Aug. 25, 2021

Barbara Barrett

Barbara Barrett

What was the inspiration for Barbara Barrett's cozy mystery series?


Linda Hengerer talks with author Barbara Barrett.

To avoid a midlife crisis, Barbara Barrett wrote fiction at night while still employed in human resources for Iowa State Government. After releasing eleven full-length romance novels and two novellas, she turned to the cozy mystery genre, having discovered it years before when pregnant with her first child. She used one of her retirement pastimes, the game of mah jongg, as her inspiration. Her next book, Courtesy Call, to be released August 31, 2021, is the ninth in the Mah Jongg Mysteries series and is available now. Barbara spends her winters in Florida and summers in her home state of Iowa.

Subscribe to her newsletter subscription at www.subscribepage.com/BBCozies or check out her website at www.barbarabarrettbooks.com to find out more about her books and upcoming releases.

Courtesy Call - available now!

Get to know Barbara - The Tart Words Baker's Dozen:

1.   Plotter or Pantser? Combo?  Combo

2.   Tea or Coffee?  Coffee  (More like Diet Coke or Water)

3.   Beer, Wine, or Cocktails?  Wine

4.   Snacks: Sweet or Savory?   Sweet

5.   Indie Published, Traditionally Published, or Hybrid?  Hybrid

6.   Strict Writing Schedule: Yes or No  No

7.    Strictly Computer or Mix It Up? Strictly computer

8.    Daily Goal: Yes or No   No

9.    Formal Track Progress: Yes or no  No

10.  Special Writing Spot?  Yes

11.   Writer’s Block?  Not often

12.   File of Ideas: Yes or No  Just in my head

13.   Favorite Author(s)?   Lucy Lakestone, Mary Lee Ashford, Sparkle Abbey, Ellery Adams

Like this episode? Leave a review or rating! 

Transcript

Transcribed by Otter.ai; Lightly edited by Linda. Please forgive typos or grammar errors.

Episode 347 - Barbara Barrett

16:54

Linda 00:00

Welcome to Tart Words. I'm your host, Linda Hengerer. And I'm a writer, a reader, and a baker. I talk to writers about their latest book and what inspires them, chat with fellow author Suzanne Fox about what writers can learn from reading their favorite authors, and share fast and easy recipes for anyone looking for a sweet treat. Join me as I share Tart Bites, Tart Thoughts, and Tart Words.

Today on Tart Words, I'm talking with Barbara Barrett. To avoid a midlife crisis, Barbara Barrett wrote fiction at night while still employed in human resources for Iowa State Government. After releasing eleven full-length romance novels and two novellas, she turned to the cozy mystery genre, having discovered it years before when pregnant with her first child. She used one of her retirement pastimes, the game of mah jongg, as her inspiration. Her next book, Courtesy Call, to be released August 31 2021, is the ninth in the Mah Jongg Mysteries series and available now. Barbara spends her winters in Florida and summers in her home state of Iowa.

Subscribe to her newsletter subscription at www.subscribepage.com/BBCozies or check out her website at www.barbarabarrettbooks.com to find out more about her books and upcoming releases. 

Welcome to the podcast. Barbara. I'm really looking forward to talking with you today. 

Barbara

Well, thank you, Linda for inviting me. I'm happy to be here. 

Linda

Tell me about your latest book. 

Barbara

My latest book is coming out at the end of this month. It is the ninth book in my Mah Jongg mystery series and it's called Courtesy Call. It may or may not be the last book in the series. I haven't decided that yet. I wrote it at the end so that it could serve as the as the end book in the series. In the eighth book, the one just before this, the boyfriend of one of my main characters who was the sheriff of the county, was defeated in his reelection campaign to be Sheriff by a rather dastardly character, who in the beginning of this book gets himself killed and our past Sheriff winds up having to solve this murder of the man that defeated him. And that's the eighth book. He's defeated in the eighth book and he’s the solving the murder is in the ninth book. 

Linda

What made you think about wanting to end this series?

Barbara 02:32

Well, it's kind of all my titles have a phrase from Mah Jongg in them or a word from Mah Jongg. And I was running out of words, there are still a couple I could use if I had to. But I felt like I had pretty much covered the landscape for where I wanted to go with the series, I have four characters. With each different book, a different one takes the lead role. They all had at least two times at bat. And I felt like I had pretty much wrapped up their stories. 

Linda

Do you have another series in mind? 

Barbara

Oh, yes, I do. And thank you for asking. I have a series that I haven't really done any kind of promotion about because I didn't want to say too much about it. But I will give you a little bit about it today. The series is called Nailed It Home Reno mystery series, instead of involving four characters it involves two this time, and actually I decided after trying to write for four different characters for the last nine books that I'm going to stick with just one, then I'll have her daughter who's her partner in the business, but she's not a primary character. I've also switched from third person voice to first person and that's a whole new experience. And I'm enjoying it a lot. 

Linda

Which book would you like to talk about today? 

Barbara

I'd like to concentrate on Courtesy Call the ninth book in the Mah Jongg series.

Linda

Which one is the main character in this book? 

Barbara

The main character is Katrina Faulkner. And she goes by Kat. 

Linda

And Kat has an interesting backstory in the series too, doesn't she? 

Barbara

Well, I hope so. She is from the Midwest. She spent most of her adult life as an executive assistant in a small manufacturing company in Illinois. She's very good at organizational skills and with that kind of thing, that type of skill set that goes with that. She also on the last several years before she retired was taking care of her ill mother who passed away before this series ever began. And just before the series began, she has won a huge lottery and she's now a multimillionaire and decided that she's going to take that money and move to Florida where she's always wanted to be and get out of those cold Illinois winters. So she has moved to Florida knowing no one. She kind of went crazy at first with her winnings and bought herself kind of a

Barbara 05:00

McMansion in this little town called Serendipity Springs, fairly new town about 20 years old knowing no one, she joined a Mah Jongg group where she met three other women eventually, and they have become very good friends, not unlike my own experience. Exactly. Although I certainly didn't win a lottery. 

Linda

That would be delightful. Did you come from the Midwest and come to Florida to get away from those winters? 

Barbara

Yes. And actually, I only get away half the year. And right now, in fact, I'm back in the Midwest, we live in Iowa half the year. Although we are Florida residents. 

Linda

I grew up in New Jersey, and I was used to the cold, I was used to winter and when I first moved to Florida, in February of the year that I moved, first moved down, I was working in Manhattan and moved to Florida where it was 70 degrees. You're not all bundled up, you're not freezing your butt off. And people would say how is it? I'm like, What's not to like it's in the 70s. And you can go outside and enjoy being outside. And now I'm so used to the warmer weather, it is very difficult for me to enjoy cold weather again.

Barbara 06:11

I understand we've actually not come back to Iowa the last two years at Christmas last year, it was mainly because of COVID. And the year before, I can't remember exactly why I like to avoid the cold weather as much as I can. Although I'm not crazy about the weather that's there right now in Florida. I'm not a big person for heat and humidity, which starts like in April and goes until almost November, we go basically October to May. And we get a little bit at the beginning a little bit at the end. But those 70 degree temps that you were talking about, that's mainly why I'm there. 

Linda

You talk about Serendipity Springs, and that sounds like it's in the area near The Villages. Is that correct? 

Barbara

I'm not that familiar with The Villages I live elsewhere. I live near the Disney parks. It's not a retirement area per se. In fact, we chose to live in an intergenerational town so that we could be near lots of ages of people. It's close enough to The Villages, but it's not The Villages. 

Linda

Are you more like in celebration, then? 

Barbara

Yes. 

Linda

Okay, that gives me a little bit of a better orientation for where the story is set. I was thinking it was a little farther north, but the Kissimmee/Celebration Disney area still has a lot going on. When I first moved to Florida, I lived in Orlando, and I was surprised that how much more than just Disney there was to do. 

Barbara

That's right. 

Linda

The benefit to having Disney in Orlando is that there are plenty of cheap fares from airlines coming in and out of Orlando. 

Barbara

That's true, too. Although generally when we go, we drive down, and then we're there we drive back home. So we haven't been flying back and forth that much the last few years. And with COVID we haven't been traveling much at all. 

Linda

Yeah, it's funny how COVID has up-ended everybody's lives to varying degrees and in different ways. 

Barbara

It's allowed me to be a lot more productive because I don't really go many places anymore. So I'm at home in front of my computer just typing away thinking of things that my characters can do. 

Linda

Do you have a writing routine or schedule? 

Barbara

Don't I wish! I'm not that disciplined, because I'm retired. And I like to take advantage of that fact, when I can go out and enjoy things around me. But actually, it does wind up being I work mostly in the afternoons into the middle of the evening. I used to work until like 11 that night. But I don't do that so much anymore. I kind of hit the wall about eight o'clock. 

Linda

When do you do most of your editing? If you do creative writing mid to late afternoon into the early evening, do you edit after that? Or do you edit in the morning? 

Barbara

No, I don't do too much editing until I'm far enough along until I've got the first draft done. I don't do much editing. But then when I do it's back in those same hours I mentioned. 

Linda

Do you outline?

Barbara 09:07

I try. I've tried different methods. Like I said, I'm not that disciplined. I'm more of a pantser. But I need to have some kind of foundation as well as a framework in which to pin the story. So I'm more like a person, if I could describe drawing a straight line and on the left side being the inciting incident where I start and then on the right side that is the conclusion of the story. I kind of have an idea with those main points in between are and then the actual creation or creativity. I just sit at the computer and I go from one point to the next. 

Linda

And how did you come up with your Mah Jongg series? I'm assuming that you enjoy playing Mah Jongg. 

Barbara 10:00

Yes, I do. When I moved to Florida, my husband was still working. We had purchased a condo sometime before so that was the idea, that that I would move to Florida and he would continue in the Midwest. So I was on my own and didn't really know anyone, I joined a senior group. And one of the first things they asked me was whether I played Mah Jongg. And I wanted to say, Whoa, that's for old ladies, isn't it, but actually, that's who I am anymore. So I took lessons. And then I joined a group. And I discovered I really liked the game, and I made a lot of new friends through it. That's my background in Mah Jongg. I've taught a couple different classes of newcomers at our senior learning that we have there in town, I wish I could say that I have attended a lot of tournaments, I've only gone to two, but I do play regularly every week. And even during COVID, there's a group of us, we play online. And we've learned how to do a conference call with our telephones, so that we can have our computer screens up and then talk through the phone. 

Linda

Have you tried doing it with Zoom, so that you can see each other's faces? 

Barbara

No, we can't figure out how to bring up the program that we get online along with our faces, we haven't done that, which is just as well, because I don't have to worry about how I look. When we do play I just have to make sure that since everybody else is on the east coast. And when I'm here in Iowa, I'm on central time, I just have to remember the right time to be available. 

Linda

My sister lives in St. Louis. And the one-hour time difference isn't terrible. Two of her daughters live in LA so when we have done some family Zooms throughout the pandemic, it's coordinating the time that works best for everybody in all the three US time zones that we're in. So it's what's suitable for the 20 somethings in California and the people who are older than that on the east coast. It's crazy. 

Barbara

Yes, but I mean, it's something to get us through this time. 

Linda

It's been interesting how much new tech I think a lot of people have learned over the course of the pandemic, because they're either working from home or meeting online in ways that they didn't necessarily do before the pandemic. 

 

Barbara

That's right. My husband meets every other Sunday night with his two brothers and his sister. And they used to see each other if they were lucky once a year. I don't know what they have to talk about anymore after they've been doing this for so long. 

Linda

I think it's nice, though, because certainly if you're retired, they're older and you never know what's going to happen. So it's nice that they're able to share this time together, you know, whether it's online or in-person or combinations of both, it has been good for them. 

Barbara

Yes. 

Linda

If you decide to wrap up your Mah Jongg series, what's going to be the determining factor? 

Barbara

Well, first, I want to get at least the first three books of this new series, the Nailed It series, done and out, I hope to get the first one launched later this fall. It's done it the covers done. I'm now working on the rough draft of the second. And I have an idea for the third. So it's all very possible. But I want to get that done. I've gotten my rights back to six of my romance books that are actually two trilogies, and I've been considering whether I want to re-edit them, and then publish them on my own. And that if I do that, that will take up a lot of time next year. If I do decide to do that, I guess I'll just have to see what the where the market is and where my brain is, by the time I get through. I know what I want to do immediately. And that's about as far ahead as I want to look. 

Linda

I think that's interesting. And I think people talk about starting series, but they very seldom talk about wrapping a series up and what factors go into that. So thanks for sharing that. 

Barbara

Well, I'm a big aficionado of British detective shows. And I watch one called Midsomer Murders, one of the later episodes because they've done it for 22 years. So this is in about year 19 or so there's one called the Curse of the Ninth. And it has to do with several composers, all I can think of is Tchaikovsky, that got as far as their Ninth Symphony in various formats, and then they stopped or something bad happened. And ever since I read about that, I thought maybe there's something about the ninth that I don't really want to go into the tenth. I have an idea very, very general idea for a tenth book, and I really don't want to leave it behind. And it only really lends itself to the Mah Jongg series. But I don't know if it's worth going back and visiting those characters again another year or not. So I am happy with the way the epilogue finishes this book. And I think that anybody who's been reading the series with me will be satisfied as well. 

Linda

Is Mah Jongg your creative outlet that gives you respite for your writing, or do you do something else? 

Barbara 15:00

It's a main one. I wish I could say I'm involved in some wonderful sports that I'm a real terrific athlete, but I'm not what I really enjoy is just going out to lunch with friends, spending time with them. For instance, tomorrow, a group of people I used to work with a bunch of us are going out to breakfast with each other just to catch up on things with each other. That's my creative outlet that well, when I do get to see my grandkids, of course.

Linda

That's fun. I think anything that gives you a break from the writing so that your creative mind can rest a little bit is good. 

Barbara

Yeah, definitely. 

Linda

Well, thanks for talking with me today. I really appreciate it. And I always think it's interesting to hear about different things than what I normally do. 

Barbara

It's growing in popularity among others than just certain age groups and certain ethnic groups. If you get a chance to learn it and try it. It may seem at first like it's really complicated, but it's not. And it is so good for the brain with figuring out strategy and so forth. And it's not as complicated as bridge, which I've never gotten into. 

Linda

My grandmother played quite a lot of bridge and she really enjoyed it. But I think anything that keeps your mind sharp is good for you in the long run. 

Barbara

Yes, definitely. 

Linda

Well, this was terrific. Thank you, Barbara. I really appreciated talking with you today. 

Barbara

Well, thank you for inviting me. This has been fun. 

Linda 16:13

You’re welcome.

Thank you for joining me this week. To view the complete show notes and the links mentioned in today's episode, visit tartwords.com/tart347. Before you go, Follow or Subscribe for free to the podcast to receive new episodes when they're released. Follow now in the app you're using to listen to this podcast or sign up for email alerts through an easy signup form for Bakers, Readers, and/or Writers at tartwords.com/about. Thank you again for joining me, Linda Hengerer, for this episode of Tart Words.

Barbara Barrett

Author

To avoid a midlife crisis, Barbara Barrett wrote fiction at night while still employed in human resources for Iowa State Government. After releasing eleven full-length romance novels and two novellas, she turned to the cozy mystery genre, having discovered it years before when pregnant with her first child. She used one of her retirement pastimes, the game of mah jongg, as her inspiration. Her next book, Courtesy Call, to be released August 31 2021, is the ninth in the Mah Jongg Mysteries series and available now. Barbara spends her winters in Florida and summers in her home state of Iowa.
Subscribe to her newsletter subscription at www.subscribepage.com/BBCozies or check out her website at www.barbarabarrettbooks.com to find out more about her books and upcoming releases.