Barbara, I want to thank you for consenting to answer my questions. I have enjoyed reading some of your books and this insight into the workings of an author should be very interesting to your readers, past, present and future.
1. You have published several books, most of them based on your hobby. What is that hobby and how did you get interested in it?
Yes, I’m working on my tenth book now. I’ve written five novels and four young reader’s books. Most of my novels are based on family stories and my genealogical research. I became interested in my families roots when I was a teenager, but I did not get into serious research until our son went off to college. As a youngster, I asked my mother endless questions about family and would even call old great aunts to talk about ancestors. I kept notes even back then.
2. How did your hobby influence your writing?
When I talked to the younger ones in our family most of them would give me blank looks. They were not interested. My husband suggested that I I’ve done serious genealogy research for over twenty five years. When I talked about ancestors to them I would have to write it and put it in story form to catch their attention and hold their interest. I really wanted them to know the story of my maternal great-grandmother’s life. I had done so much research and had talked to my relatives over the years, so I felt as if I had known the old ones personally and could piece their lives together. George’s Creek to Georgia was my first book. I had so much I wanted to tell. That It ended up covering four generations from the seventeen-nineties to eighteen-eighty.
3. What made you decide to write novels?
When I wrote the first book I didn’t even think novel. I wrote it and then I printed about a half dozen copies on computer paper and mailed them to some of my nieces and nephews. I began to get emails from them saying how they enjoyed it and some of their children wanted copies, too. They thought I should try to have it published. I sent it to several publishers and one said they would like to publish it. I knew nothing about the book business but decided I’d do it for the family. Little did I know that I would get hooked on writing, and it would turn into a business?
4. Do you have a favorite story about your career as a writer so far?
When I sat down late one afternoon to start on my first story, I wrote the chapter one. It was late and it was my bedtime. I printed out the first chapter and laid it aside to read the next morning. Early the next morning, I sat down and read what I had written the evening before. It sounded nothing like what I had hoped for. It was written more like genealogy notes than a story from my heart. I instantly tore it in half and put it in the trash. I sat quietly for a few minutes, closed my eyes, and mentally traveled back to the seventeen-nineties. I made a mental picture of what my great, great grandfather probably looked like back then and what he might have been doing. Getting this picture in my mind, I started writing again. The words started to flow. I never had a problem writing again after I devised my own system and what worked best for me.
5. How did you feel when you sold your first book to someone who was not a friend or family member?
I think I was lucky. I got an email from one of my nieces that she hoped I was having several books printed up because she had about twenty copies already sold. Another niece emailed she had sold a half dozen copies to co-workers and friends. I felt a little timid the first copy I sold to a stranger. I was very pleased and you always hope they will enjoy the story.
6. How has your going to all sorts of venues for signings helped you personally or with book sales?
I’ve never had a problem talking to people. I have the other problem of perhaps holding them too long. I do enjoy meeting people. Hopefully I’m learning to be a better listener as many people have their own stories to tell. I’ve met a lot of hopeful writers and have tried to give them tips from my own learning experiences.
7. Why did you decide to self publish your books?
My original publisher could only publish one book a year for me. I have a lot of stories, and at my age, I felt I needed to get them out there as quickly as I could and still do my best. My first novel is still under contract to that publisher, but after learning more about the book business, I really wanted more control of my own book. They are very nice people and we still have a good relationship but I’m more pleased with having full say over my books. Money wise it has been more profitable, too.
7. What makes your books different from anyone else’s?
All my books have part of me in them. They all have some of my personal experiences or family experiences in them. Most of the little tales are true things that happened to the family or I found in court records in my research about my family or my husband’s old ancestors.
8. You talk about several different foods that your ancestors ate in your novels. Have you tried cooking or eating any of them?
I do cook southern, and so many things have no recipe. I learned to cook by watching my mother. She learned from her mother, so I’m sure so many things have been passed down through family. I have had squirrel and dumplings a time or two that my mother made years ago when I was a little girl. My brother and friends killed the squirrels, and mother cooked them for all the hunters. I got to join in the meal. My mother’s dumplings were the best. I could never compete with her dumplings or biscuits. I can make good deer or beef jerky and dry it.
9. You do a lot of research on different aspects of the lives of your ancestors. Is it mostly ‘library’ research or have you found the information in personal papers, letters, etc.
I have found wonderful things in all the places mentioned above. I love to go to the old courthouses in the states and counties where the people lived. I love digging though their old documents that were actually written while they were alive. Years ago, I went to the Pickens County Courthouse and found my Great, Great, Grandfather’s, Elijah Barnett, original will. It was written in 1845. I got to hold it in my hands and all the documents pertaining to it. That was a thrill. You can make unexpected finds in libraries, too. In the library in Dawsonville, GA, I found some old handwritten church records that were in a cardboard box that a nice librarian dug out for me. The records were taken from 1850 when my Grandfather and Grandmother Harris first moved to Georgia and had first joined that church. Even distant cousins have shared copies of old letters written back in the 1800’s. I also, received copies of old photographs of ancestors that have been shared.
10. What kind of feedback do you get from your readers?
One of the nicest things that has happened to me is a gentleman from Arizona bought nine of my George’s Creek to Georgia books via my website and had me autograph them to special members of his family. He gave them for stocking stuffers to his kin. After that Christmas, I got a lovely email from his sister who lives in Pickens County, SC. She told me that Elijah Barnett was her great, great, great grandfather, Elijah Barnett, from one of his daughters, my great grandmother’s sister. Since then we have visited several times and are not only distantly kin but are now good friends. Another email I received was from a lady about my book, Stranger. She had gotten the book for her eight year old grandson. She said he first had trouble with the name Dinwitty in the book. He had never seen that name and she helped him with it. He thought the name was so funny and had a hearty laugh. She watched as he continued reading and every time he came to the name he giggle or smiled. It was so nice that for me to hear that a simple thing as that could give a child pleasure especially while he was reading. I’m proud to say that the feedback has been very nice. I have loved hearing from the people.
11. If you could be any of your characters, which one would it be?
This was a hard decision, but I think the character, Sarah Sharp Borden. Sarah was really my husband’s great, great, great, great grandmother. I changed the character’s names in my Borden Series of books and in all the books I’ve written after my first. I’ve been advised that in a novel it’s best because you do have to embellish on conversations and descriptions from that era. Sarah had a wonderful life and raised a delightful family.
12. Would you be interested in any of your books made into a movie or television show (or series)?
I would be more than interested. I’d be thrilled if anyone were that interested in my books. I also have a large family that would be very excited.
13. Is there anything else you would like to add to what you have already said?
I thank you for your interest in my books and me. It has been a pleasure visiting with you.