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Summer Writers Series: an interview with Anne Barwell

Please welcome Anne to my series of Guest Posts where I’ve posed deeply serious questions to some awesome writers. My questions are in bold.

Thanks for hosting me, Jamie.

Who are you and what have you done with the Real (your name)?

I’m Anne Barwell, and I write MM fiction across a range of genres.  So far I’ve written historical, fantasy, and contemporary, with a dash of SF.  In my day job—under another surname though my sooper secret writing life is more like an open secret as people keep introducing me by my writing name—I work in a library.

I have three grown children, five grandchildren, and a cat who is quite convinced my house is run to suit her.  Good thing she’s cute.


If you had to describe yourself in terms of a soft drink, which would you be and why?

L&P as it’s a very Kiwi drink.  Seriously, though, I don’t tend to drink much of anything fizzy but I like this one because of its unique mix.

What got you into writing?

I wanted to read something and couldn’t find it, so wrote it myself.

Why do you write now?

I have a lot of stories to tell, and I want to be able to share them.  I also have characters clamouring for their stories, and I need to get them out there.

Reading:

What’s the earliest story you can remember reading and loving?

So many as I was an avid reader, so I can’t remember the earliest, so I’ll list the ones I remember very clearly from that time – which was a while ago now.   The Dark is Rising by Susan Cooper, A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle, The Wyndcliffe by Louise Lawrence, Charlotte Sometimes by Penelope Farmer, Hugh Walter’s Chris Godfrey series, and I loved Andre Norton, and Robert Heinlein’s YA stories. And Narnia.

What’s a book you remember reading as a teenager and absolutely loving?

There were several of those too so difficult to choose.  The Lensman series by EE Doc Smith,  Wild Talent by Wilson Tucker,  Love of Mother Not by Alan Dean Foster, and A Wizard of Earthsea by Ursula le Guin.

What are you reading right now?

I’m just finishing off Earl of Huntingdon by N.B Dixon which I’m loving – it’s the third in the series, and a retelling of Robin Hood, with Robin and Will together.  Then I will be diving into The Rising by Morgan Brice.

I always have two books on the go as I read during breaks at work with a hardcopy – that one is Bye Bye Baby by Fiona McIntosh.  I got hooked on her books with a standalone fantasy, and since then she’s only written historical romance. I’ve read all of those as they’ve come out and love them.  This one is one of her early books originally written under another name and republished this year. It’s a mystery detective, and I’m enjoying it as much as her others.

What’s a book that you have on your shelf that you think might surprise people?

The Alienist by Caleb Carr.  I read it and the sequel when they first came out, and loved them so much I needed my own copies.

I often get surprised comments when I read mystery detective at work as I’m more known there as an SF/fantasy reader.  I read across a lot of genres, and if mixes genres, all the better. If something looks good/interesting, I’ll read it. I don’t care what genre it is.  

What book would you like everyone to read?

That’s a difficult one, but I think I’ll have to go for The Dark is Rising by Susan Cooper. That’s the book that hooked me on celtic mythology and everything Arthurian.

Are you a stop reading at the end of the chapter, mid chapter, or just whenever reader?

I try to stop reading at the end of a scene, but that doesn’t always work, especially when reading at work.  I also tend to read the end of a book first, even mystery detective, so find ebooks a bit frustrating as I have to read those in order.

Can you name some formative books for your own writing?

I’m taking this question to mean books that have inspired me to write.  The Dark is Rising, Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander series, and when I discovered Morgan Brice’s Badlands series last year, my reaction was yes! This!

How do you organise your personal library? (alphabetical, dewey decimal, what’s your system?)

If I had more shelves and space it would be dewey for the non-fiction, and alphabetical for the fiction, and as I don’t….  I try and group authors together, and roughly genre which is difficult as I like to read books that cross genres. Non-fiction by subject, and as close to dewey as space will allow.  I work in a library so doing it any other way makes me twitch.

Writing:

Creative writing in primary school, what did you write about? Can you remember any stories?

I always used to write far more than I needed to.  I remember designing a futuristic house and writing about the family who lived there.  

What do you do/where do you go for inspiration?

I take time out to smell the roses, and look around me.  If I need a break from everything, I’ll read as it reminds me why I write.  

Is there anything you’ve seen passed around as writing advice that you really disagree with?

Write what you know.  If we all stuck to this, there would be no historicals, no fantasy, and no SF.  If you don’t know something that’s what research is for, plus we’re writers so use your imagination to fill in the rest.

Do you believe in a divine muse, and if so, what’s yours like?

Not so much divine, but I definitely have a muse.  He’s a gay guy who is stubborn, pushy, and I swear strategically organises the other characters behind my back.

What does your physical writing space look like?

I write at my dining room table – I live alone so it’s a perfect workspace as I don’t use it for meals.  Being next to the kitchen it also means I can multitask and cook/bake while I’m writing. I use a laptop rather than a desktop.  To my left is my diary, and four magazine racks which are divided into each of the books I’m working on, book reviews, and general.  To my right is my pencil/pen etc holder, a note cube, a small set of pull out drawers with other bits and pieces, and my note book for the RWNZ stuff as I’m contest coordinator for them.  And of course a coaster for my cup of tea.

Are you more a ‘write drunk, edit sober’ Ernest Hemingway, or a ‘shut the door, eliminate all distractions and write for a set amount of hours’ Stephen King? (or another famous writer’s approach, add in your own)

My writing routine is make a cuppa, and turn on the radio. I always write with background noise although when I get in ‘the zone’ I’ll completely zone it out.   I used to write a chapter then edit, now I’m writing straight through with plenty of [insert whatever research here], and editing later. It’s upped my output considerably as research tends to lead down long rabbit holes.  I also try to set a certain amount of time in a day to write without going near facebook or whatever. Although in saying that I usually have a chat programme open so am chatting at the same time although the person at the other end knows there will be long gaps in our convo.

Open up your skeleton closet: can you tell me about an abandoned project of yours which seemed awesome when you started but you’ll likely never return to?

Back in the day when I was writing fanfic, I wrote a Gundam Wing/Stargate crossover. I loved that story, but unfortunately with lack of time and needing/wanting to focus on original stories now, I doubt I’ll finish it, despite knowing how it ends.

Any advice for anyone looking to start writing?

Read heaps.  Make time for writing, rather than giving it the time left over as that will never happen.  Write often, at least 5 out of 7 days a week as you’re allowed a weekend, even if it’s just a few hundred words.  And don’t give up. Your stories are important, uniquely you, and need to be shared.

Favourites:

Star Wars or Star Trek?

I have to choose? But I like both for different reasons….

Hogwarts or Narnia?

Narnia.  *whispers* I’m not a huge Harry Potter fan, and never finished the series.

Ideal holiday, price and time no concern, where would you go?

A writer’s retreat somewhere surrounded by nature, but with good company and a good internet connection.   I’d also love to visit the UK and see all that history at some point.

If you could plan perfect meals for a day, what would each be, and would you snack?

As I work three late nights I tend to plan most of my meals and well in advance.  Breakfast tends to be fruit toast, porridge and a cuppa. Lunch something salad like, whether it be a sandwich or a wrap. Roast vege salad – yum.  Dinner nothing too heavy. I love stir fries, curries, and grilled meat with loads of veges on the side.

I don’t do a lot of snacking, and tend to reach for a piece of fruit if I’m hungry, although I am partial to a piece of caramel slice or cheesecake if I want to be decadent.

Imagine you won one of those ‘grab a cart and spend five mins in a store’ competitions. Which store would you want to win it for, and what goods would you be shoving in the cart first?

I’d probably go for a grocery store and grab a hoarde of non-perishables so I could then use that money to buy other things I want which I’d then have time to browse and get exactly the right item.  Five minutes wouldn’t be enough for those – which would be books, CDs, DVDs, clothes and electronics as my inherited stereo is on its way out.

Imagine you’ve had your best ever year, what photos would you have from that year?

Of fun times with family and friends, and gorgeous scenery from places I’ve been.

What’s your favourite quote?

Magic is science we don’t know about yet – Arthur C. Clark

Weirdest hobby you have, other than writing?

I wouldn’t call it weird, per se, and I don’t call writing a hobby – it’s more like who I am – but I play violin in  a local community orchestra. I have a background in music as I taught it for ten years, and it’s part of my degree, so it’s how I keep my hand in, plus it’s good social interaction. I still dabble at piano but it’s a much more solitary thing now I don’t play in a music group anymore.

I also belong to a SF club.  We meet once a month and discuss what we’ve read and watched, plus get together to watch movies etc.

___

Anne Barwell lives in Wellington, New Zealand.  She shares her home with a cat with ‘tortitude’ who is convinced that the house is run to suit her; this is an ongoing “discussion,” and to date it appears as though Kaylee may be winning.


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 and reviews for other authors, and writes monthly blog posts for Love Bytes.  She is the co-founder of the New Zealand Rainbow Romance writers, and a member of RWNZ.

Anne’s books have received honorable mentions five times, reached the finals four times—one of which was for best gay book—and been a runner up 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.

Links:

Website & Blog: http://annebarwell.wordpress.com/

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/anne.barwell.1

Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/sylvrebarwellhoffmann/

Instagram: https://instagram.com/anne.barwell

Twitter: https://twitter.com/annebarwell

Goodreads: http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/4862410.Anne_Barwell

Queeromance Ink Author Page:

https://www.queeromanceink.com/mbm-book-author/anne-barwell/

New Zealand Rainbow Romance Writers:

https://www.facebook.com/groups/491382394538058/

Sign Up For My Newsletter: http://eepurl.com/c6D9wP

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