Today’s guest in my series of interviews with full-time writers of lesbian fiction is Barbara Winkes.
Barbara and I seem to have some things in common: We’re both trained psychologists, and we’re both German. But Barbara fell in love with a French-Canadian language teacher and now lives in Canada with her wife.
She publishes with Eternal Press, a small publisher in California. Her newest book, Secrets, will come out on November 16, so keep an eye out for it!
It seems Barbara and I also share a lot of our attitudes toward writing and structuring our writing time. Here’s what Barbara had to say about her life as a full-time writer:
How long have you been writing full-time?
For a little over two years. After a turbulent summer in 2011, I settled down behind my laptop in September and cranked up the word count.
What was the process of moving into full-time writing for you?
Writing full-time had always been a dream. I had some sort of routine before, and when I got the chance, I went for it and adjusted some of my writing habits. Parallel to the new writing routing, I also started submitting, and my novel Autumn Leaves, a lesbian romance, the first in a series, turned out to be a match for Eternal Press.
Do you write every day? Do you give yourself weekends or days off or vacation time away from writing?
Every weekday and occasionally on the weekend too. My wife and I take some time off during the summer and over the holidays. Last summer, we went to Europe for four weeks, but that was an exception, the first time we went back to Germany since I came to Canada…But you know how it is, even when you’re not writing, the characters are with you. I didn’t take my laptop but still wrote about a quarter of a story in a notebook.
What does a typical workday look like for you?
Starts around 8 a.m, and I try to stick to the writing until afternoon, sometimes longer, plus some marketing-related activities in the evening. It’s not written in stone, but I try to get a certain amount of writing done each day, plus my to-do list for that day/week.
Do you have a daily word-count goal or a set number of hours you spend writing?
I’ve learned that 2K words is a good number to have the story moving. Depending on the day, it can be easy or challenging. It’s an average that you often hear from pro-writers. There are always days when more happens, and that’s great, but there are also those days when life happens or the new books just came out. One of the challenges is to set goals for yourself that are realistic. You take away what’s helpful from other writers’ experiences, but don’t compare yourself, either way. Recently, I came across the blog of a writer who does a 10K word count—daily. I admit that I’m in equal parts jealous and in awe. It’s a major accomplishment, which I don’t think works for me on a daily basis, but she had some good advice on focusing on your writing, so that’s what I’m taking away, parts I know, parts I need to remind myself of every now and then.
Where do you write?
I am lucky to have an office to myself. That’s always been part of the dream as well, and it’s very helpful for the daily routine. You have no more excuses.
How did family and friends react to you giving up your day job to become a full-time writer?
Actually, becoming a full-time writer was a lucky coincidence that happened in the context of some major life changes. I got married, moved from Germany to Canada (Québec), and it would have been impossible to work right away. I was staying on a visitor’s visa, which I renewed as long as my application for permanent residence was in limbo, and, of course, there’s the language. The timing was really great, and so I took the time to write a story I had planned out earlier that year—and another. And…you get the picture. I also started submitting in earnest, which at some point, worked out.
So, the big deal for my family and friends wasn’t so much the writing part, but the getting married and going to live in another country part.
How much time do you spend promoting your books, including blogging, social media, etc.?
It’s hard to pinpoint, but for sure, I do a certain amount each day. Social media can be helpful and draining at the same time. You have to accept—and I struggle with that a bit at times—that you can’t be everywhere and do everything. You have to step away every now and then, and just write. That being said, there are also great conversations and marketing opportunities you can find on social media. I try to watch out for that and not be swept away in the process.
What’s the best thing about being a full-time writer?
Are you kidding me? Everything! Seriously, writing full-time is awesome, and being able to do it, a great privilege. Making stuff up and hanging out with imaginary people all day, how much better can it get? Of course there are difficult moments, when the characters won’t talk to you, when the story isn’t moving as nicely as you thought it would, etc. No one is completely immune to doubts, but the important thing is to get over them.
What’s the most difficult thing about being a full-time writer?
Same as with every self-employment—you have to find a routine that works for you even on the days you don’t feel so good about your writing. You have to find out what works for your, period—writing hours, marketing, social networking, publishing. That’s the general theme—the better you know yourself and your audience, the more efficient you can be.
Is there anything you wish you would have known before becoming a full-time writer?
Not really. Of course there was and still is a lot to learn, but I’m enjoying that.
It’s a fascinating process from typing the first word into a blank document, to holding a physical book in your hands. I’m also grateful for my publisher, Eternal Press, where I feel that my stories and I are in good hands. It’s great when you don’t have to do everything by yourself, and that’s not just budget-wise although that is obviously a factor.
What advice would you give a fellow author who wants to write full time?
There’s a rational, routine side to it that you can break down in numbers. Chances are, when you take that step, you are already writing a certain amount of time, so you’ll build on that and expand. You’ll have made sure that the bills are being paid, and probably you already know what kind of environment works best for you.
Some writers love to spend their days in a coffee shop. I’ve realized that I do better in my own office and with my coffeemaker. I can write in the evening, used to do so when I was working two jobs, but now I prefer to get the major part done in the morning. It’s different for everyone.
Aside from the day job part of it—you know when you know. It’s a lot like falling in love.
Can you tell us a bit about your latest novel?
It’s a standalone thriller called Secrets and will actually be out in a matter of days! Marsha, one of the main characters, wants to get away for a bit, to contemplate life and everything that went wrong in hers lately. Against all odds and reason, she picks up a hitchhiker on the way. Marsha is attracted to Jessie, but can sense that she’s not telling the whole truth. After some car trouble, they are stuck in a small town close to where a murder happened recently…what could go wrong?
What books can we look forward to from you in the future?
Book #3 of Callie and Rebecca’s story, called Spring Fever, is coming early next year. I’m currently working on #4 that will conclude the series, but between the two of them, watch out for a surprise or two…
Thanks for patiently answering my questions, Barbara. I know your down-to-earth advice will help me a lot next year.
Since I found more full-time writers willing to be interviewed than I expected, I will post interviews on Wednesdays and Sundays from now on. Check back on Wednesday, November 6 for an interview with award-winning author Lori L. Lake.
Have a great Sunday, everyone!