a more somber note, a couple of months back, the
writing world lost a wonderful novelist. Barbara
Parker was an author I respected immensely. Barbara,
a former attorney, started off in the romance
genre and then quickly switched to mystery writing.
She had an uncanny ability to weave an intriguing
tale and was an expert at writing from the male
point of view. Barbara is best known for her Suspicion
series. She earned a spot on the New York
Times bestsellers list and had a huge following.
year Barbara was kind enough to grant me an interview.
I am running it again to honor her. I also had
the pleasure of book signing with Barbara at the
Miami Book Fair some time back, and although I
had not seen her in quite some time, she was as
warm and welcoming as if we’d had lunch the day
before. So here’s to Barbara and may she
continue to spin her marvelous tales wherever
encourage you to visit her site and leave a message
on her wall. Log onto http://www.barbaraparker.com/ and share your memories
with her family and fans.
this a fun spring!
-- Romantically Yours
Tools of the Trade
writer friend was kind enough to share these helpful
sites with me. I am passing them onto you. Secrets
should be shared amongst friends.
helps you find a literary agent by using
an extensive database and easy to use search tools.
an overview of what QueryTracker.net can do for
tracks the overall number of queries sent to
each agent and their accept/reject rates.
You can make your own assessment as to which
agents are more interested in new authors and
which seem to reject everything they receive.
can assess the genre-specific accept/reject
history of an agent.
You’ll see which agents are actively seeking
certain genres and this allows you to better
target your queries.
can track agent response times. If you note
the sent and received dates (for queries and
manuscript submissions) you can get an idea
of the response time.
tracks seasonal data. You’ll see whether certain
times of the year are better for some agents
and not for others.
get a fee for how individual agents feel about
certain book lengths. Do they prefer long
books, short books, or someplace in between.
Query professes to offers the largest, most current
searchable database of literary agents on the web.
It is a treasure trove of reputable, established
literary agents seeking writers.
query has been recognized by Writers Digest four
years in a row as one of the best websites for
Write Water Cooler
standing around a water cooler and listening to
the office dirt. It’s the same concept except
Absolute Write Water Cooler dishes the dirt on
what’s happening in the publishing world. This
one is a must access.
with Barbara Parker
Parker gave me the most memorable interview in
March of 2008. One year later this talented mystery
author succumbed to a tragic disease. Barbara
passed away on Saturday, March 07, 2009, leaving
behind a grieving family and many, many distraught
fans. Here’s what our local paper, The SunSentinel
had to say about one of my favorite authors:
Parker started writing an adventure story as
a way to amuse her young son and as a break
from her career as an attorney. Instead, Parker
found a new calling, giving up her law practice
to eventually write 12 mystery novels.
62, of Lauderdale-by-the-Sea, died Saturday
morning surrounded by her family at the Hospice
By The Sea in Boca Raton after a long illness.”
on to our interview.
Why would a successful prosecutor turn
to book writing?
They probably wouldn’t, and neither did I. Doesn’t
“success” mean you’re happy at your job? I wasn’t.
Actually, by the time I decided to try writing
a novel, I had bailed out of the state attorney’s
office and was doing general practice law. I didn’t
like that much better. The writing life started
calling to me, and I was a pushover. “Legal thrillers”
were getting popular (thanks to John Grisham),
so I said, heck, why not give it a try?
Was switching careers mid-life difficult? How
Giving up a paycheck for a hope that maybe it
will all work out? That was a real white-knuckle
ride. I didn’t really grasp the failure rate for
new novelists, so I went for it. I moved to a
cheap apartment, shopped at Goodwill, and borrowed
money from my relatives. I never allowed myself
to think that I wouldn’t sell a book.
Some authors find research tedious but
you’ve indicated that’s one aspect of the writing
process you like. Why?
Researching is an adventure! When you begin a
novel, it takes you to places you’ve never been
before. You have an idea what to expect, but you’re
always surprised. You’ll interview people in the
field you’re writing about, spend hours on the
Internet, and buy books or magazines on the topic.
I research in two stages. First, before I have
a firm concept of the plot, so that new information
can make the story more realistic. And second,
after I’ve sketched it out, to make sure that
all the facts are correct. The word “tedious”
applies to much of the writing process, but it’s
part of the job.
Many of my writer friends are introverts
and are not good at engaging fans during book
signings. You indicate going on tour is an aspect
of the business you enjoy. Why?
Well, after months of sitting alone in
front of a computer, I like to see real human
beings. It’s not that hard to engage readers at
book signings if you smile and thank them for
coming. Ask where they’re from and if they’ve
read any of your other books. If not, or if you
need something to fill the time, be ready with
one or two interesting facts about your new story.
This is where all that research you did comes
in handy. Attend other signings and speeches by
writers who are good at it, to pick up ideas.
The more you do it, the more confident you will
Tell us a little about your latest novel, The
Perfect Fake. What inspired you to write
The idea came from a chance conversation with
a woman who collects antique maps. You never know
what comes next when you say, “Really? Tell me
about it.” She did, and I suddenly knew that a
map forgery would make a dandy plot. Of course
when you start out, you have no idea how the book
will come together, but I talked to collectors,
took a tour of the rare map department at the
Library of Congress, and found an expert who told
me how to forge a copper-plate map. Soon my characters
and the story came to life. I had traveled to
Italy the year before, so I created an Italian
Renaissance map from 1511 and sent my characters
over to Europe. While they had fun in the Alps,
the Cinque Terre, and Florence, I had to sit at
home in front of my computer writing the darn
My next novel, The Dark of Day, will
be published in June. The setting is closer to
home. Glamorous Miami attorney C. J. Dunn takes
a case that puts her squarely in the media spotlight,
an uncomfortable place for a woman with too many
secrets. I loved hitting the South Beach club
scene for the research on this one!
My ex-husband was a huge fan of yours. He thought
you were one of the few female authors who wrote
a suspenseful book in a voice men could relate
to. At the beginning of your career were you tempted
to use your initials or assume a male pseudonym?
I never considered that, probably because the
protagonist of my mystery series was a woman.
Once my name became known, why change it? After
two in the series, I wrote two stand-alones with
male protagonists, and they did very well. I’ve
heard there are men who won’t read a book by a
woman, but that’s their loss.
How did the “Suspicion” series get started? Where
did the concept come from?
I never intended to write a series. Suspicion
of Innocence was designed as a stand-alone
novel featuring a woman lawyer accused of murdering
her sister—not exactly a series character. After
it was published, though, I didn’t know what to
do next, so my editor asked me to do another one
with the same cast of characters. I think she
really wanted more of Anthony Quintana, the romantic
interest, and it’s been Anthony who holds readers’
attention, more than Gail Connor. I might go back
to the series at some point, but my current publisher
wants another stand-alone.
In doing my research, I learned that you started
off as a romance novelist and then made the leap
over. Is that true?
I tried to be a romance novelist, and
my first novel and only novel in that genre, a
paperback original, was what used to be called
What made you change direction?
Mystery/suspense is more my thing. I don’t really
have the “voice” for romance, and that view of
reality—a man and a woman, happy ending—is one
that I don’t really share. Life isn’t so neat.
Where do you hope to be career-wise in five years?
What plans do you have to get you there?
In five years, I hope to write faster, make my
deadlines, and give the reader more streamlined,
compelling stories. Mine tend to be too complicated,
and I’m always writing too long and going past
the deadline. Nowadays the formula for success
seems to call for a great website, a blog, a newsletter,
maybe a publicist, and as many appearances as
you can cram into your schedule. For me, the “secret”
to success, if there is one, is just to keep on
writing the best book you can, maintain good relations
with your editor and agent, and if there’s time,
then you do the other stuff too.
Would you recommend a publicist to a newbie?
At what stage of your career would you recommend
having one? What are the benefits?
If you have a pile of cash, it couldn’t hurt.
But that’s not most of us, whether we’re just
starting out or more established. The catch is,
if you’re unknown, a publicist probably won’t
helpthat much. If you’re established, you don’t
need one. It’s that area in the middle where a
publicist could make the difference. I’ve never
used a publicist, but I’ve heard from friends
who’ve used them that good publicists know how
to get the most from each dollar. They can arrange
personal appearances or TV or radio interviews
in the right target market. They know where to
put ads, and what hand-outs work and which don’t.
You can find them on the Internet, I believe,
but you should always ask for references and check
them out with your friends.
My readers are dog lovers and would like to hear
about your pug Max. Tell us about him.
What a little darling. His real name is Maximilian
von Mango. It fits a dog who lives in the subtropics,
don’t you think? Max is fawn-colored, weighs about
21 pounds, and he just turned nine. His muzzle
is getting a little gray, but he’s not slowing
down much, just getting more mellow. Pugs are
rated as very gentle, non-aggressive dogs. Mine
doesn’t bite—but he growls and runs away with
his pork chop bone if you pretend you’re going
to grab it. He likes to take walks, but pugs don’t
tolerate hot weather, so in the summer we go early
or late. When I’m working and can’t play with
him, Max turns into a couch potato, content to
lie down on the rug and take a nap.
What does the future hold for Barbara Parker?
Where can we expect to find you signing or presenting
a workshop this year?
You’ll find me doing some personal appearances
when The Dark of Day comes out. My publisher
is going to put together a website, www.darkofday.com,
so keep checking for my schedule. After the book
tour, I need to lock myself into my cave and work
on the next manuscript. I’m probably going to
turn down any requests for workshops this year
because my time is so limited, but I might be
doing something for SleuthFest 2009.
a Better Novel
Sponsor: Capital Regional RWA
Location: Albany, NY
Date; June 12-13, 2009
Location: Marriott Ward Park, Washington, D.C.
Date: July 15-18, 2009
Fee: $425-$500 before May 31, 2009
Sponsor: Georgia Romance Writers
Location: Hilton Atlanta Northeast, Norcross,
Date: October 02-04, 2009
offers a Critique Service for
romance writers looking for professional feedback
on their manuscript. You can get an impartial
critique from people who know what Harlequin and
other publishers are looking for. Log on to eHarlequin.com
under “Write” you will find the information about
Harlequin’s Critique Service.
Marcia's ROMANTICALLY YOURS *
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