Jen: Today we welcome Barbara Valentin to Romancing the Book. Barbara, will you share a short bio with us?
Barbara: Author of the bestselling Assignment: Romance series, Barbara is an award-winning novelist and second-generation journalist. A member of RWA’s Windy City chapter, she’s looking forward to the day when her to-do list includes “Send NY Times book critic thank you note” and “Accept Godiva’s request to be a taste-tester.”
Jen: Please tell us about your newest release and where the idea came from.
Barbara: Here’s a brief synopsis: Key Change, the third book in my Assignment: Romance series, is a romantic comedy about Sara Cleff, a hard-edged, shower-singing rock music critic, who wants to do nothing more after following a band on tour than crawl into her nice comfy bed in her well-appointed, optimally located vintage apartment. But before making it home, she learns her roommate-slash-boyfriend has apparently broken up with her while she was away on assignment and sublet their apartment out from underneath her. Ouch! When her key no longer fits in the lock, the last person she expects to find on the other side of the door is Andrew Benet, a wickedly gorgeous music director from a nearby church.
Something about the brash music critic strikes a chord with Andrew, and he offers her the chance to stay on one condition—she has to join the choir at his church. While Andrew may hold the lease on Sara’s apartment, does he have the key to unlock her heart?
I got the idea during choir rehearsal at my own church, interviewed the director and let my imagination take it from there.
Jen: Do you have a writing routine?
Barbara: In between working a full-time day job and taking care of my boys, I typically write on my train commute – about an hour to and from work, and then in the evenings and weekends. When I submit the manuscript for the first round of edits, I spend time catching up on sleep and spending time with my family and friends.
Jen: How do you remember ideas that come to you at odd times?
Barbara: I keep a notebook with me at all times. I’ve been known reach for it during the middle of the night when I wake up with an idea and don’t want to loose it before the morning.
Jen: What’s the most challenging aspect of writing? Easiest? Most rewarding?
Barbara: The most challenging aspect is committing to finding time in my day to shut out the world so I can focus and be productive. The easiest aspect is, once I have the outline nailed down, filling in the blanks. The most rewarding aspect is when everything just clicks and the scene turns out better than you expected. Although, really, I don’t think anything is more rewarding than typing, “The End.”
Jen: If this book was made into a movie, who do you see playing the main characters?
Barbara: That’s a great question! I’ve already cast it. In fact, I had actors in mind when I was still in outline mode, just so I could get their features and characteristics down. For Sara, I would cast the lovely Carey Mulligan; for Andrew, I would cast the smoldering Desmond Harrington.
Jen: Who are some of your favorite authors? What are you reading now?
Barbara: I enjoy many authors, but the ones I really love are those whose real life personas come across on the page – namely the amazing Gemma Halliday and Kristan Higgins. Both women very genuine, warm, and funny. Real class acts. And I love their stories. I also love contemporary classics. In fact, I just finished reading W. Somerset Maugham’s The Razor’s Edge for the umpteenth time. Don’t even get me started on F. Scott Fitzgerald. Their prose is so lyrical.
Jen: Do you have a favorite character or one you most identify with?
Barbara: I chiefly identify with Claire Mendez, the Plate Spinner columnist. It might be because Help Wanted, the second book in the series is a thinly disguised autobiography.
Jen: What do you do in your free time?
Barbara: I run. It helps me stay healthy, but it also is a great stress reliever, anxiety reducer and cookie eating enabler.
Jen: What’s next for you?
Barbara: The next book in the series is Flight Risk, due out early next summer. I won’t say too much about it except that it centers around a certain phobic travel writer at the Gazette.