Delighted to have Anne Barwell back as my guest again. She lives in Wellington, New Zealand, where she shares her home with two cats who are convinced that the house is run to suit them; this is an ongoing “discussion,” and to date it appears as though the cats may be winning. She writes a good biog, that gal, as well as good answers!
So, Anne, when you were last here we chatted about watching your first book fledge. What does it feel like with the seventh and eighth?
Surreal, but in a very good way. I have all of my covers on my wall—they’re a good reminder of what I’ve achieved. In a weird way, each new book feels like a first as they’re all very much their own ‘child,’ even those which are subsequent parts in a series.
What do you think you’ve learned since you were first published?
I’ve learned a lot more about how the publishing process works, so I’m more prepared for the stuff that comes with deadlines. For example: when I’m researching a historical I keep a list of resources, both hardcopy and websites, so when I’m asked for it I just have to copy and paste. I also write a blurb now when I start working on a book so it’s already done when I have to submit and it’s handy when people ask what I’m working on. I’m still working at balancing writing, working full time, family commitments (including cats) and making sure I get some downtime. It’s not easy but I’ve learned it’s important to realise that what works for others won’t necessarily work for me and vice versa.
What do you wish you’d known when you were first published?
I wish I hadn’t wasted time trying other publishers and just submitted to Dreampinner Press first off. I love working with them, and in hindsight I’m relieved I had no luck with local publishers who don’t tend to publish the genres I enjoy writing anyway.
I also wish I’d got my website together sooner, and had all that up and running before my first book came out. Having a website has made life easier, as I can have static pages and book information all in one place. I love having a blog but I think a website is necessary too, and the two work together well.
What inspired the latest book?
Winter Duet, which is available from Dreamspinner Press on 6th October, is the second in the Echoes series, and a continuation of the story I started in Shadowboxing so it’s more of a question of what inspired the series. I got the idea for Echoes over ten years ago, and it wasn’t as easy then to find m/m stories, especially in the action/drama genre, so I wrote what I wanted to read. I’ve always been interested in WW2 so decided to set it then, and the time period and location came together to provide the underlying idea for the plot. I knew the story I wanted to tell needed to be long enough to do it justice, and it works well in three parts, with not just how the story unfolds but also with the changes in location. Shadowboxing is set in Berlin, Winter Duet is a road trip across Germany and Comes a Horseman will take place in France.
Did you know where Winter Duet was going from the start or did it take an unexpected turn?
I had the rough outline of the whole series in my head before I started writing Shadowboxing, and wrote a detailed outline for both Winter Duet and the third book, Comes a Horseman, before beginning Winter Duet. I knew I needed to outline this series in details for several reasons. I needed it to be historically accurate—or as much as I could given it’s fictional—and several incidents had to tie in with documented events. As this series is more of a story across three books, rather than separate stories that happen within a particular universe, I also needed to keep in mind the overall series plotline/timeline as I wrote. I have, however, written them so that they can read on their own.
However, even given that, I’ve discovered the hard way that characters will still do what they want. There was a particular incident that happened in Winter Duet that wasn’t in the outline which impacted quite substantially on not only the story but the characters too although it works well within the series story I want to tell. In fact I think it’s better for it. One of the earliest lessons I’ve learnt with writing is that it doesn’t matter how much I outline a story, there still comes a point where I have to just trust the characters and ‘take dictation’.
Have you ever been writing and discovered something totally unexpected about one of your characters?
Frequently. They often seem to have minds of their own, but I think that’s a good sign. I usually start a book with a fair idea of what these guys are like, but I get to know them better the more I write them. I’ve also had characters turn up who weren’t in my outline, who have then moved in and become integral to the story. I have outlines and plans but I think it’s important to have some flexibility in there too, and to be prepared to ‘go with the flow’.
Which book do you wish you’d written and why?
The Outlander series by Diana Gabaldon. I love those books which are a mix of time travel and historical. I’ve always been interested in the Jacobite Rebellion, and her protagonist is originally from just post WW2. Add in a layered plot, three dimensional characters, and time travel. I’m a sucker for anything with time travel. It’s one series I always buy when each new book comes out, and I’m now waiting for not only the next book in the series but each new episode in the Outlander TV series.
Which book do you wish somebody else would write?
I’ve been a fan of Tanya Huff’s for years. Last year she wrote a book called Silvered, which is about shapeshifting wolves. So far it’s looking like it’s a standalone but I want more in the series, or at least a sequel. I fell in love with the characters very quickly, and love the worldbuilding.
And because I’m greedy and there’s another… When I was growing up I had to wait for each new book in Susan Cooper’s Dark is Rising series to be written. I’d really love more set in that universe or a sequel to the series with Will and Bran as adults. But as it’s been years since the original came out, I’m probably out of luck.
Have you got a secret you’d be willing to share?
There’s a huge Easter egg for my readers in my upcoming novella On Wings of Song, and a smaller one in Winter Duet.
With Kristopher finally fit enough to travel, he and Michel leave the security of their safe house and continue their journey across Germany toward Switzerland. Caught in a series of Allied bombings, they stop to help civilians and narrowly escape capture by German forces.
While investigating a downed aircraft in the Black Forest, the two men discover an injured RAF pilot. After they are separated, Kristopher and the pilot are discovered by a German officer who claims he is not who he appears to be. Determined to find Michel again, Kristopher has to trust the stranger and hope he is not connected to those searching for him and the information he carries. Meanwhile Michel is intercepted by one of the Allied soldiers he met in Berlin. His help is needed to save one of their own.
Time quickly runs out. Loyalties are tested and betrayed as the Gestapo closes in. Michel can only hope that they can reach safety before information is revealed that could compromise not only his and Kristopher’s lives, but those of the remaining members of their team—if it is not already too late.