Squawk Radio

Monday, April 10, 2006


KITTY: Barb, babe, you're all about the art, your books, your opine pieces, your column in NINC, all about the creative process, while the only "Art" I'm interested in wears trousers and foots the bar bill. So this oughta be interesting. Have you always been in touch with the universal you or did this develop over time? And how do you get away with this crap?

BARB: Kitty, Kitty, Kitty. Didn't anyone ever tell you I'm a Gemini? It's my *job* to be flirty and flaky and fun. I became a writer so I could play all day long and make things up and wear cool clothes in places like New Zealand and Aspen. I mean, if I wanted to wear a proper hairstyle and suitable skirts, I could have been a banker or something. (Not that there's anything wrong with bankers, of course.)

KITTY: Has anyone written for more lines than you? You got Special Editions, Intimate Moments, Bombshell, historicals, women's fictions and novellas. Is this AADD or what? Is there any of these types books you don't see yourself doing again --and why? And which has been your favorite to write and why? And don't give me any of that, "They all have their positive aspects..." I'm asking which books rev'd your motor while you were in hot pursuit of the story.

BARB: You forgot the fantasies, by the way. Fantasy novellas, which are totally a blast. I forgot one of the F words of a Gemini: fickle. I get BORED writing one thing. What if you only ate the very best steak for the rest of your life? Wouldn't you just die for a bite of a strawberry now and then?

KITTY: I do like my meat...

BARB: My favorite is women's fiction, like Madame Mirabou's School of Love, and Lady Luck's Map of Vegas. The size of the canvas is as broad as historicals, but I can play with the choices in a contemporary woman's world. Life is very interesting for modern women, and being a thoroughly modern woman, it suits my sensibilities.

KITTY: "Regrets...I've had a few..." Personally, the only regret I have is seeing the bottom of the bottle but you, Barb Samuel aka Ruth Wind, besides picking that pseudonym, do you have any regrets? And the obvious, "Agreeing to this interview," doesn't count.

BARB: The pseudonym was definitely a bad choice. It sounds like somebody's maiden aunt. PLUS it's in the W's! But hey, I was 12, what do you expect?

As for the rest...nope. I don't do regrets.

KITTY: You write about the South and the Southwest. Are you a native? Know a native? What do you have against the Midwest? ( STURGIS ROCKS, MAN!)

BARB: I like the trees in the Midwest and you all have skin like brides, but man, that weather is just too much for me. (See Liz's post on keeping her purse by the door with a disk in it. I don't even know where my purse is.) I'm a native of Colorado, though my mom is Texan by birth and upbringing.

KITTY: How many Rita nominations you got? (Brockway insisted I asked that.) How many Ritas do you own and is it true you have them lined up on your mantle dressed like the heroines of your various books? (Bevarly made me ask that one.) But it leads into a real question so...Why did you choose to write in the present tense for your most *recent* Rita-nominated novel, LADY LUCK'S MAP OF VEGAS?

BARB: Oh, cynical, blase Brock who cried on stage when she won, you mean? I was there. I remember, she can't lie about it.

Nominations, 13. Or maybe 14.
Wins: 4

My partner, Neal aka Christopher Robin (because he's so calmly British and knows just about everything) was appalled the first time I pulled out all the silver and gold pins to put on my badge at the national Romance Writers of America conference. (Readers: a nomination gets a tiny silver Rita statue pin, and a win gets a gold one.)

He said, "Do you wear all of them?"" (In British this means, "If you go out there with all that hardware on, I'll die of embarrassment at all your bodaciousness.") So, I said, "Oh, no, only the four gold ones," and that's that.

KITTY: Your first book came out in 1989-- so you first published in junior high school. Got it. But how do you think Romance has changed in the years since you were first published? Where do you see the Romance genre headed in the future?

BARB: All I've learned is that you just never know. I'd *like* it if dark, brooding, angsty historicals would come back because I like writing that kind. I'd love it if ghost stories would get hot because I've got a killer one to write someday.

But....I don't know. It's always been amazing, what goes up and what falls and what suddenly blazes across the sky and nobody saw it coming.

KITTY: Your latest book MADAME MIRABOU'S SCHOOL OF LOVE just came out last week in a trade-size book from Ballantine. You've also been published in hardcover and mass market. Any difference in the three experiences as far as the writing goes? Expectations? Pacing? All that writer crap?

BARB: Madame Mirabou has a great, great cover, just a beautiful package and design and I love it so much I wanted to sleep with it under my pillow. I was glad the choice was made to bring it out in trade. I have a lot of readers who followed me over to women's fiction from romance, and the price is painful.

As for the writing end: nope. There's not difference in the "quality" of books published one way or another. Publishers decide, and do what they think will work.

KITTY: Tell me about MADAME MIRABOU-- the title, the themes, the story...?

BARB: Madame Mirabou is about that spot we all slam into at some point or another, when life throws you a curve and you have a choice to either (as someone said): grow or grow bitter.

I love that: grow or grow bitter. Seems to me that broken hearts and broken dreams can either lead you to the next love and the new dream, or a sharp, dark world of lost hopes, and Nikki is trying to learn how to be joyful again. Madame Mirabou is about broken hearts and rediscovered dreams and finding out who you are when life tosses you around a bit. There's lots of food and perfume and sensual everything in this book.

Oh, and hot sex, between people who know how to do it. I had a blast writing this book.

KITTY: And then there's my personal fave: If you could be any vegetable, what would you be?
BARB: I'm a artist, darlin'. It's my job to make things beautiful. One vegetable is SO boring. I would be a big beautiful plate of baby spinach leaves topped with red peppers, garlic and onions freshly grilled in lots of olive oil, and sprinkled with sea salt and Sicilian lemon juice, and fresh croutons made of some hefty bread. Served with a soft red wine. Join me?

Editors note: For the first time in a long and checkered career, Kitty concedes that she has had the hell charmed out of her by an interviewee, Barb Samuels. Kitty does not, however, concede to liking the experience.

Connie Brockway, 11:58 PM