Barbara Davis is yet another one of those amazing North Carolina Authors (in the same camp as both Barbara Claypole White and Jason Mott). Her debut novel, THE SECRETS SHE CARRIED, was riveting and so wonderfully written that I found myself saying out loud, “My gosh. What a beautiful book!” And I was alone. On my sofa. This novel touches on so many emotions and situations: loss, reunion, hope, love and the desire to create an unforgettable and cherished life. I recommend this book to anyone who enjoys a multi-layered read…one filled with the various stories from people through generations. Well done, Barbara.
CL: Barbara, this book was so beautiful and cleverly written. What was your inspiration for this novel?
BD: One day my husband and I were out running errands and we stopped to buy chemicals for our hot tub. I chose to wait in the car while he ran in, and while he was inside I happened to notice a grave set back from the side of the road on the other side of the busy city street. It was all alone, no structure on the property or anything—just a single lonely grave. I don’t know why I happened to zero in on this particular grave, since there are others just like it all over the state of North Carolina, but all of a sudden I found myself wondering about who had been buried there and why. How had he or she come to be there, alone? Was anyone looking for this person? The next thing I knew, in less than ten minutes, Adele Laveau’s story was in my head, fully formed with a beginning a middle and an end.
CL: Tell me about some of the research that went into your book.
BD: Since Peak Plantation, the setting for The Secrets She Carried, is a tobacco plantation, the first thing I needed to learn about was the day in/day out operations of a tobacco plantation, particularly during the 1930’s. Luckily, living in North Carolina, the absolute heart of tobacco country, there were resources everywhere. And then, with Peak’s modern-day incarnation as a winery, there was lot’s of research on the art and science of winemaking and tasting. As you can guess, that part was pretty tough to take. Never let it be said that I wasn’t willing to suffer for my craft!
CL: Can I have that job? 😉 What was the single most important thing you learned while writing this novel?
BD: I think the single most important thing for me in the process was learning the importance of working on a character’s voice until you get it pitch perfect. Because Adele’s character and story are SO central to the novel as a whole, I knew I needed to find her true voice, not just one I put in her mouth, so that when she told her story it was HER speaking, and not me. It generally took four to five passes on each Adele chapter to get it right, but I feel it was so worth the effort. I’ll take that with me into every book I ever write.
CL: You come from a corporate background…what made you switch gears and move into fiction writing?
BD: Growing up, I never wanted to be a ballerina. I wanted to be a writer. But as happens for most of us, life gets in the way and we find we have to make a living. And so I found the jewelry business, or rather it found me, and while I made a very good living at it, I also wound up giving up what most people would call a life. I became the poster child for corporate burnout—numb, exhausted, and sick to death of just being a set of numbers. Then, in 2010, the recession hit full force and I found myself unceremoniously “downsized.” All of a sudden I had some decisions to make. Thankfully, with a little prodding from my hubby, I decided to pursue the old dream of writing. The Secrets She Carried is the result.
CL: There is a quote that is mentioned more than once in this book. “The heart wants what it wants.” I believe this too. Tell me of something your heart wanted and received.
BD: Aside from meeting Tom, my hubby and soul mate, I guess I’d have to say the one thing my heart has always ached for was the dream of becoming a published author, to have the chance to put words down on paper that would actually touch people, as authors have been doing for me my whole life. The fact that I get to do this as a profession still makes me wake up and pinch myself every day.
CL: What is your next book? Tell me something about it.
BD: My next book, The Wishing Tide, is due out September 2nd, 2014, and was such fun to write! It’s set on the Outer Banks of North Carolina, and is the story of three rather unlikely characters who find themselves thrown together as a tropical storm threatens to make landfall. Lane Kramer is a recent transplant from Chicago, who is fleeing a string of disappointments, including a disastrous marriage, and hopes to start over as the owner of a seaside bed and breakfast in teeny, tiny, Starry Point, North Carolina. Tropical storm Penny is blowing full force when Michael Kramer, a literature professor from Vermont, appears mysteriously on her doorstep, asking for shelter from the storm at the now deserted inn. Meanwhile, a local eccentric known to island locals as “Dirty Mary” has all but taken up residence on the dunes behind the inn. Suddenly, Lane finds herself tied to these two strangers in ways she could never have foreseen, and in possession of long-buried secrets that threaten to change all their lives.
CL: What is your advice for debut authors?
BD: I think the very best advice I can give is to NOT BE IN A HURRY. It took me more than two years to write Secrets, and another year to get it on the bookstore shelves, but I don’t regret a single day of the process. I’ve noticed a tendency among some debut authors to get that first book out there as quickly as possible. That’s totally understandable. We all long for that sense of completion and accomplishment—that “ta-da” moment. And so, the temptation to shortcut the process, especially when our peers all seem to be beating us to the finish line, can be overwhelming. We’re afraid we’ll get left behind, that we’ll miss our window. Just remember, this is your firstborn, your one and only chance to make a first impression. So, before you consider foregoing traditional vetting, like the feedback and insight you’ll gain from publishing professionals such as agents, readers, and editors, (the kind you won’t get from you mom or BFF) because you dread jumping through the hoops of the submission process, or can’t bear to hear your darling criticized, or worse, the thought of yet another rewrite, remember that this is the ONLY first book you’ll ever write, your entre into the world of published authors. Both you and your readers deserve the very best book you’re capable of writing. Don’t be afraid to slow down. Improve your story, study your craft, bite the bullet and listen to honest, professional feedback. I promise you, you’ll never regret it when you finally hold that firstborn in your arms.
To find out more about Barbara Davis, check out her website here.
Her Twitter site is here.
You can purchase Barbara’s book, THE SECRETS SHE CARRIED below.