Wednesday, December 07, 2011

Interview with Barbara Forte Abate, author of The Secret of Lies

Firstly, did you like my review on The Secret of Lies?
No.  “Like” isn’t a big enough word—I loved it, Melissa! And not just because of the obvious fact that every author is generally over-the-moon thrilled with a great review.  What really had my head and heart singing when I read your thoughts is that I truly felt as though you didn’t just read my novel, but you “experienced” it, and that’s absolutely the ultimate gift.

Oh, stop it. Thank you! So, where did your idea for The Secret of Lies come from?
It was a simple seed of an idea that arrived as a single concept while I was standing in the kitchen washing the dishes and staring out the window watching my neighbour mow her lawn! I found myself wondering what it might be like for someone to just walk away from their life—home, family, everything familiar—and start over. And most importantly, what sort of instance or event would compel someone to do something so drastic. Everything else that followed as that idea grew, transformed, twisted and turned, was something of a surprise. I’m not exaggerating when I say I didn’t necessarily see it coming!

Are the characters based on anyone in particular?
While it can always be argued that writing fiction requires a certain element of truth, I can honestly say that my characters have only ever existed in my imagination and none of us have ever met in real life. The exception is Jake. I’ve carried him around for quite some time. At 16 I’d gone on a weekend camping trip with my good friend and her family and it only took one glance to fall madly in love with a gorgeous teenage boy who was setting up camp with his family a couple sites away from ours. We never spoke a word to each other over the course of that weekend, but oh my, the eye contact was a constant.  I spent plenty of time constructing conversations with him in my head—the ones I would’ve had if I wasn’t too shy to approach such a picture perfect specimen.   My heart was absolutely splintered beyond repair when he drove away with his family early on Sunday morning never to be seen by me again.  And yet he stayed alive and burning in my head, waiting to come out as a character in a book!

Well, Stevie and Jake certainly had a lot more contact than you and this mystery boy! Anyway, during some parts of the story, Stevie uses sign language to communicate with one of the characters. Do you know sign language yourself?
No, but it’s one of those things I find fascinating.  I really love and appreciate how needing to us sign language encourages a certain undeniable intimacy in Stevie’s relationship with this particular character. Unlike spoken conversation, sign language forces communicants to really pay attention to each other and I find that remarkable and perfect for this pivotal relationship. 

Is there anything you like to do to keep motivated to continue writing?
The urge to write is just something that’s always there—in fact it won’t leave me alone. There are times when I’m writing something and it really just stinks and I feel like the biggest time-wasting, self-indulgent phoney. But even then, as disgusted as I might become, some part of me knows I can fix the problems in whatever it is I’m writing if I just hang-in and peel through the layers deep enough, rearrange, cut and burn, scramble scenes and dialogue. I’m not someone who gives up easily and that in itself proves motivational for me. I feel overwhelmingly obsessed to get it right.

What advice would you give to aspiring authors to follow their dreams of pursuing a career as a professional writer?
There’s such an abundance of really good advice for writers and we would be wise to consider the wisdom of others, but don’t engrave it all in stone and allow yourself to become intimidated or overwhelmed. It’s there to learn from, but not necessarily to feel forced to live by. The number one thing is to believe in yourself, respect your dreams, and trust the yearnings that keep you up at night. Be prepared to work hard, willing to learn, and be patient (the world of publishing is a slow moving machine,). Trust that the talents you possess have been planted in your heart for a purpose. And absolutely don’t let someone else’s “no,” be the last word. Get just mad enough to prove them wrong.

Some great advice there. You listening aspiring authors? So, do you have an interest in reading like many followers of Book Nerd and Critic?
I have been crazy in love with books forever. There were some rough years growing up, and books were the great escape. Then and now, I thrill over finding myself caught up in a beautifully crafted story and have met so many characters I’d love to hang around with in real life. It’s just the saddest thing having to close the cover of a fabulous book when I reach the end and know that I’m not ready to leave it.

What is your favourite book and why?
I first read To Kill a Mockingbird in grade school and knew even then that it would forever remain my favourite book.  It’s perfection. I’ve read it dozens of times over the years and yet each time I reread it I find myself in re-kindled awe of this incredible story.  In love with Atticus, intrigued by Boo, tickled by Dill, and wishing, wishing, wishing to be Scout. Alas, but to write like Harper Lee…

What can fans of The Secret of Lies (such as myself) expect from you in the future? Are you working on anything at the moment?
 I am just now finishing up my latest novel—my plan is to have this “final edit” (Ha, as if there is ever a final edit!) finished by the New Year so I can send it off to my agent. I am a very slow writer and have a certain amount of envy for writers that dash off a book in a matter of months. For me it takes years.  But I’m really happy with this one. It feels good.

Let me know when that one comes out! Do you have a particular role model or successful author that you admire, or perhaps just someone who positively influences you in your writing?
I am blessed beyond measure to have a best friend since 7th grade who is also a writer. Janet is my confidante, angst absorbing, butt-kicking, cheerleading, mojo boosting, incredibly wise and talented comrade of the pen. She has had screenplays optioned by Hollywood and written award winning stage plays produced off-off-Broadway and we’ve been there for each other with every stroke of the keyboard. Whether good, bad, or downright pitiful we’ve shared every bump and milepost of the writing journey. I think that’s so absolutely essential for all of us—to have someone in our life who truly “gets it.”

And most sincere thanks to you, Melissa. It’s been a supreme pleasure meeting you on Book Nerd and Critic, and having such an enjoyable chat with you here.


  1. Congratualtions on your first interview Melissa - great stuff! You've got a real flow going on here, how did you arrange the interview in the end (Skype, Email, etc.)?

  2. Thank you! I typed the questions up in a word document and emailed it to the author. It was actually a lot easier than I thought. :)

  3. I enjoyed this interview very much. Your questions were spot on and the interview had a nice easy approach to it.

  4. Thank you! I really appreciate the compliment, Carol. :)

  5. Yeah, that's how I've done mine so far too. Nice and simple, although you make it read like a two-way conversation far more than I manage. :)