Thursday, November 10, 2011

Welcome, Barbara Quinn!

If I had to name someone as my writing mentor, Barbara Quinn would be she. (Is that grammatically correct, Barb?) She went from being my "boss" at the Rose & Thorn e-Zine to a personal friend to, well, a writing mentor. In the 11 or so years it's taken me to finally sit down and write my novel, she has never once given up on me. 

So, it gives me great pleasure to present to you lucky people my interview with Barb (she lets me call her that) about her fantastically dark book of magic realism, "Speed of Dark," which you should all go buy right now because it is really great and I'm not just saying that because I helped edit it. I wouldn't be pushing it if I didn't think it had value.

You can (SHOULD) buy "Speed of Dark" by clicking here.

Here's an amuse bouche for you:

There are some people you never forget. In the summer of 1964, Luke D’Angelo falls for one of them – a mysterious girl named Celeste. Like Luke, Celeste is an outsider struggling to find her identity, but unlike Luke, Celeste has special powers that have the potential to destroy everything Luke and his friends believe in. 

Luke and his mentally challenged sister become fast friends with this curious girl. Set in upstate New York, in a town that is home to a shrimp cocktail plant that belches a foul-smelling tomato and fish fog, this coming of age tale about a girl with a dream and the teens who want to help her fulfill it, is a balance between the comic and the profound. The story resonates with the message that inside each of us is a light that burns so bright no dark can extinguish it. But at what cost?

Meredith Lopez: "Speed of Dark" has such a rich, unique character – Celeste. What inspired you to create her?

Barbara Quinn:  The book grew out of a discussion with a friend about our frustration with being able to change things. I said we can’t even predict the weather, never mind change it. And that made me think, what if there was someone who could control and change things that we think can’t be changed? What would that person be like? And Celeste immediately came to mind.

ML: Why did you choose to set your novel in the 1960s? What were some of the challenges of writing about the past?

BQ: I grew up in the 60’s and have a fondness for the era. The tunes are constantly in my head, and it’s full of rich language. I did have to stop and make sure that the references I used were correct for 1964, the year it is set. 

ML: The characters in "Speed of Dark" are adolescents, but I wouldn't quite categorize the book as being Young Adult, or YA. I can't imagine the story being told by anyone else. How did you choose the character that you did to be the story's narrator? And how did you manage to cross gender lines so well?

BQ: Like Celeste, the character of Luke was clear to me from the beginning and I didn’t think about having problems crossing gender lines. Over the years I’ve listened a lot and developed an ear for speech patterns and behaviors. I have an older brother and a son, so that helped too with the adolescent feelings, behaviors, and speech.

ML:  You've been self-publishing for years, even before it became this massive "thing" in the writing and publishing worlds. How have you seen the self-publishing world change, for better or for worse?

BQ: It really has changed quite a bit, hasn’t it? You can easily put a book up at Amazon or Barnes and Noble now, though the marketing is still a challenge. While all of my books have small publishers, and none are self-published now, I didn’t start out that way. When agents were unable to place Hard Head and Speed of Dark, I turned to self-publishing. Not long ago a publisher, Eternal Press, acquired them and gave me new covers and editing and marketing. It’s great to have a publisher behind them. After my first venture with self-publishing, the next two novels, 36C and Slings and Arrows, found a home with DiskusPublishing, a small publisher. What a boon to writers this new age is.  

ML: Let's talk about the Rose & Thorn for a while. [The online literary 'zine Barbara co-founded and edited from 1998 to 2008.] Do you think your experience as an editor helps you as a writer?

BQ: Being an editor at the Rose & Thorn honed my writing skills. I learned to see why a story didn’t work, and why another one did. It also exposed me to many different genres and broadened my interest in writing and reading.  

ML: Will you ever go back to R&T, or to the literary magazine world?

BQ: That could easily happen. I enjoy everything about writing and will always have a soft spot for the Rose and Thorn.

ML: How do you find the time to write?

BQ: It isn’t easy to find the time to write but when I don’t write I get grumpy so it’s a good thing for my family when I carve out the time to get some words down. I’m not a morning person, and usually late in the day or late at night, I can find some quiet time to let things flow.

ML: What is your writing process like? Are you a planner, or a "pantser" (flying by the seat of your pants)?

BQ: I’m a combination of both. My natural inclination is to be a planner, but I’ve learned that I have to leave things that aren’t clear alone and they will reveal themselves eventually. That was hard to do at first, but I’ve learned to trust that one night I’ll wake up with the obvious solution to whatever wasn’t working in the novel. A fellow writer once told me to write what you know and fill in the rest later. So that’s what I do.

ML: What other novels do you have in the works that you can tell us about?

BQ: I’ve got a couple in the fire. I can’t say too much since there’s a weird magic that goes along with getting them done and that keeps them out of the spotlight. One is a steampunk. I’ve recently grown interested in steampunk and have an idea that I’m excited about. The other is a contemporary women’s fiction about the adventures of a recently divorced woman. Stay tuned…..

Thanks, Mer!

About the author:
Barbara is the author of four novels: Speed of Dark, 36C, Slings and Arrows, and the forthcoming Hard Head. She practiced law for ten years, and held many jobs from lingerie sales clerk to postal worker, cocktail waitress to process server and held many jobs from lingerie sales clerk to postal worker, cocktail waitress to process server. Her love of travel has taken her to four continents and 47 states. She splits her time between Bradley Beach on the Jersey shore and Montebello, New York. She and her husband have one son, Bret, and a grandson, Ammo. Barbara welcomes email at  and would love to keep in touch via  

1 comment:

Kathryn Magendie said...

Wonderful interview, Barbara and Meredith!

I love love that cover . . .

Go Barb & Speed of Dark!