Also known as the Lady with the Unicorns, Barbara G.Tarn prefers to add a touch of fantasy to all her stories, past and present. She’s a writer, artist, world-creator and prolific storyteller with over 100 titles on Amazon.
Her novella “The Hooded Man” received an Honorable Mention at the Writers of the Future contest.
Used to multiple projects (a graphic novel is always on the side of the prose), Barb writes, draws, ignores her day job and blogs.
Today she shares some insights with us.
DAN: What is the working title of your next book?
Where did the idea come from for the book?
It’s Snow White slashed, so Snow White is male and will find a king to take him away from the bad guy and since Snow White Man didn’t sound very good, I thought I could use the colors – black as ebony, red as blood, white as snow – for the chapters of my story. And the title.
A redraft made it five chapters with more colors (yellow as honey and blue as the sky) which I used for the blurb… but since I’m not sure when I’ll publish it… I’ll keep it under wraps a little longer!
What makes you so damn interesting anyway?
ESL writer, artist, crazy woman with a thousand personalities or maybe simply a grumpy old spinster who spent half a century writing stories… okay, maybe not the whole half-century, but forty years… almost! It was time the world would get to know me and my worlds!
What is the best part about being an indie author for you?
Control. I’m not a young writer. Even though I was unpublished for the whole 20th century and a good 10 years of the 21st doesn’t mean that I don’t know what I do. I’m happy to write my stories and put them out without answering to nobody but readers. And I’m very scared of contracts, that’s why I went indie before sending out my first query letter back in 2011…
Besides writing, what are your favorite things to do?
Drawing, watching movies, listening to music… I call drawing my hobby since I’m not that good. I’ve done a few comics and graphic novels, I’m still doing a strip (unpublished), but my eyes are getting worse and I don’t know for how long I’ll keep drawing. I’ll keep writing for much longer, that’s for sure!
Can you wash light and dark clothes together? Have you even turned a bunch of stuff pink in the washer?
Oh yeah! Quite often, actually! Either pink or blue. I’m a hopeless housekeeper, in fact I hire someone to do the cleaning, I do very little cooking and the only thing I don’t mind is ironing once in a blue moon when my ironing pile is so high I decide to get rid of it (it helps that I have a big wardrobe and clothes to spare, LOL!)!
What “person” do you like to write in? First Person, Third Person, etc. – and why?
Third person. I hate “I stories”, although I’ve written some occasionally. I used to write third person omniscient, like the novels I had read during childhood, until I did a creative writing course that explained to me the points of view. Ever since I use “third person deep penetration” – no more “head-hopping” – unless the story really really requires first person narration.
How did your blog start?
Back in 2009 I read Be The Media. It said “you must have a blog to build your platform” even if I wanted to be traditionally published. So I started it. Short, daily posts. Two or three years later I went to one post every other day, since I started indie publishing and had less time to ramble daily. Now it has the Monday Vignette, Writer Wednesday, Random Friday and most Sunday Surprises (except if I don’t have anything, I occasionally skip the Sunday post)… Yes, it’s a very long-lived blog, many that started with me are long gone…
What do you do for cover art? Do you do it yourself, hire an artist (you can name names if you liked them), or purchase premade?
Since I’m also an artist and I had an ongoing graphic novel when I started publishing ebooks, I did most of my first covers. I like fantasy covers to be painted, not photographic, so I hired friends and strangers further down the line. The first year I only asked my friend Cristina Fabris, then I discovered Phoenixlu on DeviantART (through Goodreads, where I saw one of her covers), Sir Wendigo and a couple more. Another friend, Silvano Beltramo did the Chronicles of the Varian Empire covers, and then some Star Minds covers (half him, half Cristina). Finally, to replace Phoenixlu, I had Maurizio Manzieri for the Star Minds series. And Shafali Anand for the body switches and the vampire historicals starting with Rajveer the Vampire. For the contemporary titles, last year at a book fair here in Rome, I met Marta Baroni, who also does her own comics.
How has you experience with editors been (you can name names if you liked you editor)?
I use proofreaders mostly. One that is not listed on the publisher’s site is unfortunately fighting cancer. If she ever recovers (and I sure hope she does), she’s also a great beta-reader. You can find all the links to recommended editors and artists here: http://www.unicornproductionsbooks.com/recommended/
Plotter? Or Pantser? And prepare to defend your position!
Pantser. I’m a one-draft writer. Even though I’m learning to do clean first drafts. I did one draft only before publication because I didn’t have readers, and I wrote what I wanted to read. Then I managed to find feedback, and this improved my writing immensely! So, one more or less improvised draft (I outline only when I write historical – one needs to stick to dates and historical events in those cases), out to beta-readers, revision and possible redrafting (mostly of the ending, happened both in Rajveer the Vampire and Beautiful), and then off to proofreader. One last read when I do the POD version (on longer works) and I let it go. I might need to re-read it if I want to write something related to it, but I won’t rewrite it.
Fun: Thinking of new ways of hurting the characters!
What’s the most fun part of writing a novel or short story? What’s the least fun part?
Fun: making up stuff! Thinking of new ways of hurting the characters! Watching them wander around doing stuff, meeting people, trying to fit in – or not… See the story unfold until its natural end. The least fun is probably starting. I tend to procrastinate when I need to plunge into a new story. But once I’m inside, I won’t come out until I reach the end!
What was your road to publication like?
Blog. Research on agents and queries and that stuff. Following agents’ blogs and the likes. Going to book fairs. Subscribing to writing newsletters. And then the ebook revolution happened. I had drawings of my stories, mock covers I had done for myself… I thought “Why not?” The first title – a novella – I uploaded to Smashwords at 99cents (it’s free since) in January 2011. Then a few more short stories, mostly free or 99cents. The first novel in April 2011. Then I went to KDP. By the end of the year I had over 20 titles up, including some Italian stories that I had barely proofread before slapping a cover on them. 2012 to 2014 I published 25 titles a year (I was in a group that kept track of that) – signed up for Kobo Writing Life and other distributors. This year I slowed down the publishing to set up the publisher’s web page (and having to upload 100 book pages with all the buy links has taken me until the end of the summer), then I resumed publishing what I had written in the meantime… Sales are growing, but very slowly – last year was good because I translated back into Italian some SFF, but this year I didn’t have time to translate more titles, so sales flattened…
What advice can you give new authors?
Don’t give up. Write for fun. Try to think long term.
Where do you want to be in 10 years time? Sitting on your laurels after one hit book? That’s playing the lottery. It takes hard work to success, or even a career. But if, like me, you can’t be without writing, don’t worry. You’re on the right path. Keep writing your stories, and one day readers will find you.
Do you have author friends (in person or online you confide in and share ideas with? Feel free to name names.
I often exchange beta-reading with Joleene Naylor. I’m her fan and she’s mine – she’s my vampire expert and I love her Amaranthine series. Then there’s Victoria Zigler, who is younger and writes sweet children books and fairy tales – and animal stories, except I’m not too fond of those. She’s also very prolific, and I wonder when I’ll be able to catch up and read all her books! And then there’s my faithful Indian cover artist, Shafali Anand, who doesn’t write, but she’s a very good beta-reader and an artist and I love to share ideas with her, especially about her home country, India! 🙂
From 2012 to 2014 I published 25 titles – A YEAR
If writing suddenly made you rich and famous, what would you do?
Quit the darn day job! And keep writing. Did I mention I’m married to Mr. Writing? Oh, and I could hire people to do the things I hate doing… while still keeping control, though. And pay my favorite artists the fortunes they rightfully request to do my book covers! Look out for my commissions, Colleen Doran, Terry Moore and Larry Elmore! One day I’ll be able to afford you!
When did you know you wanted to be a writer?
I guess in my teens, when I started writing stories… Although I thought at the time that publishers would come knocking to my door! I never sent anything anywhere, not even stories to my favorite mags! 😉 And then I finally did submit a manuscript, in the late 90s… my first rejection letter, LOL!
Do you hate cats?
And that’s why I’m here! No, I’m not a cat lover, and when I saw you want “No cats. You in a hammock, fine. You with the cat, NOT FINE! What part of “no cats” don’t you get???” I thought “I must do this interview!” My offline beta has cats, and she needs to lock them away when I visit: I’m a cat-magnet and I don’t even like them, gah!!
In a story we are often asked to create images for the reader that we may not have experienced ourselves. When have you had to do that?
Don’t kick me out now, but it has to do with cats… one of my beta-readers said “As a cat lover I would have loved to know more about stray cats instead of…” so I had to make up a cat lover. Apparently I pulled it off, but I had to ask a couple of people to please tell me if I was screwing up. I’m a “no pets thank you” person, so even a dog would have put me in trouble… What can I say, I don’t like furry domestic animals, sorry…
Tell us about yourself. Who IS the real Barb? And not typical the boring bio stuff. The dirt. Like, when was the last time you did laundry?
When the dirty clothes chest was too full! Barb is NOT a housekeeper, even though she spends most of her time at home… But honestly I don’t care if dust piles up under my bed. I’m not seeing it! 😉 And it keeps the house fairies busy – they play with it and don’t bother me! 😀
What was the most fun interview you’ve done and why?
Erm… this one? Nice questions! I avoided all the cliched ones and went for the crazy ones! 😀
She may have an affinity for – or had a past life in – the Middle Ages, but Barb prefers swords to guns, long gowns to mini-skirts, and even though she buried the warrior woman, she deplores the death of knights in shining chainmail. She likes to think her condo apartment is a medieval castle, unfortunately lacking a dungeon to throw noisy neighbors and naughty colleagues in. When she’s not wandering on her fantasy world of Silvery Earth or in her Star Minds futuristic universe, you can find her on these social media sites.
(Sorry but I don’t Tweet! – Barbara)
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Dan Alatorre is the author of several bestsellers and the hilarious upcoming novel “Poggibonsi: an italian misadventure.” Click HERE to check out his other works.