Monday, May 05, 2008

Make-Believe Mondays With Gail Barrett

Today on Make-Believe Mondays, my guest is Gail Barrett.

Gail, first, tell us a little bit about the manuscript you’re working on now.

Gail: I’m currently writing a miniseries for Silhouette Romantic Suspense. It’s called The Crusaders: Chasing legends, capturing hearts, and I am extremely excited about it. The series begins when a legendary, eleventh-century artifact shows up in a Spanish bank vault -- sparking murders and resurrecting rumors of an ancient curse. Each story takes place in a different country, and I’ve had a fabulous time doing the research -- I’ve gone to Spain and Peru so far.

Debra: Oh, yes, research in foreign places is one of my favorite things to do. How exciting!

Ray Bradbury said, “We are cups, constantly being filled. The trick is, knowing how to tip ourselves over and let the beautiful stuff out.” How do you keep your creative cup filled?

Gail: It’s hard to pinpoint where my creative inspiration comes from, but I know I’m very influenced by setting. I love to study the interplay of light and color on leaves and trees, for example, or watch a flock of birds twisting and expanding in the sky. There are so many beautiful subtleties in our world, and I find it inspiring to really sit back and see what’s around me. I also love to listen to music. I do some of my best brainstorming while I’m driving in the car with the music on (I’m a Celtic music fanatic). Another thing I like to do is travel. Going to a foreign location can be uncomfortable, even grueling, but it yanks me out of my comfort zone, and forces me to grow and experience new things -- essential for creativity.

Debra: I couldn't agree more.

Is there a point when your characters begin to come alive and you can see and hear them?

Gail: Absolutely, but it’s not something I can plan or predict. It happens at different points in my work for different characters. For example, in the second book of my current miniseries (To Protect a Princess, October SRS), as soon as my hero began to talk -- out came a very sexy Texan drawl. That totally threw me because I had no idea how a Texan ended up in the mountains of Peru. I had to go back and figure that out. (It was hard, but no way was he losing that accent because it was exactly right for him.) In Heart of a Thief, the hero came alive as soon as he spotted the heroine, the woman who once betrayed him, across the room -- and man, was he was furious! As a writer, I’ve found that it’s vital to watch for those moments because they make all the difference in the book.

Debra: And what a magical moment it is, when they come alive.

Some very famous authors have played with language, creating words for people or places that no one has ever heard of. Have you ever played with words in that way and if so how?

Gail: I’ve never invented words, but sometimes when I’m writing, I’ll think of the perfect word in Spanish (I used to live in Spain and know the language). That’s particularly frustrating because I can’t insert Spanish in an English sentence, even if it’s exactly the word I need.

Debra: Yes, and so many times there is no word which in translation carries exactly the same meaning and connotation.

For some writers, dreams play a role in creating fiction. Has this been true for you? Have you ever dreamed a scene or an image that later wound up in one of your books?

Gail: That’s a great question. I’ve never actually dreamed a scene -- my dreams are always long and convoluted, usually involving me flying through the air or engaging in other bizarre acts. But I do have a lot of recurring dreams set in fascinating buildings that are just begging to show up in my books. One is a beautiful house on a cliff overlooking the ocean in San Diego. The view is amazing, the house has lovely, sun-filled porches and rooms -- but a dead body in the basement (very scary). Another is what seems to be an abandoned palace in Spain. The marble floors are cracking, the ancient pillars sinking, but every time I enter that place, I feel a huge excitement, an urgent need to discover what secrets it holds.

Debra: Thank you, Gail. I believe our dreams can point us in the right direction, if we listen to them. So I hope some day to be reading about this abandoned palace one day.

Is there anything else you would like to add about the role of imagination, and dreams in creating fiction? Any other message for our readers?

Gail: Yes. Allow yourself to daydream. Turn off the television and just let yourself think. I firmly believe that creativity occurs when we are forced to delve into ourselves for amusement. If we are too busy reacting to the world around us, we stifle our creativity. I cringe when I see children whose parents schedule every second of their days. I think it’s so important that kids be left alone to simply play. When my own boys were little we had a policy of no television during the week -- no computers, no Game Boys, nothing. The lack of stimulation forced them to read and play creatively, to invent characters and games. That’s where it all starts, I think. I was a huge daydreamer as a kid. I spent hours grinding glittering rocks into “fairy dust,” convincing my friends we were coyotes (and running all over the hills howling at the moon) -- and curling up with a good book when it rained, of course!

Debra: Yes, and we are surrounded by constant noise, which makes it harder to find that quiet time to think and daydream. Sometimes its nice when a storm knocks the power out because then the board games and books and candles come out.

Gail, thank you for visiting Make-Believe Mondays. It's been a pleasure.

Readers may visit Gail at

Debra's news/Debra is watching:

It was wonderful to attend the RT convention in Pittsburgh to meet up with old friends and make new ones. This is the event I look forward to all year and I haven't missed one since I first attended four years ago. I hope I never will. For all who were aware I'd hurt my foot that last day, it is almost mended and I'll be back to dancing at the end of this week. It's quite an adventure being wheeled through the airport in a wheelchair. Everything looks different from that vantage point.

One good thing about being off my feet for two weeks is that I was able to finish second round edits of my manuscript early and what a good feeling that is.

Now I have partials to prepare and send to the editors who requested them, and I'm back to the revisions of my second novel. It's rather interesting here, how my routine is working out. Our sons border collie has come to live with us and I have a new laptop, so I can now sit on the deck, throw the Frisbee, write a few lines and throw the Frisbee again. It's spring here in the Memphis area, everything lush and green and the birds singing.

Not a bad way to set up office, doing my dream job.
Spring is here! Enjoy the day!

And if you're rained in, my photos are posted of the RT convention on my MySpace page.

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