I’m so excited to have back on the blog the lovely Sandy Barker today. When I first interviewed Sandy she was a self-pubbed author but has recently signed to Avon Books, so we’re welcoming her back as part of her blog tour for her fab novel, One Summer in Santorini.
Tell me a bit about you and your latest work.
I’m an author and traveller with a lengthy bucket list, a cheeky sense of humour, and a (minor) addiction to cheese. In 2018, my partner and I went on a year’s sabbatical, living and working around the world. Inspired by incredible locations and the wonderful people we met, I wrote my second and third novels — all travel romances with a dash of comedy.
As we were settling back home in Melbourne Australia earlier this year, I got the call from Avon Books that they wanted to publish my first novel, a book I’d previously self-published. I celebrated by leaping about, alternating between ugly crying and making a noise which can only be described as ‘squeeeee’ — and by opening a bottle or three of bubbles.
One Summer in Santorini will be my debut with Avon Books, soon to be followed by another yet-to-be-titled book.
Describe yourself in 3 words.
adventurous, generous, and hilarious (no really, just as my mum)
How would you Twitter pitch your novel?
Can you replace a cheating ex with a new leather handbag and a trip to Greece? Sarah certainly hopes so. What she *doesn’t* hope is to meet someone new — enter Josh, the cute American, and James, the silver fox. Ten days, one boat, two men and one big decision. #RomCom #TravelRomance
What are your top 3 tips for aspiring writers?
Read widely, inside and outside of your chosen genre.
Read writing blogs for inspiration and tips on how to break writing rules.
Sit down and write. Just get the words down. You can’t edit what isn’t written.
Are you a panster or plotter?
I’m a plantser.
Before I start writing, I know major plot points, including how the main character and love interest(s) meet, and a general idea of who the main and supporting characters are, and how it ends.
Everything else comes as I write. The characters reveal themselves to me and I follow them around in my head, then write down what they do and say. I am often surprised by my characters, which I love.
What does success look like to you?
Being able to make a living as a novelist. I don’t need to be JK Rowling, but eventually I want it to be my (only) full-time job.
How do you choose your character names?
Many of my character names are homages to people who are dear to me. If I’m basing a character on someone I’ve met, I will find a name similar to theirs. Cat (Catherine) who is a supporting character in the first two books and the main character in book three is (again loosely) based on my sister, Vic (Victoria).
Also, Google is awesome for lists of names.
Do you ever Google yourself?
Hah! No. *now wants to Google herself*
What do you do when you get stuck with your writing?
I read. Reading in my genre is a great way to let my brain percolate on my ideas and get my brain back in ‘contemporary romantic comedy’ mode. Walking and exercise also help. I’ve untangled some nasty plot snags while on the elliptical machine.
How long does it take you to write a book?
Book one was written in spits and spurts over several years, and in that time I drafted it more than ten times.
Books two and three went a lot faster, as once I started, I wrote pretty much every day. The first drafts (start to finish) took around eight weeks and the edits and revisions about the same.
I got more than half-way through my current work-in-progress in about a month, but it has been on hold while I’ve edited One Summer in Santorini and while I’ve been working on marketing. I will be back in the author chair very soon and would love to have it completed by August.
What’s your main weakness as a writer eg.SPaG, continuity etc?
I find pacing a little challenging, particularly in the middle of the book when I get impatient and tend to rush. In the editing process, I check this carefully to make sure the story is moving along, but that I’m not speeding through key plot points.
What do you find hardest/easiest about writing?
Easiest: Once I know what a scene or chapter is about, I can typically get it down fairly quickly. The last chapter of book three is one of the longest, but I wrote the initial draft in a five-hour sitting because I knew exactly what needed to happen.
Hardest: Ensuring the supporting characters get just enough ‘page time’. I want the reader to be invested in them, but they can’t derail the main story.
Describe your writing process in 3 words.
Structured and flexible
If your book/one of your books got made into a film, who would play the main roles?
I think about this a lot. I tend to visualise my stories as I write them, and I will often cast them in my mind as I write. They are quite filmic in style, too—lots of dialogue and description.
For Sarah, there’s this fabulous Australian comedic actress, Michala Banas, who also happens to be gorgeous. She’d be fabulous. For Josh, I would pick an American actor who is sexy-cute and looks a lot younger than he is, like Cole Sprouse, and the silver fox can only be Richard Armitage (swoon).
What’s been your biggest learning curve?
The business of publishing, particularly marketing. There are a lot of moving parts and it is acritical aspect of being an author. Even my favourite (highly-successful) authors are on social media regularly.
Do you prefer pen and paper, or is everything on the computer?
I take notes into a notebook—middle-of-the-night scribbles and lists of minor plot points to loop in when I edit—but I write and edit on my laptop.
Who’s your favourite author and why?
I read widely across a lot of genres. Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander series is incredible. Her prose is sublime, and the historical aspects are well-researched. Plus, it’s an incredible love story.
I love Michael Connelly too. He’s the master of crime thrillers and I love how detailed his stories are, yet his prose is so succinct.
And in my genre, I love Lindsey Kelk. Her characters leap off the page, and she’s equally adept at injecting heart and humour in her writing. She’s been incredibly supportive — when I told her about my publishing deal, she replied with how proud she was of me, that I’d persevered. Maybe one day we will get to do a book tour together — dreams are free, right?
What’s your favourite book?
Just one? To Kill a Mockingbird. It’s a cliché, but it is a stunning, evocative and provocative read. I taught it for many years and found something new each time.
How do you relax?
I read or I watch something. If I totally want to switch off, I’ll binge watch The Great British Baking Show or Chopped.
And now for some silly questions just for fun…
Tea or coffee?
BOTH! Love ‘proper’ tea and great coffee. I’m a self-professed coffee snob, so I am grateful to live in a city where there is incredible coffee pretty much everywhere.
Beer or wine?
Wine. A lot of our travel is to wine regions. We’re off to Margaret River again soon.
Chips or curly fries?
Fat chips, well cooked!
Puppies or kittens?
I’m a cat person.
Summer or winter?
Summer! We chased the sun in 2018 and had summer for nine months. It was glorious.
There was something in the air that night. . .
Sarah has had enough of men. It’s time to rekindle her first true love – travel – so she books a sailing trip around the Greek islands with a group of strangers.
The very last thing Sarah wants is to meet someone new, but
then a gorgeous American man boards her yacht… And when she also encounters a
handsome silver fox who promises her the world, she realises that trouble
really does come in twos.
Will Sarah dive into a holiday fling or stick to her plan to steer clear of men, continue her love affair with feta and find her own way after all?
The perfect holiday read to escape with this summer, for fans of Annie Robertson’s My Mamma Mia Summer and Mandy Baggot’s One Last Greek Summer.
Sandy Barker is an Australian writer;
traveller and hopeful romantic with a lengthy bucket list and a cheeky sense of
Many of Sandy’s travel adventures have found homes in her writing; including her debut novel; a contemporary romance set in Greece; which was inspired by her true-life love story.
In 2018; Sandy and her partner left Australia for a year’s sabbatical; living and working in Asia; America and Europe. Inspired by beautiful locations and new travel experiences; she wrote her second and third novels.
Now settled back in Melbourne; Sandy has just started writing her fourth book.
Buy links: https://sandybarker.com/one-summer-in-santorini/
I was lucky enough to read an advance copy of One Summer in Santorini and it is absolutely fab, so please grab your copy now! https://amzn.to/2W3oDNg
Thank you so much for sharing this, Katie. Great questions and a blast to be interviewed by you again. x