Topic: Author Interview
Lee Barwood the person:
1. What three words do you think describe you as a human being?
Animal lover (I know that's two words), musician, environmentalist. And of course they're all related, in my mind.
2. How do you think others would describe you?
Very enthusiastic about things I believe in - maybe passionate is a better word - and always ready to try something new. Determined. Probably a little over the top about animals. And imaginative.
3. Please tell us what you are most passionate about outside of writing.
Animals, definitely, The condition of the earth. Music (I'm a hospital-certified harp practitioner, and play harp in hospitals, hospices, and nursing homes; I'm a big advocate of the power of music, and sound, to heal).
4. Do you have any pets? If so, introduce us to them.
Currently I don't, I'm very sad to say. My half-Pomeranian, half-Poodle, Tribble, went to the Bridge in 2006 (she was 17), and I've been pretty lost without her, especially since she was the last of a canine family of five - all foundlings and strays - that my late husband and I brought home over the years. So far I haven't brought anybody else home yet. But I'm planning on adopting a rescue dog very soon - it's time. The house is really too quiet without at least one furry companion in it.
5. What is your most precious memory?
Probably when my late husband and I picked up one more addition to our canine family from the vet. We'd found E.T., a Shih Tzu, after he'd been hit by a van, and we took him to the emergency vet clinic and then to an orthopedic surgeon when our own vet said his injuries were beyond his capabilities. E.T.'s original owners never turned up, so he became ours by default. This was a dog who didn't really know us, except that we'd taken him in when he was hurt, and he spent the next several days in various veterinary hospitals getting x-rays and being treated, then finally having surgery to get his leg wired and pinned back together. When my husband and I went to pick him up and bring him home, he was still groggy from the anesthetic - but he took one look at us and wagged his tail. He knew who we were, and he was glad to see us. Then he promptly fell asleep in my arms on the ride home.
6. What is your most embarrassing memory?
The time my late husband had to have outpatient laser eye surgery in the hospital. I was there to drive him home, and I was so worried about him that when he came out after the surgery, with some kind of medicated cream smeared around his eye, I fainted - first and only time in my life. They wouldn't let us leave till they'd checked me out. Now that was embarrassing!
7. If you weren't a writer, what would you be doing with your life?
Working full-time with animals.
8. In two paragraphs or less write your obituary.
She made a difference for animals, told great stories, and made beautiful music!
Lee Barwood the writer:
9. Can you describe the time you realized you were indeed a "real" writer?
I started writing stories in grade school, but even though I'd been publishing short stories and poetry since the late 1970s, I don't think it hit me till I was asked to volunteer for a local project. The group asked me what I did, and I told them I was a writer (I said it, even if I didn't believe it all the way down deep inside), and they said immediately, "Oh, you can do that in your spare time. You need to help us out." My immediate response was, "No, helping you is what I might do in my spare time." And from that point on I took myself a lot more seriously, because I realized how much I had published and how hard it had been to get that far.
10. What is going on with your writing these days?
I'm working on lots of different projects: a new novel, a nonfiction book, several short stories - I don't seem to be able to work on only one thing at a time. But that's what keeps life interesting for me.
So far this year two books have come out with my work in them: Deron Douglas' Dragons & Demons, Oh My! which is a collection of his cover art - he's the publisher at Double Dragon Publishing - and for which I wrote the introduction; and Marilyn Peake's Inside Scoop, which contains my essay on ecofiction, as well as a bit about my latest book, Klassic Koalas: Ancient Aboriginal Tales in New Retellings, from Koala Jo Publishing.
This book is a collection of Australian Aboriginal stories, mostly about the koala, and besides being fascinating "how they got that way" tales, they offer a look at a side of the koala that most people don't suspect exists: their power. The Aboriginal people believe that the cute and cuddly koala is actually very powerful, almost a shamanic figure, because he has the power to sing the trees into growing and the rain into stopping. There's also a story that tells how he brought seeds down from the heavens with a mighty throw of his boomerang - the strength of the koala's arms is legendary - and another in which the koala is the only creature that doesn't fear the bunyip, a very frightening although perhaps mythical creature that men were very much afraid of.
The wonderful thing about Klassic Koalas: Ancient Aboriginal Tales in New Retellings is that it has a purpose. All royalties from the book go to the Australian Wildlife Hospital, which is a major project of the late Steve Irwin's Wildlife Warriors. The Hospital started out as a small avocado processing shack, and was transformed into a wildlife hospital in 2004, in memory of Irwin's mother Lyn, who was a wildlife carer. It treats so many indigenous animals, not just koalas, that it hopelessly outgrew its facility, and last year they broke ground for a new environmentally friendly building and outdoor rehabilitation area. It should be finished later in March, and I've been working very hard to sell books and gift items made with the artwork from the book to raise funds for them.
The artwork, by the way, is very bright and colorful - really wonderful, extraordinary eye-catching stuff - and was done partly by the woman who founded Koala Jo, Joanne Ehrich, who is an artist, and partly by a group of children who were fans of Irwin and wanted to do something meaningful in his memory. There's a whole line of gift items, everything from sweatshirts and tees to coffee mugs, clocks, and keepsake boxes, with illustrations from the book - and all the royalties from these go to the Hospital as well. We've raised quite a bit of money so far, and I'm very proud of that, but we're just getting started.
11. What are your future goals for your writing?
More novels, a paranormal mystery series, and who knows? Maybe a movie.
12. Can you describe a typical writing day for you?
I try to start very early in the morning, so that I have something constructive done before I head off to the day job - otherwise, at night, sometimes I'm too tired to come up with something good. If, on the other hand, I've gotten the day off to a good start, it tends to energize me and give me the enthusiasm to keep working. On days that I'm home (=weekends), I work most of the day. If a story is going well, it's hard to stop.
At work, BTW, I write too - I'm a technical writer and financial journalist (under my mundane name). So I'm constantly using those brain cells!
13. Why do you write?
Because I have to, I think. Seriously, I have all these stories just brimming over, and wish that I had more time to set them all down and figure them all out. Sometimes it's hard, when I don't have everything plotted out, but other times there's just such a feeling of satisfaction in resolving a plot point that I can't wait to do it again.
14. What writer most inspires you? Why?
There are a lot of them, but the top two would have to be Andre Norton and J. K. Rowling. Andre broke ground for a lot of women writers by writing great science fiction and fantasy, on a regular basis, for many years; her books had strong women as heroines, and people with otherworldly talents, and animals who mattered to the people around them. Her books were, and are, wonderful, and they inspired me no end. And on a more personal level, some time back she instituted an award called the Gryphon, and I screwed up my courage and submitted manuscripts two years running. The first year I was the runner-up, and the second year I won - and she couldn't have been kinder or more supportive. I am very grateful for having known her. It means so much when someone of her stature believes in you and tells you so, and does her best to help - she was a wonderful woman.
And J. K. Rowling inspires me because she had this tremendous vision, and she was in a very difficult place personally, but she didn't let that stop her from bringing Harry Potter and the entire Hogwarts universe to life. Her books are full of decency and fair play and courage, and she's encouraged kids all over the world to read - how much better than that can it get?
15. How do you define your writing?
Hard to categorize. I love fantasy, horror, and the supernatural, but I also love mystery and adventure. My novel A Dream of Drowned Hollow is an environmental suspense/thriller, but it also has elements of fantasy in it - or paranormal, as the market terms some of what I've used - and yet it all fits together. It's gotten some great reviews, but it's hard to say that it's one thing or another. Many of my short stories are crossovers, too, and the novel I'm working on now is a paranormal mystery. Plus there are others in the wings that I'm working on from time to time that don't fit tidily into one category or another.
16. In one sentence-what do you want people to say about your writing in fifty years?
That it's still read and remembered. That it's stood the test of time and is still rewarding.
Lee Barwood the details:
17. Can you tell us where to find more information on you? Website? Blog?
They can e-mail me through my website or at firstname.lastname@example.org.
19. Can you list all your book titles so people can look for them?
Novels (readers who would like autographed copies can e-mail me about it):
A Dream of Drowned Hollow, available in paperback and e-book
Klassic Koalas: Ancient Aboriginal Tales in New Retellings, also available in paperback and as an e-book
"The Minstrel," available in Illuminated Manuscripts
"Cold Comfort," available in Futures Mystery Anthology Magazine
"Grow Old Along with Me," available in Catfantastic V
"A Woman of Her Word," available in Catfantastic III
"Pyre," available in Sisters in Fantasy II
"The Rat's Alley Shuffle," with Charles de Lint, available in A Handful of Coppers
There are more, but they're OOP and pretty hard to track down these days.
20. For new readers-what can they expect when they read your book(s)?
To be surprised. To be introduced to wonder in places where they least expect it. To see other points of view. And to see animals - and situations - in a new way.
21. Take as much space as necessary to speak to our readers-what would you like them to know about you and your writing?
I tell stories, first and foremost. I like magic in my reading, so I do my best to put it into my writing as well - to take the reader outside of the everyday world to a place where wonder is everywhere and anything is possible. In mysteries, I love a good puzzle and do my best to make the ones in my novels as satisfying as the ones I read in others' books.
But I also like to introduce my readers to ideas and concepts that they may not have encountered before - to take them places they haven't been, acquaint them with people whose beliefs they might not understand, and show them that animals - and situations - are more than they might seem. We're all more than the sum of our parts, and I hope that's true of my writing as well. There's magic in everything and everyone; the trick is finding it, and that's what I try to do with everything I write.