Interview: Marilyn Barr

Long and Short Reviews welcomes Marilyn Barr.

Unlike many authors, Marilyn did not want to be just a writer from childhood. On her kindergarten career day, she told her class she wanted to write, sing, and dance on Broadway. To prepare for her future career, she took lessons in ballet, tap, ballroom dancing, and piano.

“The playground became my stage and I would write plays for my friends to act out. At home, I choreographed routines to the records on my Fisher-Price Record player. From Strawberry Shortcake to Tchaikovsky’s Sleeping Beauty featuring the Finnish National Opera, my weekend hours were spent entertaining the audience in my head,” she said. “While my love for the theater never died, my talent for math took center stage by the time I was 10 years old. My focus switched from music to medicine. In high school, my local hospital received over 1,000 hours of volunteer time while I got to watch doctors in action. From the emergency room to the morgue, I shadowed doctors with the Explorer Scouts of Columbus Ohio. Inspired by the Kay Scarpetta novels by Patricia Cornwell, I spent many hours cleaning the morgue after autopsies so I could learn more about pathology. I chased my dream of becoming a coroner until it was time to go to medical school.”

Marilyn began her writing career in a laboratory, researching and writing scientific articles on the probability and possible connections between recovering from influenza and contracting a strep-based otitis media (middle ear infection). With degrees in molecular biology and chemical engineering (read as big nerd), she was interested in the genetic interaction between the influenza infection and ear epithelial cells. Later in her career, she became fascinated with the genetic variations between all epithelial cells of the respiratory tract and how they interact with different sized droplets of infectious material. After earning her master’s degree in particle physics (read as uber-nerd), she published many articles on droplet deposition in the body.

“My job as a scientist was very demanding and I gave up technical writing to pursue teaching,” she told me. “I loved teaching ninth-grade science and twelve grade physics. However, my son was deemed too sick for school in 2013 by his medical team and school authorities. While I could have a tutor teach him under the umbrella of ‘home instruction,’ I decided to try to teach himself. Six years later, I wouldn’t have it any other way.”

Her son is a savant, and Marilyn is an advocate for the autistic community. Her specific type of sensory processing disorder makes her a sensation seeker with each of the seven senses except taste/mouthfeel. To engage intellectually, she must have these senses invested in the process. Having a song for each couple playing on repeat, a candle scent assigned for each character’s point-of-view, and wearing a selected ring for each heroine are tricks she used to getting into character on a daily basis.

There are times, when she’s blocked, she will even go further and change her appearance to channel the character, like method acting.

“In writing Strawberry shifter’s book 3: Go Scorch Yourself, I struggled in generating Betty’s snappy comebacks and vile swears. In general, I do not curse and she is introduced to the series as the ‘fun aunt who says all the bad words.’ I dyed my hair black and wore goth make-up so my reflection on the computer screen was distorted into hers,” she explained. “In writing Strawberry shifter’s book 4: Bad Guy, I struggled with Orchid’s limited English-speaking abilities. I love big words, complex metaphors, and long-winded sentences which do not fit her backstory. When writing her POV, I wore fairy wings, so my reflection is much more Fae than human.”

Her books start with a dream…either the ending or the final scare through the eyes of a new character. She will often write post-it notes in the middle of the night which will later be turned into character aesthetics in the morning to brainstorm their rules.

“It is important to me that the character be consistent throughout the book in their go-to gestures, level of swearing, and favorite phrases,” she said. “After I have my rules for the characters, the next step is a living outline. A grid is laid out on plain paper and each chapter gets a box. During the first draft, the boxes are cut apart to be rearranged with new chapters placed between them as I get tuned into the characters. Bear with Me was entirely from Grant’s point-of-view in its first outline. However, that outline was cut, pasted back together, and decorated with marker five times before the first draft was completed.”

I asked, “What, in your opinion, are the most important elements of good writing?”

“In my opinion, the most important element of writing is planned characterization. Each character must have a unique voice and mannerisms that are consistent throughout the piece. By two-thirds through the piece, I should be able to identify the character without dialogue tags by their shrugs, shy smiles, long-winded sentences, or idiosyncrasies the author has assigned them.

“In the Strawberry Shifters series, Green Witch Alison uses long sentences with complex structures usually containing a plant metaphor. She met her husband in college over twelve years before the start of the novel, so I gave him the same sentence structure. I assumed they would have the same English professors who would have shaped their vernacular. However, Grant would not use plant metaphors. His thoughts are a whirlpool of responsibilities and he never ‘stops to smell the roses.’ He also swears when life doesn’t go his way, something Alison would never do.”

Marilyn is fortunate to share an adopted hometown with JR Ward. While she was editing Bear with Me, she was able to attend a presentation at their local library. In addition, she was one of the first thirty participants to RSVP, so she had the fortune of winning a ticket to the pre-lecture reception.

“She talked about having the courage to write how the story in your head instead of the story desired by the market, the publisher, or the haters,” Marilyn said. “She autographed my idea book with the advice ‘only listen to your rice crispies.’ She gave me the courage to keep the spice level of the Strawberry Shifters at the hot level of the books I like to read. One of the themes of Bear with Me is the balance of power in a marriage needs to be equal in all areas: emotional, financial, intellectual, and sexual. Grant and Alison start their journey to Kentucky as adversaries in every area. It is through the bedroom scenes the reader can track their progress toward a loving relationship based on a mutual partnership not a struggle for control. Taking the naughty scenes out or cooling them down would diminish the journey. I had to develop the courage to share them for which I credit JR Ward.”

“You’ve mentioned Bear with Me several times, and we have the blurb below. Can you tell us something about the book that’s not in the blurb?”

“Pumpkins feature on the cover and several times in the story not only because Bear with Me is set in November, but my most harrowing gardening adventure happened with pumpkins. In 2011, My husband and I turned our tiny suburban yard in Ohio into a homestead. Our goal was to live off our grown produce, so we ripped up the grass and farmed in the middle of a neighborhood. Our neighbors were thrilled.

“I didn’t plan for pumpkins, but my husband wanted them. I stuck the vines under the pine trees at the back of the yard hoping the shade would kill them. When I saw groundhogs eating the blossoms, I thought pumpkins would never grow. I buried the vines and forgot about them until November. The vines had grown up the trees and when the pumpkins became too heavy, they fell out. We had swinging pumpkins hanging from our trees and my husband claim I did it with magic.”

An exception is selling here order generic levitra cooked tomatoes as these have been shown to be effective for treating different stages of (Secondary Progressive Multiple Sclerosis) SPMS. But of all the cases, the major case of ED problem is lacking supply of blood in male reproductive organ. cheap viagra order As such, exposure of this drug means taking advantage of a low cost drug with a electric power to let the a man perform the best viagra well his best in bed. Many times, when a man abstains from sexual activity, his wife worries that he might be having an india tadalafil affair or perhaps does not love her any longer. She’s currently working on Strawberry Shifters Book 2, Round of Applause. It is a Rapunzel retelling where she cuts society’s definition of family to find love. This steamy paranormal romance novel is a Yuletide/Christmas romance which Marilyn hopes to have released before Christmas. Fans of the series will be delighted to rescue the golden-haired woman left behind in Bear with Me and to find out what animal James shifts into when he is forced to shift.

Aurora sets out on a post-doctoral journey to find a family and community where she can be a valued contributor but instead becomes trapped in a Sluagh fortress. Now she is stuck in remote Strawberry, Kentucky where no one is who they seem. How far will Aurora have to travel to have the 1990s sitcom family she has always dreamed of having?

Stodgy James has seen it all in his nearly two hundred years as an animal shifter. He climbs the Sluagh fortress to find the beautiful Aurora who smells of cardamom, just like his late wife. Too bad Aurora is a feisty modern woman who requires more than a smell-based prophecy to fall into his arms. He must update his antiquated views on beauty and family standing in his way of finding a second chance at love.

James’s best friend Nate has been searching for the perfect mate too. Exploited during the bulk of his life as a child prodigy, Nate has dedicated himself to reclaiming his right to fun. His relationship with James is the basis of Nate’s joy including adjoining apartments, a shared office, and motorcycle rides side-by-side. Beneath the Sluagh fortress, he is the leopard landing pad for his best friend and Aurora with her donut scent (perfect for a cinnamon roll beta male). He must convince James not to step aside, but that he is the missing piece to achieve happiness for the three of them.

“Your titles are interesting. How did you come up with them?”

“The titles of the Strawberry Shifters books are puns based on what the main characters need the most to find happiness. In the case of Bear with Me, Alison needs her husband to stick around long enough to hear what she needs from him. In Round of Applause, shat could the characters need to find happiness with that title? Find out during the holiday season of 2020.”

Finally, I asked, “What advice would you give a new writer just starting out?”

“Be faithful to your bookshelf. The books you like to read have all the answers to the books you wish to write. How to twist the plot, the genre of your next work, who to query, and how to market your books are all combined on your bookshelf. The books you choose to purchase, read, and keep to read again are your template for your next project.

“In the same vein, do not try to write a book you wouldn’t read for fun just to please the market, your friends, or your family. You will read your book a thousand times between the initial story and the final print, only to take it on a tour where you read excerpts at libraries, bookstores, and coffee shops. You will be miserable if you don’t love it. The answers to all my career questions have been answered on my bookshelf. It is a much smoother ride being true to yourself.”

Blue eyes, dimples, and silky brown hair; Grant Luther has all of Alison’s weaknesses.

When he asks for one last chance to save their marriage, she agrees to relocate their family to isolated Strawberry, Kentucky in pursuit of his career dreams. Grant views Alison’s sensory issues as limitations and protects her from outside threats. When he finds his new job includes changing him into a shifter in a war against the soul-sucking Sluagh he vows to keep the changes a secret. What he doesn’t know is Alison has been hiding a magical secret of her own. One that makes her a target of the Sluagh.

Will Alison emerge from Grant’s shadow to protect her family? And can Grant learn that being different can be a strength not a weakness?

About the Author:Marilyn Barr currently resides in the wilds of Kentucky with her husband, son, and rescue cats. When engaging with the real world, she is collecting characters, empty coffee cups, and unused homeschool curricula.

She has a diverse background containing experiences as a child prodigy turned medical school reject, biodefense microbiologist, high school science teacher, homeschool mother of a savant, and advocate for the autistic community.

She would love to hear from readers via her website.

website| Twitter | Facebook | Instagram | Amazon author profile | Goodreads | BookBub Author Profile

Buy the book at Amazon.

Speak Your Mind


This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.