About Barbara Venkataraman:
Barbara is an attorney and author of the award-winning Jamie Quinn Cozy Mystery series, as well as Teatime with Mrs. Grammar Person, Quirky Essays for Quirky People, and A Year of Shorts: Flash Fiction. Her books have won numerous awards including Indie Book of the Day, First Place in the 2016 Chanticleer Murder & Mayhem Mystery Writing Competition, Gold Medal in the Readers’ Favorite Contest for Memoir, and Two-time Finalist in the Kindle Book Awards. She also co-authored Accidental Activist: Justice for the Groveland Four with her son Josh about his four-year quest to obtain posthumous pardons for The Groveland Four.
What inspires you to write?
For me, writing is an uplifting, creative experience. It's gymnastics for my brain: tricky, difficult, seemingly impossible at times, but so satisfying when it comes together. Aside from the process itself, connecting with readers gives me so much joy. When a reader tells me something I wrote cheered them up, or gave them a laugh they really needed, it makes my day. They love my characters as much as I do. Everyone wishes they could be friends with my protagonist, Jamie Quinn, including me.
What authors do you read when you aren’t writing?
Some of my favorite books: anything by Dave Barry. I learned a lot about humor in writing from reading his books. A Walk in the Woods, by Bill Bryson; Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore. The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry; Bel Canto, by Ann Patchett. Less, by Andrew Sean Greer.
Tell us about your writing process.
I start a writing session at my computer by playing a game of solitaire as fast as I can. Somehow that jump-starts my brain to look for patterns as I write, to be open to different arrangements. I would say I'm in between an outliner and a pantser.
When I begin writing a new book I always know how it starts and how it ends and I have a general feeling for what happens in between, but that part is very fluid. I have loose character sketches for new characters; the regular characters I know very well. I almost always have to do research. For example, in my 6th Jamie Quinn mystery, Jamie has to go on a python hunt in the Everglades. To prepare for that, I watched dozens of videos of python hunts and did extensive research into the environmental problems they cause. Then I copied and pasted the research to the bottom of my working draft to refer to it as needed. I liken my writing process to trying to weave a beautiful cloth with invisible thread.
For Fiction Writers: Do you listen (or talk to) to your characters?
Great question! I definitely listen to my characters speak. I picture a scene in my mind like it's a play being performed. I have to hurry up and write down the dialogue before I forget it. Sometimes I'll have a thorny problem I can't solve, or I've written myself into a corner, and I will wake up very early and the answer will pop into my head. My absolute best way to connect with my characters and hear them speak is relaxing in a pool or bath. I call it my water epiphany.
What advice would you give other writers?
If you want to write and enjoy writing, there's nothing stopping you. No entrance exam or registration fees, and no expensive supplies. Plus, the more you write, the better you get. If you're serious about improving your writing, this is my advice:
1. Like playing piano, it takes practice, practice, practice. Read excellent books, once for the story and then again to analyze how the author did it. Take a passage you love and transcribe it so you can absorb the cadence, the language, the nuances.
2. Do flash fiction exercises. Nothing teaches tight writing like having to tell a story in exactly 50 or 100 words. The thesaurus and dictionary should always be open when you write. Choose your words carefully, so they work on more than one level and pack a punch. Don't be lazy about it, nothing delights a reader more than to discover a phrase that's surprising and new, a fresh take.
3. Read lots of books on how to write. There are free tutorials all over the internet. Be a sponge for knowledge.
4. Set specific goals and mini-goals. It helps to have a writing buddy so you can encourage each other.
5. Have fun with it. Don't compare yourself to anyone else. Your voice is unique, you have stories to tell and you should tell them.
How did you decide how to publish your books?
I had sent a few short stories to traditional publishers, but never tried too hard. When I learned I could self-publish, I decided to stick my toe in the water and publish one book. If it received bad reviews I planned to take it down. When it received good reviews, I decided to keep doing it. It's so easy, it's free, and it's immediate. The hard part, of course, is the marketing.
What do you think about the future of book publishing?
I am not one to prognosticate, which is why I never tried my hand at science fiction. But if it stays on the same trajectory, I love where it's going.
What genres do you write?: Cozy Mystery, Humor, Essay, Grammar, Memoir, Children's
What formats are your books in?: Both eBook and Print, Audiobook
Link to Author Page on other site
Your Social Media Links
All information in this post is presented “as is” supplied by the author. We don’t edit to allow you the reader to hear the author in their own voice.