Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Author Interview: Jo Barney (Author of Edith)

Why did you pursue writing?  

Even as a young girl, I wanted to write.  My first piece was a poem about a Roman woman and the Christian she has fallen in love with.  The setting is an arena where lions roar, waiting to kill her lover. Felicietta, horrified, throws herself over the stone barrier and joins him in death.  A very eighth grade tragic romance.  I have lost the poem; perhaps my strict teacher at the Lutheran parochial school I attended looked at it and put it in his slush pile. 

What inspired your book? 

Edith came about through my midnight wonderings.  What if my husband was no longer breathing next to me as he seemed to be at that moment? I was relieved when he snorted and turned over. What if he were lying beside me dead? What would I do?  Call someone?  Scream? Collapse?  How would I feel? Lost? Afraid? Relieved? Later, would I recover, find the courage to follow an unfamiliar path alone? And what if my marriage had been a disappointment from the beginning? How would I react as I touched his cold cheek? Edith was born, like my other books , in a series of What If?s.  I decided to get inside Edith, writing in the present tense and in the first person voice.  I even started to swear a little, just like Edith.  I drank a little more white wine, just like Edith.  I allowed myself to imagine a fling on a mountain, to have a good friend who understood me and wouldn’t let me whine, to meet a man I could love. When I finished Edith, I smiled at my husbands’ nightly sounds, grateful. 

How long have you been publishing your work? 

I’ve been writing and publishing for years, mostly essays and short stories when I was working as a educator and counselor, written during the summer breaks.  When I retired, I decided to try novels and so far I’ve written five or so, the first two sleeping somewhere in my computer. The last three have older women as protagonist.  (Write about what you know, they advise).  Graffiti Grandma, Uprushand Edith have all been self-published up to now.  In a few months , a publishing company, specializing in books for women, will take over  and I’m back to writing the next book, rather than managing the details of self-publishing. 

What’s your writing environment like? 

I have a quiet corner and a large bookcase and my faithful (for the most part) Mac computer in the large bedroom in our condo.  My husband has his desk and files and books in a second room next door, a room that becomes a bedroom when the grandgirls visit.  This is a good arrangement.  The rooms are far enough apart that we can’t hear each other mumble when our writing goes badly, but close enough for me to call out questions like, “What are those green things I put on salmon?” and for me to hear his answer “Capers.”  He has a remarkable memory for nouns.  He tells me I have a special talent for stories, some of which need his nouns.  

What projects are you currently working on? 

When one self-publishes, once the book is published the writing slows down and the marketing takes over. Arranging readings, signings, appearances at places folks might buy my book become the agenda.  But the midnight wonderings continue.  I think my next story will be about a seventy-year-old, well-settled into her comfortable but lonely days, who opens the door and discovers a unknown street kid smiling at her.  “Hello, Grandma,” the girl says.  That’s as far as the story has gotten so far.  I keep trying out What If?s and one day, I’ll know what happens next.

Author Bio:

After graduating from Willamette University, Jo spent the most of next thirty years teaching, counseling, mothering, wifing and of course, writing.

Her writing first appeared in small literary magazines and professional publications. Since retirement, she has had time to write four novels and two screenplays. The first book used her teaching life as inspiration and served as a way to leave a profession she loved. The second story focused on her then-prodigal son, the hockey player. She’s quite sure he is relieved that it has not yet been published. Her third novel, Uprush, is an intimate, almost true, story of four middle-aged women lot like her own long-time friends. Graffiti Grandma examines the life of an elderly woman and the underworld of the homeless. Her next book, tells of Edith who wakes up one morning to find she is a widow.

Her stories and essays, as well as the novels, reflect her observations of women’s lives and the people who inhabit them: the children, husbands, parents, friends, strangers who happen by and change everything.

Jo Barney Writes: http://www.jobarneywrites.com/

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