Some of my most creative thoughts happen when on a dog walk, as do my best conversations with my dog-walking buddy. So I thought I’d invite some of my author friends along to join me and my girls and see if I can find out a little more about them and the book they’ve just released.
‘My girls’ are Poppy and Ruby
Joining me today in her walking boots is Barb Taub, a US writer who now calls Glasgow home. Barb writes a lively blog (click right here to check it out) and her posts never fail to put a smile on my face. She is the writer of urban fantasy books One Way Fare, Don’t Touch and Tales from Null City as well as putting the words to the humorous travel guide to India Do Not Wash Hands in Plates. I have read and reviewed all of these respectively here, here, here and here.
Before meeting Barb I had never even heard of urban fantasy and in fact gave fantasy in general a bit of a wide berth thinking it wasn’t for me…how wrong can you be. Barb has opened my eyes through her witty turn of phrase, fabulous characters and terrific storylines and I’d highly recommend you checking out her writing for yourselves.
In halcyon days BC (before children), Barb Taub wrote a humor column for several Midwest newspapers. With the arrival of Child #4, she veered toward the dark side and an HR career. Following a daring daytime escape to England, she’s lived in a medieval castle and a hobbit house with her prince-of-a-guy and the World’s Most Spoiled AussieDog. Now all her days are Saturdays, and she spends them traveling around the world, plus consulting with her daughter on Marvel heroes, Null City, and translating from British to American.
I am delighted to welcome back Barb who first appeared on my blog right here in 2014, I’ve been looking forward to having a good natter with her for a while and what timing could be better than on the release of her latest book, Round Trip Fare.
Hi Barb, thanks for taking the time to talk to me today, I know you’re busy but I hope you’ve had a good journey down from the delights of Glasgow and that you’re ready for a hike across the fields of sunny Cambridgeshire?
I’m absolutely ready! Thanks for inviting me, and thanks also for letting me bring my dog Peri. I’d like to think that Poppy and Ruby could teach her some manners, but the best we can hope for is that they don’t pick up any bad habits from the American.
It’s release day Barb, congratulations!! I know it’s been a while coming because we were discussing doing this interview back in the Autumn but at long last I give you the floor to tell me, and all who read this, all about your fourth book in the Null City Series, Round Trip Fare.
Although all the Null City books are standalone, they are connected. In the first book, Leila and Gaby are involved in events leading to the creation of Null City, a refuge for those with special gifts who just want to lead a normal life. After one day there, those with extra gifts turn into their closest human counterparts. For example, demons settle down, join the PTA and worry about their taxes. Hellhounds become poodles, and imps become baristas. (Of course, they’re now ex-PhD candidates in literature or classics who claim to be experts on third-world coffee blends and obscure world music groups. But hey – there is only so close to human that hellspawn can get…). In Round Trip Fare, Gaby’s younger sister Carey, faces a decision on whether to defend Null City, although that fight has already meant the loss of her family, and could cost everything she loves.
I do believe that I’ve read somewhere that you are a bit of a pantster when it comes to writing your books but have you found with writing a series that you’ve had to be more careful with planning to make sure there are no continuity issues or not?
Busted! It’s not that I don’t aspire to plotterness. I start with terrific intentions toward organization, making character charts, outlines, the works. Then the voices in my head—aka my characters—take over. I occasionally look back at the outlines and think, “That would have made a great story. Too bad nobody will ever write it…” BUT the one place where organization does rule is my timeline. Because the books involve events in different times, and because each book—while a standalone story arc—does exist within the Null City world, I reluctantly have to put everything into the mindmap app, XMind. It’s a dark and scary place for someone like me. There are outline levels that are actually cross-referenced. And even [shudders] color-coded.
Do you keep your MS a closely guarded secret until it is pretty much ready Barb or do you share for feedback and comment as you go along?
A little of both. It’s not that it’s a secret, but as the (virtual) dust settles over my initial outline and notes, the fact is that where the story goes is as much a surprise to me as to anyone else. However, I do usually work with one or two critique partners. Along with helpful and insightful comments, they curb my attempts to apply the death penalty to any uncooperative characters.
So what’s coming next from the pen of Barb Taub? I know you’ve been on your travels again recently Barb, can we expect a follow up travelogue to DNWHIP? And will there be more from the Null City Series?
I’ve got three projects in the works right now. There is the fairly apocalyptic conclusion to the Null City series, plus a cozy mystery inspired by a fascinating character met on my last trip to India, and yes—one more of those travel memoirs. We haven’t named the travel book yet (working title is India 2.0), but how could we not tell the world about camel poop, elephant tattoos, and a drink that promised to be “a magic carpet ride but don’t ride a camel afterwards”?
A few quick fire ones.
The Beatles or The Stones?
I know you have a superhero fetish Barb so if you went to one of those Convention things who would you be dressed as?
I think probably I’d be several decades beyond a cos play, but maybe I could get away with Frigga the All-Mother (Thor and Loki’s stepmom). She did get to spank Chris Hemsworth AND Tom Hiddleston after all…
Which character from any book would you most like to be? And why?
Maybe Harriet Vane from Dorothy L. Sayer’s Lord Peter Wimsey series? Not only was she wicked-intelligent, but she got the (rich, smart, titled) guy on her own terms and while wearing gorgeous clothes and great hats. AND she was a successful writer.
Choose one thing that you would put into Room 101?
I assume you mean the TV show and not Orwell’s room with the rat cage that fits over a prisoner’s head so the rats can eat his face off, right? Cause that’s pretty awful but I’d still prefer it to shopping at Tesco. Not only do you have to go to the store, but you have to speak British there. You get a trolley (shopping cart) by putting a pound coin in to release the cart, and start to fill it up with anything your American self can identify. Irn Bru? Marmite? The mysterious Brown Sauce that’s completely truth in advertising? Prawn Cocktail Crisps and so many other scary things that look like potato chips but who could do such a thing to an innocent potato?
Stuff is arranged along 200 miles of aisles in what seems to be completely random placement consisting roughly of 90% pig and potato products. Want some cookies? Go to the biscuits aisle. Want some biscuits? Go to the scones aisle. Want some of what Americans call scones? Get on a plane and go to the Iowa State Fair. [Oooh, and if you do, could you bring me back curly fries and churros?]
Want some cornstarch? Get someone to smuggle it in from the States in their suitcase. (Preferably someone you’re not particularly close to, because airport security can get quite unreasonably testy about white powder, especially when they have no idea what “cornstarch” means.) Making a pie? Well, there’s no such thing as shortening, so unless that friend who is no longer speaking to you over the cornstarch incident also had a tin of Crisco in his now confiscated suitcase, you’re stuck cooking with congealed pig (“lard”).
You wander the Tesco aisles putting semi-recognizable stuff into the trolley, and trying not to get too excited about fabulously cheap chocolate, duck fat in jars, and the clotted cream selection. Then you wait in line and take everything out of your trolley. You bag it yourself, put it all back into the trolley, push it to the car, take it out of the trolley, put it into the car, take the trolley back to collect your pound coin. You drive home, take everything out of the car and schlep it into the house.
Actually, the truth is that I love what Tesco sells, I just don’t like the part where I have to get it from there to my kitchen. But luckily, Tesco has cheerful people who will do ALL that for me, plus bring it to my house, carry it into my kitchen, place it all on my table, and seem truly stunned when I give them a tip. (You give them a tip!!! OMG you’re so adorably American!! I bet they’re fighting over who gets to bring you your shopping 🙂 Ed)
So actually, I think I’d put clowns into Room 101.
(Seriously guys, see what I mean? Do go and check out Barb’s amazing blog. Ed)
As a thank you for being my guest today I’m going to become your Fairy Godmother and grant you 3 wishes – what would you spend them on? Choose wisely 🙂
Hmmm… Well, at the risk of disrupting the space/time continuum, I’d use at least one wish to go back in time and NOT leave my keys in the car with a certain three-year-old testosterone victim while I paid at the gas station. Obviously, wish #2 would be for Joss Whedon to do a new Firefly series. That leaves Wish #3. I’m torn between wishing for the world’s greatest hot chocolate and amazing macarons from Angelina in Paris versus world peace. Tough call.
…and onto the book!!
Urban Fantasy (with romance, humor, a sentient train, and a great dog)
Is it wrong that shooting people is just so much easier than making decisions? Carey wonders— and not for the first time. But the Agency claims this will be an easy one. A quick pickup of a missing teen and she won’t even have to shoot anybody. Probably.
Carey knows superpowers suck, her own included. From childhood she’s only had two options. She can take the Metro train to Null City and a normal life. After one day there, imps become baristas, and hellhounds become poodles. Demons settle down, join the PTA, and worry about their taxes. Or she can master the powers of her warrior gift and fight a war she can’t win, in a world where she never learned how to lose.
And then there is… him. For the past two months, a dark stranger has persistently edged his way onto the mental game board behind her eyelids. Well, whatever trouble he’s selling, Carey Parker is not buying. Her to-do list is already long enough: find her brother and sister, rescue her roommate, save Null City, and castrate her ex-boyfriend. Preferably with a dull-edged garden tool. A rusty one.
She just has a few details to work out first. Her parents have been killed, her brother and sister targeted, and the newest leader of the angels trying to destroy Null City might be the one person she loves most in the world. And her sexy new partner’s gift lets him predict deaths. Hers.
Thanks for joining me Barb and I wish you every success for the sales of Round Trip Fare – my copy has already landed on my Kindle and I’m really looking forward to reading it! 🙂
You can find Barb in all these places…
And here’s that big link again, just in case you missed its subtlety throughout this post 🙂