Jen: Readers, please help me welcome Gail Barrett to Book Talk this week. Gail, will you please share a short bio with us?
Gail: Certainly. I’m one of those people who knew by an early age that I wanted to be a professional writer, but thanks to a four-year stint living in Spain, I ended up getting a degree in Spanish Literature and teaching high school Spanish instead. As the years went by, I married my husband (who was a Coast Guard officer at the time), had two sons, got a master’s degree in Linguistics, and continued teaching. We lived all over the U.S., thanks to my husband’s career, and even spent two very fun years in the Bahamas (what a gorgeous place!). But no matter how much time passed, I never lost the desire to write. Then one day, I decided that if I was ever going to be an author, I needed to get into gear and start writing! It took me awhile, but in 2004 I sold my first book to Silhouette. My books have won various awards, including the Book Buyers Best Award, the Readers and Bookbuyers Best Laurie for Published Authors, Affaire de Coeur Magazine’s Reader/Writer Poll, and Romance Writers of America’s prestigious Golden Heart. I live in western Maryland with my husband and a very quirky Chinook dog. My fifth book for Silhouette (His 7-Day Fiancee) is out right now.
Jen: Tell us about His 7-Day Fiancee and where it’s available.
Gail: My current release is His 7-Day Fiancee, (May 2009) from Silhouette Romantic Suspense. This book is part of a new continuity series called Love in 60 Seconds, which celebrates Harlequin’s 60th anniversary. The series begins when a famous socialite from the powerful Rothchild family is murdered, and the family’s prized possession, a diamond ring worth millions, goes missing. According to Mayan legend, in the possession of the worthy, the famous diamond (called Tears of the Quetzal) brings true love in an instant, but in the wrong hands, misfortune strikes (thus the series title, Love in 60 Seconds). The series is set in glitzy Las Vegas where someone is plotting revenge against the Rothchilds–by eliminating them one by one. Everyone is scrambling to find the ring–and the killer–before the entire family ends up dead.
Each of the six books has been written by a different author, and I have the second book in the series. You don’t have to read the first book in order to understand mine (it is definitely a stand-alone book!), but you’ll know more about the other characters if you do.
His 7-Day Fiancee is about down-on-her-luck, single mother Amanda Patterson who goes to Vegas to start a new life — and instead, gets sucked into the murder case involving the missing diamond ring. When mega-billionaire casino mogul Luke Montgomery offers her his protection in exchange for playing the part of his fiancée, Amanda accepts, but ends up mired in an even worse danger — one to her heart!
You can find more information about the series and a complete list of the books on my website (www.gailbarrett.com), and also at: http://www.intimatemomentsauthors.com/books/love-in-60-seconds/
Jen: At what age did you discover writing and when were you first published? Tell us your call story.
Gail: As I said in my bio, I knew that I wanted to be a professional novelist by about the seventh grade. I got sidetracked with marriage, kids, teaching, etc., but no matter how much time went by, I never lost the desire to write. Getting published wasn’t easy, though, even after I started to seriously pursue it. I wrote six books and various partial manuscripts in about nine years before I sold.
My call story is a bit unusual. I submitted my manuscript to an editor at Silhouette, who rejected it. I was crushed. I’d had plenty of rejections before, but this one was especially hard because I knew that I’d finally gotten the story right, and that if this book didn’t sell, I might not ever become published. (And since I’d wanted to write since the seventh grade, you can imagine how I felt.) Meanwhile, another editor at Silhouette saw the manuscript in a couple of contests, including the Golden Heart. She liked it so much that she lobbied for it, and eventually bought it (with no changes!). That book, which won the Golden Heart, was Where He Belongs. It came out in 2005.
Jen: Describe your writing in three words.
Gail: Intense. Emotional. Evocative.
My tagline is “Finding love on the journey home.” I write about characters on a journey of self-discovery who find where they belong in life.
Jen: Have you noticed your writer’s voice has changed over the years due to your experience? If so, how?
Gail: My writing is getting faster and edgier. I’m not exactly sure why; maybe I’m becoming more impatient. I get very restless when I’m reading a book and there are more than a few paragraphs of introspection at a stretch, so I tend to cut out the slow stuff in my own stories. One thing I’ve noticed, though — the books don’t get any easier to write with time. In fact, in many ways they are getting harder. Maybe I’m setting my standards higher.
Jen: How do you approach your writing? Do you plot or go with the flow?
Gail: I do a little of both. I have to know the major conflicts between the characters and what their growth is going to be before I can start writing. That’s crucial. I try not to plot too heavily because I like to let the characters tell me what should happen next. I’ve learned that I discover new things about the characters during the writing process, and if I’ve plotted too much, I am trying to force the characters to do what I want them to do instead of letting them act naturally.
Jen: How many hours a day do you write?
Gail: That depends how close I am to a deadline. In general, I write at least six hours a day. That soars when I near a deadline, though.
Jen: What is it about the romance genre that appeals to you?
Gail: I’m a real sap for feel-good romance. I love the sexual chemistry, the conflict, and of course, the happy ending. I don’t like books with graphic violence, and I hate feeling depressed for days after reading a sad story. I don’t think a book has to end in tragedy in order to be great.
Jen: Do you do anything special to celebrate a sale, new contract, or release?
Gail: Not really, but every time I complete a book, I go on a cleaning binge. That’s about the only time I actually dust my house and clean my desk (maybe I shouldn’t admit that….).
Jen: Who has inspired you as an author?
Gail: Oh, wow. There have been so many authors. Strangely enough, the one who got me to start actively writing was Jean Craighead George. I read her young-adult book Julie of the Wolves when I was teaching a middle school class. The story was so beautiful that it reminded me that I’d always wanted to write. She spurred me to action. The first romance novel I ever read was Shanna by Kathleen Woodiwiss (hot, hot, hot!!!). And the author who got me started on category romance was Emilie Richards, with Desert Shadows. I thought that book was so clever and fun to read that I formed the goal of writing for Silhouette Intimate Moments (which is now Silhouette Romantic Suspense).
Jen: Do you feel as if the characters live with you as you write? Do they haunt your dreams?
Gail: The characters definitely live with me and consume my thoughts. I worry about them all the time. Sometimes it’s hard to let go of them at the end of the book because I’m so attached and immersed in their world.
Jen: What has been your highlight of your career to this point?
Gail: I don’t know that I’ve had one particular highlight. Winning the Golden Heart was definitely a thrill, and doing a couple of book signings with Nora Roberts was also very cool. And I just found out that my last book, To Protect A Princess, is a finalist in the National Readers’ Choice Award contest, which is definitely a highlight. But truthfully, I enjoy every bit of this business. Just seeing a new cover on Amazon is exciting. I can waste an entire afternoon staring at a new book cover:)))
Jen: What do you do in your free time?
Gail: Well, obviously I read — a lot. I also exercise and go on long walks in the woods with my dog. I love to travel, but I can’t do that as much as I would like. I’m a pretty quiet person. My not-so-secret passion is bagpipe music. My favorite group is Berrogüetto, a Spanish group, but I like anything Celtic.
Jen: What’s next for you?
Gail: After my May book comes the final book in my Crusaders trilogy, but I don’t have the title or release date yet. I’m also under contract for another romantic suspense book with Silhouette after that.
Jen: Where can you be found on the web?
I also hang out on the eHarlequin message boards (the Silhouette Romantic Suspense loop):
We have a new Silhouette Romantic Suspense authors blog and I post there as well:
Jen: Is there anything you’d like to ask our readers?
Gail: Yes. How do you feel about series? Do you like to read them? Have you ever read a continuity series written by different authors? If you like to read series, what is the limit on the number of books you’ll read (for example, do you prefer trilogies or series that last longer)?
Jen: Gail, thanks so much for being our guest this week. Readers, Gail is giving away a copy of His 7-Day Fiancee to a random commenter. So, leave a comment, ask a question and you’ll be entered in the drawing. The winner will be chosen on Thursday, May 7 around 5 pm PST.