Today it’s my pleasure to have as my “victim” Barbara E. Silkstone, the woman behind that freaky bunny picture. Really, that thing freaks me out more than Freddie Kruger and Michael Moore. Now when I go out at night I don’t look for werewolves and vampires–I look around for bunnies. Gone are my childhood memories of sweet little bunny rabbits–replaced by a huge bunny with dark sunglasses and arms outstretched ready to tickle me to death. I hate being tickled. The only thing that even compares to that Bunny in my nightmares is the cat from Pet Cemetery by Stephen King. For years I wouldn’t let a cat near me. Now I have to look out for cats and bunnies.
LP: Good morning Barbara, and thank you for not bringing along your bunny. Tell us a little bit about yourself. Where you live now and where you grew up.
BES: I live on the edge of South Florida. I enjoy the creative energy here. There’s a lot of really great writers chilling in Florida. I grew up in northern New Jersey but migrated south many years ago.
LP: You have an amazing blog. Tell your readers a little about it.
BES: One of the features of my blog is something I call “Author Bumping”. Every so often when the mood strikes, I share stories about the strange ways I’ve bumped into well known authors. For example, I slammed into Robert Parker’s belly while running from a pervert in a London ladies loo. Once I told Stephen King to hush while I was watching Blade Runner. I didn’t know until the lights went on that he was sitting next to me. My funny or bittersweet stories about accidentally meeting my heroes.
LP: Humor is, in my opinion, one of the most difficult things to write and convey on paper. Was there a particular family member that influenced your humor, and do you feel that the environment you were raised in has any effect on your choice of genre?
BES: My sisters and I had a very brutal childhood. Our mother was very abusive. We learned to laugh even as we hid from her and licked our wounds. I also attended Catholic School. If the nuns don’t teach you how to laugh at pain nothing will. We were taught by an order of Polish nuns. One of our required subjects was Polish. I was raised speaking two languages.
It’s easy to see why I chose criminally funny fables or comedy mysteries as my genre. I needed to escape into fairy tales from the time I was very little. When I was four years old, I spent most of that winter hiding in the hall closet. Somewhere I got the idea that if I sat in the dark closet and concentrated very hard I would be able to turn into a black panther. Guess what? It didn’t work. So I decided being a shepherd was more practical. Plus you got to wear those nice Bo Peep outfits.
LP: Wow, Barbara, I’d love to talk with you more about that sometime–off interview. I counsel young people from bad environments and young women in a rehab facility using writing as a tool to express and heal emotional pain. I had my own closet as a child, and words and my imagination helped me to survive, just as it appears they did you.
When and why did you begin writing?
BES: I wrote in school but my mother and the nuns did everything they could to stifle my creativity. In 8th grade I started an underground school newspaper. It was patterned after Mad Magazine. It was silly. My gang couldn’t afford to make copies on a machine, so they hand copied 6 sets of every week. We would circulate them around the class. One day our nun got hold of an original copy. She sat on it. I had to go up and ask for the return of my newspaper. I had to ask in Polish. She pretended she didn’t understand me. Then when she finally removed it from under her tushie, I got wacked with a ruler. Now that’s editing.
LP: You’re one of those people I wish I’d known as a child. Ah, the things we could have gotten into. So what inspired your first book?
BES: Actually, my first book was non-fiction. I had lost everything I had earned prior to a short second marriage. I was taken, and wondered if men ever loved as women do. I set out to interview 1000 men in one year. I figured I’d have some great answers about love and commitment. I had no idea the men would talk so much or so honestly. It took me 6 long years of listening, and two melt-downs before I stopped interviewing at 527 men. The book is called The Adventures of a Love Investigator, 527 Naked Men & One Woman. It’s available on Kindle and Nook.
P.S. I’ll never try that again.
LP: Now that’s one I’m going to have to look into. How do you come up with your titles?
BES: The books almost seem to name themselves.
The Love Investigator was originally titled: 527 Naked Men & One Woman, but it ended up in the wrong search engines. 🙂
LP: I wonder how that happened!
BES: Alice was easy. It was the secret diary of a 42 year old Miami woman who falls for a charming British con man via the internet.
LP: Is there a specific message in your novels that you’d like the reader to grasp?
BES: Yes. Life is just a game. Sometimes we get dealt good hands and sometimes they are awful. But it’s not to be taken seriously. I have this image of what happens when we get to the pearly gates. God’s laughing. He’s in stitches because. . . silly us. . . we took it seriously. Learn to laugh at yourself. I feel sorry for folks who can’t.
LP: I hope someone in your travels has told you that you’d made a great motivational speaker. If not–well, I’m telling you now. You’d make a great motivational speaker.
How much of your book is realistic or based on real life issues?
BES: I think everything we write is colored by our experiences.
LP: I believe that too. It’s worked into our characters and our scenes, and sometimes gives us the control in a situation we may not have had at a particular point in our life. So when did you first consider yourself a writer?
BES: When the nun smacked my hand with the ruler. I knew she wasn’t even going to slow me up let alone stop me. I wanted to scream at her, “I’m a writer”. But I also wasn’t suicidal.
LP: Do you have a specific writing style?
BES: I’m from the Raymond Chandler school of keep it short and sweet.
LP: If you had to choose, which writer would you consider a mentor?
BES: Raymond Chandler, although many years ago Stephen King was very encouraging.
LP: Stephen King gave me my mantra when I first started writing. Until you’ve been turned down 98 times you’re as good as Stephen King. I kept that on my wall so I could see it every time I started to write.
What book are you reading now?
BES: I just finished one I’ve been raving about by an Indie author, One Hundred Open Houses, by Consuelo Baehr. I recently finished A Reliable Wife by Robert Goolrick. I think that was on the NYT Best Seller list.
LP: I’ve been following Consuelo on SampleSunday. I love her writing. Are there any new authors that have grasped your interest?
BES: MH Sargent’s books on crack team of CIA agents in Iraq and Yemen are very good. They put you right in the middle of the action.
LP: (Whisper—you know you don’t get the same payment as Joleene, since you didn’t mention my books, right?)
If you had to do it all over again, would you change anything in your first book?
BES: The first book? On men? I would have never started it. I haven’t dated since I finished interviewing those 527 men.
LP: Okay, maybe I don’t want to read that book. I still love Coby, and like my delusions.
BES: The Secret Diary of Alice in Wonderland, Age 42 and Three-Quarters is a delight. I reread it all the time. I love it the way it is.
LP: Are you currently working on a new book, and if so, can you share some of it with us?
BES: Another criminally funny fable. It’s a takeoff on Peter Pan called Wendy & the Lost Boys. I hope to have it finished and up on Kindle in June. It’s a hoot. I’m laughing too hard to finish writing it.
LP: You’ll have to let me know when it’s out. Sounds like a good book to read in the summer sitting by the pool.
What is the most challenging part of writing your current work in progress?
BES: The action scenes. I’ve never been a pirate. I’m having to fake it.
LP: With your imagination I can’t see that as too much of a problem. I think you would have made a great pirate.
So who are your favorite authors and what is it that really strikes you about their work?
BES: I love the early Janet Evanovich, Raymond Chandler, Stephen King, Gabriel Garcia Marquez. Humor, comic timing, brevity on in the case of Garcia Marquez. . .he paints with words. I allow him to blather on. He’s so romantic.
LP: Do you have to travel much concerning your book(s)?
BES: In order to interview the 527 men I did travel a lot for 6 years. It was rough. I went to them. One on one in private interviews. I’m lucky I wasn’t murdered.
LP: That’s so true, especially in today’s world. Do you design your own covers?
BES: I know what I want. I have a lovely graphic designer who translates my ideas.
LP: What was the hardest part of writing your book?
BES: The naked men? Listening. They often had no idea how they were coming across. I frequently wanted to pop them on their heads.
The Secret Diary of Alice…staging the scenes so the readers could follow along. The real Alice in Wonderland is a free-fall. I wanted my Alice to be the same. Half dream and half reality…bent reality.
LP: Did you learn anything from writing your book and what was it?
BES: With the book on men, I became THE WOMAN WHO KNEW TOO MUCH.
With Alice, I learned to refine my comedic timing.
LP: Do you have any advice for other writers?
BES: Just do it. But as Stephen King suggests in his wonderful book On Writing…get rid of the adjectives and adverbs. Think lean and mean. Consider being an Indie. I would never go back to trying for conventional publishing. Why?
LP: Do you have anything specific that you want to say to your readers?
BES: Be patient. Wendy & the Lost Boys are on the way. And thank you all for the many, many lovely emails I’ve received regarding the joy and laughter The Secret Diary of Alice in Wonderland has given you. That’s the best reward for any writer.
LP: That is to true. I have few reviews, but I’m constantly hearing from readers who loved my books. That always makes my day.
Can you give us links to your website, blog and where readers can learn more about your books and you in general?
Kindle US: http://amzn.to/dFdjGL
Kindle UK: http://amzn.to/e1in3V
B&N Nook: http://bit.ly/hK3pJP
So, there you have it ladies and gentlemen–the sweet, funny lady behind that horrible Bunny. I hope you enjoyed this interview, and I hope you’ll download a sample of Barbara’s books or better yet, buy now.