Meet the Lady in Red – Barbara Barrett

Mentors

In my debut novel, The Sleepover Clause, my heroine, Aubrey Carpenter, figures out early on that the hero, Mitch McKenna, dislikes his job helping his two brothers customize luxury motor coaches. He’d much rather be practicing law, which was the career path he was following until health and job difficulties prompted his brothers to set up their new business. Mitch put aside his own aspirations in order to help them succeed in their venture.

When Aubrey suggests Mitch at least let his brothers know how he feels about participating in the family business, he first denies her suspicion and later accuses her of meddling where it isn’t appreciated.

It might have ended there, with Aubrey pushing and Mitch resisting, had Mitch’s old attorney friend and mentor, Orville Drummond, not joined forces with Aubrey to help Mitch find the courage to break away from his brothers. In fact, it’s actually Orville, for whom Mitch clerked while he was in law school, who presents him with an offer he can hardly turn down, although Mitch does at first.

I love developing my secondary characters almost as much as my main characters. Since they don’t have to carry the plot, they can get away with more than the hero and heroine. They can provide the comedy, be the moral compass, provide the shoulder to cry on, or lend an ear to listen to the hero and heroine as they experience conflict after conflict.

Orville can’t make Mitch change or take action; Mitch has to do that for himself. But Orville can provide other options or serve as the voice of reason or as Mitch’s cheerleader. At one point or another in the story, Orville does each of these.

When I first began my job in Iowa state government, I had a mentor, the director of my agency. She saw something in me from the day I was hired that I had yet to know was there. Was there favoritism involved? Maybe, a little. She didn’t hire me to work for her, nor did she promote me. But she encouraged me and provided me with opportunities to prove myself those first years on the job.

Our work association lasted a little less than a decade. She passed away shortly after she retired. But had she not been there cheering me on, listening, suggesting, I don’t know if I would have stayed in that job as long as I did. Or experienced the success and job satisfaction that I did.

Question: How about you? Have you had a mentor in your life? And if you were lucky enough to have that experience, how did it affect the rest of your life choices?     

Barbara Barrett can’t help being a bit schizo when it comes to her lifestyle, since she lives half the year in Florida (guess which season) and the other half in her home state of Iowa. She believes she has the best of both worlds, with visits to the Mouse in winter and her six grandchildren in summer. Although she has been writing romance fiction for several years, her debut novel, The Sleepover Clause, was just released this September by Crimson Romance. While she has refined her craft, she has also been active in RWA, particularly the Kiss of Death chapter (someday she’s going to start that cozy mystery series), chairing their annual conference planning committee for two years, including New York City.

website: http://www.barbarabarrettbooks.com

Twitter: @bbarrettbooks

Now available at: Crimson Romance ebooks, Amazon, B&N and iTunes

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Meet the Lady in Red – Barbara Barrett

Mentors

In my debut novel, The Sleepover Clause, it’s my heroine Aubrey’s sister, Jenna, who comes to her aid when Aubrey’s latest decorating project goes sour, and helps her get out of town while the owner’s fury dies down. Jenna sends her to Iowa, where the luxury motor coach for Jenna’s upcoming concert tour is being customized by the Brothers McKenna. (Warning: one of those brothers is the hero of this story and the other two might just show up in sequels.)

But Jenna no sooner provides Aubrey with a place to “hide out” than she immediately starts second-guessing her sister’s competency and ability to finish the interior in time. In fairness to Jenna, she has as much on her plate these days as her sister. Her husband recently left her, taking with him most of their financial resources. Their fourteen-year-old daughter, Paige, only knows that her parents are getting a divorce, and blames her mother for chasing her father out of the house. Though no supporter of her former husband, Jenna isn’t ready to disillusion her daughter where her father is concerned.

Jenna has also banked almost all her remaining resources on reviving her former career as a concert pianist in order to support herself and Paige. Paige resents the time her mother will be on the road away from her and wants to go live with her father, who is too caught up in his new life to take her in.

Though I’ve characterized my contemporary romance novels as “Romance at Work” – in this case, Aubrey’s assignment to finish the interior of Jenna motor coach while dealing with the Brothers McKenna – I also like to add family characters to my writing. The Sleepover Clause is rich with family members: Mitch’s two brothers, Aubrey’s sister, her niece, Paige, and we haven’t even discussed Aubrey and Jenna’s mother, the subject of another piece. And each of these four secondary characters brings their own unique personality, interests and problems to the table.

Given the fact that Jenna is nine years older than Aubrey and has a different father, they are as close as can be expected.  The Ying and Yang of their relationship adds to the book’s conflict, as Jenna both depends on Aubrey to employ her decorating talents to the fullest and yet doubts her ability to follow through. And Aubrey finds herself caught between defending her sister’s seemingly dictatorial actions to Paige and helping Jenna better understand her daughter’s teenage defiance.

I didn’t have to do much research to understand the Aubrey-Jenna dynamic. I have a sister myself. Peg is two years younger, so our early years were spent defining and rebelling against that older-younger sibling dynamic. Now, we live in different towns, pursue different lifestyles, and our own families are vastly different from each other. And yet, we share the same history, the same relatives, and the same aging mother we look out for.

Question: How do your siblings affect your adult life? If you’re a writer, how has having one or more siblings affected your writing?

Barbara Barrett can’t help being a bit schizo when it comes to her lifestyle, since she lives half the year in Florida (guess which season) and the other half in her home state of Iowa. She believes she has the best of both worlds, with visits to the Mouse in winter and her six grandchildren in summer. Although she has been writing romance fiction for several years, her debut novel, The Sleepover Clause, was just released this September by Crimson Romance. While she has refined her craft, she has also been active in RWA, particularly the Kiss of Death chapter (someday she’s going to start that cozy mystery series), chairing their annual conference planning committee for two years, including New York City.

Website: http://www.barbarabarrettbooks.com

Twitter: @bbarrettbooks