Thursday, May 14, 2020

Welcome Marilyn Barr to our Garden Interviews

Welcome Marilyn

1.      Have you ever cried while writing a book?

            I cry with every large emotion, so the tears start every few chapters.  In Strawberry Shifters book 1: Bear with Me, I cried with Alison over Grant’s mistakes as each one unfolded.  When she takes some responsibility for the problems in their marriage and vocalizes her frustrations to him, I sobbed for the rest of the day.  I was so happy for her and hopeful for their future.  The emotions were too powerful to contain. 

2.      Do you have set times during the day that you write?

Even though I am a natural night owl, I get up at 5:00 am to write until my son wakes.  Being a homeschool mom, I am on the clock his every waking hour.  I love the peace of my quiet kitchen with a beautiful Kentucky sunrise lifting over the back of my laptop monitor.  I can play my music, light my choice of candles, and get lost in my thoughts without interruption.  Plus, I don’t have to share my writing snacks! 

3.      How do you get past writer’s block?

My specific type of sensory processing disorder makes me a sensation seeker with each of the seven senses except taste/mouthfeel.  To engage intellectually, I must have these senses invested in the process.  Having a song for each couple playing on repeat, a candle scent assigned for each character’s point-of-view, and wearing a selected ring for each heroine are tricks to getting into character on a daily basis.  When there’s a block, I go further to change my appearance to channel the character, like method acting. 

In writing Strawberry shifter’s book 3: Go Scorch Yourself, I struggled in generating Betty’s snappy comebacks and vile swears.  In general, I do not curse and she is introduced to the series as the “fun aunt who says all the bad words”.  I dyed my hair black and wore goth make-up so my reflection in the computer screen was distorted into hers.

In writing Strawberry shifter’s book 4: Bad Guy, I struggled with Orchid’s limited English-speaking abilities.  I love big words, complex metaphors, and long-winded sentences which do not fit her backstory.  When writing her POV, I wore fairy wings, so my reflection is much more Fae than human.

4.      Is there a message in your novel that you want readers to grasp?

The Strawberry shifters series is about accommodation and inclusion.  I want my readers to feel empowered to include those differently-abled and/or neurotypically diverse.  I preferred to be asked about my accommodations rather than isolated, which I feel is common amongst all human beings.  With a few conversations, we can expand not only our social circles but our society to explore the talents of those members currently left out.  Everyone has something to contribute and it is through accommodations, not isolation that we thrive in our communities.

5.      Which phrase in the book are you most proud of?

I love Alison’s statement in Strawberry Shifter’s Book 1: Bear with Me when she stands up for herself and says: “I’m not the delicate flower to be left in a greenhouse alone all the time, only to be taken out to be admired when you feel like it. I’m more like the dandelion growing between the sidewalk cracks. I look small and sweet despite the inhospitable conditions. It is only because of my strength that you enjoy my softness. I choose to be docile. Do not mistake that for my only option.”

And for a little fun

1.      What's the most blatant lie you've ever told?

In elementary school, I convinced the class (including the teachers) that I was producing a play I had written based on the 1980’s character, Rose Petal.  My mother, who didn’t sew, was making the costumes and my Dad was building a stage.  I got class time to write out my script as well as block out the stage directions for my peers turned actors.  Imagine my parent’s reaction when they learned of this at parent/teacher conferences. 

While I never got to see my play in action, my parents found it too funny to punish me.  However, I may still get the last laugh.  Alison the Green Witch, in my debut novel Strawberry Shifters Book 1: Bear with Me, is inspired by Rose Petal so if it is adapted to a play… 

2.      Do you ever wish that you had an entirely uncreative job, like data entry or working in a factory?

I never wished for one, but I have had a few of them.  My first job after earning my bachelor’s degree was as a microbiologist in a research hospital.  Sounds exciting, right?  It was a biosafety level three lab which required special personal protective respirators, chemical decontamination showers, and working in special cabinets. 

I was shocked at the monotony.  Doing cutting edge science is characterized by life-saving drama or exploding experiments in the movies.  I was counting beige dots on a colored background for six to eight-hour stretches, called enumerations.  In Strawberry Shifters book 3: Go Scorch Yourself, I rant about the boring nature of real-world microbiology as Mild-Mannered Lucien Von Popescu.  The Prince of Darkness yearns for the excitement of being in a rock band but his social anxiety and dependence on Bergan Pharma’s blood bank keep him in the lab.

3.      Have you ever found true love?

The weekend before I started college classes my high school boyfriend dumped me in favor of my best friend who didn’t go away to college.  Screaming at the universe in frustration, I asked for one good reason to ever date again.  On the following Tuesday, I was late to my first class.  I carried my contacts in one hand and my shoes in the other when sliding into the last open seat in Engineering Calculus level 3. 

I spent the class doing my hair and putting in my contacts.  With a few minutes left in class, the most handsome man I had ever seen tapped my shoulder to give me back my shoe.  I had dropped it on him, and he had been holding it for the hour.   While I was mortified, he was smitten.  We have been together for over twenty-one years.  He holds me together while I force him to have fun.
4.      If you came with a warning label, what would it say?

Warning: Homeschool Moms are not their stereotype. 

I know the stereotypical super-religious cult member wearing a denim jumper still exists but they are the minority in today’s homeschool community.  When I tell people I homeschool my son, I get one of two reactions. 

First, they wince like I’m going to give them a sales pitch to my religion.  Homeschoolers today come from all religions, even the absence of religion, and like my family, they do not homeschool for religious reasons.  My son is medically fragile with over thirty food allergies.  I cannot limit his exposure to foods with the adult-to-student ratios in school cafeterias.  An alternative would be to isolate him in instances where food is involved.  Why not homeschool him where I can separate social, academic, and food-related experiences while supervising his exposure to allergens?

Second, often people assume homeschoolers have a problem with public schools.  That couldn’t be further than the truth.  In fact, I taught high school science for seven years.  Most homeschool families have no problems with public school but have an accommodation (or more) their child requires to learn.  My son is often sick and has many appointments with specialists.  He would miss so much school, he would be assigned to home instruction.  Why not use my teaching expertise and save the district from hiring a home instruction tutor?

In the Strawberry Shifters, Alison and Rosie homeschool their boys because the nearest public school is over an hour’s bus ride (each way).  The boys do not learn in isolation but have experiences my son has had in our homeschool community.  Parents with certain areas of expertise teach classes in those areas and trade with parents to cover their deficits.  It is no surprise that science is taught by Strawberry’s Green Witch. 

5.      Do you have any hobbies?

I love writing song parodies.  I grew up in a musical family where everyone took piano lessons starting at age 6 on our family heirloom piano.  On long car trips, we take turns changing lines to songs on the radio.  This is a game I still play with my husband and son today.  My son is currently taking piano lessons on the family piano and takes music composition classes.  We write song parodies in protest of unwanted activities.  In Strawberry Shifters book 3: Go Scorch Yourself, Lucien Von Popescu writes original songs as well as punk parodies about his boring job as a microbiologist.

Pre-order Bear with me on Amazon


Barbara Bettis said...

What a fascinating interview! Loved getting to know you better, Marilyn. I have the utmost respect for Homeschool Moms, whose patience is phenomenal. Best of luck with your books!

CB Clark said...

Fun interview, Marilyn! I enjoyed reading about your 'fib' when you were a kid. You were creative even then.

Karen Michelle Nutt said...

Loved the interview. I was cracking up about the play stunt you pulled. That was hilarious. I wrote a play in 5th grade and had a few of the students star in it, too. Even though my teacher gave me permission to do the play during classtime, I had to write it at home. lol