In the Spotlight: Interview with Barbara Stevenson

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Let’s start from the beginning. Who were the writers who inspired you to become an author?

From the very beginning – Oscar Wilde, Enid Blyton, Scottish writer Kathleen Fiddler who wrote Haki the Shetland Pony and Janet Caird (born in Malawi to Scottish parents) who wrote the magnificent Angus the Tartan Partan.

What is the very first piece of fiction you ever wrote?

I wrote a short story about alley cats called The Sandypaws for my Brownie writers’ badge. Must have been about six or seven at the time.

Think back at your debut book. How did you approach the ‘getting published’ process? Any tips, resources that you can share with our readers?

Debut book was a historical novel, The Organist. Being terribly naïve about the world of publishing at the time, I just sent it off to almost everybody I could until I got lucky. My tip would be that if a publisher rejects your book but gives you feedback, it is worth acting on. They know the business after all!

Tell me about your book. What was the inspiration behind it?

My latest book is called The Dalliances of Monsieur D’Haricot, which is a humorous fantasy/spy novel set in 1930s Paris. Let’s just say there is lots going on beneath the surface.

Is there a particular character in the book, that it’s closer to your heart? What makes it so?

My favourite character in the book is called Mala Kai. He/she is a rebel with no sense of responsibility. Not good in real life, but great fun writing about.

How did you find the publishing process, in general?

It was a huge learning experience, and still is. It sounds simple, but it can be difficult to grasp that although a writer knows their work is fantastic (otherwise they wouldn’t offer it to the public) marketing forces etc come into play.

What is your take on social media, when it comes to being an author? Do you think that an author should have at least one channel of communication with the readers?

Double-edged sword springs to mind. You have to give and take with social media. There are only so many times you can tweet ‘buy my book’. Better to find a channel where you can interact on a slightly more personal level, showing interest in what the reader wants/likes/has in common etc

What is the hardest part of writing, in your experience?

Rejections are never easy, but when it comes to the actual writing, I’ve never had a problem scribbling something down. Killing off a favourite character to justify the story line can be hard though.

What do you think about Awards in publishing?

Getting an award/recognition is always nice, but judging is, in general, subjective. (I remember having to judge a rabbit show once and all the bunnies were gorgeous!)

What do you think is the status of publishing today? I’m referring to issues such as representation, diversity, etc.

Thankfully a lot has been done in recent years to widen diversity, but still a long way off from being truly representative. It is great that publishers like Luna Press Publishing invest in writing from different cultures. Currently reading A Diasporic Mythography, Myths, Legend and Memory in the literature of the Indian Diaspora by PM Biswas (Luna Press 2021)

The Big Four Vs Small Presses. What are your thoughts in terms of strengths and weaknesses?

Obviously the Big Four have the marketing clout, but in seeking a USP indy presses allow younger writers to take a first step into the magical world of being a published author. Social media and e-books are a big help. I do think that some authors expect too much from indy presses, probably due to ignorance of the industry’s machinations.

What are you working on at the moment?

Probably take too long to tell you. I like working on multiple pieces. That way, depending on my mood, writing is always enjoyable. Currently editing pieces that haven’t worked, playing with a sequel to Monsieur D’Haricot (mainly because I like the character) writing odd poetry for local mags/events and a humorous whodunit for my sister’s 60th birthday – sorry to give your age away, Kathleen. Long term projects include my magnum opus, an epic fantasy good vs evil adventure set in a fictional monastery, a dictionary of myths involving animals and a non-fiction book about French organists in the 19th and 20th century.

If you had to recommend an author and/or a book, who would it be?

Again a difficult question. I have a lot of friends who are authors and wouldn’t want to favour one over another, so will stick to classics. My favourite books are Graham Greene’s The Power and the Glory, Winifred Holtby’s Mandoa, Mandoa and Richard Bach’s Jonathon Livingstone Seagull. If forced to give one name it would be Jonathan Livingstone Seagull. No matter how many times I read it, I always need a hanky!

You can find Barbara Stevenson’s latest novel in the Luna Press Store and other online retailers.