Welcome to the four hundred and thirty-sixth of my blog interviews with novelists, poets, short story authors, biographers, agents, publishers and more. Today’s is with mystery, children’s and non-fiction author and spotlightee Barbara Ann Derksen. A list of interviewees (blogged and scheduled) can be found here. If you like what you read, please do go and investigate further.
Morgen: Hello again, Barbara. Please tell us something about yourself, where you’re based, and how you came to be a writer.
Barbara: I describe myself first as a Christian. I’ve been married for 43 years to singer / songwriter HC Derksen, and together we’ve raised four gifted children, and now have nine grandchildren. My husband and I travel with Christian Motorcyclists Association so wearing leather and biking across country is part of my current lifestyle. I am a certified scuba diver, and a lover of all things water-related. I am Canadian, enjoy travelling, and reading is my passion. 20 years ago, I wrote a short story and have been writing ever since.
Morgen: Yay for short stories. What genre do you generally write and have you considered other genres?
Barbara: My favourite genre, because that’s also my favourite to read, is mystery. But I also write for children and write non-fiction that is published in the form of devotionals. I also have a compilation of combat stories and a household management guide. Can’t get this far in life without something to share.
Morgen: That’s why a lot of people write… because they have something specific to say… or like me, just like making something out of nothing. What have you had published to-date? Do you write under a pseudonym?
Barbara: I write under the name “Barbara Ann Derksen” although some of my books can be found by searching for Barbara Derksen. I have currently published 11 books with two more about to be released this spring. Three are a mystery series, the Wilton / Strait Mystery Series. Four are devotionals, one is the Korean Combat short story compilation, two are children’s books, and Dance With a Broom is a household management guide for busy parents.
Morgen: Wow, you’re busy. Are your books available as eBooks? Were you involved in that process at all? Do you read eBooks or is it paper all the way?
Barbara: Currently, the mysteries are available as e-books on Smashwords and Kindle but I intend to make the devotionals available through Kindle this spring or summer. I’ve worked closely with both venues. I love to hold a book in my hand and loaning them out to others or donating them to my local library is a great way, I find, to make room at home for more. However, with the emersion of e-books, I find that I can read more and it takes up less space. I use an iPad so since it goes where I do, I always have a book at my fingertips.
Morgen: That’s how I feel about my Kindle Touch. How much of the marketing do you do for your published works or indeed for yourself as a ‘brand’?
Barbara: I do an extensive book tour every summer and I am learning all about social media. I have a Twitter account; a Facebook account; and a Goodreads account. I have done several interviews on blogs, and interview authors on my blog. My blog is attached to my website.
Morgen: Did you have any say in the titles / covers of your books? How important do you think they are?
Barbara: After attending several writer’s conferences, and after I had acquired an agent, I listened to the rumble of complaints and difficulties that new writers were having with traditional publishers. That whole world is changing as we speak and they are requiring more and more from the authors they sign and now want writers with an established following. So, I decided to self-publish. I have struggled to find a great editor but now have one that suits my purposes and does a great job to boot. So with all that said, I design my own covers with the idea in mind that they be attractive and enticing.
My titles are also my own, based on the story line. I have yet to come up with a title that is totally unlike any other and still something that people remember. I believe that titles and covers are very important. They need to draw potential readers, interest them enough to want to pick up the book and read the back cover but then purchase.
Morgen: Absolutely, and especially important when about the size of postage stamps. What are you working on at the moment / next?
Barbara: I am currently completing the fourth in my mystery series. Silence is almost ready for editing and I‘ve already accumulated a list of people who have inquired about a release date. I am also working on a new devotional titled Road Trip. This too has an audience waiting.
Morgen: A fan base, how lovely. Do you manage to write every day? Do you ever suffer from writer’s block?
Barbara: Because I write a couple of genres at the same time, writer’s block is not an issue. I try to write every day but … life happens. This winter, I began recording, in a spreadsheet, how many words I write and when. It appears that the afternoon is the most productive time of day for me so I work on social media and my website in the morning. This is also the time I do any pending interviews.
Morgen: I don’t stick to one genre either so I rarely get stuck, although if I do on one particular story I just move on to another, or something non-writing, and can usually pick up where I left off when I return. Do you plot your stories or do you just get an idea and run with it?
Barbara: I write character-led fiction so my characters run and I work hard to keep up. It feels the same as if I am reading a mystery. I have to keep at it to see how the story ends. With non-fiction, I work up an outline first and then fill in the stories. The Korean combat compilation was all about editing the stories as they came in since they were written by the veterans themselves.
Morgen: I love that about fiction; where the characters do the ‘work’. What point of view do you find most to your liking: first person or third person? Have you ever tried second person?
Barbara: I try to write from my female character’s point of view but also from the male character. I think mostly, I write from her point of view though. I do have a lot of men who read my work so they must not be offended by that. I write third person until I am in their head and then it’s first. I’ve never tried second.
Morgen: I love second (those who know me or follow this blog will know how much) and would urge every writer to have a go, although editors really buy it so you’d write it for the love of it (or do what I do and eBook it ). What advice would you give aspiring writers?
Barbara: Write every day, keep your story tight and make the first five pages the best work you’ve ever accomplished. I also highly recommend writer’s conferences. That’s where you meet other authors, network with editors, publishers, and agents, and hone your skills.
Morgen: Most of my holidays are writing-related… in fact all since last August, and all of this year’s are. Are there any writing-related websites and / or books that you find useful?
Barbara: I’ve begun following Rachelle Gardner’s blog. She talks a lot about writing and as an agent, she knows her stuff. Two of my favourite books are Forms of Writing by Kay L Stewart; and Plot and Structure by James Scott Bell.
Morgen: Are you on any forums or networking sites? If so, how valuable do you find them?
Barbara: I am on Linkedin, Goodreads.com and World Literary Café.com; as well as Indies Unlimited.com. They have enabled me to connect with many people and get the word out about my books. That’s how I connected with you. My name is unknown so networking is the only way people find out about me and what I do.
Morgen: That’s interesting that it clearly works… and very encouraging. Thank you, Barbara.
I then invited Barbara to include an extract of her writing and this is the beginning of the Prologue for Vanished.
“Hurry or I hurt the kid.” His rumbling threat released hot breath across her neck. She scurried faster. An arm, covered in monstrous tattoos that bulged beneath the sleeve of his dirty t-shirt, circled the tiny wiggling torso of her three-year-old son. Jeffrey whimpered. The thug pushed her again.
“Mommy!” Jeffrey screamed, large droplets of tears coursing down his pudgy cheeks.
“Quiet.” The man gripped the boy’s arm and squeezed. He shot a glance at the woman. She bowed her head in submission and headed toward her little boy’s bedroom.
“H-h-how long will we be g-gone?” Her eyes travelled over the little blue train stencilled on three walls of her son’s dream room.
“Never mind. Get the clothes.” He motioned with the boy’s body, whipping him toward the folded doors of the closet. Jeffrey whimpered.
She yanked the door open and snatched a large suitcase from the top shelf. Her tears dampened pieces of clothing from her son’s chest of drawers as she threw them into the case. With downcast eyes, Diane glanced toward her son and then back to the task at hand. In a haphazard fashion, she added some of the outfits hanging inside the closet door and seized his fluffy brown teddy bear from the bed. Jeffrey whimpered again.
Obediently she turned toward the doorway where the intruder fought to retain hold of her struggling child.
I then invited Barbara to include a synopsis of her latest book…
After disembarking from their last adventure aboard a cruise ship, Andrea Wilton and Brian Strait thought they were on their way to get married in Santo Domingo. When Andrea is abducted by sex traffickers, Brian goes on the hunt of a lifetime to disentangle her from some very bad people. Set in Miami, he uncovers a plot that includes missing women, drugs, and dirty cops.
Barbara Ann Derksen is a Canadian with a flair for words. She began writing 20 plus years ago, surprised herself when readers responded to what she wrote, and has been writing in one form or another ever since. She has always been an avid reader and continues to enjoy many emerging writers as well as established ones.
Barbara describes herself first as a Christian. She has been married for 43 years to singer / songwriter HC Derksen, is the mother of four gifted children, and the grandmother of nine. Barbara and her husband travel with Christian Motorcyclists Association so wearing leather and biking across country is part of her current lifestyle. She is a certified scuba diver, and a lover of all things water related. Her books are something that readers look for each year. They flock to her tables and to the websites when a new one appears. Her recent distribution into the UK, France and Germany has opened the door for Europeans to discover what North Americans already know.
She writes adult fiction and non-fiction, as well as children’s stories. She is often invited to speak to women’s groups and has even been invited to speak in Africa at a pastor’s conference. Her books can be found at Amazon and her website is http://www.barbaraannderksen.com where she posts to her blog at least twice a week and has sample pages of all her books available. Past interviews are also posted on the media tab.
If you are reading this and you write, in whatever genre, and are thinking “ooh, I’d like to do this” then you can… just email me and I’ll send you the information. They do now (January 2013) carry a fee (£10 / €12.50 / $15) for the new interviews on this blog but everything else (see Opportunities on this blog) is free.
If you go for the interview, it’s very simple; I send you a questionnaire (I have them for novelists, short story authors, children’s authors, non-fiction authors, and poets). You complete the questions, and I let you know when it’s going to go live. Before it does so, I add in comments as if we’re chatting, and then they get posted. When that’s done, I email you with the link so you can share it with your corner of the literary world. And if you have a writing-related blog / podcast and would like to interview me… let me know.
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