An interview with Mary Barr

Fiona: Your age?

Mary Barr:  Older than moonbeams but younger than starlight.

Fiona: Where are you from?

Mary Barr:  BC, Canada.

Fiona: A little about your self  – ie your education, family life, etc

 Mary Barr: I discovered the delights of writing at the young age of seven when I won my first writing award. English was my favourite subject in school. As an adult I wrote a book whenever I had the time. Along with my busy career, I enjoy designing and making jewellery and creating artwork using hot wax. I am now semi-retired and spend more time writing books. Last year I had three books published and this year promises to be just as hectic. I am a storyteller first and a writer second; and yes, there is a difference.

 Fiona: Tell us your latest news?

Mary Barr: Camelot Books released two of my novella’s last year. The titles are, The Publisher and The Apple, the genres are contemporary. These novellas are a great read when you have a moment to relax and want to travel in your mind to another place.

Fiona: When and why did you begin writing?

Mary Barr: I began writing when I was 7 years old as I said previously; but there were gaps of nothing creative happening along the way. Writing is something I have always delighted in doing.

Fiona: When did you first consider yourself a writer?

Mary Barr: Although I have written many books I seldom considered publishing. In 2009 I self published my first children book, just to test the water. Iuniverse decided to publish two of my Juvenile stories in one book and this book achieved, both ‘Rising Star’ and ‘Editors Choice’ awards. I was amazed and very grateful that someone thought I could actually write something that others would want to read. These were my first children stories, up until then I had written mainly adult books.

Fiona: What inspired you to write your first book?

Mary Barr: My Father’s love of murder mysteries inspired me to write my first book. I learned to appreciate though reading many books that I enjoyed the twists and turns of the soft murder mystery or the ‘Who done it’ books, and so the love affair blossomed!

Fiona: Do you have a specific writing style?

Mary Barr: I am a visual storyteller and I believe you must be able to see what you read as well as hear it in your mind. I try to write with a visual, emotive mind. Fiction can be whatever I want it to be, it is my world and comes from my head onto the page. Plenty of creativity and a love of people and their individual life stories keeps me bubbling over with ideas for yet another book.

Fiona: How did you come up with the title?

Mary Barr: The title, the characters and the story are all formed before I write. I have a complete character sheet written, it includes all the details about each character. So basically, they are born and they live before a single word is put to paper. Each story I see in my mind in its entirety before I begin to write. Usually I dream it like a movie while I sleep. I awake inspired and excited about the characters and the plotline.

Fiona: Is there a message in your novel that you want readers to grasp?

Mary Barr: Yes, certainly. I see morals and messages being very important to us all. My children’s’ books always contain morals and they are easily found if you seek them. Each person gets a different meaning from my children’s books and some just enjoy the fun of the read. I always think children are tomorrow’s future, and as such; they should be nurtured, loved and taught right from wrong, good from bad. So once they become adults they have a clear and concise view of who they are and their life’s purpose.

Fiona: How much of the book is realistic?

Mary Barr:  I’m a fiction writer; therefore none of it is completely realistic, many of my characters are larger than life, these characters are fictitious. I love it when my readers say the characters felt so real they stayed with them after the book was finished. Some places have a degree of realism but most everything I write is fiction and does not in any way have any likeness to anyone alive or dead.

Fiona: Are experiences based on someone you know, or events in your own life?

Mary Barr: Occasionally, places I have been or lived are used, but everything else is fiction. Usually the places are also fiction. Fiction is a make believe place, so you can have everything or most things based purely on your own imagination and perceptions. My stories are limited only by the hours in the day and the extremes of my vivid imagination.

Fiona: What books have most influenced your life most? a mentor?

Mary Barr: Of course all the greats in history play a major part. But I aspire to the writing style and storytelling ability of Roald Dahl. I read all his adult books, laughed all the way through, leaned that life can be huge fun, and wanted to read more. A truly brilliant author, his words will stay with me always.

Fiona: What book are you reading now?

Mary Barr: Preston & Child ‘Two Graves’

Fiona: Are there any new authors that have grasped your interest?

Mary Barr: There are many great new authors, but the ones who get my attention are the ones lucky enough to get noticed and become famous over night. And yes, there is a great deal of luck involved, sometimes with talent, and sadly, often without.

Fiona: What are your current projects?

Mary Barr: I am currently writing ‘How to Buy a Husband’ I have an agent who is seeking woman’s reads and is mildly interested, if I get it finished before she closes submissions – we shall see .

Fiona: Name one entity that you feel supported you outside of family members.

Mary Barr: It is not fair to name just one, there are more than two but I will keep it short. Jeff Lyons took the time out of his busy day to encourage me each time I was about to give up. He is a busy producer, speaker, editor and author in his own right. He believed in my abilities and would tell me to just ‘keep writing.’ Also Krista Hill, a brilliant professional editor, loved my work, she reads many books every day, so hers was praise, indeed!

Fiona: Do you see writing as a career?

Mary Barr: I think many of us would love to see writing as a career, but realistically for me, at this stage, writing becoming a career  is only an enjoyable fantasy. 

Fiona: If you had to do it all over again, would you change anything in your latest book?

Mary Barr: No – the storyline is meant to be what it is. By going back over I just add more and more details. It is up to the editor to tell me where I need to add and reduce words and sentences. They know all about sentence structure, tightening words and the way it needs to be presented. These things change quickly in the world of writing and a good editor stays with the times and keeps on top of the latest trends. The editor is the professionals and has a fresh eye, they know what the reader wants.

Fiona: Do you recall how your interest in writing originated?

Mary Barr: I love reading and I love telling stories – it takes you to another world. These two things belong together.

Fiona: Can you share a little of your current work with us?

Mary Barr: Last year I finished writing, ‘Hagar’s Curse’ a mystic murder mystery with werewolves, treachery, murder and mayhem. Before that I wrote ‘Wild Dog Canyon’ a suspense horror story about domestic dogs that are no longer wanted and become wild man-eaters.

On a lighter note I am now having fun writing ‘How to Buy a Husband’ it is a great contrast. This story, although it will have some dark parts, is basically light, fun and an easy read. I am enjoying writing it and hope my readers will enjoy reading it. I am currently up to chapter 5 and my main character Lyme Harrington-Lynch has not yet met the object of her desire. I am still building the plot and setting the scene although the reader now has a pretty clear idea of what Lyme is all about as a person. Her likes, dislikes, dreams and fears.

Fiona: Is there anything you find particularly challenging in your writing?

Mary Barr: Yes, writing the sex scenes. I often have to call my friends to make it steamy enough to be real. Sex scenes make me very nervous. Writing and writers have become increasingly more graphic in the area of sex and the boundaries now seem almost non-existent; readers, I believe, set boundaries. I write many of my books with the thought that they may one day be made into a movie, so I am very aware of the visual content. Some of my books however, are written to remain just books.

Fiona: Who is your favourite author and what is it that really strikes you about their work?

Mary Barr: I have already mentioned Roald Dahl. The well known English writer. He was born to Norwegian parents in 1916 in a small village in England. He was a truly brilliant story- teller, and a clean, crisp writer. Roald Dahl is someone in a literary sense I definitely aspire to be like.

Fiona: Do you have to travel much concerning your book(s)?

Mary Barr: Book signings often require travel. I only take on book signings and talks during the warmer months.

Fiona: Who designed the covers?

Mary Barr: I have used many cover designers over the years. I never use the designer of my children’s book covers to design my adult book covers. It is not that the designer only does adult books, but more it is the way I prefer it.  In my experience cover designers always require a lot of time. With my children’s books it will take me twice as long to get the cover and illustrations done as it does to write the book, plus many hours in correspondence and telephone talks, before they can understand my vision.

Fiona: What was the hardest part of writing your book?

Mary Barr: I try to think of the reader when I write. I want to keep their interest alive and I am very aware that each page they read needs to make them want to turn to the next page. Detail is important but too much detail can be boring and often creates a good reason to put the book down for a while. I never want to think my readers will want to put the book down. However, if they must, I hope the characters and storyline remain vivid enough to stay alive in their imagination so they want to read more when next they get the chance. If your story is forgettable you will be too.

Fiona: Did you learn anything from writing your book and what was it?

Mary Barr: The book I am currently writing – ‘How to Buy a husband’ – requires me to dig deeply into the dark, sad areas of my mind.  Lyme has some pretty dark thoughts when she is alone at night, before sleep greets her. These are not necessarily the feelings I experience; but I can relate to what she is going through when she is alone in her bed.

Fiona: Do you have any advice for other writers?

Mary Barr: Writing is like anything in life, the more groundwork you do and the more organized you are before you start the book, the easier it will be. For the first time writer, I would advise not to muddle through and never sit at the computer before the chapter is fully formed in your mind. Go for a walk, or sit quietly and think it through. If you can’t see it clearly it is unlikely your readers will either. Above all, keep the storyline basic. Your first book should only have one plot line and one protagonist/antagonist. Keep it simple and it will work.

Fiona: Do you have anything specific that you want to say to your readers?

Mary Barr:  I hope you enjoy reading my books as much as I enjoy writing them.

Fiona: Do you remember the first book you read?

Mary Barr: That was a very long time ago – books have always been a big part of my life for as long as I can remember

Fiona: What makes you laugh/cry?

Mary Barr: I have a huge sense of fun; I adore people with an intelligent sense of humor, compassion, honesty, integrity and humility. The sad, hurtful things people do and say make me cry.

Fiona: Is there one person past or present you would like to meet and why?

Mary Barr: My Mother was the most wonderful person I have ever known. She encouraged me to be anything I wanted to be, she loved me unconditionally and never judged me when I made mistakes; and I made plenty.

Fiona: What do you want written on your head stone and why?

Mary Barr: Once I’m dead I doubt if anyone will remember me. I also doubt if I will ever know what is written on my headstone, or why.  But something from the heart would be preferred.

Fiona: Other than writing do you have any hobbies?

Mary Barr: Lots of hobbies, tennis, walking, cycling, swimming, interior designing and renovating houses.

Fiona: What TV shows/films do you enjoy watching?

Mary Barr: Sorry, I seldom watch movies, no time, but for me humour is the best medicine.

Fiona: Favourite foods / Colours/ Music

Mary Barr: Japanese is my favourite type of food, although I like many different foods so long as it’s made fresh and cooked well. Quality over quantity for me – in all things.

My favorite colors are white, gold, silver, green and purple.

I like most music but not heavy metal or hard rock. Nothing dark, the message needs to be uplifting and positive.

Fiona: If you were not a writer what else would you like to have done?

Mary Barr: I enjoyed my career in psychology, and the media.

 Fiona: Do you have a blog/website? If so what is it?                                         

Mary Barr:  My website is  Thanks Fiona for allowing me to enjoy doing this delightful interview and also thanks to any of your readers who take the time to read this.