D.M. Barr writes psychological thrillers, mystery, humor, and romance. Today she joins us for an interview. Learn more about D.M. and her books at her website and blog.
When did you realize you wanted to write novels?
I always loved novels (I was reading Honey Bunch from age 5, Nancy Drew from age 9 and gothic romances from age 11) and I’d write poems and parodies of different subjects (school, summer camp, etc.) but never dreamed of writing them. I was a nonfiction editor writer of magazine articles and corporate communications (sales letters, press releases, etc.) for many years and always figured my first book would be nonfiction. But when I was twenty and writing a nightlife column for a New York City throwaway called “Downtown Manhattan,” I took a two-week summer course at Hofstra for writing and somehow wandered into a fiction class by mistake. I was mesmerized by the idea of creating a world and sharing it with people.
How long did it take you to realize your dream of publication?
For fiction, a long, long time. I started writing the bare bones of this novel back in 2006 for an online class with Gotham Writers. I got about 5,000 words in, and most of what I’d written was a parody of Realtors doing over-the-top, outlandish things. None of the students got the jokes (which worried me more about my real estate industry than my writing!) In 2013, I joined a class at the Hudson Valley Writer’s Center and that forced me to hand in pages every week, a good habit. I got to about 28,000 words and handed it to two author/teacher friends to review. One loved it, one hated it, and I put it away for over two years. Then in 2015, I had the good fortune to have lunch with a NY Times bestselling author who asked me to send my pages to his editor. The editor liked them, made a few suggestions and that encouragement got me to rewrite the whole thing and finish. So to make a long story short—it took me around three-and-a-half months to write the whole thing once I got motivated. Then another fourteen months to pitch, get an agent, have her pitch, review terrible contracts from small presses (not her doing, mine) and self-publish.
Are you traditionally published, indie published, or a hybrid author?
I’m actually a hybrid author. I have an erotic romance out with Loose Id under a different pseudonym, and then my novel is published through my company, Punctuated Publishing.
Where do you write?
Usually on the couch in my family room or at Starbucks in a big, comfy chair by the corner.
Is silence golden, or do you need music to write by? What kind?
Silence. But if it isn’t silent, my tunnel vision blocks out all noise anyway. If I’m working out a scene, my husband and kids can think they’ve had an entire conversation with me but I’ve actually never heard a word.
How much of your plots and characters are drawn from real life? From your life in particular?
In Expired Listing, Dana Black is a former travel writer who becomes a realtor. I’m a former travel writer who became a realtor. So all my travel writing and real estate pokes come from real life in theory but are way over the top. Dare is the combination of a few people I met while researching the S&M scene and the dungeon descriptions are authentic, from a club in NYC. Cassandra, the evil mother, is the embodiment of all the guilt I felt being a working mother while my kids were small, and all my resentment over my parents doing the same thing. So a lot of real life in there, but I don’t kill problem clients or play bondage bingo in empty listings.
Describe your process for naming your character?
Some are just fun—like Reid Wright, which I still can’t believe I got away with, but actually worked it into the story—that much of what he does is payback for the humiliation he felt as a kid when people mocked his name. My mother almost named me Dana so I used that for my main character. Eleanor Lawrence is a close approximation for the name of a therapist I worked with and who clued me into a lot of the psychology that went into the book. A lot of the other names are partial names of friends.
Real settings or fictional towns?
I live in Rockland County. The story is set in Rock Canyon. So yeah, entirely fictional. 😀 One funny story is that I made up a description of the Rock Canyon police station, a reconverted house and a friend was sure I had written about the South Nyack police station, which looks exactly the same. I’ve never seen that police station.
What’s the quirkiest quirk one of your characters has?
I love how Endicott describes things. When Dana is going out to seek help from friends in the “scene,” he describes them as The Kink Crew, The Libido Brigade, The Torture Troupe and Band of Bondage. He also describes the process of becoming a Realtor as evolution, only in reverse. I also like how Dare combines games of chance with games of torture in his S&M play.
What’s your quirkiest quirk?
I’m a terrible punster. Anything for a laugh. I’m also an author groupie.
If you could have written any book (one that someone else has already written,) which one would it be? Why?
Atlas Shrugged. I know it’s controversial but I am truly amazed how Ayn Rand could convey philosophy into novel form and the fact that she wrote it in English when her native language was Russian amazes me. It’s also a book that has changed so many lives.
Everyone at some point wishes for a do-over. What’s yours?
I wish I’d been a bigger risk taker when I was younger and cared less about what people thought.
What’s your biggest pet peeve?
People who hurt animals and children.
You’re stranded on a deserted island. What are your three must-haves?
A helicopter, a good-looking pilot, and a yacht (in case the helicopter malfunctions.) But barring that, tons of books, a makeshift stove/oven and my husband. As long as I were married to Chris Pine. Or Kevin Kline. Or Chris Pratt. Oh and a bunch of dogs. (I guess one of my other quirks is that I’m really bad at following rules.)
What was the worst job you’ve ever held?
I’ve actually loved every job I’ve ever had but I’ve been very lucky to have had the opportunity to do what I love. There have been things I didn’t like at every job but no job that was terrible in itself. For example, I hate how real estate brings out the very worst in people and that they act illogically and let ego take over reason. But I don’t hate the job.
What’s the best book you’ve ever read?
Cruel question. I already mentioned Atlas Shrugged, so perhaps The Grapes of Wrath.
Ocean or mountains?
Ocean. With deep, white fluffy sand beach.
City girl/guy or country girl/guy?
City girl who likes to vacation in the country.
What’s on the horizon for you?
I’m working on Slashing Mona Lisa, which will be contemporary women’s fiction/murder mystery. And then the sequel to Expired Listings. But I have a bunch of other ideas for books, even a few YAs.
Anything else you’d like to tell us about yourself and/or your books?
Perhaps the thing I’m proudest of in my life (other than my kids) is that I actually wrote and finishing a novel. I admire writers so and I’m very excited to count myself among them. They are an extraordinarily generous group of people who have shared with me and helped me and I hope to pay it forward.
What if people were dying around you and you weren't absolutely sure you weren't their murderer? Someone is 'deactivating' the Realtors in Rock Canyon and almost no one seems to care. Not the surviving brokers, who consider the serial killings a competitive boon. Not the town's residents, who see the murders as a public service. In fact, the only person who's even somewhat alarmed is Dana Black, a kinky, sharp-witted yet emotionally skittish Realtor who has no alibi for the crimes because during each, she believes she was using her empty listings for games like Bondage Bingo with her sadistic lover, Dare. And yet, mysteriously, all clues are pointing her way.
Along with clearing her name and avoiding certain death at the hands of the 'Realtor Retaliator,' Dana has an even bigger problem: she's inadvertently become a person of interest in more ways than one to Aidan Cummings, the sexy albeit vanilla detective investigating the case. While his attentions are tempting, Dana is torn--does she continue her ironically 'safe' but sterile BDSM relationship with Dare, or risk real intimacy with Aidan?
Kink, Suspense and Satire--Expired Listings masterfully combines all three while exploring the universal need for validation and the toxic nature of revenge.