An Interview with Barbara Gerber: Author & Teacher
Sylvia: Welcome Barbara. So glad to be able to highlight your achievements. Please give our readers an introduction of yourself and a little about your book.
Barbara: Hi Sylvia, thanks for the opportunity. I am Barbara Gerber, a writer, teacher, and mom. I am someone who thinks and feels entirely too much—I worry a lot about people and the world.
My first novel, Love and Death in a Perfect World, follows the arc of a woman’s life from the tender age of thirteen to the struggles of middle age and finally to a graceful and hopeful acceptance of the future. My novel paints an unsentimental portrait of Rosemary Ellis as she makes her way through life searching for that script we all wish we had. She works to create the perfect life she has always seen in her mind’s eye—the husband, the kid, the organic food, the house with the solar panels—everything that spells “right livelihood” in Santa Fe, New Mexico. But it’s harder than she expects to navigate the world amid births and deaths, economic disaster, a complicated child, and her stubborn belief that there is one “right” way to live. We watch as she struggles and blows it and learns.
It took me seven years to write this book, which seems to contain every thought I’ve ever had and every observation I’ve ever made about human nature. But the funny thing is, as people read it, I learn there’s more to it than I realized. It’s a deep, “inside” look into a collection of lives that seem hauntingly familiar to many.
Sylvia: Sounds interesting! Like all of us, she is on a roller coaster for that thing we call ‘life!’ What inspired you to write your first book?
Barbara: I got my first glimpse of what would become Love and Death in a Perfect World during a family vacation at Joshua Tree National Park in March 2007. At one point during a week of hiking and camping, I was watching my fourteen-year-old son scramble up a steep, narrow outcropping of rock when he lost his footing. Although there were only a few moments of uncertainty before he righted himself, the close call took my breath away: What if he had fallen? What if he had been seriously injured? What if he died? All parents worry that their children will be put in harm’s way, but rather than shudder and put those scary thoughts out of my mind, I decided to explore that dark possibility. When I woke up the next morning, those “obsessive mom” worries began to take a different form. As I cooked breakfast and planned the day’s activities, I found myself inventing characters and scenarios. The troubles that young Dylan encounters in the book stem from that moment.
Sylvia: Is there a message in your novel that you want readers to grasp?
Barbara: There’s so much I hope people will see, but I don’t want to be too heavy-handed, so I’ll just touch on two aspects. First, I hope they see themselves. I have always relished identifying with a well-developed character. It’s amazing, really, how readers carry the experiences of fictional characters in their hearts and minds. I believe that each character, every book, brings us that much closer to understanding humanity, like pieces in an infinitely complex puzzle. This is why we need novels, memoirs, and, really, all books—we need to understand ourselves and our world.
I also hope the book makes readers question why they think what they think and feel what they feel. I find it fascinating how our habits of mind are formed; from the unexamined kneejerk reaction to a full-blown system of belief, dogma looms everywhere. Which beliefs, tenets, and morals—which guideposts—are our own, and which are simply absorbed unconsciously from others?
Sylvia: That’s an interesting question you posed. I think we definitely have our own beliefs, however, it is natural to absorb the beliefs of others such as your spouse or those you are around regularly and respect their thoughts and opinions. Do you have any advice for other writers?
Barbara: Keep the faith. It’s hard to devote thousands of hours to something that might never fully manifest, or might utterly fail. Let’s face it—when you’re writing a novel, you’re not making money, you’re not spending time with your family, you’re not exercising, you’re not…fill in the blank. It’s a huge leap of faith, and it’s hard to maintain that faith over a long period of time. And it changes—how you write, why you’re writing, the shape of the book, etc. I support writers in being devoted to the process, but flexible about the product. Let the book become what it needs to be.
Sylvia: I agree! Whether it takes 6 months, 1, 2 or 7 years, time is needed to go thru the writing process and… that is time away from other important things. What marketing techniques have you used to sell your books and which ones have been most successful?
Barbara: The book will be officially released on July 1, so I’m just getting started with it all. So far I’m blogging and using social media. I’m also sending out advance reader copies and media kits to reviewers. I’ll begin holding book talks and reaching out to book groups this summer. My publisher is offering book groups of six or more 20 percent off retail price with free shipping. (Email me if you’re interested!)
Sylvia: Why should we buy your book?
Barbara: The book makes readers question what we’re all doing with this baffling gift of life, the mystery of love, and the burden of death. In addition, since it covers so many years in the life of Rosemary, her parents, her husband, and her son, a broad scope of readers can connect with it. (And it’s a page-turner!) If you’re the kind of reader who enjoys strong character development and a good story, but who also expects some depth in a book—a book that makes you think and wonder and remember and feel and laugh and cry—then Love and Death in a Perfect World fits the bill.
Sylvia: Is there a special place that you prefer when you write?
Barbara: I can write virtually anywhere, even with a lot of noise. As long as there isn’t a TV in my face, I can write. This has been such a blessing!
Sylvia: What projects are you currently working on?
Barbara: I’m enjoying blogging. After years of being a freelance journalist—having to pitch stories, please editors, and cringe when a story is hacked to pieces—it’s great to write what I want and publish it directly. I also love how blogging and other social media allow me to connect directly with readers, without a filter.
Apart from that, I’m planning a sequel to Love and Death in a Perfect World.
Sylvia: I am a lover of blogging as well, as you can see. I enjoy providing great content for women in the areas of beauty, business, financial wealth, health and wellness and spirituality. I believe all of these things are important for us in order to lead a stress free and balanced life. I also enjoy highlighting the work of authors and business owners. What is your POWER WORD? Why this word
Barbara: My power word is AUTHENTIC. My book is authentic—sometimes gritty in its realness—and I think my readers appreciate that. I have no patience for books that seem clicked together like predictable composites of Lego bricks. Even literary fiction can be formulaic, which is a huge disservice to readers and writers alike.
Sylvia: Nothing like being authentic. Great word! Did you encounter any surprises or unexpected twists during the process of writing this book?
Barbara: A funny thing is that since it took me so long to write the book, by the time I finished I identified more with the main character’s mother than Rosemary herself. I felt so much compassion for Martina as she ceases to be the center of her children’s lives, a development I have had to adjust to personally as my children grow up. (They are now 22 and 16.)
In addition, although I planned out the book and was clear on its “message” before I began to write, it turned out I had a whole lot more to say. I ended up focusing more than expected on how women, as exemplified by Rosemary, are expected to care so much—to care for their children, their partners, their parents, their co-workers, their neighbors—everyone in their lives, really, as well as often having jobs that require them to care for others. We’re so used to seeing this that it’s become invisible.
Ultimately, the book took on a life of its own—I ended up writing a better book than I’d planned!
Sylvia: Thank you! Please share your social media and book contact information. Please use full links.
Barbara: Thank you so much for this opportunity. I hope you enjoy the book!
- Terra Nova Books: http://www.terranovabooks.com/browse-authors.html#barbaragerber
- Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Death-Perfect-World-Barbara-Gerber/dp/1938288467/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1432997022&sr=1-1&keywords=love+and+death+in+a+perfect+world
- Blog: http://www.barbaragerberauthor.com/index.html
- Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/barbaragerberauthor?ref=hl
- Twitter: https://twitter.com/BGerberAuthor
- Pinterest: https://www.pinterest.com/barbarag1736/
- Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/user/show/43409049-barbara-gerber