Monday, 8 July 2013

Author Interview: M.Q. barber

Please welcome M.Q. to my blog today! We're talking writing and those pesky moments when characters won't leave you in peace!

So for the benefit of my readers, what is your name and where do you live now?
I’m M.Q. Barber, and these days I call a little house in the not-so-wilds of the northeastern U.S. home.
First off, how has your week been?
Busy! When I’m not at my day job or working on books, I’m trying to turn our house into a home. Lately, that’s meant a lot of painting for me and my husband.
Please tell us about your current release.
Playing the Game is my debut novel and the first book in the Neighborly Affection series. Alice, a single girl in her late twenties, has a crush on Henry and Jay, the guys who live across the hall. Henry invites her to make their friendship one with benefits, but she’ll have to agree to give up complete control of the arrangement to him if she wants to play. She learns a lot about her needs and desires as the three of them navigate new territory. The story is a contemporary erotic romance with the focus on the emotional journey and how the physical adventures contribute to emotional growth for all of the characters.
Sounds fantastic! Where did you come up with the idea to write your book?
Character voices are what kick start a story for me. For Playing the Game, it was a conversation between Henry and Alice and a vision for a scene that just would not leave my head. Whenever I wasn’t focusing on something else, their chatter would run on a loop. Finally, I wrote it down – and then they started up a new conversation. It’s a bit like paying off a blackmailer. I keep giving them what they want, and they keep asking for more of my attention. Greedy characters!
I can completely sympathise! My characters love to have little chat as if I'm not even there. Hello! I'm the author here! LOL Did you have any say in the title / cover of your book?
The titles, both for the book and the series, are exactly as I submitted them to Lyrical Press. For the cover, I spouted a bunch of gibberish that Renee Rocco, who is both the publisher and a cover designer for Lyrical, somehow interpreted and turned into something amazing. I let out a huge happy holler the first time I saw it, because she got the interpersonal character dynamics exactly right. It’s a gorgeous cover, and I couldn’t be happier about it. I have no doubt Lyrical will wow me again with a cover for the second book, Crossing the Lines.
Yay, a great cover can make your day. I have 0% artistic talent so I'm always wonderfully surprised as I can't even stretch as far as picturing a cover. So how does your family feel about the book?
They’ve been incredibly supportive. Once upon a time, I started a lot of stories and never finished them. I didn’t write much of anything for about ten years. It’s only been in the last two years that I returned to writing with a new perspective and started writing complete stories.
My husband was so proud of me just for finishing a novel at all, before the idea of publishing even became involved, that I felt like my heart would burst. It took me a while to work up the courage to tell my mom (Is there an easy way to tell your mother that you’re writing erotica and it’s going to be published?), but she surprised me by falling in love with the characters, too.
When you started your book, did you plan on writing it as a series, or did it just grow into one?
When I started it, Playing the Game was a 4,500-word short story. It grew into two books written simultaneously, each one more than 80,000 words. But the characters weren’t done with me yet, and they still aren’t. I have two other novels in completed draft stages for the Neighborly Affection series, and I have a heap of notes for the further adventures of Henry, Alice, and Jay. So long as the characters keep speaking to me, I’ll keep writing for them.
How long does it usually take you to write a book, from the original idea to finishing writing it?
Writing Playing the Game and Crossing the Lines together took me about five months. Some days I wrote more than others, but it averaged out to about 1,200 words per day. Writing the third and fourth books took a little longer because I had days where I didn’t have time to write at all as I went through editing rounds for Playing the Game with my editor at Lyrical Press.
Do you decide on character traits (ie shy, quiet, tomboy girl) before writing the whole book or as you go along?
Oh, no, I could never fill out a character sheet of traits before I started writing. The characters reveal themselves to me along the way. Sometimes they’ll surprise me by saying something unexpected. Those are some of the best moments in the writing experience, I think, because figuring out why a character reacted as he or she did to a situation usually ends up showing me more of their backstory. It’s like putting together a puzzle, and I love puzzles.
When I started writing Playing the Game, I used initials as placeholders because the characters hadn’t even shared their names with me yet. That’s the nice thing about having a book over a baby – the characters can go unnamed until they show you what kind of person they are. For some reason, society frowns on calling your child “Unnamed Baby No. 1” for months.
I'm with you on character sheets. Yawn! I tried to do one once but it didn't help. Now have you ever suffered from a "writer's block"? What did you do to get past the "block"?
I stopped writing for a long time, because I suffered from a rigid idea of how writing a book should go. There was one Right Way, and it involved being a perfectionist and writing strictly in order, starting on page one and not going to page two until every word sang well enough to make angels weep.
As it happens, I was a complete idiot.
Now I know the Right Way to write a book is however it works for you. I have days when I wrestle with some scenes, but I haven’t suffered from any substantial writer’s block in the two years since I started writing again. For me, what worked was giving myself permission to leave blank spots. In a first draft, I hop from scene to scene. I make notes for myself like “research this” or “test this out” or “tie this to that later scene I wrote last week.” A first draft is finished when I can use the search function on the file and turn up no [bracketed] notes to myself.

M.Q. Barber is a longtime storyteller, first-time published author. She likes to get lost in thought and writes things down so she can find herself again.
Playing the Game is the first book in the Neighborly Affection series. Although it can stand alone, the sexual adventures of Henry, Alice, and Jay will continue in Crossing the Lines in early 2014.
Playing the Game by M.Q. Barber
She expects dinner with neighbors, but gets sex with a side of safewords.
Mechanical engineer Alice still drools over her sexy neighbors a year after she’s moved in. She can’t decide whether they’re roommates or partners, but either way, they spark a wanton desire in her that has her imagination–and vibrator–working overtime.
Henry, director of everything around him, studies human nature and applies philosophies to his paintings as well as his relationships. Quirky, polite to a fault, and formal, he follows his own code of honor even when it means denying himself.
Flirtatious and playful, Jay needs stability, guidance, and to please others. His antics counterbalance Henry’s stuffy ways while he brings a level of vulnerability and fun to everything the trio does.
BDSM play with the enigmatic artist and flirtatious joker across the hall allows Alice to put aside the linear thought processes which have kept her unsatisfied and distant with other lovers. She must dismiss her preconception of love, sacrificing her independence, if she’s to find a permanent place in their beds and hearts.
CONTENT WARNING: Explicit sex, graphic language, BDSM, bondage, spanking, M/M/F menage.
Purchase Playing the Game from Amazon and B&N.
Find M.Q. at her website, Facebook and Twitter.


  1. Great post M.Q.! I have to admit I am a very different writer in that I DO use character charts and even an outline, but I'm a bit anal that way LOL or just the way I can organize things in my head - too busy with so many other things that when I do sit down, I have found that I lose who my characters are or what the plot is, if I don't have at least some idea. But I think I'd like to try being a pantser at one point, just see if perhaps I churn out something better!
    Your book looks awesome! Very sexy, ma dear! All the best xo

    1. Thanks for stopping by Cd. I kind of envy you planners. I started out my latest book determined that I might make life easier on myself and write in order but that was quickly forgotten. It's funny because I am very anal in my daily life!

    2. I think I've been bitten by a comment-eating goblin, so if this shows up twice, my apologies.

      Thanks for sharing, Cd! I'm similar to Samantha -- very analytical and orderly in everything else, but complete chaos when I write. I think I fought so hard against being a pantser for that reason, thinking I could impose control on this corner of my brain, too. Now I just let it do what it likes, which tends to mean skipping here and there from scene to scene. But I love editing, because it gives my analytical side a chance to play.

  2. great interview! I'm with you ladies. Character sheets aren't for me either!

    1. Thanks, Tera -- glad to have you in the chaos club, LOL. It all comes together somehow.

  3. I used to try character sheets but then my characters felt forced and contrived. Now I write whatever characters tell me to write. I'm like a court stenographer while writing. I only write what I'm told to. LOL But that cover is absolutely gorgeous! Kudos to Renee.