I‘m delighted to welcome Barbara to my blog today. I met Barbara at my very first RWA conference in 2004. I’d read a number of her lovely stories and was thrilled to have my photo taken with her. She’s now unofficial ‘den mum’ to the enthusiastic Nth Queensland RWA writers.
Barbara, you’re the author of over thirty wonderful Sweet romances for HM&B. Where does your inspiration come from? Does a character evolve or arrive fully formed, or does a story start with a location?
Hi Helene, thanks so much for inviting me to your interesting blog.
Actually, the whole inspiration thing is a bit of a mystery for me. If I knew exactly where my ideas came from I’d never doubt that I’d be able to write another story. J
I’m afraid nothing arrives fully formed. My ideas evolve slowly, but initially, I always seem to start with an intriguing situation.
- A father who learns that his daughter is not his biological offspring
- A girl on Magnetic Island who swaps houses with a London banker
- A woman whose son needs a kidney transplant, and has to go searching for the boy’s father…
Once I’m intrigued by a situation, I ask myself questions about who this is happening to and where and why. Slowly, often with the help of collaging, the ideas growflesh and bones.
I knew you used collaging as part of your writing, Barbara, and I had a wonderful time working on my own at the last Nth Qld get together. I know it helped me with my recalcitrant hero… Do you use it for every story? How does it work?
I’m a person who responds to visual images and during the ‘dreaming” stage of a new book I love to gather pictures (mostly from magazines) that evoke the mood and world of that story. I find pictures of people, settings, clothes and objects. I’m not always sure what role they’ll eventually play in my story, but if they ‘speak to me’ they go in the collage. I join three sheets of A4 and stick the pictures onto this, and keep them by my side while I’m writing. I find the collage really helps the transition back from real life into the world of my current story (especially with all my travel back and forth). The pictures also help the characters to come alive for me. They work in ways that are hard to explain, but I strongly recommend any writer to give it a go.
Living in North Queensland is wonderful (of course, I may well be biased…) but you are even luckier! You can choose between staying in the dry brown heat of Townsville and driving up to the relatively cool green of the Atherton Tablelands. Do you find your writing changes with your environment? Do you have a favourite place to write?
Certainly I’m lucky to have the chance to live in two very different, but equallyinteresting places. When I’m in Townsville, I try to see as much of my family as I can, as well as catching up on movies, and I love taking morning walks along The Strand. When I’m on the Tablelands, I love to soak up the peace and “play” in my garden and walk around beautiful Lake Eacham. But when it comes to my writing, which takes up most of my days wherever I am, the location doesn’t make much difference, because I need to forget about the outside world and immerse myself in the story. I have a job, so these other activities are squeezed in outside 9 to 5.
Tell us about your latest release, Executive: Expecting Tiny Twins which is out now.
This is book is No.2 in The Brides of Bella Rosa continuity and it’s my first experience in writing a publisher devised continuity. The editors came up with our plots and I found it interesting to see how keen they were to push boundaries. In my story, my heroine, Lizzie Green is a forty year old politician who has decided to have a sperm donor baby, and the hero is a laidback Outback cattleman who is ten years younger than her. Although the setting was familiar to me, many story elements were new, and I was keen to take on the challenge. Seeding in the continuity details was also a new technique I had to master, but I enjoyed the experience and I’m looking forward to reading the whole series. It should be great!
What’s next on the release list?
In August, one of my old favourites Outback with the Boss is being re-released in a 3-in-1 called Outback Bosses.
In October, Her Secret, His Son and A Parisian Proposition are being re-released as Author Favourites.
And in November my next new release will be A Miracle for His Secret Son – another story I have a soft spot for and based on the mother who needs her ex’s help to save her sick son’s life.
I know it’s a hard ask because you have so much wisdom to share, but what advice do you have for aspiring writers targeting HM&B?
Really, the best advice is to read, read, and read. Immerse yourself in the genre until you understand instinctively what works in category and what it is that readers love and want to see repeated. Work out which line you enjoy the most, and then, within the line, which authors you really enjoy. Chances are, their styles will best suit your voice and they will be good models for you.
If you haven’t joined Romance Writers of Australia, do so pronto. You’ll be stunned by the fabulous advice they have to share.
Then send your work out, but be prepared to field rejections while you hone your craft. If you want people to hand over hard earned money to read what you’ve written, you have to reach a high professional standard – and of course, that doesn’t happen overnight.
Oh, and remember that the hero is the most important character in your romance.
Good luck! It’s worth it.
Elliot’s interview in this month’s Heart Talk was hysterical and very insightful. It should be mandatory reading for every DH! You two obviously have a great working relationship.
Yes, we do and I know I’m very lucky.
So, folks, how do your partners and family deal with having a writer in the house. Do they loiter outside the door of the study hoping to catch a glimpse of you, slide chocolate under the door when they hear anguished howls or, like Elliot, do they read your WIP? We’d love to hear your stories !
Executive: Expecting Tiny Twins
She’s single, successful…and expecting double trouble!
Single and forty, Lizzie made the brave decision to have a baby—alone. A high-profile politician, she’s come to the Outback away from the prying media and the Bella Rosa family feuding.
Jack Lewis is the cattle station manager. A prim, pampered city girl in a designer suit is the last thing he needs.
Jack’s hotter than the Outback sun and Lizzie can’t help noticing! But he’s so not her type, and surely he isn’t ready for dad duty?
25 thoughts on “Barbara Hannay – The Sweetest of Romances”
Yes Barbara… will be wonderful to put faces to all the delightful people she has told me about.
Noreen… will we see you at the conference, or will I need to wait till I come up your way for a visit to catch up?!
Hi Noreen, and thank you! And Trish, so pleased the collages are helping. Amanda, Shannean has told us you’re our adopted FNq er. Looking forward to meeting you in Coogee.
Helene, thanks again. You’re a gracious hostess in real life as well as cyberly — not to mention a fab writer.
Barb, thanks for being my guest! It’s been lovely to find out more about such a successful writer.
As a bonus you’ve inspired us all with collaging!!
Hi Kelly, I think I drive my hubbie mad with hearing the same song over and over and over…
Hi Noreen, it was a lovely afternoon collaging! It’s been a wonderful light bulb moment for me.
Welcome Amanda, I have agree. It could be come very distracting! But in a very good way. Glad you enjoyed the interview 🙂
Hiya Helene and Barb,
From the wonderful insight Shannean has given me re your collaging workshop, I have commenced collaging for my trilogy and I am hooked… although, I must say, for a serial ponderer and procrastinator like me it is a lethal distraction!
I love that somehow, there are images out there that completely resonate with those people, places and things swirling in my head!
Keep that wonderful ideas and guests coming Helene!
Amanda (the FNQ group adoptee!)
Helene and Barb, lovely interview, thank you!
Interesting about collages. I wasn’t planning on doing a collage for this current story – I thought I was set to roll. But over the weekend I found a castle for my hero and then I needed his picture to go with it (I already had him in my mind, but I needed to have him printed out with different expressions) and then I needed my heroine of course!
Late tonight I have a pile of printed out pics – my collage in process:-))
I’m hoping now the muse now lets me get stuck into the story, but that if it insists on a finshed collage, then that’s what it’s going to take. The payoff will be the stuff I haven’t already seen in the pics. I think I learned that in one of your previous collage workshops, Barbara – the joy of discovering the meaning behind the bits there you had no idea about.
Isn’t it amazing what can turn up?
Hi Helene and Barb
Lovely interview and I loved the book Barb. We did have fun doing the collages with Barb at our last meeting and we loved Anne Gracie’s too.
Kelly, hi there. Thanks for liking my Cape York story. Have you tried head phones? Not only does it save the family from listening to the same piece over and over. It brings the music even closer somehow — I find it especially effective.
Barb, I’m one Hannay book behind – I’ve just finished your gorgeous The Cattleman’s Adopted Family, which I loved.
As for collage, alas it’s not for me. Music, on the other hand, works a treat to set the tone for a scene or even a whole book. My family gets very sick of hearing the same song for months on end.
LOVED Elliot’s HT interview.
Anne, we loved your collages!
And we’re all hanging out to read the Maggie Island book -it sounds fantastic!
Anne, I showed pics of a host of your fabulous collages at out last FNQ meeting. The girls found them v inspiring.
And thanks for mentioning the Maggie Is house swap book. It’s not out till next year, but it was so much fun to write — mostly in emails 🙂 I’m looking forward to seeing it in print too.
Lovely interview, Helene and Barbara. Barbara turned me onto collage a while back — though the first time she talked about it at a conference I thought “not for me.” Hah! I’ve done a collage for the past 6 books and it’s really helped me to plunge myself into the world of the book.
Looking forward to the Maggie island house swap story, Barb.
Waving to Alice. Helene is a defintie pro. Thanks so much for inviting me here, Helene.
Hi Mel. Yes, I sometimes forget to collage, or I think I’m too busy this time. But there’s nearly always a point when I regret it.
Sandy, a fellow Townsvillian. Yes, The Strand is breathtaking now and it will be even better when Kissing point is redeveloped. (My DH is part of that task force 🙂
I think you’re very brave acting out scenes in the backyard. Please do say hello at conference.
Louise, you are indeed lucky to have a DH who actually understands what you’re trying to achieve. And he’s analytical as well. Double bonus!
Gosh — I had a big weekend with family in Townsville and am rather slow at getting back into the blogosphere today, but it’s fab to meet so many people here.
Kylie, I agree that music can be very helpful too. I often listen to classical music — something really moving and lush with no vocals. It helps me to tap into my emotions somehow.
He’s got paws over his ears at the moment… I’ve been singing…
What do the dogs think of that??
I imagine I get much the same looks as you would from Z.
Mel, it’s worked so well for me! I was having a hard time pinning my heroine down and seeing her smiling at me has helped enormously.
Hi Sandy, your DH is indeed a fantastic source of technical information! I’m still laughing over you acting it out in the backyard… What do the dogs think of that??
Hi Alice, thanks for dropping by. It’s lovely having an NQ writers group – even if I don’t get there as often as I’d like too…
Great interview guys, very informative & professional.
Go the NQ Writers!
My HD and I were born and bred in Townsville – hasn’t the Strand changed? As for how helpful HD is – well he’s a mine of technical information – right Helene?
I’ve never done the collaging, what a wonderful idea. I have however gone out the back yard and acted out some scenes so I could get the full impact of all senses. Can’t even imagine how weird that must look to the neighbours! 🙂
Hope to catch up with you again at the conference Barb.
I love the idea of using collaging, I did that for my first few stories, must get back to that idea =)
Hi Kylie, I agree with adding music! It’s a must for me when I’m writing the happy scenes.
Hadn’t thought about scent but that sounds like a fine idea. Your friend sounds like a wonderful woman – it’s very easy to forget to eat when the story is running…
Welcome to you, Louise.
Lovely to hear you have a DH who gets your writing and value adds. My hubbie doesn’t read much except sailing magazines, but he dutifully wades through my manuscripts and marks it up for passages that don’t work or for inconsistencies in the storyline. He also gets used as a sounding board every time we go for a walk!
Hi Helene and Barbara,
I’m one of the lucky ones as well. DH decided to read HMB’s to get an understanding of what I’m doing. Sometimes I’ll ask what he thinks when he’s finished one and he’ll sniff and say ‘Not enough conflict’. LOL. And he’s pretty good with characterization and plotting, esp when I take him out for Italian and a bottle of red 🙂
Hi Barbara & Helene,
What a lovely interview – I do so enjoy reading about fellow Aussie authors, especially how they create their ideas. Collaging is an exciting way to get the feel and mood for your story – good for the visual workers among us.
I’ve even heard of people going a step further with this technique and including fabrics or textural objects as well as scents, catering for the tactile and olfactory ones among us.
I guess if you want to go whole hog you could add music and find a song/piece or collection that represent the themes in your book or evoke the mood.
I’m afraid I can’t contribute to call for DH stories but I have a good friend who rings up or calls in around meal/break times to remind me to eat/have a cuppa/walk around outside when she knows I’m immersed in a WIP.