Monday, 19 October 2009

Eleni-fest: chatting with Barbara Hannay

Today we have the ever delightful and thoughtful Barbara Hannay on Eleni-fest as my special guest. Barbara is HM&B Romance author (HM&B Sweet in Australia) of over 30 books and has received both a RITA and R*BY for her work.

Welcome Barbara to Eleni’s Taverna and Eleni-fest!

Congratulations on having over 30 books published and for the release of your duet Baby Steps to Marriage in Australia/NZ. How did this duet come about? What inspired it? 
Thanks for the congrats, Eleni. It’s hard to believe I’ve written 35 books – all one word at a time! J

As for the duet… I wanted stories with deep emotional issues that would resonate with women all over the world. What better way than through stories that involve pregnancy and babies? Expecting Miracle Twins and The Bridesmaid’s Baby show to very different pregnancy experiences for two good friends. In the first book Mattie volunteers to have a surrogate pregnancy, while the second book is more or less a baby of convenience story – a very contemporary plan hatched by Lucy and her oldest and best friend, Will.

What attracted you to the Romance line? 
There was no Romance line when I submitted. The lines were divided just as I sold my first book, and I was slotted into Romance – not because of sex or lack of sex, but because of the warm, feel good tone of my writing.

What was it like winning the R*BY (2005) and the RITA (2007)? 
Absolutely, over the moon, fabulous! Awards like these are a huge honour, and I’m very grateful to the organizations that have set them in place.

What are you working on now? And what’s in the near future for Barbara Hannay?

I’m superstitious about talking about my work in progress, but it’s one of my favourite kinds of stories. 

Coming in the first half of next year is The Rancher’s Adopted Family, a secret baby story with a twist set on Cape York, and Executive Expecting Tiny Twins, which is part of the exciting new Bella Rosa continuity for the Harlequin Romance line.

How many books do you produce a year? 
Usually 3 or 4, sometimes with the addition of a novella.

You have a real love affair with the Outback. What is the attraction to placing your books in this setting? 
I have always loved the Australian bush and when my children were little we spent many holidays camping on a cattle property on the banks of the Burdekin River in North Queensland. This is where I set my first book Outback Wife and Mother, and the editors told me they love Outback settings. I hadn’t known that, so it was a stroke of luck, I guess! I always love returning to the Outback, but in reality and in my books.

Do you have a set routine?
My ideal routine involves sitting at my desk and writing 1000 to 1500 words a day between my morning walk and my afternoon sessions in the garden, but I disrupt that plan regularly for family and friends, and I find myself working some weird hours to make up for lost time.

Who is your favourite character from your books?
The characters I’m currently working with. Every time. J

How do you keep the emotional punch and story fresh in every book, especially after writing so many books?
It’s a huge challenge, actually. Reading widely helps – and taking the occasional break, so that I don’t get too tired of the sound of my own “voice”. I also find it’s important to keep feeding the muse with concerts, plays, art galleries, music, movies, travel and meeting new people, and trying new experiences… 

Do you use collages on every one of your books?
No, but I wish I did. They always help! Always!

You have your books translated into many other languages (ladies & gents, Barbara has been sending Greek translations of her books to mum for many years which I am eternally grateful for and shows her extreme generosity). What’s it like to see your work in another language? How many languages have your books been translated into? 
My books have been translated into 26 languages, and I have to say I get a huge thrill out of knowing that women all over the world are reading my books in their own language (although I keep my fingers crossed that the translator has produced something close to the original). 

A couple of years ago, In the Heart of the Outback was published in Estonia. The really big thrill was that it was edition No#001, which suggested to me that it was the very first book published in that line in that country!!!

(EK: Yay Barbara! How exciting!!)

What is the reality of being a published author – for those of us still pre-published?

The reality is that you have to be prepared to work harder than you’ve ever worked before (thinking, thinking, always thinking). You can never really stop working again. Even when you’re relaxing, part of your brain will still be working away at story ideas, or plot holes.  You find that you want each book to be better than the last, but you have to accept that no book will ever be as good as you want it to be. You must never rest on your laurels.

Do you miss teaching at all? Did that help you realise your dream of writing? 
I love writing, and I only miss teaching when I’m invited back to schools, and I interact with students again. I miss those lively young minds, and their enthusiasm for life. 

Actually, I do think teaching English helped my quest for publication. To begin with, it meant I’d spent every working day of the previous decade thinking about books and writing, and all forms of communication. I’d learned during my years of teaching that I loved creative projects best, so I understood that writing novels suited me. Also, in the nineties at the school where I taught, there was a huge focus on genre – teaching students how to master any genre from a letter to the editor, to a film script; from a speech to persuade to a poem. We studied how the form and the register of language changes to suit its audience and purpose. When I fell in love with romance, I applied the same analytical approach and taught myself how to reproduce the genre!

How has the move to Tarzali been? Have you missed Townsville?
At this point, I still divide my time between both places, getting the best of both worlds in the city and the country.

Thanks Barbara for joining us in the fest! Barbara has kindly offered a copy of her Baby Steps to Marriage duet as a give away - Expecting Miracle Twins and The Bridesmaid's Baby.

For your  chance to  win please make a comment below.
Comments will be open until 24th October.

Entry into draw is now closed. Congratulations Becca!

Good luck!

And thank you Barbara for your generosity. 

Please go to to download a free copy of Barbara’s Adopted: Outback Baby. I read my print copy recently and it’s a greatly emotive read. Loved it! (Fan girl moment here!) And of course visit Barbara at her website for a look at her great books.

Please note: both Barbara and I will be unavailable until this evening... thanks for your patience.


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