Friday, 3 June 2011

Welcome to Anne Barwell

I'm thrilled to welcome a Kiwi, Anne Barwell to my blog. 

Author bio: 

Anne Barwell lives in Wellington, New Zealand, sharing her home with her twin daughters, at least during the holidays, when one of them isn't away at university. Her son has left home and started his own family, although she claims she is too young to be a grandmother already. Her three cats are convinced that the house is run to suit them; this is an ongoing "discussion," and to date it appears as though the cats may be winning.

In 2008 she completed her conjoint BA in English Literature and Music/Bachelor of Teaching and has worked as a music teacher, a primary school teacher, and a librarian. She is a member of the Upper Hutt Science Fiction club and plays piano for her local church and violin for a local orchestra.

She is an avid reader across a wide range of genres and a watcher of far too many TV series and movies, although it can be argued that there is no such thing as "too many." These, of course, are best enjoyed with a decent cup of tea and further the continuing argument that the concept of "spare time" is really just a myth.

When and why did you begin writing?
I began writing at primary school, and in hindsight it was fanfic before I knew it had that name. I'd read a series of books and wanted to know what happened next. Then about eleven years ago I got my first computer and ventured onto the internet, did a google search for one of my favourite TV shows and found fanfic for it. I remember thinking, I could do that, and began writing. I then found that, although I enjoyed reading what was out there, there were stories I wanted to read that I couldn't find. So I wrote them.

What inspires you to write and why?
I like exploring what if possibilities and seeing how characters will react in a given situation. Often I'll get an idea or a character stuck in my head and it goes from there. Those ideas demand to be told although once they're written it seems to only encourage more to come along. I tend to write in series rather than 'one shots', so once a character 'moves in' he makes himself at home.

What is the best piece of advice you received before you got published? 
Keep writing even if it's just a little bit each day. After Cat's Quill was finished, I submitted it to a couple of local (NZ) publishers but it wasn't suitable for their lists. A friend suggested that I try submitting it to Dreamspinner Press, and the rest, as the saying goes, is history.

Do you have any rituals to start your writing day?
I try to write (or edit) each day and get into a routine but sadly some days with life the way it is, it doesn't happen, or it's in snatched moments here and there. At the moment I'm working several evenings a week so I try and get housework and other related things done in the morning and then settle in for a couple of hours of writing in the afternoon before work. To get in the mindset, I make a cup of tea and put on some background music. The music often depends on the mood of what I'm writing or the characters.  I also often chat on IM while I write; I'm a bit of a multitasker and did my conjoint degree assignments the same way.

What are you currently writing?
Shadowboxing is an m/m historical drama set in 1943 in Berlin. The main character is a scientist working on the German atomic bomb project. After a series of events he ends up on the run from the Nazis with an undercover Resistance operative.  There are a couple of interlinked plot lines with the Allied team sent in to deal with the situation having their own issues to deal with when everything goes pear shape. I'm enjoying the mix of action, drama and romance in it. I've finished the first draft and am about half way through the second so hoping I will be able to submit it in another six weeks or so.  Once that's done I plan to start on the sequel to Cat's Quill which has a working title of Magic's Muse.

How do you find your names? 
Some characters turn up with names, others I have to hunt for. Tomas is named for an OC in an online RPG I played a few years ago, although the characters are quite different. Cathal needed his name to shorten to 'Cat' because of a plot point so I looked for a name with that in mind. Online name sites are brilliant especially as they give meanings behind the name which I tend to keep in mind when I choose. Occasionally I get a character I have to change, either because it's used somewhere else (like finding that one character in Shadowboxing had the same last name as a famous historical figure attached to the atomic bomb project – oops), or because the character decides it's not the right one.

What is the most interesting piece of research you’ve done so far?
I've learnt far more about WW2 and that time period than I ever wanted to since starting Shadowboxing. It's been interesting though and I'm enjoying it – apart from those moments when I'm convinced I'm crazy and did I mention this is book 1 of 3?  As for most interesting – I've read a couple of books which are accounts of SOE and OSS operatives behind enemy lines. I'm in awe of what these people did and how brave they were. Some of the stories about explosives hidden in dead rats and muffins made with a particular type of 'flour' were inspiring to say the least.

Do you include your life experiences in your books?
Not so much life experiences but stories I've heard and what's going on at the time. Cathal's enthusiasm for the Romantic Poets in Cat's Quill is because I was doing an English Lit paper on them at the time I was writing it.  The Morris Minor that Donovan drives is based on the car we had when I was growing up. In Shadowboxing, Elise tells Kristopher a story about when she and Matt watched a brass band and sucked lemons while sitting in the front row. That's something my dad did when he was growing up in the 1930s/40s.

Who is your favourite author and why?
This one was a difficult question as I don't have a favourite but more a selection of favourites as I read a lot. In the finish I settled on three: Lynn Flewelling, Suzanne Brockmann and Charlie Cochrane.  I love their characters; reading their books is like catching up with old friends. I also love the plots and the relationships. A good book for me has a good combination of all of those – characters, plot and relationships.  I have to admit I like a decent wallop of angst and hurt/comfort in there too.

What do you do to relax?
I find writing relaxing on a level and get very twitchy when I haven't for a few days. I also read a lot and watch far too many TV shows (a combination of live action and anime).  Science Fiction club has always been a good haven too and I've made a lot of good friends through it.  I enjoy playing music – I play piano and violin – and listening to it.

When I really need to relax though nothing beats catching up with a good friend over a decent cuppa.

Where can we find you on the web?

Cat's Quill can be purchased at Dreamspinner.

 Blurb for Cat's Quill:
Tomas Kemp has two successful novels to his name and the true belief that a successful sequel is only a matter of a little inspiration. When Tomas meets a mysterious stranger under the branches of an old oak tree, he feels compelled to tell him about a book he holds dear and the sequel he wants to read. But Cathal doesn’t share that deep belief that the sequel Tomas seeks ends happily. Cathal has seen enough of a world where stories are real to know that happy ever after is sometimes the dream that won’t come true.
But stories have never let Tomas down, and as he follows Cathal across the reality shift between their worlds, he learns that Cathal is right: Happy ever after is never just given—but sometimes, it can be fought for and won.

Instead of answering, Tomas dug into his bag and pulled out his writing journal. Leafing through it, he found the scene he was working on and handed the journal to Cathal. “I have the same problem with this scene,” he explained. Damn his bloody muse, who sure as hell wasn’t going to take the same excuses Tomas had made last time, especially after what he’d just admitted to Cathal. “I umm….” He swallowed, noticing how Cathal seemed to be almost devouring the words he was reading, even though it was a snippet out of context. “I’ve never been kissed by another man,” he finally said.

Cathal looked up at Tomas, his voice soft, wistful. “Neither have I.” His head lowered again quickly, his attention once more taken by the words on the page in front of him. “I really like this,” he said finally, the journal still open on his lap. “They both feel so awkward and yet it’s obvious they have some kind of feelings for each other.” He blushed, pink dusting his pale skin to spread from his cheeks down his neck and throat to disappear into the top of his loose shirt. “At least it reads like that to me.”

“They do,” Tomas said, crossing his legs at the ankle and then uncrossing them again. “I just….” How could he explain this without feeling like a complete idiot? “I don’t want to ruin it by writing something I know nothing about.” God, why had he put it like that? Maybe it wasn’t too late to just ignore this whole conversation and find a large hole to bury himself in.

“I see.” Cathal wiped his palms on his trousers and then turned the page of the journal back and forth, his eyes scanning the words again. “Maybe I could help?” he suggested. “Can you tell me what the story is about so I can get more of an idea of what this kiss should, er… involve?”

“Involve?” Tomas’s voice sounded strained to his own ears. He coughed, clearing his throat before speaking again.  “Umm, it’s about a writer who meets someone he thinks might be a muse.”

“I see.” Cathal nodded slowly. “Why does he think that?” He edged closer to Tomas, the book still balanced carefully on his lap.

“He’s drawn to this person he’s not long met.” The explanation sounded somewhat weak now that Tomas had to actually explain it to someone else. “It’s like they have a connection….”

“Like Alan and Roger in your other book?” Cathal frowned. “That doesn’t explain why—” He checked the name. “—Deimos might be a muse though, but then I haven’t read enough.”

Tomas opened his mouth to explain more, how Deimos seemed to appear and disappear out of thin air, how he seemed otherworldly, how Mark kept thinking about him all the time. Cathal placed one hand on Tomas’s knee, his breath warm against Tomas’s face. “Cat? What are you doing?”

“I’m getting into character.” Cathal reached over and brushed Tomas’s hair from his face. “You’re a writer, so you need to be Mark. That leaves me the role of the muse.” His voice was barely a whisper. “This scene is too good for it to be abandoned like the other one.” His eyes dropped to the page and back again. He licked his lips, his fingers tightening on Tomas’s knee. Tomas’s breath hitched.

“Yes, it is.” He swallowed again, reaching out his own hand to caress Cathal’s cheek, echoing Mark’s actions in his book. “I don’t want you to leave,” he whispered, his words following the script, his heart speeding up.

Cathal closed his eyes as he followed Tomas’s cue, slipping into a role that could have been written for him. “I think I’m in love with you,” he murmured.

Their lips brushed together, tentatively, awkwardly. Tomas pulled away, unsure, his breathing growing ragged, Cathal’s skin warm under his fingers, soft but for the slight stubble across his lower cheek, blond facial hair almost invisible. Tomas leaned in again, his lips parting this time in invitation as he pressed their mouths together. Cathal moaned softly, opening his own lips, leaning into it, his fingers threading through Tomas’s hair.

Wet skin, soft and inviting, tasting of coffee and something else Tomas could only describe as uniquely Cathal. It felt right, better than anything Tomas could have imagined. He whimpered, pulling Cathal to him, convincing himself for that moment they weren’t playacting, that this was real, that the man in his arms was someone who loved him.

The need to breathe drove them apart. Cathal’s eyes opened with a start, searching Tomas’s. “I’m sorry,” he whispered.

“Don’t be.” Tomas traced Cathal’s lips with his fingers, committing the scene to memory, allowing himself a photograph he realized he wanted frozen in his mind forever. “I’m not.”


  1. Thanks for this opportunity, Sue. I really appreciate it. Some of these questions really made me think too :)

  2. Great interview, Anne. And an interesting look into Cat's Quill. Often a simple kiss (if any kiss can be called simple *g*) can be so much hotten than an entire sex scene.

    Good work!

  3. Fab interview Sue and Anne. Cat's Quill looks great!