Known for transporting readers to bygone eras with her historical inspirational romances, author Kathleen Y'Barbo is an undeniable talent. And her latest novel, The Inconvenient Marriage of Charlotte Beck, has just been nominated for a 2011 Reviewers Choice Inspirational Award. Today RT reviewer Linda Mae Baldwin talks with the author about her influences, career and her advice for aspiring writers.
Linda Mae Baldwin: How did you end up writing fiction, especially Christian fiction? Does your paralegal background come into play at all?
Kathleen Y'Barbo: I write because I was first a reader. Since childhood I’ve been a voracious reader, a habit encouraged by my parents who no doubt were happy to have at least one of their four children quiet while my dad, a shift worker, slept. My paralegal background hasn’t played much of a part in my stories yet, though I am working on a plot idea for with a legal twist that I hope will become a full-fledged book proposal at some point.
LMB: What inspires you to write history?
KY: I love writing history because I love the research. In my twenties fell in love with stories like Through a Glass Darkly, The Name of the Rose, and Forever Amber. Later I found And the Ladies of the Club and Redeeming Love. All held my interest not only for the deep and rich use of character, but also the way the author immersed me in the time and place that was so foreign to my own. That’s what I love most about writing — and reading — historicals.
LMB: What drew you to your most recent story?
KY: The Inconvenient Marriage of Charlotte Beck came out of a need to create a story worthy of a secondary character who’d been trying to take over each book where she appeared. Charlotte was an impetuous pocket-picking rich girl who grew into a lovely but impish teen. To give her a plot-and hero-to match her temperament was something that took awhile to get right. In fact, I was putting the finishing touches on the final edit of this book while on my honeymoon in Hawaii. Thus, Charlotte became quite inconvenient to my own marriage - an irony I cherish!
LMB: I loved the heroine in your previous book, The Confidential Life of Eugenia Cooper, where’d she come from?
KY: Eugenia Cooper is an amalgamation of several people I know with a few literary characters mixed in for flavor. I loved the idea of taking a New York socialite and giving her one last Wild West adventure.
LMB: Are your heroines based on people or experiences from your life?
KY: Yes….and I’ll never tell who they are.
LMB: When you write, do you picture ‘famous’ people as characters? If so, who would play some of your favorites?
KY: That’s a tough question. I don’t know. I sort of have an idea when I write of what the characters look like. Then when I see the cover it always changes a little. The eyes and hair are right, but until I see that face, it’s not complete.
LMB: You first started writing for Heartsong presents and now you’re a RITA award nominee, how did your career progress so quickly? What do you attribute it to?
KY: Writing for Heartsong taught me how to write fast and tight. I think that’s still a trait that serves me well. Also, I will never stop honing my craft and learning more about the process of writing. Any writer who thinks he or she has “arrived” is sunk! As for any success I or any other author has, ultimately, it’s all in God’s hands. I don’t mean for that to sound like a cliché. My agent and I have actually talked about this. He will elevate whom He wishes, and my hope is that I can be found worthy in His eyes.
LMB: What kind of takeaway value do you hope your readers will get from your books?
KY: I hope my readers will first and foremost be entertained by what I write. I don’t consciously write themes into my books, though many of them have a takeaway message that will come through. I love reading letters from readers and seeing what they get out of the stories. Often it’s not anything I’ve expected or done intentionally. That’s the fun of it all, I suppose.
LMB: What is your daily writing process like? Where do you write? Where do you get inspired?
KY: I don’t have a specific daily routine for writing. Some days will find me at the keyboard for hours while other days I may not be able to spend more than a few minutes on my work-in-progress. Ideally, I write a few chapters each week-anywhere between three to five-though sometimes the book refuses to let me write it and I have to step away and let the plot simmer for a few days. Other times I write in big blocks of time-say, a weekend-then take the weekdays off. As to where I write, anywhere is the best answer. While I do have a desk, I often take my laptop into the kitchen and or living room.
LMB: What can we expect next from Kathleen?
KY: In January, I’ll be releasing my first Love Inspired novel - a contemporary Texas beach novel called Daddy’s Little Matchmakers. There are three books in the series, and I just might work a paralegal into the third one. Book 2 releases next Christmas. That’s what I’m finishing up now.
Linda Mae Baldwin: If you were giving writers advice, what would you tell them to do in regards to daily writing?
Kathleen Y'Barbo: I have three:
- Write. That’s it. And it’s as simple and difficult as that. Just write. Something. Anything. As with any other skill, the ability to write gets stale when ignored. Don’t worry if what you write is any good. Just get words on paper. You can clean them up later.
- Read. Read for pleasure. Read to know what’s popular. Read to know what works and what doesn’t. Read to remember why you love books and words. Read.
- Have a teachable spirit. Develop a soft heart and a thick skin. Publishing is a business and each book is a product. Learn to collaborate with a publisher in a give-and-take relationship and you’ll develop a skill that will take you far as a writer.