Barbara Winkes on the Critical Life Events that Shaped Her and Her Latest Release and Work in Progress

Sandra Ruttan: What’s your new book/work in progress about? 

Barbara Winkes: I have just introduced the all new covers for my Carpenter/Harding series. The next release will be #9, Implications, in which the protagonists Jordan Carpenter and Ellie Harding have to solve a murder that happened a long time ago. At the moment I’m writing #12 (Illusions), and it’s been a pretty wild ride for them. Currently, they’re dealing with a dead serial killer and the yet unidentified suspect who has taken over for him.

SR: Was there a specific issue or incident that really motivated you to write this particular story? What was the prompt?

BW: I often plot about 2 books in this series in advance. Often there are no specific events, just a mix of things that my brain picked up from a headline, or a conversation. In each book, the characters move forward with their lives, regarding their careers and/or relationship, so that’s always something to consider.

SR: How do you think your protagonist would respond if aliens landed in the center of town on page 57?

BW: That would be at night, in the protagonist(s) bedroom. I think they’d consider it a nightmare—if not, it’s either a masked bad guy, or a different genre altogether.

SR:  Your protagonist has to flee the country. Where are they headed to and why that location?

BW: Canada, most likely. It’s already established that close friends of theirs have spent their vacation there, and they made some connections.

SR: What’s your protagonist’s greatest fear? Why?

BW: For both of them, losing a loved one, but particular for Jordan, disappointing a loved one. Ellie’s parents died in a car crash when she was still in school, whereas Jordan’s biological parents were negligent, and she was in a fairly dysfunctional relationship when she met Ellie. One of the most fun and rewarding aspects of writing a series is to have characters become aware of dynamics they bring into a relationship and being more mindful. On occasion, there are setbacks, but the way they handle them, changes over time.

SR: Is there something you hope the reader carries away with them after they’re done reading? An insight or philosophy that you wanted to come through in your work?

BW: I hope they found the kind of entertainment they were looking for! Lesbian fiction is already a small niche, but suspense and thrillers with lesbian protagonists is an even smaller category, so if you want both, you’ll have to search a little. A lot of readers/viewers (I include myself here) are frustrated about the under-representation of women-loving-women in mainstream literature, TV and movies. Those characters are often either villains or victims, or supporting characters with a partner that’s never mentioned. I like to show lesbian characters as protagonists in my favorite genre, with a visible love interest. 

SR: If you were in an arm wrestle with your protagonist who would win? What is your protagonist better at than you? What are you better than your protagonist at?

BW: 

  1. Always the protagonist. They are the tough ones – I’m just making up stuff about them.
  2. Catching bad guys.
  3. Writing books about women who catch bad guys. For now. But they could be good at it if they tried.
SR:  What’s the best thing about writing? 

BW: Creating a reality that previously only existed in your imagination. Readers sharing that reality and being eager for more of the characters’ stories.

SR:  What’s the worst thing about writing?

BW: The final product never being 100% the way you saw it in your mind? Perhaps that’s why we keep writing, to chase that 100%? But yes, having to let it go and let it out into the world is always stressful, no matter how many books are already out there.

SR: Are you drawn to things that are really popular or wary of them? Do you find it helps you to market your work if you’re familiar with what’s currently selling or do you ignore all of that and focus on what you’re interested in?

BW: I find it fascinating to look at what becomes a phenomenon and why, so yes, every once in a while I pick up these books just to figure out what is it that makes readers love/hate them. And there’s a lot to learn from it, though not everything that happens in the mainstream can be applied to lesbian fiction and all its subgenres. It’s not a “hot niche” and it might never be, but its readers are passionate about the genre as a whole.

SR: What’s your personal life motto?

BW: If you solved a problem/issue, you must find the next thing to worry about right away! I’m kind of joking. I tend to do that, though some of my characters are worse than me. Jordan is definitely one of them.

SR:  Is there something you’ve experienced that’s affected your view of life? Tell us about it and how it changed you.

BW: Getting married and moving to another continent. Losing my parents. I think those “critical life events,” good and bad, always adjust your perspective on what is possible, and what you still want to do with your life. 

SR: What movie or TV world do you wish you could live in? Why? 

BW: I’m not sure I’d fit very well into the setting of my favorite shows – Women’s Murder Club, my all time favorite. If I could just hang out with them and have cocktails? Timeless – also protagonists that would be fun to hang out with, though their world is pretty dangerous. Lately, I’ve enjoyed Good Trouble and The Bold Type. They might be addressing an audience that’s younger than me, but I love that they are not afraid to tackle important issues. 

SR: Everyone needs an outlet to help them recharge. What hobbies do you have outside of writing?

BW: I draw sometimes (though I’m not really good at it, but I find it inspiring). My wife and I enjoy going to museums, here at home and wherever we travel, or watching a favorite TV show at the end of a workday. I find that when I spend time in the universe of my characters all day, it’s relaxing to deal with other creators’ drama.

SR: You strike it rich. What charity are you going to create or support?

BW: Anything to secure equal opportunity and access to education for girls everywhere. If women and girls, and all their contributions were equally valued, I believe that would take care of whole lot of other problems. How rich? I’d also love to produce the Carpenter/Harding series for TV, and not worry about demographics. That’s not a charity, but it would be great to be able to do that.

SR: What factors influence you when you’re choosing a book to read?

BW: Always curiosity. If the blurb makes me want to know more about the characters, it’s a good start. I’m sometimes drawn to pretty covers, but most of my favorite books are thrillers and suspense novels. It also depends on what I am writing/researching at the time, or if I recently discovered a new author.

Barbara Winkes writes suspense and romance with lesbian characters at the center. She has always loved stories in which women persevere and lift each other up. Expect high drama and happy endings. Women loving women always take the lead. Visit her website: www.barbarawinkes.wordpress.com