Barbara Freethy has been making up stories most of her life. She is a New York Times bestselling author of more than of 31 novels of romance, women’s fiction and romantic suspense. Some readers might know her books for Silhouette, where she wrote under the pen name Kristina Logan; Barbara became a full-on indie author in 2011 when she published Summer Secrets.
Though she’s lived life on both sides of the publishing world, her best piece of advice to writers is “understand that no matter what path of publishing you take it’s a long haul. Very few people make a career off one book. You put up one story and start working on the next. And some day you’ll have a full list of books and hopefully a booming career!”
Here’s more of what Barbara has to say about her writing life:
When did you first discover a love for writing?
My love of writing came from a love of reading. My mother was a voracious reader, and our house was overflowing with books. Her favorite genre was romance, so I started out reading historical romance and then moved on to contemporaries and mysteries. My mom was also the one who inspired me to write after she penned a novel. Unfortunately, she never sold a book, but her joy of writing and reading rubbed off on me. Having read so much fiction really helped me when it came to developing my own characters and my own stories.
What was the first book/story you ever wrote?
The first book I wrote was a contemporary romance about a wedding planner who ends up sharing office space with a divorce attorney in an old Victorian house in San Francisco. It was titled Promise of Marriage and was published by Silhouette a long time ago under the pen name Kristina Logan. I have gotten the rights back to that book and hope to digitally convert it in the next few months.
What was the first eBook that you self-published?
The first book I self published was Summer Secrets, a story about three sisters, a family secret, and the adventurous background of sailboat racing. The book took a while to catch fire, but then raced up the charts and eventually hit #1 on Amazon and #1 on the New York Times, which was a thrilling moment.
Where do you usually write?
Two days a week I write with a friend at Starbucks or some other locale for a few hours in the afternoon. We chat a little about writing and then dive into our own work on our laptop computers. The rest of the time I write at home, sometimes at a desk, sometimes in a comfortable chair.
What is the most interesting thing about eBook publishing?
EBooks have made it possible for authors to write continuing stories without any worry that the first book in the series will go out of print. And for readers, knowing that they’ll be able to find every book by their favorite author is a big plus.
How has the ability to publish and control your eBook entirely affected your approach to writing and publishing?
I find self-publishing to be a freeing experience creatively, because I’m no longer bound by the restrictions of an agent or a publishing house or even a retail chain that has to be selective about what books to put on their shelves. I can write what I think my readers want to read. I can also publish my books more frequently, which makes me very happy. Coming out of traditional publishing, I was always limited by a certain number of books per year. Now I can publish as many books as I can write.
What inspires you? Where do you get your ideas from?
I’m creatively inspired by nature, music, movies, books. I never know where my ideas come from because a book usually starts from something very small or just a brainstorming question that might begin with, “What if …”
My book, Daniel’s Gift, was one of my more personal stories and is a very emotional love story that was written after a tragedy in my own family. But the book is full of hope, and it was somewhat cathartic for me to write it. Other ideas have sprung from current events. Ryan’s Return was set by a river that floods every fifty years. At the time, there was a lot of flooding going on in the country, and I remember a newscaster interviewing someone who chose to live by the river even though they had to rebuild over and over again, and I decided to create my own town, my own river, and populate it with interesting characters who chose to live by a beautiful river that could destroy them with very little warning. One of my favorite books, Don’t Say a Word, was based on the famous photograph of an unnamed woman during a civil war. I started wondering what would it be like to find out you look exactly like one of the world’s most famous orphans in a picture taken a thousand miles away from where you live.
As you can see, my ideas come from everywhere.
Do you believe in writer’s block?
I believe that writing is hard! Some days the words won’t come and other days they flow, but I don’t believe that a professional author can afford to be derailed by writer’s block. Usually for me, when the words stop, it’s because I’ve taken a wrong turn in my story. Figuring out where I went off the path usually gets the words flowing again. I also believe in pushing through the slow moments. I tell myself to “just write something” and somehow the act of putting words down kick-starts my imagination. Another little trick I use is to end the previous day’s writing with a partial sentence or the beginning of a new chapter so that the idea is already percolating in my brain before I sit down to write.
What was the best piece of advice you ever received as a writer?
Write more than one book! And after you write what you know, write what you don’t know. Okay, that was two pieces of advice but both valid. No one can make a career with one book. Readers who love that book will want more. And you will learn from every book you write. While writing what you know is a good place to start, I’ve found that writing about new places, subjects, themes has kept me interested in writing book after book, because I have more fun.
How important are beta readers to a self-published author?
I think it’s important for self publishing authors to use editors, either content or line editors or both, as well as proofers. Beginning writers will also want to get several opinions before they polish and publish. The last thing a self-publishing author wants to do is put up a book that isn’t as good as it can possibly be, because readers and reviewers can be harsh and unforgiving.
How do create your covers?
I started self publishing before there were a lot of options, so I learned how to use Photoshop and manipulate stock art. I still really enjoy making my own covers, although I have used artists on occasion to take my idea to a better level. For me, I don’t really know what I want until I see it. I believe the cover is very important, and I will make changes if I don’t think a cover is working. Sometimes you don’t realize how good or bad your cover is until you see it in thumbnail size next to a bunch of other covers. I’ve also learned that what looks fantastic on a print cover may not look nearly as great on a digital eBook and vice versa.
What are you working on now?
I’ve just finished the third book in my WISH Series, When Wishes Collide, which will be available on Kobo on September 23, 2012. A Secret Wish and Just a Wish Away were the first two titles. The books all stand alone but are connected by the theme of wishes. I’m now beginning a new family series, THE CALLAWAYS, and the first book will be released in late Fall of 2012.
Where can readers connect with you?
Readers can visit my website at http://www.barbarafreethy.com or connect with me on facebook at http://www.facebook.com/barbarafreethybooks or follow me on twitter at http://www.twitter.com/barbarafreethy.