Tuesday, October 20, 2020


A mother’s love vs. a doctor’s oath...

Oncologist Emma Blake has dedicated her life to finding a cure for a rare brain cancer. Twenty-five years ago, Emma’s childhood friend Kate died of glioblastoma, and Emma vowed to annihilate the deadly disease. Now, Kate’s father, Ned, is pushing her to work harder to fulfill that promise.

When Emma discovers she’s pregnant, she’s torn between the needs of her family and the demands of her work. While Ned pressures her to do the unthinkable, her husband, Tim, decorates the nursery. Unwilling to abandon her research, Emma attempts to keep both sides of her life in balance.

Emma knows she needs to reconcile her past with her present and walk the fine line between mother and physician. But Ned has a secret, and when Emma discovers what he’s been hiding, the foundation of her world cracks.
Nowhere Near Goodbye is a story of family, failure, and second chances.

Reviews ~ 

Barbara Conrey asks what happens when a doctor's devotion to finding a cure for cancer competes against the expectations of motherhood. The answer is a story I will never forget. Emotional, heartbreaking, and hopeful, Nowhere Near Goodbye is an exciting debut in women's fiction. 
Jennifer Klepper, USA Today Bestseller author of Unbroken Threads

The past versus the present. The desperate needs of a family against the desperate needs of work. And secrets that could derail everything. Conrey's beautifully written novel probes the choices we make - and the choices we regret, and she does it with grace and aplomb.     Caroline Leavitt, New York Times Bestselling author of Pictures of You and With or Without You  

Emma Blake is a character not soon forgotten. NOWHERE NEAR GOODBYE is Emma's story, told with exceptional honesty and heart. Meticulously written, with powerful characters, this debut novel delves into friendship and family, deception and forgiveness, ultimately leading the reader to an emotional but satisfying conclusion. Rebecca Hodge, Author of Wild Land

Some Q & A with Barbara ~ 

Tell us a little about yourself and how you started writing.

Well, the first thing you might want to know is that I'm seventy. Actually, I turn 71 next month. So I'm an almost 71-year-old debut author during a global pandemic. Talk about timing!

I've always wanted to write, and I dabbled. I wrote opinion pieces for my local newspaper about my family, searching out the perfect Christmas tree, Thanksgiving dinners that went horribly awry. That kind of thing.

Everything I wrote tended to be humorous, yet when I wrote my debut, Nowhere Near Goodbye, the story leans more on the emotional side.

What are some things you enjoy when not writing?

Reading! I love to read. Almost anything. And then there's buying books. I think I have an addiction; the minute I reach the last page of a book I'm reading, the next one is waiting for me.

I love to be outdoors, so I'd also say hiking – I've hiked most of Vermont and only recently had to start choosing trails that are not so daunting. It's hard to admit that I can't do everything I did twenty years ago.

Do you have a 'day job' as well?

I'm retired. I retired when I was sixty-four and immediately starting writing full time. I so admire younger authors (much younger, I might add) who handle a day job and are raising young children. I do not know how they do it.

Where do you get your ideas?

Well, I can tell you how I got the idea for Nowhere Near Goodbye. A friend of mine lost a loved one to glioblastoma, and she was devasted. The only thing I knew about the disease was that it killed Ted Kennedy, so I started researching it, for no other reason but to commiserate with my friend.

I knew then, and this was probably twenty years ago that I wanted to write a book where the tumor didn't win. Because in real life, the tumor almost always wins.

Is there a particular author or book that influenced or inspired your writing or decision to write?

Many authors inspire me: Leif Engle, who wrote Peace Like A River. I've probably read that book three times.

Jodi Picoult, who wrote everything, practically. I own and have read all of her books and what I love most about her is she writes with passion. She writes what she is passionate about, and she's not afraid to use her platform for what she believes in, personally and politically. I joke that I want to be her when I grow up, but the reality is, I'm old enough to be her mother. I think her newest book, The Book of Two Ways, is my absolute favorite.

Robert Dugoni, who wrote The Extraordinary Life of Sam Hell. A book so simply written, yet so moving.

Can you tell us about your challenges in getting your first book published?

I'm a practical woman. I dabbled with querying agents. Maybe I sent out a half-dozen letters and received lovely rejection letters. And then I thought about the process of procuring an agent who then had to shop the book around until a publisher was interested, and I decided to skip the middle-man. Not that I don't think agents are essential, I do, but I don't have the kind of time young authors have. By the time an agent and a publisher fell in love with me and my book, I could be dead.

So I started looking at small press publishers, and through talking with other authors who have gone that route, I chose Red Adept Publishing. So I sent my manuscript to them, and they loved it.

If you had to go back and do it all over, is there any aspect of your novel or getting it published that you'd change?

No. I think I did everything the way I was meant to.

How do you market your work?

Marketing is a struggle for me. I'm not at all good at promoting myself and much, much better at promoting others. So I'm still learning what works best; it's a process.

What are you working on now?

I'm working on a prequel to Nowhere Near Goodbye. There's a minor character in my first book, Miss Maggie, and she intrigued me, so I knew I had to write about her to find out what her story is.

Is anything in your book based on real-life experiences?

Just that GBM is real. There's also a subplot that involves rescue beagles. The reality is that 96% of the animals used for medical and product testing are beagles because they are mild-mannered and trusting. The Beagle Freedom Project is real: https://bfp.org/

Do you have a favorite chapter or scene?

THIS:  "Do you think everything had to happen this way? I don't know, not for sure, anyway, but maybe Ali's the reason GBM struck Kate's brain and not mine. Maybe Ned and Laura, and everyone who loved Kate can finally accept Kate's death because something good came from saying goodbye when we should have been nowhere near goodbye."

What was the most unique research you had to do for a book?

For Nowhere Near Goodbye, I watched a video of a surgeon operating on a glioblastoma brain tumor. Well, I mostly watched it. I had to close my eyes at some parts.

Do you have any advice for aspiring writers?

My advice is to write because you love it. Don't write because you want to be published. But if your dream is to be published and you write because you can't not write, then don't give up. No matter how many rejections you receive, no matter how often you doubt yourself, don't give up.

I recommend finding a writer's tribe. Mine is Women's Fiction Writers Association (WFWA), you don't have to write WF to join, and you will receive support and friendship and the opportunity to enhance your craft.

Is there anything you'd like to say to your readers and fans?

Oh, yes! Thank you for your support and belief in me. I truly never expected the positive reaction that  Nowhere Near Goodbye has received. I feel truly blessed!

To connect with Barbara ~

Website: http://www.barbaraconreyauthor.com Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/baconreywriter 

Instagram: http://www.instagram.com/barbaraconrey Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/barvaraconrey 

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/54651398-nowhere-near-goodbye?ac=1&from_search=true&qid=9zFFbrw4aQ&rank=1 

BookBub: https://www.bookbub.com/authors/barbara-conrey


Tuesday, September 29, 2020


 This book debuts Tuesday, October 6th!

For fans of Where the Crawdads Sing and This Tender Land comes a heartfelt story about three young girls searching for adventure during the summer of 1960 from the New York Timesbestselling author of Whistling in the Dark.

That summer would change us . . . forever.

The summer of 1960 was the hottest ever for Summit, Wisconsin. For kids seeking relief from the heat, there was a creek to be swum in, sprinklers to run through, and ice cream at Whitcomb's Drugstore. But for Frankie, Viv, and Biz, eleven-year-old best friends, it would forever be remembered as the summer that evil paid a visit to their small town--and took their young lives as they'd known them as a souvenir. 

With a to-do list in hand, the girls set forth from their hideout to make their mark on that summer, but when three patients escape from Broadhurst Mental Institution, their idyllic lives take a sinister turn. Determined to uncover long-held secrets, the girls have no idea that what they discover could cost them their lives and the ones they hold dear.

Six decades later, Biz, now a bestselling novelist, remembers that long ago summer and how it still haunts her and her lifelong friends in Every Now and Then, a story about the ties that bind us, the timelessness of grief and guilt--and the everlasting hope for redemption.

Praise for Every Now and Then:

“Kagen skillfully spins a nostalgic tale...This fast-paced and suspenseful outing will captivate Kagen’s fans and do much to win her new ones.”
Publishers Weekly, starred review

"Kagen thoughtfully captures the spirit of '60s small-town America, showing both the idyllic, rosy past that inspires nostalgia and its troubling underbelly."

“A complete winner. It reminded me of the best parts of To Kill A Mockingbird, and the wonderful friendship displayed by Kate DiCamillo’s three amigos in the Raymie Nightingale trilogy. Filled with all the charm of a 1960's small town, Every Now and Then also tackles issues of racism, homophobia, and gender that are topical today. Biz, Frankie, and Viv are sure to steal any reader's heart.”
—Pamela Klinger-Horn, Excelsior Bay Books

Filled with secrets, lies, and all the truth of what is to be human, especially in a small town, Every Now and Then is a story every heart will embrace.”
William Kent Krueger, New York Times Bestselling Author of Ordinary Grace and This Tender Land

“With a grace reminiscent of Pat Conroy’s The Prince of Tides, Lesley Kagen paints a tragic and evocative of a childhood summer disrupted by tragedy in 1960s Wisconsin...Both a memorable coming of age tale and suspenseful page-turner. Longtime and new fans of Kagen will delight!”
Pam Jenoff, New York Times bestselling author of The Lost Girls of Paris

 Some Q & A with Lesley ~

Q. Tell us how you started writing.

A. I can’t remember a time when I wasn’t dreaming up a story and putting it down on paper. I still have the silver dollar I won in fourth grade in St. Sebastian’s all-school poetry contest. Growing up in a tough, blue collar neighborhood in Milwaukee, I was a pretty cagey kid and this being a Catholic school, I figured out early on that the more times I could mention God in the poem the better my chances were of winning.  

Q.  Where do you get your ideas?

A. I admire writers who dream up stories set in Paris in the 17th century or are inspired by the news, but that’s not me. My characters, settings, and the issues that are important to me—keeping kids safe, mental health, racism, love, and injustice—are based on my experiences, most especially my childhood.

Q. Have you always earned your living writing?

A. Kind of. My first big job out of college was as a DJ in Milwaukee, and I wrote a ton of features and commercials. After I moved to LA in the seventies, I wrote and voiced thousands of radio commercials for a huge retail record chain called Licorice Pizza and many others, but I also began acting on camera. Because I was lucky to have been born with one of those non-offensive Midwestern faces that were so popular at the time, I was cast as “the mom” or “best friend” or “wife” in loads of TV spots. I also guest-starred in a couple of sitcoms— “Laverne and Shirley” and “Bad News Bears.” It was incredibly fun and exciting, but I wanted to be a mom, and raise my kids in Wisconsin, so that’s what we did. I wrote in my journal every day and composed lots of irate letters, but it wasn’t until the loves in my life went to school that I found the time to write my first novel—“Whistling in the Dark.”

Q. Could you tell us a little about the challenges of getting it published?

A.  I love to tell this story with the hope that it might inspire another writer. After I completed the manuscript, I was so nuts about it that I thought it’d be a breeze to find a literary agent to represent it. (Laughing my head off here at how little I knew.) So I came up with what I thought was a pretty decent query letter and sent it off. I was told over and over that it wasn’t very good and that it would never sell. 156 times to be exact! The rejections were so brutal that I almost gave up. Thank God, I didn’t, because I did eventually find an agent. He ended up selling “Whistling in the Dark” to Penguin. Not for a million dollars, the way I thought he would. (Laughing even harder now.) The advance was so small that I remember thinking at the time that they’d only bought it as a tax write-off. Of course, as publication day rolled around, my expectations were set very low, but then my editor started calling me. She started out each conversation with, “You’re not going to believe this, but . . .” 

To date, “Whistling in the Dark” is in its 17th print, has sold over 200,000 copies, and was a New York Times bestseller. So, if you’re a writer who is thinking of throwing in the towel—don’t. Believe in your story, believe in yourself, don’t pay attention to the rejections, and someday, you, too, will have the chance to sing, “Nah nah nah nah nah nah” to all the naysayers.

Q. Is there anything else you’d like to add?

A. I’d really want thank all the readers and book clubs who’ve supported me throughout the years. So many of them have become dear friends and I can’t wait to hear what they have to say about “Every Now and Then.” Here’s hoping they love the “tree Musketeers” as much as I do, which would be a lot. Really, really a lot.   

 To connect with Lesley:

Website: LesleyKagen.com
Instagram: lesleykagen








Tuesday, September 8, 2020


A lifetime of lies, and a truth too painful to tell. 

When Suzanna Duff was ten years old, she lost her mama, and that’s when the lies began. At first, they were just harmless little fibs, a way to hide her unbearable loneliness and the truth about a daddy who came home rip-roaring drunk every night. But in time, the lies grew bigger and now, when she is a grown woman with a daughter of her own, they threaten to destroy everything she loves. 

The irony of this situation is that Suzanna never planned to stay in Georgia, she was simply passing through, looking for a fresh start in New Jersey. Attending that wake with her daughter Annie, was a fluke. An opportunity to enjoy a free meal. It should have entailed nothing more than a solemn nod and a brief expression of sympathy but, Ida Parker, the grieving widow mistook her for her the granddaughter who was carried off as an infant. Too embarrassed to do anything else, Suzanna played along. What harm was there in pretending to be someone else for a few hours? Hours turned into days and days into weeks; strangers became friends, love happened, and before long a year had flown by.

Now the past is standing on her doorstep and Suzanna must decide to leave here and disappear as she has done before, or tell the truth and break the hearts of those she loves most. 

Reviews ~

"Steeped in secrets and southern charm, A Million Little Lies is both heartwarming and heartbreaking; a tale about forgiveness, family, and what it means to finally find your true home." - Barbara Davis, bestselling author of When Never Comes
"Simply charming. Crosby carries us back to a simpler time when family matters most. A Million Little Lies is a heartwarming novel of happenstance, fate, and lasting relationships. Her endearing characters will stay with you long after you've read the last word." - Ashley Farley, bestselling author of Sweet Tea Tuesdays
"Crosby at her best! Masterful storytelling. A young Mother builds her new life on a ladder of lies. I read it in one sitting!" - Marilyn Simon Rothstein, author of Husbands and Other Sharp Objects
"Heart-wrenching and heartwarming, a novel to satisfy your soul and leave your heart feeling happier." - Linda's Book Obsession
"A quietly powerful novel of relationships, trust, truth, lies and the possibilities of forgiveness- an unforgettable ending." - Patricia Sands, author of the bestselling Love in Provence series
"Crosby weaves a magical story, drawing you into the characters and giving you new friends to treasure." - Judith Keim, author of The Beach House Hotel Series

Some Q & A with Bette ~

How did your writing journey start?

I started out as an artist and was asked to write some copy for the back of a pantyhose package I’d designed. I discovered a love of words, and went from there into marketing where I wrote business plans, ads, brochures and the like. After a good number of years, I decided to follow my heart. Since reading fiction was what I loved, it was a natural progression.

Can you tell our readers a bit about yourself?

I am an avid reader and a sucker for happy endings. Although not a big TV watcher, I enjoy complex stories and am totally hooked on This is Us. Sunshine, palm trees, warm weather and dogs are the things that make me happy. In the morning I start with two miles on the treadmill, then settle at my computer for the rest of the day. My office is very small, but I love it because I am surrounded by things that bring me happiness—books, dog toys, pictures of friends and family, my fur-baby Sugar and a tropical flower garden just outside my window. My guilty pleasure is letting time fly by as I chat with friends and fans on Facebook.

You’re a Southerner, how does that influence your storytelling and where does that special warmth in your books come from?

I truly am a Southerner at heart, but you wouldn’t guess it to hear me talk. My ‘southernism’ comes from growing up with a Southern Mama, Daddy, aunts, uncles, etc. – it was the ‘voice’ I heard in my ear from the time I was a child and it’s the voice that sounds most natural and convincing to me. Southerners are born storytellers, it’s in our DNA. My mom was never a writer, but she could mesmerize a room full of kids with her stories. I’d like to believe I got lucky and inherited that gene. 

The warmth of a story is often drawn from the experiences you carry in your heart. When asked for advice about writing, I always say write what you know. That may sound trite, but the truth is you can’t write about emotions you don’t understand. Honest emotion is what gives a story warmth. That doesn’t mean you have to have lost a loved one to write about it, but you do need to understand what deep down grief feels like. By internalizing what your characters feel, you can make them believable and vulnerable.

You write about family, what does family mean to you and why is it such a good subject for a story?

The significance of family is almost universal. We all need family, whether it is our parents, spouse, children, siblings or in some cases friends, we all need someone. Family may have different meanings for different people, but the bottom line is that your family is the person (or people) you return to at the end of a long hard day; it’s the person who will comfort you when you’re sick, encourage you when you’re down, and celebrate when you are successful. Without family, a victory seems hollow, and a setback seems insurmountable. More often than not, those we consider family are what turns an ordinary life into something special. 

Can you tell us about your challenges in getting your first book published?

Early on I was with a publisher who as it turned out was rather unscrupulous in their pricing structure. I had signed a seven-year contact with them, and while I had a say in editing and cover design, I had no say in pricing.  My first book titled “Girl Child” was published at $14.99 and when it began to do well, the publisher raised the price to $19.99. Luckily this happened before e-books became popular, so after three years, when the publisher asked for the rights to publish the e-book, I refused. He then allowed me to buy back my rights and I was off to the races as an Indie Author.

What are you working on now?

An as yet untitled novel that follows the same family in two different time periods. In 1968 a woman has received a sizable inheritance and is trying to find the siblings she has not seen or heard from in 50 years. I then take the reader back to 1901 and they discover what caused the family to break apart.

Is anything in your book based on real-life experiences?

Yes, the 1901 portion is set in the coal mining country of West Virginia, which is where my mom was born. She too came from a very large family, but the similarity to the story ends there.

Do you have any advice for aspiring writers?

Read, read, read. The more you read, the more you will come to know what you like and what you don’t like in a book. Once you’ve discovered what makes you fall in love with a book, you will have found the true north of your writing path. Follow it faithfully.

What are the downfalls of your writing career? The best parts?

The best part is getting to do what I absolutely love. The downfall is way too much sitting. I sometimes stand at the kitchen counter when I am making note for a scene or chapter, but there are still those long hours of sitting.

Is there anything you’d like to say to your readers and fans?

Yes… From the bottom of my heart, I thank you for all the wonderful reviews you’ve given my books, and for the way you have so generously shared them with book-loving friends and family. Without the wonderful readers I have met on this journey, I am certain my days would be longer and my stories less inspired. 

To connect with Bette:

Thursday, July 9, 2020


*** This book (Kindle) is on sale today only, for 99 cents on Amazon!!!

A chance meeting with a charismatic photographer will forever change Elizabeth’s life.

Until she met Richard, Elizabeth's relationship with Georgia O’Keeffe and her little-known Hawaii paintings was purely academic. Now it’s personal. Richard tells Elizabeth that the only way she can truly understand O’Keeffe isn’t with her mind―it’s by getting into O’Keeffe’s skin and reenacting her famous nude photos.

In the intimacy of Richard’s studio, Elizabeth experiences a new, intoxicating abandon and fullness. It never occurs to her that the photographs might be made public, especially without her consent. Desperate to avoid exposure―she’s a rising star in the academic world and the mother of young children―Elizabeth demands that Richard dismantle the exhibit. But he refuses. The pictures are his art. His property, not hers.

As word of the photos spreads, Elizabeth unwittingly becomes a feminist heroine to her students, who misunderstand her motives in posing. To the university, however, her actions are a public scandal. To her husband, they’re a public humiliation. Yet Richard has reawakened an awareness that’s haunted Elizabeth since she was a child―the truth that cerebral knowledge will never be enough.

Now she must face the question: How much is she willing to risk to be truly seen and known?


2020 Eric Hoffer First Horizon Award Finalist 2020 IPPY Awards Bronze Winner in Popular Fiction 2020 Eric Hoffer Award 1st Runner up in General Fiction “A nuanced, insightful, culturally relevant investigation of one woman’s personal and artistic awakening, Queen of the Owls limns the distance between artist and muse, creator and critic, concealment and exposure.”
―Christina Baker Kline, #1 New York Times best-selling author of A Piece of the World and Orphan Train

“This is a stunner about the true cost of creativity, and about what it means to be really seen. Gorgeously written and so, so smart (and how can you resist any novel that has Georgia O’Keeffe in it?), Probst’s novel is a work of art in itself.”
―Caroline Leavitt, best-selling author of Pictures of You, Is This Tomorrow and Cruel Beautiful World

“Readers will root for Elizabeth―and wince in amusement at her pratfalls―as she strikes out in improbable new directions … An entertaining, psychologically rich story of a sometimes giddy, sometimes painful awakening.” ―Kirkus Reviews
“Probst plumbs the depths of Elizabeth’s desperation with a delicacy that underlines the brutal truths her protagonist must face . . . A thought-provoking, introspective examination of self and sexuality.”

Queen of the Owls is a powerful novel about a woman’s relation to her body, diving into contemporary controversies about privacy and consent. A ‘must-read’ for fans of Georgia O’Keeffe and any woman who struggles to find her true self hidden under the roles of sister, mother, wife, and colleague.”
―Barbara Claypole White, best-selling author of The Perfect Son and The Promise Between Us 

“Probst’s well-written and engaging debut asks a question every woman can relate to: what would you risk to be truly seen and understood? The lush descriptions of O'Keeffe's work and life enhance the story, and help frame the enduring feminist issues at its center.”
―Sonja Yoerg, best-selling author of True Places

“A gifted storyteller, Barbara Linn Probst writes with precision, empathy, intelligence, and a deep understanding of the psychology of a woman’s search for self.”
―Sandra Scofield, National Book Award finalist and author of The Last Draft

“Barbara Linn Probst captures the art of being a woman beautifully. Queen of the Owls is a powerful and liberating novel of self-discovery using Georgia O’Keeffe’s life, art, and relationships as a guide.”
―Ann Garvin, best-selling author of I Like You Just Fine When You’re Not Around

Some Q & A with Barbara ~

What’s Queen of the Owls about?
Queen of the Owls is a contemporary novel about a woman’s quest to claim her neglected sensuality and find her true self hidden behind the roles of wife, mother, sister, and colleague. It’s a story of awakening and transformation, framed around the art and life of iconic American painter Georgia O’Keeffe.

While the book’s overarching theme is the yearning for wholeness—which you can only find by embracing the parts of yourself you’ve denied—it also explores contemporary issues of privacy, consent, feminism, and the power of social media to upend our lives.

Tell us about the role of Georgia O’Keeffe in the story. Why O’Keeffe?
The idea of framing the story around Georgia O’Keeffe really just “appeared” to me!  I’ve always loved her paintings; they called to me in a way that felt very connected to the question of what it means to be a woman, so they were in the back of my mind as the story idea began to germinate. And then, as I began my research, I learned so much more about her life and work—which, in turn, enhanced the story in ways I hadn’t anticipated. After a while, it became clear that there was no other way to tell the story! 

O’Keeffe has been a figure of endless fascination for over a century, not only for her artistic genius but also because of how she lived. She was the quintessential feminist who rejected the feminists’ attempts to turn her into their matriarch, the severe desert recluse who created some of the most sensuous art of all time.

O’Keeffe isn’t a character in the book, as she might be if this were a historical novel—yet she’s present as protagonist Elizabeth’s inspiration, the person whose blend of austerity and voluptuousness Elizabeth longs to emulate. In seeking to understand O’Keeffe, Elizabeth comes to understand herself.

As it happened, art worked well as a vehicle for Queen of the Owls because the story is about Elizabeth’s yearning to be truly seen. And through being seen, to be known.

You mentioned “research.” What kind of research did you have to do?
So much, and so varied!  I read everything about O’Keeffe I could get my hands on, of course, including archival material at the Georgia O’Keeffe Research Center in Santa Fe, New Mexico. I also went to view her paintings at several special exhibits, visited the places where she lived and worked, talked to experts and people who knew her. And I got really, really lucky because there was a special exhibit of O’Keeffe’s Hawaii paintings—a central focus of the book—brought together for the first time in eighty years, and on view only thirty minutes from where I live! It really did feel like a sign that this was a book I was meant to write.

At one point, I even travelled to Hawaii. I wasn’t sure what I was looking for, but I knew I had to experience the place for myself. You could say that, like Elizabeth, I was seeking my own “embodied knowledge.”

Was there anything of your own life in the book?
Definitely! One of the reasons Queen of the Owls has been so meaningful to me is because it represents a fictionalized version of my own journey. Like Elizabeth, I grew up labeled a “brain” and had to embark on my own journey to wholeness.

I think all good fiction is like that, actually—not a thinly-disguised memoir, but a process of digging deeply into the emotional truths you’ve learned through your own experience and then “translating” or re-embodying those emotional truths in a fictional world.
Can you give us insight into your writing process? 
I’d say that it’s somewhere between mapping out the story I want to tell and leaving space for improvisation.  I do need to have an overall vision before I start, and I spend a lot time thinking, analyzing, and writing out what I’d call the “bones” of the story. But then, during the actual writing, those bones become very porous and flexible. Something entirely new will inevitably present itself, once I’m immersed in the story—in fact, that’s how the best elements appear! They can’t be known until I’ve begun to live and breathe along with the characters. And then if feels as if I’m serving the story, rather than “making” it.

What do you love most about writing?
I love all of it, even the struggles, but the best part for me is the total immersion that happens when I’m deeply, deeply connected to the story and characters. It’s a special state when my subconscious mind (where the human truths reside) and my conscious mind (the part that can bring those truths to the surface and give them form) are totally in sync.

The other part I love is hearing from readers who’ve been touched by what I’ve written. It’s so amazing to get an email from someone who tells me, “I felt as if Queen of the Owls was written about me, and for me.” 

What’s the most challenging part of the process for you?
For me, it’s not the writing itself but the endless need for promotion!  I enjoy the events tremendously—the virtual interviews and Zoom book clubs—but the need to keep self-promoting on social media is very uncomfortable for me.

What are some things you enjoy when you’re not writing?
I’m what they call a “serious amateur” pianist—something I totally love because it engages a completely different part of me that has nothing to do with words!  I also love to cook, hike, and travel. I’ve spent extended time in Turkey, Egypt, Israel, Scotland, Iceland, Italy—well, you name it!  I think it’s really important to get out of your comfort zone and see life in different ways.

Can you tell us something people may not know about you?
People who know me as a novelist might not know that I wrote a nonfiction book for parents of quirky, out-of-the-box kids called When the Labels Don’t Fit.  Before I turned to fiction, I worked with parents and families, gave dozens of presentations all over the country, and was a passionate advocate for strength-based ways to understand and help kids who didn’t fit in.

I have a PhD in clinical social work, spent a number of years in academia, wrote a textbook, ran a non-profit, and worked as a therapist.  I’ve also been a full-time mom!  If you’re wondering which career was my “favorite,” the answer is that I’ve loved them all, at different times and in different ways!

Another thing most people don’t know is that I’ve lived in a lot of truly wacky places—from a cabin without electricity in the California redwoods to a converted jail cell in Greenwich Village and a former Firehouse in the Hudson Valley.

What’s next for you?
My second novel, The Sound Between the Notes, will be released in April 2021.  This time, the story is framed around music—influenced, of course, by my own study of the piano.  You could say that the protagonist in Queen of the Owls yearns to be seen, while the protagonist in The Sound Between the Notes yearns to be heard.  The story is also about adoption and the search for where one belongs.

Do you have any advice for aspiring writers?
The two things I’d like to say are actually complements, addressing the passion and the rigor, both of which are essential for good writing. The “passion” part is to stay true to the story, no matter what—to listen to the characters and forget all the formulas, grids, templates, and rules.  The “rigor” is to surround yourself with really smart people whose judgment you trust and who can deliver a big wallop of tough love when you need it.

Is there anything special you’d like to say to your readers and fans, now that you’ve had such a successful launch?
Publishing during a pandemic has been a strange experience, to say the least. But I’ve come to believe that stories have always been a source of healing, renewal, and growth. We need them now, more than ever, and I’m so grateful that I’ve had one to offer that has resonated with so many people and received such a warm welcome into the world.

To connect with Barbara ~ 

BARBARA LINN PROBST is a writer of both fiction and non-fiction, living on a historic dirt road in New York’s Hudson Valley. Her debut novel, QUEEN OF THE OWLS (April 2020) is the powerful story of a woman’s search for wholeness, framed around the art and life of iconic American painter Georgia O’Keeffe. Endorsed by best-selling authors such as Christina Baker Kline and Caroline Leavitt, QUEEN OF THE OWLS was selected as one of the 20 most anticipated books of 2020 by Working Mother, one of the best Spring fiction books by Parade Magazine, and a debut novel “too good to ignore” by Bustle. It was also featured in lists compiled by Pop Sugar and Entertainment Weekly, among others. It won the bronze medal for popular fiction from the Independent Publishers Association, placed first runner-up in general fiction for the Eric Hoffer Award, and was short-listed for both the First Horizon and the $2500 Grand Prize. 

Barbara also has a PhD in clinical social work and blogs for several award-winning sites for writers.