08 December 2011

Interview with Barbara Forte Abate, author of The Secret of Lies

Barbara Forte Abate

Barbara Forte Abate is the author of The Secret of Lies which I recently read and thoroughly enjoyed.  You can read the full review here, where I gave it 4 stars.

Barbara, thanks for joining us today, to talk about your writing, and your debut novel The Secret of Lies.

Is it true that you originally started writing The Secret of Lies 20 years ago on yellow legal pads and then transcribed your writing onto a typewriter?
Yes, I really did and it was definitely slow going!  Even so, it felt like the only way to go. For starters, I didn't even own a typewriter so that alone narrowed down the possibilities of going another route. Besides which I wasn't especially confident starting out and so I was very secretive and highly protective of what I was up to. It took quite a long time to get past that insecure way of thinking in regard to my writing endeavours.  But then once I got to the crucial point of needing to borrow a friends typewriter, that was pretty much the end of the "closet writer era."

What made you decide to bring it out again and publish it in 2010?
Well, the manuscript was never actually put away.  There was never a point when I stopped working on The Secret of Lies. It went through 4 titles and so many rewrites that I stopped counting for fear of becoming overwhelmed by horror and depression. Once I'd finish yet another rewrite I would set it aside to simmer while I worked on one of my other novels in progress, and in that way would alternate projects, perfecting, polishing, and basically learning to write. Fast forward (though actually not so fast) to 2010 and it felt like, okay, enough already, it's time. 

When you write now, do you write straight onto a computer, or do you still prefer to write in longhand first?
First drafts are always longhand. It feels so much more up-close and personal and staring at the white screen is just intimidating - maybe even a little hostile. Once the initial draft is down I become far more modern and switch to the computer. I edit long and hard and I'm sure I don't have to tell you the supreme joys of cut, paste, and delete! 

I read on your website that you like to keep a pen and paper in every room so that you can capture ideas as they come to mind.  Do you have a love for stationery and journals, or do you have a soft spot for yellow legal pads? 
I do have a strange affection for pens and paper, so much so that I tend to squirrel away the pretty stuff because it's "too nice to use."  I'm trying to get over that, but it's taking some time. It's pitiful really that I can't trust my head to hold onto an idea long enough to walk over to my desk and jot it down, hence the notebooks.  But no, nothing fancy.  Dollar store pads small enough to tuck into a pocket are my favorites. Since they're cheap and generic I feel free to scribble at will - something I find hard to do if my paper is too pretty. I also have a love of stationery, and love to linger in stationery stores, admiring the pens, paper, journals and all the accessories etc.

The Secret of Lies features a romance between teenagers, one of whom is deaf.  This was one of my favourite elements in the novel; what was your inspiration for the deaf character of Jake and his relationship with Stephanie? 
I'm so thrilled to hear that Jake and Stephanie's relationship was one of your favorite elements of this story, because it was absolutely one of my favorite to write. Jake is actually the only character wholly inspired by a real person. I discovered him on a weekend camping trip I took with one of my best friends and her family when I was 16 (hence, a very long time ago!) and from the moment I saw him setting up camp with his family I was smitten. 

For the next 3 days I tried in vain to orchestrate chance meetings, imagined the perfect conversations we would have if I could just summon the courage to speak to him, thought I spoke endless volumes with my eyes...and it wasn't until just before he drove away on Sunday morning that I saw his father speaking to him using sign language.  Talk about an 'Ah Ha' moment! I did think about this mysterious boy for a long time afterward, yet I don't conscientiously recall inviting the far away memory of him into The Secret of Lies.  He pretty much just walked in on his own.

I also enjoyed your strong and deeply layered female characters in the novel.  Can you tell me more about the inspiration behind these characters? Are there women - authors or literary figures - you look up to in your own life? 
I generally find it impossible to bring real people into my stories because they inevitably become distracting and it's just too hard on the process of imagination. Certainly there are things we pick-up from people passing through our lives, even when we don't realize it, so there are always those elements.  I start out writing my characters as people I think I'd like to know and then somewhere along the way they take over and show me who they really are. By the time I type 'The End' I have grown very attached and care for them deeply. It's a crazy, altogether mysterious process, and I can't say I wholly understand it. I'm just continually amazed by what goes on in my otherwise quiet mind.

What was the best book you read in 2011? 
I'm so tempted to cheat and name several because it's so incredibly hard to name one!  No, honestly - I mean really really hard. But hum-mm....I think I'll have to say Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand. I just finished this book recently and it was such an incredible masterpiece of a story. And truly, isn't it just such a thrill to come across a book that grabs you from the start and holds you by the throat even after you've read the last page? I know so many people who say they don't read - ever. And I think how sad...how impossibly sad.

What do you have planned for 2012? 
Writing.  Always writing! I'm this close to finishing up my latest novel and sending it off to my agent. She's been waiting a while, so I'm anxious to check this off my list as "goal accomplished." Then I'll start something new. I'm a slow writer so starting a new project is a long term commitment.

Anything else you'd like to add? 
When I think about all the bumps and bruises that come along with writing a book, the fact remains that regardless of how a book becomes a book, the final essential link feels to be the reader who comes along to turn the pages, enabling all that's between the covers to come out and walk around for awhile.  

I so enormously value the connection between reader and author, and I absolutely want to take the opportunity to thank you for reading and reviewing The Secret of Lies, Tracey! It's been such fun chatting with you!

It's a pleasure Barbara, thanks for being my guest! 

Would you like to comment?

  1. Excellent blog! Do you have any hints for aspiring writers? I'm planning to start my own blog soon but I'm a little lost on everything. Would you recommend starting with a free platform like Wordpress or go for a paid option? There are so many choices out there that I'm completely overwhelmed .. Any suggestions? Thanks a lot!

  2. Thanks for your comments :-) I'm using blogger which is free, however I know many book bloggers who use Wordpress. I don't see a need to opt for paid options, as you say there are so many options out there. Start off using a free option and see how you go first.

    Just make a start, and remember to continually review your navigation and ease of use. I find I'm continuing to make improvements. Best of luck!

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