It’s time for another author interview! I know, how exciting! Today it’s Sandy Barker.
Tell me a bit about you and your latest work.
I’m an author and traveller who is based in Australia and this year, my partner and I are on a year’s sabbatical living and working around the world. We’re both working as consultants, but I’ve also donned another hat this year as an author.
My unique take on contemporary romantic comedies is the theme of travel, specifically how transformative it can be.
My first book You Might Meet Someone was published in December 2017. It’s based (very) loosely on the story of how I met my partner while travelling in Greece. I wrote the follow up, I Think I Met Someone, during our two months in Bali, and the third book in the ‘Someone’ series, Someone Unexpected, while living in England and Portugal.
Describe yourself in 3 words.
adventurous, generous, and hilarious (no really, just as my mum)
How would you Twitter pitch your novel?
Cat is on the run. Escaping her lovesick flatmate, she books a last-minute seat on an EU bus tour. Happily single for 10 years, a chance meeting with someone unexpected in Paris may just change her mind about love. #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, generally 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 I would love to give up consulting and/or any future ‘day job’ and be a full-time novelist.
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 around three years, and in that time I drafted it more than 10 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 8 weeks and the edits and revisions about the same.
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 Someone Unexpected, I’d love to cast an Aussie actress as Cat (an Aussie who lives in London) and have thought about Tessa James. And Michiel Huisman as Jean-Luc.
What’s been your biggest learning curve?
Marketing as an indie author. It is critical to understand all the avenues and tools available. I learn something every day.
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.
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.
And now for some silly questions just for fun…
Tea or coffee?
BOTH! Love ‘proper’ tea and great coffee (self-professed coffee snob). In Porto, we walk across town for a decent cup of coffee.
Beer or wine?
Wine. A lot of our travel is to wine regions.
Chips or curly fries?
Fat chips, well cooked!
Puppies or kittens?
I’m a cat person.
Summer or winter?
Summer! We chased the sun this year and had summer for nine months. It was glorious.