Books And Bites: Congratulations on the publication of “Autumn Leaves”! Tell me a little about it—what’s your pitch?
Barbara Winkes: It’s the story about women with a very different background who become friends and eventually develop feelings for each other that go far beyond that. Rebecca is a married mother of two, Callie an out lesbian writer who came to town to finish her latest work. Their curiosity and discoveries lead to changes not only for them, but in the social dynamics of the small town Autumn Leaves. Not everyone is accepting of these changes, and while help comes from unexpected sources, they have to question whom they can trust.
BAB: No two authors seem to take the same route to publication, but almost every author has an interesting story about their journey. Care to share yours?
Barbara Winkes: It was always a dream of mine to get there eventually, but I got more serious about it when I started writing in English and sharing stories online. The internet made a big difference, too, enabling me to connect with other writers all over the world, hear about their experiences. I had established a writing routine before I even started thinking about submitting. When I was ready, I was lucky to hear that Eternal Press was actively looking for lesbian-themed books, and I thought “Autumn Leaves” would qualify. I’m glad it was accepted.
BAB: How did you get the idea for your novel?
Barbara Winkes: I wanted to explore the world of someone who has adopted stereotypes without meaning to, and their reaction to being confronted with a different reality. For some, it can cause unease and even fear, and it depends on many factors how they handle those emotions. Rebecca doesn’t just have to correct some preconceived notions, she has to re-evaluate everything she thought was for certain in her life. It’s a turning point where people either move forward or stagnate, laying the blame on someone else.
BAB: Do you have another book in the works?
Barbara Winkes: Yes. While Autumn Leaves works fine as a standalone novel for the reader, the concept is for a series, and I’m on to book three at the moment. For the upcoming year, there’s also a mystery on the schedule, taking place in a fictional town in the province of Québec.
BAB: How did you get the inspiration for your characters?
Barbara Winkes: Rebecca and Callie in particular evolved from following the discussion about marriage equality in various parts of the world. Why would anybody be against it, or uncomfortable with it? How would stereotypes influence a person and hinder them in living their lives authentically? I’m looking for answers as a psychologist, but also as someone who was able to get legally married in my wife’s country of origin, and I like to explore them with my characters. What’s important for me to show is that individual stories differ as much as they do with straight people, and they can have happy endings.
BAB: Who is your favorite character? Why?
Barbara Winkes: I’d say Rebecca, because she has to go through so many changes and comes out stronger on the other side.
BAB: When did you know you wanted to become a writer?
Barbara Winkes: I’ve always been writing–poems, short stories, longer ones. I got serious about attempting to get published in the past few years. There were some big changes in my private life: I got married, and moved to another country, circumstances that allowed me to concentrate on this goal more. Instead of squeezing in some writing time after work and on the weekends, I can do it fulltime.
BAB: In writing “Autumn Leaves” what was your most surprising discovery?
Barbara Winkes: I was taking part in NaNoWriMo for the first time back then, in 2010, working two jobs. It was a great experience to have that I could actually do it, no excuses, and there were some unexpected turns in the story. It’s always fun when the characters seem to take it out of your hands and tell you what happens. Your only job is to type fast enough.
BAB: What’s your writing routine? Do you write in the mornings, nights, daily, or when the mood strikes you?
Barbara Winkes: I try to do an average of 2,000 words a day, with a little leeway on the weekends (when it’s not NaNoWriMo time). Ideally, I start at about 8 a.m. When I get to 2,000 depends on where I am in the story–at the beginning, it’s faster. I keep a notebook around for when the mood strikes.
BAB: What experience did you have with your publisher? Good? Bad?
Barbara Winkes: Very good! Since this was my first time getting published, I had no idea what to expect. It’s been exciting to learn about the process of a manuscript becoming an actual book, and great to work with people who care about the outcome as much as you do. It mattered to me to have a publisher who has a GLBT section and would bring out a print copy along with the e-book. I’m old-fashioned that way, and it was always the dream to actually have a book of my own to hold.
BAB: If you had to pick one author as your favorite, who would it be?
Barbara Winkes: Do I really have to pick just one? J.M.Redmann, Tess Gerritsen, James Patterson, Stieg Larsson, Karin Slaughter and Ken Follett have all created incredible female characters. That is what I go for as a reader and admire most as a writer, when you care so much about characters that you almost forget they are not real. It’s the ultimate goal.
BAB: Finally, thank you for taking part in this interview. Before you go, what message would you like to send to your fans?
Barbara Winkes: Thank you! I’m grateful for this opportunity to live my dream and everyone who shares the world of Callie and Rebecca with me, and you’re welcome to come by to chat on my blog any time! www.barbarawinkes.blogspot.ca
A video trailer for Autumn Leaves can be found on Barbara’s Amazon author page.