When I wrote my dream list of authors to interview here at Disenchanted & Co., Barbara Samuel was the first name I wrote down. A multi-genre writer who has earned six RITAs, two Colorado Center for the Book awards, RWA's Favorite Book of the Year and a place on Library Journal's Best Genre Fiction of the Year list, Barbara has published dozens of much cherished historical and contemporary romance novels for her vast readership. I actually discovered her work via her amazing women's fiction books (which she currently writes as Barbara O’Neal), and now my collection of her novels takes up two shelves in my book room.
Honesty and empathy are an integral part of every story Barbara writes; she always reaches for your heart with her own. That she's also an incredibly talented storyteller and world-builder enhances the reading experience to the point that it almost stops being fiction; that's how real it feels to read one of her books and get to know her characters and walk the path with them. She's my soul-medicine author; when I know someone is troubled or struggling with life or for whatever other reason simply needs a great read, I bring them one of Barbara's books. This because I know what they've done for me over the years.
Now let's steampunk the lady with a little Toriana-style Q&A:
If you were whisked off to a parallel universe that is just like ours except that it has no authors or books, what would you do for a living there?
Aside from the fact that I could not bear to live in a world without books, right? I would be a chef and a gardener. I love gardening with a sort of insane passion -- and you have to be insane to garden in Colorado Springs, where either the hail, the altitude, or the short growing season will kill something every year. And I love cooking, which is the most grounding, calming thing I do--and I love to feed people. I might also be a photographer. I love photography, mainly of plants and people's faces, both very close-up. A little girl's eyelashes. The stamens of a poppy. Light coming through the petals of the first spring tulips.
The Timeline Fairy has granted you the power to change one event in American history. Which event would you change, how would you change it, and why?
Wow. That's a tough one. I don't see any positive in the Vietnam War. It tore the country into pieces and a lot of soldiers died needlessly, for a cause that ended not being worth much. The worst was the legacy of those soldiers who were hated and lost and didn't have the support they deserved for the wounds of war. Far too many of them ended up lost and broken -- alcoholics and homeless and violent. Really sad stuff. My heart aches for those lost soldiers.
If you could bring something back from the Victorian era and make it fashionable or trendy or popular today, what would it be?
Ocean voyages on elegant liners. Not the cruise ships of today -- I want the elegantly appointed, fern-adorned voyages of yore. I want it to be cool to take a week to get to England, or a few months to sail to India. I want dinner with the captain and dressing for dinner.
Who is your favorite 18th or 19th century author, and which one of their books is your favorite?
Hmm. Probably HG Wells or Jules Verne. They both had such amazing imaginations and I teethed on them before moving to modern SFF as a teen. That expectation of the miraculous possibilities in science sticks with me still.
Let's pretend I've been living on Mars my entire life and I've never read any of your work. When I get back to Earth, which one of your novels should I read first?
The Lost Recipe for Happiness. It's one of my favorites, and has the themes of love (in so many forms!) and food and redemption that I love.
Thank you, Barbara, for so kindly answering all my impertinent questions.
To celebrate our first guest here at the blog, I've also put together a giveaway of my favorites of her books and some fun things themed to her world-building, presented here by my lovely daughter:
If you'd like a chance to win the lot, in comments to this post name something you'd bring back from the Victorian era to become fashionable/trendy/popular today by midnight EST on Friday, July 12th, 2013. I'll draw one name at random from everyone who participates and send the winner the prize package, which includes unsigned copies of Barbara's novels The Lost Recipe for Happiness, A Piece of Heaven and The Secret of Everything, along with Morning Food and The Neely's Celebration cookbooks, a Euro cookbook stand, a bread basket with an Italian linen liner, a package of pink Himalayan salt (as per the story in The Secret of Everything), a gorgeous woven straw and watercolor-fabric market bag, and the pretty violet and green print apron my girl is wearing (the kid, however, stays with me.) This giveaway is open to everyone on the planet, so please join in.