A writer like you: Lisa Barr
Meet Lisa Barr, an author, journalist and blogger based in Chicago.
She is the award-winning author of the sexy beach read, The Unbreakables (Harper) and the historical thriller Fugitive Colors. The first half of her career was spent as a journalist. She covered everything from “terrorism to sex & relationships” … having served as an editor for The Jerusalem Post, managing editor of Today's Chicago Woman, managing editor of Moment magazine, and an editor/reporter for the Chicago Sun-Times. She is also the creator and editor of the popular parenting blog GIRLilla Warfare, and has been featured on Good Morning America and TODAY to discuss this generation’s biggest bullies: Mean Moms.
You’ll enjoy learning her secret to consistently writing while raising three daughters, her community-building strategies, and her grounding definition of writer success.
So let’s dive in, shall we?
Why is writing important to you personally?
Writing is breathing for me. I’m “hyperactive” – always moving EXCEPT when I write. I can sit and write for hours. My childhood was a tough one, and I lost (and found) myself in books. I knew I wanted to be an author since first grade, and I had fabulous teachers, especially early on to nurture my writing. One of my greatest moments as an author was several years ago when I was invited to speak to a large organization. An elderly woman came up to me and said, “Lisa, do you remember me?” Remember her? She was my tough-as-nails fifth grade English teacher, who taught me the nuts & bolts of writing. I chucked the beginning of my speech, and instead, pointed to my teacher and said, “That woman is the reason I’m standing here.” Writing has gotten me through my toughest times, but also accentuated my best moments. My characters all have a piece of me. I know who I am when I write.
What types of stories do you like to write?
I love twists and turns, but getting deep inside my characters’ heads is kinda my thing. The central theme threading all my work, is how far a character will go for her/his passion. In my new novel, THE UNBREAKABLES, my protagonist Sophie Bloom lost herself and her passion. Her journey becomes finding her joie de vivre once again. Passion and all its tantalizing components – love, lust, jealousy, revenge, romance and redemption – light my literary fire.
What inspired The Unbreakables?
It was July, 2015, and Ashley Madison, a web site for married and committed cheaters, was hacked. More than 32 million cheaters were exposed. I remember that night clearly. I was out with a small group of friends, having dinner, and together reading off the list of cheaters in our community (I know, awful, right). I was shocked … neighbors, high school friends, friends of my kids' parents, etc. were on this list. It was the train wreck that you knew you should just look away, but simply couldn't. The story began to form in my mind.
How do you stay motivated to write?
I’m a Mom with three daughters (aka: Drama Central), who are now young, independent women. When they were little, it was tough to write and parent. But I wouldn’t let it stop me. I never slept when they slept as babies – I wrote. If there was a video on – I wrote. If I was waiting in the carpool line – I wrote. I got up early before they woke up to write. You get the gist. There’s no magical motivator – it’s all discipline. Here’s the thing: Time is never delivered on a silver platter, you have to “steal” it. That’s why I never had writer’s block … I couldn’t afford it. Now that my kids are grown and flown, finding time is not a problem and my years of discipline have served me well. When I’m working on something new, I demand X amount of words daily. Even if they’re crap … it doesn’t matter, as long as I get them down on a page.
What strategies are you using to build an author platform?
Sad but true, I spend a minimum of two hours a day social networking. There’s no other option but to be a generous writer. If you want writers to promote you, it’s crucial you promote their work as well. Selfish writers don’t get very far in today’s biz. It takes a village – no matter if you are just starting out or a NYT bestselling author. Developing a writing community is key. Not to mention we are all in this together: write, edit, revise, rinse and repeat. The cycle can be a killer, and it’s cathartic if you can bitch about it with other writers. I’m involved in various writer groups on and off-line. I’ve also developed close relationships with bookstagrammers, editors, reviewers, etc. But it took time and nurturing. It starts with a blank slate and builds from there. Jump in, even if it feels like Middle School. Don’t be afraid to introduce yourself, to be the “new girl” on the block.
How do you define writer success?
Balance. If all you do is write with a sole goal to get on bestseller lists – I promise, you won’t be happy when you arrive to your destination. The key is keeping your relationships strong, because writing can be lonely, filled with rejections, so many ups and downs. Your laptop is your literary lifeline, but not your bestie, not your lover. I’ve learned to balance, and take girlfriend time, keep up Date Night (with my hubby), listen to my kids, even when I have my characters’ dialogue going on full force in my head. Without balance, your writing suffers and so does the rest of your life.
Where can we reach you?
Friend me on Facebook, Insta me @lisabarr18, or tweet me @lisabarr18. I do book clubs all over the country and speaking engagements. Check out my website for more info. Most of all, enjoy my book. Nothing is more thrilling than keeping you up at night, page-turning.
To free the writer today, let’s follow Lisa’s example and “steal” time by demanding X amount of words daily (even if they are crap). Let me know how it goes in the comments below.