Today we meet another of this year's American Title finalists, Barbara Longley.
Q. What is your name and where are you from?
A. My name is Barbara Jo Longley, and I was born in Silver Springs, Maryland. I live in Saint Paul, Minnesota now.
Q. What is the title of your finaling manuscript? What sub-genre is it?
A. My finaling manuscript is titled TRUE TO THE HIGHLANDER, and it’s a time-travel historical romance. Would we call that light paranormal?
Q. Can you give us a quick 100 words or so blurb about the story?
A. The heroine is a Native-American violinist, a music geek with no aspirations of becoming a hero. She is sent back in time to save the life of a young deaf boy, although she doesn’t know it’s his life she is to save until the end. She believes she’s meant to save her overbearing self-appointed protector, Malcolm of clan MacKintosh. He believes it too, so he’s always trying to keep her out of trouble, and she’s always trying to throw herself between him and danger. They fall in love, and then they both worry that the fortune teller who sent Alethia back in time will appear at any moment to send Alethia back to her own time. And of course there are some interesting subplots and intrigues.
(Oh, I love time travel stories!)
Q. What was your reaction when you found out you've finaled?
A. I was teaching a group of third graders when my critique partner, Tami Hughes, (also a finalist) called to tell me. I never saw it in my inbox; the message had gone straight to spam!
I squealed like a little girl! Shock and disbelief set in soon after the noise stopped. My students are still talking about it.
(What a fun story about how you found out.)
Q. Is this your first completed book? Fifth?
A. This is my second completed manuscript. The first is fatally flawed and will never see the light of day. I’m working on my third, another paranormal involving immortality, reincarnation, and an impossible quest.
Q. Do you have a Web site?
A. Yes, I do have a Web site, and anyone interested can read the first chapter of my finaling entry there. www.barbaralongley.com
Q. What kind of books do you like to read? Who are your auto-buy authors?
A. I love paranormals and historicals and some contemporaries. Julia Quinn is an automatic buy, Susan Elizabeth Phillips is an automatic buy, Charlaine Harris, Christina Feehan, Sherrilyn Kenyon, Julie Garwood, Lynn Kurland, so many others I can’t list them all here.
Q. What was your biggest inspiration for the story?
A. I read a book about haunted castles that told the story of the reconciliation feast between the Comyn and MacKintosh clans (sworn enemies). The Comyn Laird’s daughter haunts Castle Rait, once a holding of the Comyn clan. Her own father cut off her hands at the wrists as she tried to escape out a window. She fell to her death and haunts the castle to this day. Long story, but look it up if you’re interested. The event is pivotal to the plot of my book, which took a year of research before a single word appeared on my computer.
(OMG! He cut off her hands!)
Q. What is it you like most and admire about your heroine(s)?
A. My heroine is willing to take on responsibility for a lot of people, and she does so without a second thought. She’s so giving and loving and doesn’t even realize what a hero she truly is. She’s also a very brave and determined individual. She’s got a lot of grit, even though she comes across as shy and often insecure.
Q. What is you like most and admire about your hero(s)?
A. Oh, the hero . . . sigh. If only I could meet a guy like him. He’s so dependable, responsible, protective, and loyal . . . sure he has his faults. He’s a procrastinator when it comes to communicating important information, and he always thinks he’s right. He’s a bit controlling, but you forgive him because of the era he lives in, and because his heart is in the right place. He’d do anything for Alethia. He’d even give up his birthright for her, and he’s the Earl of Fife’s only heir. What a guy.
Q. How did you come up with one of your secondary characters?
A. In the legend of Castle Rait, we learn that the Comyn Laird’s daughter had a lover amongst the MacKintosh. The Comyn clan invited the MacKintosh to a feast of reconciliation, intending to slay them. Someone tipped the MacKintosh off to the nefarious plot, hence the Comyn’s plans failed. The Comyn Laird believed it was his daughter who tipped off her lover’s clan. So, I had to invent her lover, Malcolm’s cousin, Liam. And Alethia had to see that she’s rescued, along with saving Malcolm’s life yet again.
Q. What is the major conflict in your story?
A. There are a few conflicts, internal and external. First, Alethia is determined to do whatever it takes to get back to her own life and time, while Malcolm wants nothing more than to prevent that from happening. Next, Alethia is not an acceptable choice for a young noble to wed, and Malcolm’s father, who would not approve a union between the two, arranges an acceptable union for his heir. And finally, they both fear the being who sent Alethia back in the first place. She could return Alethia to the 21st century at any time, or she could force Alethia to remain in an era that is not hers for the rest of her life. It’s a coil. Plus there’s a bad guy who wants Alethia—not in a good way. He keeps popping up to cause trouble.
Q. Are you a plotter or a pantser?
A. Yes. Sometimes when I get stuck, I take a break to plot, and I’m always plotting in my mind, though rarely on paper. TRUE was more plotted because of all the historical information which has be accurate. My new WIP is more by the seat of the pants.
Q. Do you write to silence, or do you prefer a little noise?
A. People think I’m odd. When I write, the TV is on, or the stereo, and I’m doing other things besides. Quiet drives me nuts. I have to have noise. Years and years of teaching noisy children do you think?
Q. Who is your muse?
A. A muse? Don’t have one as far as I know. The job is open if anyone would care to apply. Requirements: at least 6 feet tall, intelligent, a little baggage is acceptable, but if you come with a custom set of luggage, forget it. Must have a great sense of humor, love animals, and have an open mind and broad shoulders.
Q. What do you like to do when you're not writing?
A. I read a lot, enjoy movies, dinners out, plus I go on field trips with my critique partners. In fact, just yesterday we visited a past-life regression therapist. How interesting it that? He was fascinating by the way.
(This does sound fascinating!)
Thanks to all of you at Title Magic for making this interview possible and for all of your positive thoughts and support.
Thanks for being with us today, Barbara. And good luck as the competition -- and nail biting -- begin.