Thursday, June 11, 2015
VR Barkowski Interview for the Release of Twist of Hate
So HALLO fine friends! Today I have the pleasure of interviewing one of my writing friends, a friendship formed during my first or second ABNA when I knew very few people. I have always been struck by VRs style and gotten along with her well, but as you will glean from the interview, I am impressed as heck with her actual writing.
She is giving away an ARC today and you totally want this, so if you'd like to be considered, please leave a comment with your favorite piece of art or book or movie ABOUT an art mystery. I will use a random number generator to pick a winner.. Sadly, only from within the US, as she has some mailing limitations where she is located.
So without further ado, welcome VR and lets get to the interview!
TART: Let me just start by saying I think you should teach a plotting class. This was so elegantly done—and there are 5 mysteries I spotted within the on story: 1) who stole the painting, 2) who killed the guy? (you know who I mean), 3) How did the original painting change hands? [accusations are flying, throwing doubt on ownership], 4) What the hell happened that left a few of the MCs so scarred (one of them literally)? And 5) who killed victim #2? They are beautifully woven together and I have a few related questions. Oh, right... I should ask a question to YOU!
1)Regarding #4 above, Is this the outcome of a book you previously wrote? Has it been published? (If so, how did I not know this?) or WILL you publish it as a prequel? [note to readers—it is the only one of the five mysteries above that doesn't get answered, though it adds a lot to back story, even unexplained]
VR: Thanks so much for having me and for the kind words, Hart. A Twist of Hate is indeed a sequel. It's a follow-up to my unpublished novel, Blood Under Will. I'd planned to self-publish Blood Under Will prior to A Twist of Hate, but with everything in publishing being in such flux, I was advised to wait. I hope it sees print one day. It's edgier, quirkier, much darker, and in my opinion better written than A Twist of Hate.
TART: 2)This is meticulously done. Are you an outliner? Were all the plots part of the original plan or did some appear during writing or in a later draft?
VR: I don't outline, and I'm not a plotter. I start with premise and character. I'm more concerned with story than plot. By that, I mean the protagonist's transformative arc, the emotional journey he or she will take in pursuit of a goal. Plot without story is just a string of events with no emotional weight. Before I write, I want to know my characters. Not the superficial stuff. I don't care about favorite foods or what a character wears, but rather how the character thinks, what he believes, his inner struggle and how I can show it. Plot naturally follows from internal conflict.
The process is not as vague as I make it sound. In A Twist of Hate, I had an inciting incident and two protagonists. I asked myself what I could do to these two intensely loyal, yet very different, men to challenge their allegiances. Then I just kept throwing situations at them—the situations become the plot.
TART: 3)This rich California Jewish community is one I've stuck my toe into. My college boyfriend's family was part of it (though land development, rather than art) so what you wrote felt very familiar and authentic to me. It is a “small world” in spite of California being so populated and the social structure isn't quite incestuous, but approaches it. Was this the world you grew up in? And can you talk about how it influences your fiction?
VR: Apart from its California location, this story is about as far from the world I grew up in as it is humanly possible to get. I worked in finance and operations at a major museum in Seattle for years. That's the world I tried to capture. While San Francisco is a bit larger, I made an assumption its core community of wealthy philanthropists would be similar to that of Seattle: generous, tight-knit, and somewhat cliquish. I'm thrilled it felt authentic to you!
Weird, but I have no clue how the world I grew up in (a college town north of Sacramento) influenced my fiction, but it must have, right? I can't imagine writing about my hometown or a place like it, so I guess I was influenced to explore other worlds in my writing.
TART: 4)You and I met several years ago through ABNA and our similar backgrounds (social science), ages, and genres led me to believe we had a ton in common, but holy crap are you out of my league!? What extra things have you done to develop yourself as a writer? Classes? Workshops? Mentors?
VR: That is SO not true!!! You have six novels (is that right?) published under two different names, and I'm still working on getting my first book out. Sigh... I know, I know, we're not supposed to compare.
Early on, I took online novel writing classes through the UCLA Extension Writers' Program. I'm also a huge fan of writer conferences and retreats. NOT writer/fan conferences or conventions, but writer conferences where the sole focus is writing—no promotion, no pitching agents, no business talk. Whenever pitching is involved, attendees become so focused on selling their work and making a good impression, writing takes a backseat. All that aside, in my opinion, the best way to develop as a writer is to read widely.
TART: 5)Any more books currently on schedule for publication? And what are you working on now?
VR: Nothing on the schedule, though I would like to see Blood Under Will out in the world soon. At present, I'm finishing the draft of a psychological thriller titled Crying for Mercy set in Salem. It's about the obsessive relationship between a teacher at a Catholic high school and an occult shop owner, and how their lives are affected by a series of local murders.
VR Barkowski is a recovering sociologist who stumbled into finance by accident. After spending most of her days buried beneath spreadsheets, she is overjoyed to have exchanged bottom lines for storylines. A native Californian, VR now pens dark tales of murder and obsession from a too-small desk in Salem, Massachusetts, where the history, coastline, capricious weather, and melancholy spirit of Hawthorne never fail to provide inspiration.
When his family’s priceless Cézanne disappears from a local museum, former homicide inspector Del Miller leaves the investigation to the FBI. But that’s before an art dealer alleges that Del’s grandfather, a victim of the Nazi death camps, stole the masterpiece from a Paris gallery seventy years before. After the dealer is found dead, and Del's father is implicated, Del sets out to uncover the truth.
From present-day San Francisco to war-torn France, to the Nazi death camps and betrayal, A TWIST OF HATE is a story of family honor. One man's quest for answers about the grandfather he never knew, the father he idolizes, and the secrets behind a missing painting that lay buried deep within his family's past.
Thanks, VR!!! And friends, don't forget to leave your favorite work of art or story ABOUT art for a chance to with the ARC!