Friday, November 19, 2010

I’m pleased to have author, Barbara Forte Abate, as the guest on my blog today. After graduating from high school, she married young and promptly launched into the joys of family life. While home and kids kept her busy, Barbara never considered abandoning her dreams of writing. Stealing moments throughout the days, she composed her stories on yellow legal pads while babies napped and supper simmered. Her debut novel, "The Secret of Lies," was released on June 30, 2010.

Katie: Can you please share a brief synopsis of your book?

Barbara: The crux of my story takes place in 1957, the last summer Stevie and her sister Eleanor will spend at their aunt and uncle’s ancient house overlooking the North Atlantic. A season that had unfolded with abundant promise, it spirals horribly out of control--torn apart by a shattering tragedy that remains splintered in fragments upon a family’s soul. It is only now, a decade later, when Stevie at last lifts her eyes to stare deep into the heart of her long sequestered memories, that the long held secrets of past and future are at last unveiled.

Katie: What motivated you to write this book?

Barbara: I started writing this story twenty years ago, but even now, all these years later, I clearly recall how it came about. I was in the midst of finishing up some mundane household task, when the proverbial “lightning bolt” arrived from nowhere to plant the seed of an idea in my mind. It was originally just the idea of someone walking away from everything familiar--the how and why coming later. That’s all I had when I started writing: that single concept of a person so tormented they believed that the only way of surviving the unhappiness of their life was to get up and leave it. I had no plan for where I was going with it and certainly no ending, but even so, the story felt very important and I just jumped into what would become the ride of my life.

Katie: What is your writing day like?

Barbara: I am a woman of self-imposed tight schedules, and am very possessive of my limited writing time. So I try and take care of all my routine drudge stuff in the morning so that I can plant myself at my desk in the afternoons. I find it difficult to sit for long uninterrupted hours of writing and sometimes it’s the brief distractions that clear the smoke of thinking too hard, and allows me to reboot and start the cogs turning once again. I know I’m more or less done for the day when I hear my teenage son come in from school and begin rifling through the kitchen cabinets.

Katie: This is an adult, mainstream literary fiction. Do you plan on writing any more books in this genre?

Barbara: Mainstream fiction truly does feel like my niche. I’ve written four other novels (all currently unpublished), and without consciously aiming, they’ve all landed in this genre. Mainstream literary is also what I generally read, so maybe it has something to do with what I put in my head comes out in my pen! (You know – you are what you eat!)

Katie: Do you belong to a critique group? Why or why not?

Barbara: No, I’ve never gone that route. I was very naïve and insecure when I first started writing with the intent of producing a novel. In my mind, admitting to anyone that I was writing was not unlike the pauper claiming to be a prince, and so I wrote in secret--for years never sharing with even a single soul the existence of my hidden yellow tablets. Critique groups looked to me like a place for “real” writers, not amateur scribblers. And now, although my heart’s desire is a secret no longer, after so many years of quietly writing in solitary, I’m remarkably comfortable with trusting my own inner voice through the early drafts. Later, once I’ve edited myself through several rewrites, I present my pages to my very wise and experienced agent and await the verdict.

Katie: Your book is self-published. Did you originally choose that route, or did you try to traditionally publish at first? Why or why not?

Barbara: Oh yeah, I was in hot pursuit of the holy grail of traditional publishing from the moment I first typed THE END on the final page of my manuscript, and I didn’t let go until I eventually settled on the decision to self-publish. For ten years I submitted to the ends of the earth and back before signing with my agent who was and is truly an answer to a prayer (or several thousand).

I was fully convinced that once I’d completed several rewrites and she at last deemed the manuscript ready to submit, it was only a matter of time before I’d be popping the cork on a bottle of champagne. Fast forward a few more years and let me just say that I have a very inspired collection of rejection letters--many so flowery and encouraging they might’ve been acceptance letters, except they weren’t. Deciding to self-publish was never something I’d considered until now--the concept more or less dropping on my head.

I have lived my writing life with a mantra of hopeful perseverance, and self- publishing all at once presented itself as the next timely and logical step. While I’d put bushel baskets of faith and effort into securing an invitation to the traditional publishing party, it still wasn’t coming , so I finally decided it was simply time to put on my prettiest party dress, slip in the back door and join the celebration.

Katie: Did you hire someone to help edit your book? Why or why not?

Barbara: No I didn’t. After so many years of editing and perfecting my pages, coupled with having an agent who was previously an editor at a couple of major publishing houses, I didn’t feel it was something I needed. Nevertheless, I did learn a very valuable lesson. While my agent has a seasoned eye for weaknesses in character and plot, she didn’t take on the task of line editing after the first few drafts. Thinking about it now, having another set of eyes look over the galley proofs would’ve been of great benefit to the polishing process, likely picking up all the small stuff that you yourself simply breeze over for having read the words a bajillion times already. Taking up well-read friends’ offer to do this kind of proof reading for you can really be the thing that puts the glossy bow on your package, as well as potentially saving you from the absolute horror of later seeing those infuriating boo-boos you somehow missed in print once your book is published.

Katie: What three pieces of advice would you give an author who wants to self-publish their book?

Barbara: Research your publishing options thoroughly! Don’t jump into anything you’re not absolutely comfortable with or certain of.

Your marketing plan should be front and center. Long before you have that shiny new book in your hands you need to be thinking and planning how you intend to get yourself out there and sell it. Unless of course you happen to be Stephen King or J.K Rowling, in which case you may bypass this step.

Don’t become so swept up in the thrill of publication that you skimp on the fine-tuning. Don’t rush the process by assuming you’ve done a thorough enough job that you needn’t comb your galley proofs like your eight grade English teacher. Have another look – and find those misspelling, grammatical hiccups, and anything else that might’ve slipped past on earlier edits. It’s your baby, make it shine!

Katie: Thanks, Barbara, for being a guest on my blog today. You can learn more about Barbara and her books at, see her book trailer at and at


Joan Y. Edwards said...

Dear Katie,
Thanks for posting such an inspiring interview with Barbara Forte Abate. I enjoyed learning how she never gave up on her writing and the lessons she learned about having another pair of eyes read your work for grammatical errors. Good luck to both you and Barbara in your publishing endeavors.
Joan Y. Edwards

Unknown said...

Hello Barbara,

It's good to know there are options out there for authors and their novels. With the publishing world going through so much upheavel and radical changes being made, I think you made the right choice.
Good luck with your endeavor.

Margaret Fieland said...

Katie, thanks for the interview. Barbara, your book sounds great. Good luck to you with your book. Your advice about not skimping on the fine tuning is right on. My personal criterion for exiting fine tuning is that I have to go through the whole thing twice without finding any errors. I find this easiest to do chapter by chapter -- otherwise it's too overwhelming

Barbara Forte Abate said...

Many thanks, Katie, for inviting me over to your blog. It was a great visit :-)

And much appreciation to all of you for taking the time and interest to offer your comments. It's fabulous to hear from and connect with others who share this crazy love of words!
Barbara Forte Abate