It’s my pleasure to welcome mystery author Barbra Annino to Thoughts in Progress today as the special guest blogger.
Barbra’s latest release is OPAL FIRE. Here’s a brief description of the book: Stacy Justice did not expect to be set on fire that night, but being raised by witches prepares one for life's little surprises. In fact, she isn't the least bit shocked when her cousin is accused of arson, or when her divorced grandparents sign up for a marriage retreat, or even when her own boyfriend hauls her off to jail. But when a decades-old secret is discovered within the walls of her cousin's bar, even Stacy is rattled. Now, someone wants her dead and she finds herself dodging angry motorists, exploding chickens and a very creepy man who lurks around every corner. As she begins to dig up the past, Stacy learns that even those closest to her have something to hide--and she's about to discover a destiny she never imagined.
With a cast of quirky characters enticing me, Barbra indulged my inquiring mind and answered some questions about her writing and her book.
Mason - Where did the idea for OPAL FIRE come from?
BARBRA - Ghost stories weren’t told in a dim light around the eerie glow of a fire at my grandmother’s house. They were a matter-of-fact and that part of my heritage stuck with me, instilling a fascination of the supernatural and the Old Ways that has lasted my whole life.
Mason - What was your writing schedule like for OPAL FIRE?
BARBRA - I began OPAL FIRE in February of 2008 and my business (I ran a B&B then) was very slow. I tried to work from 7 am to 6 pm with a couple of hours off for lunch, dog walks and other errands. I got through most of a rough draft in three months but then we had an illness in our family that put the book on hold that summer. It was hard to get back to it after the loss of that family member. Then that winter, my husband took two weeks off of work, locked me in his office and I completed the book.
Mason - How do you go about doing research for a book involving witches?
BARBRA - You become one! I've been studying herbal craft and holistic healing remedies for years. I'm a regular contributor to Herb Quarterly magazine and other natural health publications, but I was also fascinated by ancient pagan religions and devoured every book I could on the subject.
Mason - What is the best piece of advice about writing you've received?
BARBRA - Never give up.
Mason - If you could have five of your favorite authors (living or dead) in a critic group, who would they be and why?
BARBRA - Mark Twain, for his wit and brilliance.
Joe Konrath because he's honest and enjoys seeing other writers succeed.
William Shakespeare because I want to know if he intended to slip in all those raunchy double-entendres or if he just did it because that's what the people wanted.
Dorothy Parker because she wouldn't pull any punches and afterwards we could have a cocktail at the round table.
Christopher Moore because he's just freaking funny.
Mason - What can readers expect next from you?
BARBRA - Right now I'm working on the second title in this series, BLOODSTONE. It should be out in June. Then I have plans for a women's fiction novel that will deal with some serious issues but still make readers laugh.
Barbra, thanks so much for answering my questions and guest blogging here today. I’m a big fan of herbal crafts and holistic healing myself. Stacy sounds like she’s got her hands full in OPAL FIRE.
Now for a little background on Barbra. Besides mysteries, she writes fantasy, women’s fiction and some darker tales. The common theme in all of her work is how family shapes our lives -- for better or worse. She lives in Illinois with her really cool husband, three Great Danes and a cat. For more on Barbra, her writing and her dream of escaping to a warmer climate, check out her website.
What are your thoughts on quirky characters. Do you enjoy a little romance and a bit of humor mixed in with a mystery? Does having a few ‘unusual’ characters in the story add more mystery?