Saturday, December 10, 2011

Interview with Barbara Briggs Ward

Tell us about you.
I grew up in the country. There were 4 houses in a row all full of relatives. My cousins and I were always outside playing and pretending. This is the backdrop I blog about, hoping to give readers a better understanding of where I come from as a person and a writer.

I am a mom of 4 adult children. My 2nd child suffers from schizophrenia. He lives with me out in the country where he does puzzles all day. His illness has given me great insight into human suffering and the human will to overcome. My father was a funeral director. I was constantly reminded of the thin line between life and death and how precious each moment is.

Tell us about your book.
"The Reindeer Keeper" is a heartwarming story of Family & Christmas. It tells the story of Abbey and Steve. They've been together since the '60s, eloping when Steve returned from Vietnam. When the story begins it is 30 years, a few days before Christmas.

Abbey senses something special about the little man tending to the reindeer who, along with a barn full of animals, and fields abounding in woods and pasture, was a gift to Abbey from a stranger. Abbey & Steve move in just before the holidays.

Turns out this Christmas proves to be more magical than anticipated as Abbey realizes an understanding never thought possible through the rekindling of a belief rooted in childhood. It's who delivers this gift on Christmas Eve that gives Abbey and Steve the strength to face their greatest challenge.

What inspired you to write this particular story?
It was January 3 years ago. A thought struck me how busy we adults are making sure Christmas is as close to perfect for everyone and then suddently it is all over and we are exhausted and broke. I felt the urge to write a story for adults that would connect them back to that true belief they felt as a child while telling a story of a couple with real problems and joys and fears and hope-Life!

What can readers expect when they open your book? Give us something that isn't on the book blurb.
"The Reindeer Keeper" is appealing to the eye. I realized the cover had to grab people's attention since I am an unknown  author. It had to tell the story. I was fortunate to have found an award-winning illustrator who lived close to me and who loved the story. We hit it off right away. She felt what I was after. Her illustrations set the tone-grab the attention to get people interested. I felt the book had to be a complete package-professionally executed so therefore there are pen and ink/black and white illustrations before each chapter. The reader can expect a pleasant experience when they sit down to read the book-from the full-color front and back covers to the inside illustrations.

How old were you when you started writing?
Last October my short story, "In Anticipation of Doll Beds", was included in the Chicken Soup for the Soul Book titled, "Christmas Magic". It tells of the Christmas when I was seven and I received what remains my most favorite Christmas present ever-a simple pine desk with a stool made for me by my grandfather. When I sat down and opened its single drawer I found a pad of lined paper and a #2 sharpened yellow pencil. That was the moment I knew I wanted to be a writer.

Do you stick with one genre, or have you branched out to others? Which ones?
I began with children's picture books. I had so many storylines bounding around in my head and for some reason I felt it'd be easier to break into writing by writing for children-ignoring this little voice saying I want to write for adults. That changed when I met an agent at a trade show who told me if I can get published as a children's author I certainly could do so writing for adults. She told me I should follow my heart-so I did!

Where do you get your ideas?
Ideas are constant. I keep a pad of paper with me. Many ideas stem from my childhood and growing up in the country. When I wrote "The Reindeer Keeper" all I knew about the story when I sat down to write it was the title and the fact that my grandfather's barn would be a focal point. I often tell people that once I got into the story, the characters took over.

Who is your greatest inspiration?
My father 

What are you reading right now?
Nothing-I'm writing!

Who are your favorite authors?
Louisa May Alcott Laura Ingalls Wilder 

What is your current project?
My 2nd Christmas story for adults titled, "The Snowman Maker." I've had so many people ask me to write another Christmas story. Many would like to somehow have the same characters involved-but so far they aren't. Time will tell.

What do you feel is your greatest accomplishment as a writer?
Having The Reindeer Keeper honored as a Mom's Choice Awards Gold Recipient in Adult Fiction 

Have you experienced any setbacks for your writing along the way? If so, will you share with us.
My first children's picture book-which I also illustrated-was to be released September of 2001. The publisher was to be behind it with a grand marketing plan but sadly when the book was introduced, our country experienced the 9/11 tragedy. The publisher dropped all of her plans-which included that marketing and building a children's division around all of my stories. She turned to publishing home arts and crafts books-thinking people would be staying closer to home.

How did you overcome these setbacks?
I went on the road with the book. I met my target audience. I heard feedback I never would have heard so a negative turned into a positive.

Do you believe in writer's block?
Definitely. It's horrid. To get the juices flowing when they don't want to I use legal pads and just start writing. After awhile something comes out-enough so I can go to the computer and get going.

What is the best writing advice you've ever received?
That I was capable of writing for adults. That I could actually sit down and take characters from the beginning to the end of a story and it would make sense-that I did have that ability.

What is the best advice you have for other writers?
Don't quit. Be open to criticism and when you get rejected-and you will-tell yourself it is their loss.

What is more important to you, plot or character?
Character. If I have the character down the plot will unfold.

Are you a panster or a plotter?
More of a plotter-most times.

Preferred POV to write.
3rd

Preferred POV to read.
3rd

Tell us 5 random things about you the person, not the author:
1. : I eat tuna fish every day
2. : I love to jitterbug
3. : I love winter
4. : I can't stand math
5. : I love newspapers

Where to connect online
Goodreads : Barbara Ward
Other : Linked In-Barbara (Briggs) Ward

What format does your book(s) come in?
Hard copy and Kindle Amazon
Barnes & Noble