The Long and the Short of It recently had the pleasure of talking with Australian author, Barbara Hannay. Be sure to check out her website for some strikingly beautiful pictures of the lovely "Down Under" land she lives in. She says she splits her time between "an inner city apartment and a cabin in the Misty Mountains on the Atherton Tablelands." I've seen pictures of the Misty Mountains and would be hard pressed to ever leave them to come back to the real world. She tells me that she "loves life in the north where the dangers of cyclones, crocodiles and sea stingers are offset by a relaxed lifestyle, glorious winters, World Heritage rainforests and the Great Barrier Reef." And, it's easy to see why she does!
She is Australian born and bred, but she's been researching her heritage recently and has discovered her ancestors are English, Scottish, Irish, and German. Hmm... we may be related.
All of us are interested in knowing how our favorite authors got their start, so I asked Barbara what first got her interested in writing. "I honestly don’t know," she said. "It feels as if I’ve been making up stories and writing since I was very small. As a child I spent hours writing poetry, short stories, comics (complete with illustrations), magazine stories. I guess it’s the way I’m wired."
She had good advice for those of us who sometimes get writer's block and this is something I'm going to try the next time it happens to me. She said, "One of my best tips is to put on a CD of your favorite music (preferably music without words) and don’t allow yourself out of the chair until the CD stops. Most CDs last for at least an hour and usually, some time during that hour, the music will relax you and you’ll get an idea for a sentence, which will start to grow into a paragraph and before you know it, you’re unblocked."
Barbara is definitely a multi-tasker. In her office, along with the two walls covered in bookshelves and the floor-to-ceiling built-in wardrobe stuffed with books, she also has a printout from her latest manuscript on the floor beside her AND a collage for her latest book. She also has good luck charms, cards from friends, and notes to herself all over her desk. She says she's looking for a place to put her RITA, which she won this year for Best Traditional Romance.
I asked her what she considered the hardest part to writing a book. "There is never one thing that is the hardest part because each book is different and each story presents different problems," she said. She does admit, however, that she worries a lot about the ending. "Because everyone knows that a romance will end with 'I love you' and 'I love you too', there’s huge pressure to make that happen in a new and exciting way. It’s a big challenge, but one I always enjoy." She went on to say, "And then, of course, there’s the journey to that happy ending and the need to make the characters likeable and their conflict believable and the need for sensual tension and falling in love. None of it’s easy."
Her wish? "To write stories that make people laugh and cry and remember what’s good about being alive." Barbara, with the twenty-six (at last count) novels you have out with Harlequin Mills and Boon, I think you can say your wish has come true.
I, for one, am very grateful she decided to give up her career as a high school English teacher in 1999 and devote herself to writing romances. Thank you, not only for the interview, but for giving us such a wonderful gift in your writing.
Visit Barbara at her website.