Monday, November 23, 2009

Meet Heather Barbieri!

Meet Heather Barbieri, the wonderful author of Snow in July (Soho), an IndieNext Pick, Library Journal Notable First Novel, and Glamour Magazine Riveting Read, praised by Jacquelyn Mitchard and Gail Tsukiyama, among others; and The Lace Makers of Glenmara, (Harper), an IndieNext Pick, Parade Magazine Editor's Pick, and More Magazine Summer Reading Selection, praised by Joanne Harris and Margot Livesey. She lives in Seattle with her husband and three children.

To start off, tell us a little bit about your background:

H.C.: How Long Have You Been Writing?

Heather: I've been writing in one form or another since I was a child. (My parents have a photo of me "reading" the newspaper at 18 months old.) I was a journalist before I returned to writing short fiction and shifted to novels, eventually publishing my first book, Snow in July (Soho), an Irish-American family drama set in Butte, Montana, and second, The Lace Makers of Glenmara (Harper).

H.C.: What started you writing for publication?

Heather: A keen interest in the written word and a desire to tell stories, inherited from my Irish-American relatives, who sat around and told colorful stories at every family gathering.

H.C.: Do you have a set time when you write, or just whenever you get the urge?

Heather: Generally in the morning, so as not to let distractions get in the way, though I'll jot down thoughts whenever they occur to me.

H.C.: Who is your favorite author?

Heather: That's a tough one. There are so many! Here's a small sample: Joan Silber, James Salter, Carlos Ruiz Zafon, Edna O'Brien, William Trevor . . . .

H.C.: Have you ever had writer's block, and if so how do you get rid of it?

Heather: Lots of long walks, patience, and just trying to write through it.

H.C.: What do you recommend to aspiring authors?

Heather: Embrace the process, keep trying, and don't lose heart.

H.C.: How do you invent your characters?

Heather: I go for long walks or runs and generally the characters begin to "talk" to me, with actual lines of dialogue that usually find their way into the manuscript.

H.C.: I know a few authors who keep records (almost like police records) of height, weight, background, etc. of their characters, do you keep tabs on your characters, and if so, what do you usually make note of?

Heather: I don't make as much use of dossiers as much as I might, perhaps because I usually hear the characters' voices first, then fill in the details later.

H.C.: Some authors say that they feel as though his or her characters are real, do you feel this way, and what do you think about this?

Heather: I hope they do-for my readers' sake.

H.C.: Do you have anything in the works?

Heather: Yes, I'm at work on a third novel, but it's in the early stages, so I'm not quite ready to talk about it yet.

H.C.: What was your favorite part about writing your book?

Heather: Bringing the landscape of Western Ireland to life and getting to know my characters.

H.C.: Has music ever inspired your writing?

Heather: Sometimes playing the piano gets the creative juices flowing and certain songs can set the mood, depending upon what I'm working on.

Do you like to write in complete silence or does it have to be noisy?

Heather: I prefer quiet.

H.C.: What made you put your characters in the setting that you did?

Heather: The Lace Makers of Glenmara was inspired by a trip to Western Ireland, my own Irish-American background (my ancestors left Counties Tipperary and Donegal after the Famine and worked in the mines of Butte, Montana, which had one of the largest Gaelic-speaking populations outside Ireland at the turn of the century), and a brief mention in the NY Times Magazine fashion supplement about a Polish village priest who threatened some of his parishioners with excommunication for making lace undies.

H.C.: Keyboard or pen?

Heather: Depends on my mood-and how fast and neatly I need to write.

H.C.: What do you usually do while writing?

Heather: Just try to stay focused.

H.C.: What were the circumstances surrounding your decisions to become an author?

Heather: A lifelong love of books and compulsion to write.

H.C.: Some people say that you need to live life before you write a book, do you think that it's experience that writes a book or imagination?

Heather: A combination of the two.

I like the colors of: jade, blue, plum and red.

The sky is most beautiful at: sunrise and sunset.

What are some of your hidden talents/party tricks? I can wiggle both ears, screech like a chimpanzee, and Russian dance (Cossack-style).

Are you a dog or cat person? Both. There's a tabby, Webster, in my first novel and a black lab, Fergus, in my second. Currently, we have a cat who thinks she's a dog.

Thing I love most in the world is: my family.

Things I hate most in the world is: injustice.

My favorite possessions are: old family photos and shells, stones, and other found treasures from our travels. I like the process of discovery.

My favorite thing that has been available before the year 1900: the bicycle

What is your favorite place? There are many, including the view of Paris at night from atop the ferris wheel at the Jardins des Tuillieries; hiking between the villages in Cinque Terre in Northern Italy; the Strand of Inch in Western Ireland; my dad's hometown, Butte, Montana, for the family memories and its Capra-like old town; Point Reyes, CA; and our own backyard/garden.

The oddest thing you have ever written on (hand, wall, etc.) No piece of paper is safe-dry cleaning receipts, library hold slips, post-its, napkins, etc., are all fair game.

If you would like to learn more about Heather and her books, you can head on over to

1 comment:

DunKan said...

Heather, your books sound fantastic! I'll definitely have to stop by your website later,