Welcome everyone, the talented Dyann Love Barr. I’ve had the pleasure of collaborating with Dyann, and working with her, for several years now. It’s always fun to bring her to my blog – she’s funny, she’s genuine, and she has a lot of knowledge to share. So today I’ve asked her to share a little about her writing approaches.
Morning, Dyann. Why don’t you start by telling everyone a little about yourself -- what genre you write in, how long you’ve been writing, what do you do in your non-writing time?
DB: My name is Dyann Love Barr and my main genres are contemporary, paranormal/urban fiction, and I’d like to branch out into Romantic Suspense. I live in Lee’s Summit, Missouri, just thirty miles south of Kansas City with my husband and our cat, Spook, who’s convinced we came with the house as the hired help. My favorite activity beyond writing is cooking and belly dancing.
She cooks and dances… bet the hubby is in heaven! (And boy, folks, can she cook!)
So you’ve been doing this for a while. You have a fantastic agent, you’ve published a contemporary, and you’ve got some excellent projects in the works. How did you come to the decision that you wanted to write?
DB: With the maiden name of Love, how could I not get sucked into writing romance? Actually, I’d never read a romance novel until my freshman year of college. One of my roommates was a Georgette Heyer fan. I had nothing to do on a Sunday afternoon. Okay, I lied. I had a bunch of reading to do for classes, but I was bored, there was nothing but football and fishing shows on television, and I couldn’t afford to go to the movies. My roommate gave me a copy of The Talisman Ring and I was hooked. I read everything of Georgette Heyer’s. I discovered a secret when I went home for break. My mother was a closet romance reader. She had bags and bags of books, everything from Harlequin’s to Rosemary Roger’s. I was in heaven.
What steps did you take to get to where you are now, and which do you think was the most important?
DB: I got started because I couldn’t find enough of the books I enjoyed. I loved Kathleen Woodiwiss. My first attempts were best forgotten. Sad, sad, little books that were filled with cliché’s, passive writing, and spunky heroines that spouted “You’re not the boss of me” every other page. It wasn’t until 1992 when my husband pointed out an article in the local paper about a new writing chapter of Romance Writers of America forming and wanted people interested in writing. I dragged my feet until he made the challenge. “Do you want to be a writer or not?” Damn, I hate it when he does that. So began my journey by hanging out with published authors, I loved the society of the people in the writing field, but my writing still hadn’t improved beyond the hair-flipping heroine.
It has now – by leaps and bounds. Your heroines still have internal strength and fire, but they certainly aren’t tatrum-throwing, make you want to strangle-them girls. They’re more of “Holy crap, watch out for that knife!”
Dyann, what would you advise authors who are working toward publication?
DB: My best advice for a writer truly interested in publishing is to find a critique group.
To be honest, I still dabbled until around 2006 when I found great critique partners, Shannon K. Butcher, Claire Ashgrove, Julie Butcher, Sherry Foley, Sara Attebury, and Liz Lafferty. Les Belle Dames sans Merci. The Beautiful Merciless Women. We drew blood, healed badly mangled sentences and really focused on craft. When that group disbanded, Claire and I formed another group. The Dreamweavers. So, I’d say finding a good critique group is a must if you want to succeed. I don’t mean one that will smile and say you’re the greatest thing since peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. I’ve been in that group, and while it’s nice to hear, I didn’t really learn anything. I wanted people who would hold my feet to the fire when I wavered, and to tell me when I’d done a great job. I’d say the closest analogy is to a good marriage – the dynamics have to work to make it successful.
I have to whole-heartedly agree with you. While sometimes getting a “WTF?” from you is a bit sobering, the day you told me one of my heroines was schizophrenic was probably the best learning experience I had. Critique partners have to be blunt. The glue that binds everyone is understanding those hard comments aren’t made with malice, but a definite desire to see an author and friend succeed.
What’s your favorite thing about being an author? What’s the most challenging thing about being an author?
DB: I like the hours. There’s nothing like staying in my pajamas until three in the afternoon while everyone else is commuting to work and stuck in a cubicle. It makes me smile. I have the best job in the world. I can go outside anytime I want, sun bathe on a beautiful day, or just go have lunch with a friend when the mood strikes. My schedule is my own. The most challenging thing is time management. My schedule is my own. It’s tempting to go outside and have lunch. Writing is a job and I have to treat it as such. Everything that happens to my career is on me. Not only time management, but marketing, making connections with people, and living outside the world of my head. This is where the creative and real world collide and I to figure out how to make it all work for me.
So what’s for lunch today? I’ll be there in … oh wait. You’re working. Silly me! Fun when those friends distract you isn’t it? Hee!
Tell us one story related to your writing endeavors. Amuse us, make us cry, make us cringe or make us smirk – your choice.
DB: I’ve lived long enough to have fodder for more stories than I can produce. I try to put at least one real incident from my life in each book. Just look for the most outrageous thing you read and that’s probably it. For instance, Judy Butcher, one of my Les Belle Dames sans Merci critique partners asked me to participate in the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award for 2009. Understand, I hate contests, but the woman threatened to sic her six kids on me if I didn’t. I was out numbered and out maneuvered. That didn’t mean I went down easy. It was the 11:59 pm on the last day to enter that I finally hit the submit button. They cut it off at the first ten thousand entries. I smirked and hit the submit button. This way I could tell Julie that they bounced me because the slots were filled. No such notice occurred. Damn.
Then I forgot about it.
Three months later I was having lunch with Shannon K. Butcher and she asked me how it felt. At the moment I was face first in a cream puff so everything was wonderful. I asked, “How do I feel about what?”
Shannon gave me a strange look. “You don’t know do you?”
That’s when I began to suspect we weren’t talking about cream puffs. “Know what?”
“You’re in the top five hundred.”
“The ABNAs. You made it to semi finals. You’re one of the top five hundred.”
It was a good thing I’d just swallowed the last of my cream puff. My mouth fell open. That couldn’t be right. Shannon got on the computer to show me the horrible truth. Now that meant I was on tenterhooks until the semi-finals came out. I came close to breaking out into hives on the day the results were announced. None of the romance category made it to the semi-finals.
I remember that day. We’d both entered. They bounced mine like a rubber ball. See folks – pay attention to Dyann. She’s going places!
What is the best piece of advice that you’ve ever received about writing, and the pursuit of publication?
DB: Let your characters twist in the wind. Basically, when your hero or heroine thinks things can’t get any worse, take it up a notch. Make it worse. The dark moment should get even darker, more dangerous. Torture your characters but be sure there is a happy ever after.
In three sentences or less, tell us what you’re currently working on.
DB: I’m working on two different projects now. One is a paranormal, the other a romantic suspense. One is off to an editor and I keep my fingers crossed that she will want the book, the other is at the beginning stage. The first is out of my hands and the second gets the creative juices flowing.
What steps did you take to get to where you are now, and which do you think was the most important?
DB: I kept writing until I had a book I thought was ready for submission. I’m not talking about rewriting the same book twenty times, I’m saying I wrote several books and learned hard lessons from each and every mistake. Then I made myself do the research into agents and what they represented. This is the hard slog of writing, the business end no one tells you about. Then I had to pick the agents to submit to. I didn’t just send to my top three, I sent it to everyone who sold what I wrote. Perseverance is the key word here. Don’t let a rejection slow you down. It’s not personal, although it may seem that way. One day I sent out a submission and got a reply less than sixty seconds later. Not for me. How could the agent have even taken a close look at the sample chapters in that time? I had to remind myself they might have been looking for strawberry and I gave them chocolate. Nothing personal.
Last but not least, is there a place we can keep up with your publication endeavors?
DB: You can find me on the Cascade Literary Agency blog, Twitter under @writergal2007, my personal facebook is Dyann Barr and there is also a Dyann Love Barr fan page. My website is dyannbarr.com
Thank you so much for allowing me to be a part of your blog.
Always welcome here! Well, I’ll wrap up by reminding everyone that Christmas is coming. I hear stores are stocking things in October this year. You have a wonderful Christmas story, The Perfect Bride for Christmas. It’s a great read everyone, perfect for the holiday season!
The Perfect Bride For Christmas
Zoe loved Alex from the moment he walked through the law firm’s doors. He can charm the panties off any woman, but he’s never tried it with her. The chance to grab for the golden ring is within her reach until everything blows up in her face. Now, five years later she returns to Kansas City with triplets in tow and a brand new look. Catering Alex’s next wedding should prove interesting.