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 It's a follow-up to my unpublished novel, Blood Under Will.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!


L. Diane Wolfe said...

I want to know my characters inside and out before I begin, but I'm a plotter.

Your next book is set in Salem - Oregon or Mass.?

Congrats, VR.

VR Barkowski said...

Thanks, Diane! The next book is set in Salem, Massachusetts. I visited Salem for the first time to do research and ended up moving to here. Talk about a plot twist I didn’t expect. :)

VR Barkowski

Carol Kilgore said...

This is an awesome interview. I loved it. I always like the questions Hart asks, and learning more about VR and her book was great, too. I like knowing a lot about my characters before I begin, too. Thing is, no matter how much I think I know, I learn a million times more as I write their stories.

My taste in art is as eclectic as it is in music, reading, and everything else in my life. There's so much to enjoy, why limit myself :)

One of my faves is Winslow Homer, but not his dark oils. I love his bright, summery watercolors. I think he must have had dual personalities.

Roland D. Yeomans said...

Carol is right: this is a wonderful interview - both the insightful questions and the indepth answers.

I learned things about you that I did not know before. I knew you had a sociology background but nothing about the finance or museum aspect of your past. VR, your answers were mini-lessons in writing.

I really enjoyed this interview, guys. You showed us how it is done and done well.

VR Barkowski said...

Carol - I like Winslow Homer too. Especially his water images, but like you, minus the shipwrecks. Someone once gave me a jigsaw of a Homer painting of a boat and man washed ashore after a hurricane or tornado. To this day, I’m not sure if the man was supposed to be dead, but it was a disturbing puzzle to assemble.

Roland - Thanks for the kind words! Weren’t Hart’s questions great? Sociology isn’t exactly a marketable trade, so after deciding teaching wasn’t for me, I did all kinds of different things, including sell sewer permits. Still, my take on everything comes from a sociological perspective. It seeps into everything I write whether I want it to or not. Others sociologists who write fiction (there is a surprising number of them) say the same thing. I’m sure your experience has been similar given your background.

VR Barkowski

Polly Iyer said...

Excellent interview, both the questions and answers. There are a few reasons why your book holds particular interest for me, so I look forward to reading it. I hope you get the first book out too. I have no doubt they're both riveting reads.
Success is right around the corner, though finishing a novel is success in itself. Best of luck.

Pat Hatt said...

Just write how it comes as the characters take shape, that is how mine goes, as not a plotter, besides knowing the ending, at my sea. Great interview.

dolorah said...

Hey VR; great discussion about your writing. I love character and story driven stories. I know what you mean about the difference from plot driven. I spend so much time developing my character arcs I feel like they are real people :) I like a story with characters that are just as vivid and intriguing too. Cool that your setting is so different than where you grew up. You have an excellent imagination, visually creative.

Hello Hart: thanks for hosting the interview today :)

I think my favorite movie about art theft is The Thomas Crown Affair. I love looking at art, but I'd probably pick a Thomas Kinkade painting over any other. Love his landscapes.

VR Barkowski said...

Polly - Thanks so much for stopping by. Finishing a novel IS a success, and I would like to enjoy that feeling again by finishing up my current manuscript sooner rather than later. :)
I know this is the last day to nominate your novel Indiscretion for the Kindle Scout program. It's HOT at the moment—yay! In fact, it has been nearly every time I've checked. Wishing you the best of luck!

Pat - I always write about a crime and always know the solution, but I can't seem to predict what my characters will do. Sometimes I want to slap them. I'd advise you not to try that with Orlin or Cassie, they wouldn't take kindly.

Donna -  Our characters ARE real people. Shh, don't tell. :)
Hart's setting question totally threw me. I'd never thought about it before. I love any excuse to research and writing about where I grew up would absolutely not provide that. I'm not sure I could even do it. Too personal.

Liz A. said...

I guess close-knit groups are the same wherever you go. That's where writing what you know comes in, right?

VR Barkowski said...

Liz - Good point, Liz. While it's fun to research or even to build a world from scratch, if we didn't tap what we know somewhere along the way, no book would ever get finished.

VR Barkowski

Denise Covey said...

What a great interview, Hart and VR. Your novel sounds great VR. I enjoyed hearing of your writing process, too, VR. Somehow I had you tweaked as a plotter not a pantser. I think the better we know our characters, the more convincing they are in our stories.

I hope the book does very well, VR.

Denise :-)

Susan Flett Swiderski said...

Gee, you never can tell where a path might take you. Because Hart left a "like" on my review of "City of Refuge," I followed the bread crumbs from there to find this blog. And who do I find here but that super gal VR? (Hi-ya, VR!) Small world.

Very nice interview, ladies. No need to enter me into consideration for an ARC, because I already have one. As for my favorite story about a piece of stolen artwork, why that would have to be "A Twist of Hate," wouldn't it? Favorite artist. That's tough, because I like so many, and weirdly enough, my "favorite" depends on mood to a certain degree. For example, I love Salvadore Dali, but sometimes, I'm much happier with more realistic works. Yep, call me fickle.

You can call me groupie, too, because I'm about to sign on as the newest follower on this blog. (Sheesh. Not that you NEED me... you've got a LOT!) Tough. You're stuck with me.

VR Barkowski said...

Denise - I should be a plotter. Everything about me screams plotter. I’ve never written a piece of non-fiction without an outline. But if I try to plot fiction, I end up with formula. For years, I thought I was doing it wrong. Not so. Finally figured out not knowing where the story is headed—the surprise—is what I love most about writing. Now I feel sorry for plotters. I know they can’t help it (our process is our process), but they’re missing out on something very special.

Susan - Great to “see” you! And thank you. I’m honored. I think I’m blushing (although it may be heatstroke). :-)
It IS a small world, particularly since you are one of a handful of people who’s read ATOH.
Love your Dali and realism combo. Eclecticism rocks. On a totally unrelated note, I recently attended a lecture where Dali’s friendship with Walt Disney was discussed. Dali and Walt worked on an animation together that was never released because the two couldn’t agree. Still, they remained friends all their lives. Disney and Dali—whodda thunk it?

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

You must be darn good if you impress Hart!
I've never gone to a writer's conference or attended any workshops. I probably missed out.

VR Barkowski said...

Alex - Hart is too kind, that's all I'll say. Writing conferences/workshops are a perfect opportunity to step back. I think as writers, we become so focused on other things—social media, self-promotion, indie-publishing, getting an agent, finding a publisher—we sometimes forget the writing. It’s nice to be reminded writing still matters.

Speaking of stepping back, hope you had a great vacation!

emaginette said...

Nice to get to know you a little better, VR. Excellent interview ladies. :-)

Anna from Elements of Writing

VR Barkowski said...

Anna - Thanks so much for the kind words and for swinging by!

Theresa Milstein said...

Hi, Hart and VR. This book has been a long time coming. So exciting that the ARCs are here!

When I was a kid I read a mystery-fantasy about new art from long-dead painters that was just appearing. The mystery was to find out where the paintings had come from. The name escapes me now, but I thought it was great at the time.

VR Barkowski said...

Theresa - It has been a long time—long enough one of the businesses mentioned closed, there’s been a major traffic re-route, and I changed genres.

The art/mystery/fantasy sounds fabulous. If you think of the title let me know. I don't practice ageism when it comes to reading. choices.

Crystal Collier said...

Wahoo! So excited about the book. I love that the first book is still unpublished. It's amazing how ideas springboard off one another, eh?

VR Barkowski said...

Crystal - Thank you! The bad thing about having an unpublished manuscript laying about is whenever I want to procrastinate about writing, I start to edit the old book. I have at least thirty versions. Not sure that's a productive use of my time. :)

Chrys Fey said...

I admire writers who are pantsers. I have to plot out a book from beginning to end and even then I have to work on a couple of plot issues during editing.

Like Crystal, I like that the first book is unpublished. It makes this one that much more intriguing. :)

Arlee Bird said...

I missed out on this, but best wishes on the book VR.

The first movie that popped into my mind was Hitchcock's Vertigo. I don't guess it was about an actual famous work of art but the mystery revolved around the mysterious portrait in the gallery. This is one of my favorite films.

Arlee Bird
A to Z Challenge Co-host
Road trippin' with A to Z
Tossing It Out

VR Barkowski said...

Chrys - Too funny. I admire writers who are plotters. I tried for several years. I could never get plotting to work for me. Isn’t it fascinating how many different paths there are to get to the end of a story? It all depends on how our minds work.

Arlee - Thanks so much! Vertigo is a great film—one of my favorites, too (pretty much anything Hitchcock)—and the portrait is definitely a key player. Also love Vertigo's San Francisco setting.