. There have been some published all along, but that tends to be my taste, and I miss them.
MJP: What is the best part about being a writer? The most frustrating?
BARBARA: The freedom and excitement. The ups and down.
MJP: What are you working on now?
BARBARA: I just finished a big juicy foodie-sort of novel. I had a blast with it.
Oooh, sounds wonderful! I’ve read some of your writing on food, and it’s so delicious it makes me want to eat the page. <g> In fact, I just printed a spinach soup recipe off your blog, www.awriterafoot.com