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A quick word from Bobbi Dumas, your host.
Hi everyone! Welcome to Read-A-Romance Month. You can find out more about this fun, month long event here. And check out all the great authors taking part this year on the calendar, here.
The theme this year is The Romance Of Reading, The Magic Of Books and we have an awesome assortment of writers – both romance and mainstream fiction authors – sharing about books, reading, romance & magic. I hope you’ll visit everyday.
(Also, be sure to check in to The Romance Of Reading FB page, where one of the RARM authors will be hosting the page each day in August. Today Jennifer Trethewey will be on the page.)
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Barbara O’Neal – Soaking Up Everything
Books are magical because they fling open the doors to…everything, everywhere, every idea and hope and tragedy and dream.
I loved the library as a child because it was the one place I could soak up anything I wanted, fly away to another world, another life, another adventure. As a writer, this is an even bigger thing.
I can be a chef and dazzle the world with my food (Lost Recipe for Happiness) or a bad-ass ER doctor who still surfs daily (my new book, When We Believed in Mermaids.)
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I’m kind of insanely in love with Falguni Kothari’s books. She writes women’s fiction (among other things) with a powerful feminist and original take on women’s lives and relationships with both lovers/husbands and friends. I loved this year’s The Object of My Affections. In her books, I can experience what it’s like to be an Indian woman, living in the US.
Another of my favorite authors, Joshilyn writes with vast tenderness and an awareness of our human fragility and beauty that just slays me. She’s also very, very funny and I have never read one of her books without having a book hangover. In her books, I run away to a quirky Southern world, usually a small town where everyone knows everyone else (and all their business).
And if we are talking actual magic, I love Sarah Addison Allen, who never writes fast enough for me. Her books have the kindest heart in all of writing.
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2019 RARM Questions:
Tell us about a time in your life that felt magical to you.
When I first met my partner, Christopher Robin, we had breakfast at a little café one Sunday morning. I told him about my love of blue jay feathers and how they always signaled a message of power to me from the other side (God or angels or Spirit or whatever). After breakfast, we went for a walk and about halfway through, he bent down and picked something up off the ground. He held it up. “Isn’t this a blue jay feather?” Obviously, the universe wanted me to stick with this guy—and I have, for fifteen years.
Tell us about a book that was magical for you.
Like Water for Chocolate by Laura Esquivel. We are all well-educated to understand magical realism and foodie fiction now, but back then (I read it in the 90s), it was fresh and crazy original and intensely romantic and sexy. I read it through, then went back and read it again immediately, something I never do, and for weeks, I was half-drunk on the idea of food as a magical substance, and on the power of words, and the revelation of magical realism itself, which assumes that magic is afoot in our mundane world. It thrilled me.
Tell us about a “magical moment” in your writing or your career?
The entire writing process relies on magic. It’s my job to do the ordinary jobs of research and plot development, but I’m always waiting for that special moment when the material takes off and becomes itself and starts to breathe on its own. In When We Believed in Mermaids, that moment was when a lost boy washes up on the porch of the home of the two young girls in the book. His arrival is both beautiful and catastrophic for both of them and I didn’t see him coming. At all.
For writers who use magical aspects in their books, what attracts you to those elements? For those of you who don’t, are there specific themes or elements you’re attracted to and find yourself going back to? Why do these resonate with you?
One of the things that attracts me to magical elements is the fact that magic signals spirit, a bigger universe, one that is filled with things that are mysterious and unseen. I write about ghosts because I want to believe in life after death, and I’ve felt that presence of my beloved friends and relatives after they’ve passed on. I go back to ghosts again and again, and I also believe in the power of food to transform and nourish in ways that are much deeper than the body, so there are often magic realism aspects to the food. Growing up steeped in the magical Catholicism of the southwest, saints and rituals often show up for me, too. I can’t avoid it.
Creativity is a kind of magical experience. What inspires you, keeps you going, helps you when you lose focus, etc.?
Reading inspires me, reminds me of the things I get from books. Research also shakes things loose, helps reinvigorate me when I’m flagging.
Drawing – Barbara is generously giving away a copy of When We Believed In Mermaids to one lucky reader (open to anyone who can accept an Amazon gift.)
To enter, leave a comment below responding to an element of this post. Open until August 18, 2019 11:59 PM EST.
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Barbara O’Neal has won the highly prestigious RITA award from Romance Writers of America 7 times and was inducted into the RWA Hall of Fame in 2012. She has written twelve novels of women’s fiction, about dogs and food, families and second chances. Her new book, When We Believed in Mermaids, was released on July 16.
Barbara lives in the stunningly beautiful city of Colorado Springs with her beloved, a British endurance athlete who vows he’ll never lose his accent. She attempts to garden despite hail and blizzards and the thin mountain air, and loves to travel, teaching and hiking and eating lots of great food.
She loves to hear from readers and you may email her at using the contact page or directly at BarbaraONeal [at] Gmail [dot] com
Discover all of Barbara’s books:
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