Sunday, April 27, 2014

An Interview with author, musician and 4-time Emmy-nominated writer & producer Barbara Hall

I've been busting at the seams since I found out about our next author interview and I'm thrilled to finally be able to bring her unique insight to our little blog. Our guest today is author, musician, and 4-time Emmy-nominated (Joan of Arcadia, Judging Amy, Homeland) writer and producer, Barbara Hall. To avid readers she’s a novelist with 11 published works whose imagination has been honored by numerous institutions, including the American Library Association in both their Best Books and Notable Books categories. She's currently working with Morgan Freeman on a pilot of Madame Secretary.  Barbara's work can all be found on her website,, and on Amazon. Her most recent novel is Charisma.
-We’re so incredibly excited to have you here for an interview, Barbara. Thank you for joining us, today. Over your lifetime, you’ve published a number of books. Is there any one work which you are most proud of?
Barbara: I’m probably most proud of a novel I wrote years ago called Close to Home.  It was the moment where everything I wanted to say dovetailed with the editor I needed at the time to support it.  Second to that, I am incredibly proud of a book I did with this same editor at a different publishing house (Algonquin) called The Music Teacher.  It was a book about music and physics and all the worlds I cared most about came together in that book.  My latest novel, Charisma, is something I’m also quite proud of.  But I published that book in an entirely different business model.  That said, I worked with a brilliant editor and am really proud of the result.  I’ll take a moment here to talk about how important a great editor is to a writer.  A great editor doesn’t, actually, edit but instead guides conceptually and offers a big picture view.   I have been quite lucky with my editors.
-Are you currently working on any new novels and when might we expect to see those hit shelves?
Barbara: I am not currently working on a novel. My entire backlist has recently been published on Amazon so it’s like being published for the first time.  If you’re curious about me, want to know about my books?  Go on Amazon.  It’s all there.  I’m not saying I’ll never write a book again but until the public catches up to what I’ve already done, I don’t feel the need to write another book.
-Most of our readers are aspiring authors, many in the midst of developing their first manuscript (me included). Considering the huge amount of success that you’ve had, what advice can you give to those of us who are just starting out and learning to navigate the publishing world?
Barbara: The publishing world is an ever changing one.  In keeping with my character, I never have advice about how to get published or how to succeed.  I have tons of advice about how to be a better writer.  Sadly, very few aspiring writers ever ask me about that.  I give lectures often and at the top of the event I say, “I have almost no advice for you about how to succeed as a writer.  I have tons of advice for you about how to be a better writer.”  Sadly. aspiring writers almost never offer such questions.  This clues me in that aspiring writers don’t want t learn about writing, they just want to learn about how to be perceived as great writers.  I have less than no time to teach about that.  In fact, I have no wisdom to offer about that. If you want to be a better writer, I’ll sit at your knee and lecture you.  If you want to know about how to be perceived that way, I have tons of time consuming hobbies to get to.
-In addition to writing books, you are also a successful musician and a 4-time Emmy-nominated writer & producer (Joan of Arcadia, Judging Amy, Homeland). How can you possibly manage to juggle all of these aspects of your life? Do you have room for anything else?
Barbara: I juggle it all because I want to.  I have things I want to do and so I guess the best answer to this question is that I understand time management.  If you have a billion things you want to do, then you have to cut out some time sucks.  If you have lots of things to say, stop staying them for free on Facebook and blogs.  If you really value your POV, stop giving it away.  The time you use going to parties or just generally hanging out is time you could use getting your work done.  I don’t like parties.  The time I’ve saved not going to parties has added up to time I’ve used getting work done.  If you like parties, stop apologizing.  Go to parties.  If you want to use your time worrying about what people think of you, just know it’s time away from working and heading toward a bigger goal.  I guess the bottom line is that I prioritize.  I don’t judge people for not doing that.  If you want to swing from the chandeliers, go for it.  But that’s time you could have spent working on your craft.
-You’re currently working on a new project with the great Morgan Freeman. What can you tell us about Madame Secretary?
Barbara: I can’t tell you much about Madame Secretary because it’s still in its nascent state.  It’s Morgan Freeman’s company but Morgan isn’t in the pilot as an actor.  It’s good and we’re still waiting for the official pick up.
-Your albums Bad Man and Handsome are both currently available for purchase. What musicians, bands, songwriters, etc. have had the most influence on your work?
Barbara: Bruce Springsteen and anyone who ever influenced Bruce Springsteen.  Post that, I have been influenced by Gillian Welch/David Rawlings and Wilco’s record, Yankee Hotel Foxtrot.  
-Your writing for television has spanned generations. You’ve written for Family Ties (in 1983) and for episodes of Homeland (in 2013). Those are two wildly different shows. Is this simply an illustration of how far you have come or do you have crazy range/interests as a writer?
Barbara: You have identified it—I am crazy.  But seriously.  I started out as a comedy writer and I haven’t changed much.  I switched to drama writing because I so hated the process of comedy writing—which amounted to comedians in a room performing their ideas.  I’m really a writer—by which I mean I have no acting bones—so I just hated being in the spotlight that way.  I never feel comfortable as a writer until I’m alone in a room with just me and the blank screen and drops of blood forming on my forehead.  It’s not like I haven’t examined avenues of escaping that.  But end of the day, I always end up alone in the room with a blank screen, prompting me to make something out of nothing.  It’s what I do.  I can’t escape it.
-Where can we buy Charisma and any of your other books and music?
Barbara’s website:
-Teaser/blurb for Charisma:
Barbara, it's been a pleasure having you. Thanks for the chat! Everyone else, please make sure to check out Charisma and the rest of Barbara's library of work.
For more info and insight on the publishing universe, from fo-realsy authors, please keep checking back here and on my twitter pages @BookTalkGuy and @RimerTom

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