Barbara lives in the beautiful South West of England with her husband and three children and enjoys making the most of being in such a lovely place; with the coast or rolling hills a short car journey away and the delights of London just two hours by train, they’re spoilt for choice - beautiful scenery and ice creams by the sea one day and a West End show the next. In addition to her book addiction Barbara enjoys listening to a wide range of music (Elvis being her first love), theatre, film, genealogy, history and discovering gems of the past in the occasional charity shop. Throw in being a hopeless romantic who is prone to fits of the giggles and random singing and dancing and that’s Barbara.
Although writing keeps her busy in her spare time, work and family life keep Barbara busier; any writing, quite rightly, has to fit around these and Barbara says her family provide joy and inspiration every single day.
Barbara has always loved books. She loves the look of them, the smell and the feel of them and the worlds you can step into as soon as you open the cover. She could pore over the shelves of a book shop for hours and point her to a book sale or second hand book shop and she’ll probably leave laden with goodies; fact or fiction, old or new.
Barbara’s mum taught her and her sister to read before they started school and passed on her love of books. The bookshelf in their room as youngsters reached to the ceiling and held everything from children’s encyclopaedias to natural history, adventure to poetry. It’s true that you can’t have too many books, although Barbara is concerned that the floor of her spare room may now be bending under the weight of them a little.
With a love of books came a love of writing and, as a child, Barbara wrote stories and plays and poems and most were tap, tap, tapped out on a little old fashioned typewriter in her bedroom. She whiled away long family car journeys with paper and pen, often recording the trip she’d been on or the scenery that passed by. She wrote plays for performance at her primary and secondary schools and the stories she thought might have inspired famous songs.
She still has lots of her old writing books and finds it funny to re-visit these; the first is from about age four and covers dogs, queens and parties. Moving on, her stories sometimes called on humour and often reflected a love of music and history.
When Barbara sat down to write Family of Strangers, it was the first story she’d written for many years; with the commitments that come with growing up (home, job and young family) she’d had time to dabble with poetry but nothing more lengthy and had certainly never attempted to write a novel.
With no plan or plot but an idea in mind, Barbara sat down to write. Now she knows that this is how it works for her; she’d like sometimes to have a writing process or a plan, but it just doesn’t seem to happen that way. Apparently, her preparation for writing once an idea strikes is making a cup of tea and choosing the right mood music.
Due to this she describes her writing style as ‘organic’ as she doesn’t map out a storyline but, most of the time, just sees what drops onto the page. She will of course note down a word or sentence as it comes to her, but the story itself appears as she writes. She writes the beginning and the end then fills in the rest as it falls out of her head, with plot twists generally happening as she goes along. Often characters pop up out of nowhere with Barbara saying ‘Well, hello, what is your part in all of this?’ Occasionally they answer and sometimes they just show her as the plot unfolds page by page. However, she can easily sit and stare at the page for an hour if something isn’t working.
So far Barbara’s books have reflected her love of history, particularly the styles and sounds of the 1930s and 1940s. Her first book, Family of Strangers, needed a historic setting in order to limit the options available to the characters; in their search for a friend they couldn’t have the internet at their disposal or the ease of immediate and far-reaching communication. She loved writing in that era so much that she wanted to immerse herself again and, during a family holiday where a theme park attraction was an art deco hotel, the idea of using a beautiful and expensive old hotel was born. Couple this with her love of theatre and the shows of the West End and the foundation for book two, Sunshine Spirit, was laid.
She never planned a Family of Strangers sequel even though a number of people had asked for one, but as she was working on her third book some ideas started to grow for it. What was book three has therefore been set aside temporarily to allow the sequel some breathing space and Barbara hopes it won’t be too long before it’s complete and ready to read. Book three will probably now become book four. She has ideas for books five, six and seven so she reports that there’s plenty to keep her busy. Still to come, Barbara hopes, are the books in her idea bank that spread from 1914 to 1960, from mystery and romance, to young adult humour. And who knows, maybe some of those stories she wrote as a child might get a makeover.