Fun Fact: “The first time I met my wife in person was on a trip to Paris (we had known each other online for about a year). We fell in love, less than a year later, we were engaged, and the next year we got married. I turned to full-time writing when I was in the process of becoming a permanent resident of Canada (I became a citizen last year).” – Barbara Winkes
SR: What’s your new book about?
BW: The Amnesia Project (out April 19, 2018) starts with four female friends who take a trip to NYC. Paige, the 17-year-old sister of one of the women, disappears without a trace. Dani dedicates her life to finding her, feeling guilty about the things that were left unsaid between them. More than a decade later, she gets a chance at solving the mystery.
SR: Was there a specific issue or incident that really motivated you to write this particular story? What was the prompt?
BW: The inspiration for the crime didn’t come from any specific incident, but following the news and politics. Sadly, there are many who would like to turn back the clock on women.
I had the idea for this particular story walking down a busy street on a hot day in NYC, a place exactly like the one described in the book.
SR: How do you think your protagonist would respond if aliens landed in the center of town on page 57?
BW: I went with the Word document. On this day, Dani might not realize or care if aliens came to town, because a pivotal moment happens just the day before…
SR: Your protagonist has to flee the country. Where are they headed to and why that location?
BW: If their enemy won, Canada would be a good option (considering what they would be fleeing from), but they’d stay and fight as long as possible.
SR: Is your protagonist more likely to go insane or end up in prison?
BW: The latter. She can hold her own when no one believes her, but she isn’t afraid of making powerful enemies. That poses a realistic danger to her freedom at some point.
SR: What’s your protagonist’s greatest fear? Why?
BW: To never find out what happened to Paige. Dani has dedicated her whole life to finding answers. And she feels guilty, because when Paige made a move on her shortly before she vanished, Dani rejected her. The age difference was the main reason, but Dani wasn’t out to her friends either. She hopes that once she finds Paige, everything will fall into place for her.
SR: Is there something you hope the reader carries away with them after they’re done reading? An insight or philosophy that you wanted to come through in your work?
BW: I always hope that they connect with the characters, and are touched by what happens to them. In this particular story – pay attention to what those in power do.
SR: If you were in an arm wrestle with your protagonist who would win? What is your protagonist better at than you? What are you better than your protagonist at?
BW: Dani, the police detective, would definitely win. I’m a psychologist by training, so while we both have our individual fields, there’s some overlap in terms of solving a problem—though I didn’t have to solve murders and kidnappings. This is a matter of research for me rather than real life experience.
SR: What’s the best thing about writing?
BW: When the characters take over, and all I have to do is write what they tell me. That’s the fun & easy part, the happy place. Knowing it will eventually happen, even if not every day is like that in the course of writing a book.
SR: What’s the worst thing about writing?
BW: Not writing. Those are usually short phases, but they make me antsy and uncomfortable.
SR: What detail in your writing do you obsess over the most? Character names? Locations? Description? Dialogue? Research?
BW: I’d say, description (I tend to put more meat on the bones in the second and subsequent drafts) and research, depending on the subject. Especially in crime fiction, the search history can look a little scary…Once I know my characters well enough, the dialogue is the fun part to write.
SR: Are you drawn to things that are really popular or wary of them? Do you find it helps you to market your work if you’re familiar with what’s currently selling or do you ignore all of that and focus on what you’re interested in?
BW: It can overlap sometimes, but often I’m a bit behind with what books or movies are popular at the moment. However, that has no impact on whether I like them or not.
I’m often intrigued by the question of why a book or a movie becomes a phenomenon, especially when readers/viewers have passionate opinions across the board.
SR: Is there something you’ve experienced that’s affected your view of life? Tell us about it and how it changed you.
BW: I lost both my parents shortly after I had moved to a different continent and got married. At the time, I was also in the process of becoming a permanent resident of my new home country, and I signed my first book contract. All of it took place in less than a year, and it sure made me think about my priorities. Where I come from, what I want to do with my time, and how I want to use my voice.
SR: Harry Potter, Luke Skywalker, Katniss Everdeen or Arya Stark? If you could be any fictional character for a day who would it be and why?
BW: Katniss. I know her best—I read all the books and saw all the movies, which I can’t say for all of the other characters. Could I be her for a day and do magic?
SR: If you have to live in a potential natural disaster zone, would you pick blizzards, hurricanes, tornadoes, earthquakes or volcanic eruptions? Why? If you had to describe your protagonist as a weather system, what would they be?
BW: Wherever the best warning system is in place! Every year, we grumble about the cold and the amount of snow we get in the winter, but the truth is we’re pretty fortunate. So, I guess I’ll take the blizzard. We know how to prepare for that.
SR: What movie or TV world do you wish you could live in? Why?
BW: I rarely wish I could live in the world of my favorite characters (too stressful—I like a good drama on the screen, but I’m okay with not living in it). I am pretty happy where I am . The winters are long, sure, but it helps the writing. But if I had to pick, I’ve love to have cocktails with the ladies of the Women’s Murder Club (and bring my wife, because the fandom brought us together in the first place). For something more recent, I’d pick This Is Us, or The Fosters. They seem like good people to hang out with. The women-only island Themiscyra in Wonder Woman would be interesting too, though everyone was so athletic, it would be another thing stressing me out. I was never fond of gym class.
SR: Everyone needs an outlet to help them recharge. What hobbies do you have outside of writing?
BW: Traveling and exploring new places, architecture, history, food. That’s how I met my wife, and we love museums, parks, trying new restaurants…sometimes even in our own city, outside the country whenever we can. Reading goes without saying, I guess? My favorite books are thrillers with female protagonists.
SR: You strike it rich. What charity are you going to create or support?
BW: Organizations that fight to end child marriage, to start. We already do that within our means, but it would be great to contribute more. To me, consent is the foundation for any healthy relationship, and achieving equality. How rich are we talking about? There are so many women’s and LGBT organizations I could think of.
SR: What factors influence you when you’re choosing a book to read?
BW: Almost solely the blurb (I remember when I bought most books in stores, and I’d read the back before even looking at the cover). With all the options online, covers matter more now, especially with a new author.
SR: Where can people catch up with you?
BW: The easiest way to contact me is on Facebook or Twitter, or via my website.
Thank you for having me!
Barbara Winkes writes suspense and romance with lesbian characters at the center. She has always loved stories in which women persevere and lift each other up. Expect high drama and happy endings. Discover a variety of genres, serial and standalone. Women loving women always take the lead.