Where are you from?
I was born in Illinois, lived in Southern California for several years as a child, and have lived in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula since 1981.
Tell us your latest news?
I switched careers from journalism to higher education about seven years ago and since then have earned a master’s degree in rhetoric and technical communication and started teaching communication to engineering students at Michigan Technological University. I’m now working on a PhD, but I’ve started a new fiction project as well. I have no idea when it will be ready for publication, but it’s great to be writing fiction again.
When and why did you begin writing?
I discovered I loved writing when I was still in elementary school. I started keeping a journal of sorts to help me deal with life. I never thought of being a professional writer until college and then an internship led me to a job at the local newspaper. I began my first novel in 2000 because I felt I had a story to tell. The characters had been developing for a few years and it just seemed time to put them on paper.
When did you first consider yourself a writer?
I first felt like a “real” writer when my second book, “Page One: Vanished,” was released, even though I had been a “professional” for many years by then. The first book felt like a fluke, a dream, but the second book made me feel like a legitimate author.
What inspired you to write your first book?
There was no single thing that inspired me. The “Page One” trilogy’s protagonist, Robin Hamilton, was VERY loosely based on my experience as a small-town newspaper reporter. She’s just prettier, smarter, and scrappier. None of the other characters have any association with anything real and neither does the plot, except the opening scene in Ludington Park, where the first murder takes place. I used to walk through the park quite regularly and that’s what started the creative process for that book.
Do you have a specific writing style?
Yes, my journalism experience taught me the value of concise writing. I love words, I just use them strategically.
How did you come up with the title?
The publisher, Susan Bays of Arbutus Press, wanted to develop a brand for the books, thus the “Page One” tag, indicating a news story worthy of page one. Then each book has a teaser about the plot. The first one revolves around a hit and a run death, the second book deals with the disappearance of several young women, and the third one deals with the drug trade (the U.P.’s notorious winter is also a character).
Is there a message in your novel that you want readers to grasp?
Resilience. Life deals my characters a lot of heartbreak but they come through it stronger.
How much of the book is realistic?
These situations certainly could happen, but they are pure fiction. Unfortunately, “Page One: Whiteout” is the most true-to-life as U.P. communities struggle to deal with the influx of drugs like heroin and home-grown crystal meth.
Are experiences based on someone you know, or events in your own life?
Robin’s mother died when she was 10, while mine died when I was 9. I wanted to explore a strong father-daughter relationship, like the one I had with my own father.
What books have most influenced your life most?
Beverly Cleary’s Ramona books and Judy Blume’s books about adolescence got me hooked on reading as a child. By the time I was 10, I was reading everything mystery or paranormal-related in the school library. When I read my first Stephen King book, though, I remember thinking, “I could do this, I could see myself writing someday.” Of course, it was another 15 years before my first book was published, but that’s where it started.
If you had to choose, which writer would you consider a mentor?
Stephen King. I must have read his book “On Writing” at least a half dozen times now. I use his advice about eliminating clutter from your writing when I teach my engineering students. It’s true regardless of genre.
What book are you reading now?
I’m never reading just one book at a time. I’m reading a history of the Vikings, a scholarly work by Nancy Hartsock called “Money, Sex, and Power”, and the fifth book in the Harry Potter series (I never had time to read them when they were released!). Next will be “In the Sanctuary of Outcasts: A Memoir” by Neil White. It’s Michigan Tech’s Summer Reading Program for our incoming first-year students.
Are there any new authors that have grasped your interest?
I’m sure there are lots of great ones out there, but I’ve been so focused on my graduate work that I don’t get much time to explore new fiction authors.
What are your current projects?
I’m working on something very different from my first three books. It’s a mystery of sorts that takes place in the Copper Country in the early 1970s (a period which has really captured my imagination), just after the last copper mine shut down. It will be darker, edgier, and more along the lines of an early Stephen King work than the “Page One” trilogy.
Name one entity that you feel supported you outside of family members.
Teachers! I was lucky to have some great teachers along the way who pushed me to do my best and challenge myself, never allowing me to settle for “good enough.”
Do you see writing as a career?
Absolutely! I write novels for entertainment, academic articles for my day job, and I teach writing. It’s the only thing I know how to do to pay the bills!
If you had to do it all over again, would you change anything in your latest book?
Not at all. What finally made it into print is the third complete rewrite. My writing has matured over the years so I’m not as enamored with the first one, but many reviewers thought it was a good first effort so I don’t beat myself up about it too much.
Do you recall how your interest in writing originated?
My mother was an avid reader and I caught the bug from her. From there, it was just a natural progression to writing.
Can you share a little of your current work with us?
It has a strong female protagonist (naturally), a newcomer to the Keweenaw who is a product of the Sixties, unafraid to challenge the status quo. I haven’t quite figured out the trajectory of the plot because it’s early in the creative process, but I’ve sketched out some unique characters. I’m very big on strong characters in my novels!
Is there anything you find particularly challenging in your writing?
Plotting is always the toughest for me. There’s a balance between simplicity and complexity. I want the story arc to be simple enough to connect with readers, but to have enough complexity to keep them engaged to the last word.
Who is your favorite author and what is it that really strikes you about their work?
Other than Stephen King, I have favorite books of certain authors. I’ve read Daphne Du Maurier’s “Rebecca” countless times (Mrs. Danvers is one of my favorite characters ever!). I love Anne Rice’s first two books in her vampire series. William Kent Krueger’s mystery series set in and around the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness is beautifully written. And I could go on and on.
Do you have to travel much concerning your book(s)?
Not so much now since it’s been a while since I’ve released a new book, but I still periodically give library talks, which I love!
Who designed the covers?
The publisher, Susan Bays, designed each cover.
What was the hardest part of writing your book?
Again, it’s always the plotting. I have the most fun with characterizations.
Did you learn anything from writing your book and what was it?
With each books I become a better writer and I have learned to appreciate a great editor!
Do you have any advice for other writers?
Focus on developing your craft any way you can. Write blogs, be a columnist for the local newspaper. Put together a family history. Enter short story contests. Just keep writing and putting your work out there. Develop a thick skin. No matter how great your writing, someone will always find fault with it so develop and nurture your own writing style.
Do you have anything specific that you want to say to your readers?
I appreciate your loyalty. I know many people would like to see another “Page One” book, but it’s time we all moved on. I like to think Robin is enjoying her new life. I look forward to
meeting more of you when the next book is released!
- Name of Author– Nancy Barr
- Name of Book(s)– “Page One: Hit and Run” “Page One: Vanished” “Page One: Whiteout”
- Author Website– https://www.linkedin.com/profile/view?id=39820424&trk=spm_pic
- Amazon Link – http://www.amazon.com/Nancy-Barr/e/B001JORTUK/ref=ntt_dp_epwbk_
- Twitter Link – https://twitter.com/NBarrmysteries
Excerpt: Page One Vanished excerpt