Monday, 28 October 2013

Spotlight: An Interview With Barbara Townsend

This week I have Barbara Townsend with me. Barbara is the author of the newly released novel, Blood Atonement, an historical mystery set on the pioneer trail. 

From the Writers AMuse Me Publising websiteHer writing credits include a co-authored feature story for the UW newspaper Branding Iron, and two articles in the Holloman Sunburst. She was first a student and then a faculty member of the Wyoming Writing Project. She designed the logo and cover for the 2005 Owen Wister Review, the university's literary and arts magazineThat issue garnered OWR its first Magazine Pacemaker Finalist award by the Associated Collegiate Press. She graduated summa cum laude with a Bachelor of Arts in Art. She contributed a chapter for the New Zealand anthology Hamiltons of the World.

Barbara entered the U.S. Air Force at 17 and retired 24 years later. Then, during her days at UW, she chanced upon a gold mining ghost town and was captivated by what had been an early 1900s log hotel. After graduation, she and her husband bought the country inn and labored to revive the ol' place into a flourishing B&B and saloon.

Mariah: You spent 24 years in the Air Force, did you ever see yourself becoming an author? Why or why not?

Barbara: Never. I only wrote reports and a few pieces for the base newspaper. Because of long, stressful hours, writing for the fun of it just didn’t enter my thinking. Not until I retired and enrolled in a university fiction writing class did I become hooked on writing a novel.

Mariah: Would you ever write a book based upon some of your experiences in the Air Force?

Barbara: While I think my experiences could be interesting reading, most of my experiences dealt with sensitive military situations or other airmen’s deeply personal circumstances. Because of that sensitivity, I would never write about it.

Mariah: Do you have any unique talents or abilities?

Barbara: I can cross one eye. And I tat.

Mariah: What was the biggest challenge you had while writing Blood Atonement, your historical mystery novel?

Barbara: The biggest challenge was verifying that the historical facts were correct and from a source I could trust. For example, the pro-polygamists pointed out the women’s public support of the practice, yet those women’s journals reflected the opposite view.

Mariah: Would your write another historical mystery and if you did would it be in the same era?

Barbara: I’d love to write another historical mystery and set it on a pioneer trail. Being from the Midwest USA and now living in the Mountain West, I’ve always been near an Old West trail. It’s a fascinating time period and the personal situations are dramatic.

Mariah: What was the hardest scene to write?

Barbara:  Aveline’s wedding night was the toughest. It’s a simple scene, yet it includes many subtle—but important—elements of their lives. Feedback from a few readers that this scene had the greatest emotional impact was very gratifying.

Mariah: What drew you to write an historical mystery?

Barbara:  I had the incredible good fortune to gain an internship at the University of Wyoming’s Toppan Rare Book Library. Book collections on both sides of the polygamy issue expounded lies, truths, and mythology. My research paper compared these elements to find the reality, and the paper won a research competition. Later, my intent was to write a nonfiction book on women in early Mormon polygamy examining those myths, lies, truths, and reality from all sides. Later, I had fallen in love with writing mysteries and how to make clues and red herrings fit into a plausible story. My accumulated research lent itself to tell a story about a unique and little-known situation in American history.

Mariah: What are you working on now?

Barbara: I’m working on the edits for a second murder mystery, currently titled Clear and Convincing Evidence and set for a 2014 release by Writers AMuse Me Publishing. This is a contemporary story set in Wyoming. The main character is Jennifer, a college journalism student who swears she has uncovered a murder on  campus and a cover-up conspiracy. She just has to live long enough to prove it.

Mariah: What was your favorite thing about writing this book?

Barbara: Oh, there are about three things that vie for favorite things. Developing the story and the mystery’s red herrings and clues to correctly fit the facts of early Mormonism and vice versa. Another favorite thing was the research. I love research. My last favorite thing was experiencing that rare feeling writers get that a character knew more than I did about a situation. That character recommended a different course. I listened to that character and shifted the story-line. The story is the better for it.

That's all folks! Thanks to Barbara for stopping by! Good luck with your career. 

You can visit Barbara on her blog!

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