Anne Barwell: A Kiwi’s Perspective on Writing, Romance, and Shadowboxing…

Dreamspinner Press is the proud winner of the best e-Publisher award in the Love Romances Best of 2012! As such, they are celebrating with a 20% discount on all titles through January 27th! That includes all my titles, as well as the titles of my guest here today, Anne Barwell!

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Hello, Anne! Welcome to my blog and thank you for answering my nosy, I mean discerning, questions! I’m very excited to be hosting you today, not in the least because I currently have internet at the moment. But also because I didn’t know that you were from New Zealand! I admit, it strikes me as a beautiful country with a rich and unique history. Perhaps I can entice you to come back and tell us more about life as a Kiwi?

For today, though, please tell us a little about yourself and the kinds of stories you like to write. Would you say there is an underlying theme behind your stories?

I live in New Zealand and my day job is working in a library. I have three children in their 20s, and two cats. I also play violin in a local orchestra and belong to a science fiction club.

I like to write M/M stories with some action/drama and a good sized wallop of romance. I dabble in a few genres including fantasy, science fiction, and historical. An underlying theme would be layered plots and characters working together, often falling in love along the way. I tend to write in series as that way I can explore the characters more fully. Although they’ll get their happy ending, I make them work for it. Hurt/comfort makes me happy.

What gave you the courage to submit your first story to a publisher?

I’d been writing fanfiction for years and had always planned to work towards writing an original novel. Part of that was wanting to be recognized as an actual writer and to be taken seriously. Other fanfic writers and readers know the work that goes into fanfic but others seem to think it’s easy like it writes itself, or it isn’t a ‘real’ story. Don’t get me started on that. Anyway I figured once I’d written a novel there wasn’t much point in it just sitting there. The worst a publisher could say was no and I was back to square one. Finding the right publisher was another story – I wish I’d just submitted to Dreamspinner in the first place instead of mucking around with local publishers. I’ve been far more impressed with Dreamspinner and am relieved in hindsight the others rejected it because it ‘wasn’t suitable for their list’.

I see you write M/M fiction. Would you characterize your stories as M/M romance, erotica, or something in between?
Something in between. I love writing relationships but while those are the centre of what I write, I don’t write a lot of sex scenes in my fiction. I’ll write it if the characters get pushy and they can convince me it furthers the plot or shows the growth in their relationship but otherwise I tend not to. In saying that though, they do flirt like crazy and have a healthy sex life as that’s part of a relationship, it’s just that most of it fades to black or takes place off screen.

What draws you to the M/M genre? Have you written in other genres?

The characters who demand that their stories be written are gay men. What I write is very plot and character driven so I like exploring relationships. In M/M I don’t have to worry about gender stereotypes, and I like writing the guys I write together. I don’t really have an interest in writing anything else, and besides there’s lots of M/F already out there.

City Girl or Country Mouse—and why?

Somewhere in the middle. I look out my kitchen window and I see green hills – I used to see sheep until the housing development was built in the empty field behind my house – and I like it that way. I don’t want to live in the middle of a city, but I’m only a short drive away from it. In the other direction I can drive to rural farms or a piece of wild coastline. I like being close to nature – New Zealand countryside is beautiful, but I like my creature comforts too. This way I have the best of both worlds but I’m still away from the rat race.

Are you a panster or a plotter? Do you outline extensively or write your story as you go along?

A bit of both. And yes I’ve noticed I’m answering a lot of these questions with that. I do outline extensively but they are only signposts and very subject to change. Characters tend to do what they want and as I write things change. They’ll often come out with something I didn’t know or characters turn up I wasn’t expecting, or a someone with a walk on part turns out to be important. I print out an outline when I start writing and then scribble all over it as I go along.

What’s your idea of a perfect vacation?

A mix of getting stuff done and having some down time to hang out with friends and catch up on reading, writing and watching.

Do you have a favorite character that you’ve created? Why does this character resonate with you?

Shadowboxing

I don’t have a favourite per se, but I do have soft spots for a couple of them. Michel from ‘Shadowboxing’ has a lot of depth to him and he’s not as calm and collected as he projects. He’s also very loyal and will do what it takes to protect the people he cares about. Christian from ‘Hidden Places’ is one who just turned up; he wasn’t part of the original outline. I love his snark yet it’s a mask for the pain and loss he’s suffered through his life.

Of the stories you’ve written, which one do you like the most? Which one would you recommend a new reader begin with?

‘Shadowboxing’ is my baby. It was the story that was always going to be a novel, and I’ve spent a lot of time working out the story. It has a lot of layers, as do the characters, and I love the action/drama in it. It’s got a very different feel to the other stories I’ve written as it’s darker and grittier, but in saying that the romance part of it is very sweet. These guys’ lives change so much through this series, and yet their love for each other – once they figure it out – doesn’t waver.

What are the three most important things in your life—the things you can’t do without?

Family, friends, and, at the risk of sounding shallow, the internet.

If you could have one super power or magical element from popular science fiction movies or literature, what would it be and why?

I’ve always leaned heavily towards TK – the ability to move things with the power of the mind as that would be cool, but practically I’d like to be able to teleport. It would save a small fortune and loads of time and is probably the only way I’m ever going to get too meet all the friends I’ve met online.

Do you see your writing as a hobby or is it your goal to be a full time writer at some point in the future?

I see it as the ‘other job’; it’s never been just a hobby. I doubt I’ll ever be able to afford to be a full time writer until I retire but I’m trying to build a decent backlist so that I can afford to retire when I get that far. I love writing but I also enjoy the social interaction of the day job.
What advice would you give to someone who aspires to be a published author?
Write, write and write, and read a lot. Don’t give up on your goals and make time to write, even if it’s just a little bit each day.

Most authors admit to feeling uncomfortable with the degree of self-promotion necessary to be successful. Are there some aspects of social media and self-promotion that make you more comfortable than others? Are there some you avoid like the plague?

I’m not fond of large groups or self-promotion in RL so doing self-promotion online and by blogging and sharing my blog with others suits me well as I can hide behind my keyboard. Finding the time to do all the self-promotion is a struggle too as some days I barely find enough time to write. Self-promotion isn’t something that comes easily but I’m working on it.

How often does your real life experience figure into your story telling? Do you base characters or stories on your actual experiences?

Occasionally I do draw on real life. A story my dad told me found its way into ‘Shadowboxing’. Our old Morris Minor car is the one Donovan drives in ‘Hidden Places’. A couple of characters have taken inspiration from people I’ve known, although they’ve then gone their own way and ended up behaving quite differently. I do admit to writing people who have annoyed me into a story as well. I think most writers have done that at some point or another.

How much do you think that a good blurb and good cover art figure into the success of a story?

I think it’s important in grabbing the reader’s attention but it can be a disappointment too if the story turns out to be very different and either of them are misleading. I love seeing cover art for a story I’ve written, it’s one of my favourite parts of the publishing process, but I hate writing blurbs.

Have you ever been intimidated by reviews?

Not intimidated as such but annoyed, although some of them are depressing and you wonder why you bother as they just didn’t ‘get’ it. But then a really good one comes along by someone who does ‘get it’ and it makes it all worth while.

Do you miss your characters when you come to the end of their story? Do you find ways to write sequels for them or do you become entranced with a new set?

Once I write characters they tend to stick around. I guess that’s one of the reasons why I can’t write a standalone story to save my life. I always end up writing in series as I love exploring characters in depth and dropping them into situations to see what they’ll do. In saying that though, I do enjoy writing a new set when I’ve finished a project although the new characters then want more than one story too. I tend to move between projects a bit for that reason. It pacifies them a little until it’s their turn again.MagicsMuse

What are your writing goals for 2013? Your personal goals?

I’ve just submitted a new novel – A Knight to Remember – so have my fingers crossed that it is accepted. My current WIP is Shades of Sepia, the first book in an urban fantasy series I’m co-writing with Elizabeth Noble. After that I’m planning to start writing ‘Winter Duet’ which is the second book in the three part ‘Echoes’ series of which ‘Shadowboxing’ was the first.

Personal goals: I’ve started painting windowsills so I’d like to get those finished by the end of the year. I’m also trying to get my section/garden more organized so it requires less maintenance long term. An ongoing goal is getting a good balance between everything I want to achieve and making sure that includes some downtime without feeling like I’m totally scheduled out.

Thank you for sharing your insights with us, Anne! If you’d like to find out more about Anne’s works, all her contact information is here:

Links:
http://anne-barwell.livejournal.com/
http://annebarwell.wordpress.com/
http://coffeeunicorns.wordpress.com/

And you can find her on Dreamspinner Press here.

 

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