By day, a mild-mannered salesperson, wife, mother, rescuer of senior shelter dogs, competitive trivia player and author groupie, happily living just north of New York City. By night, an author of sex, suspense and satire.
My background includes stints in travel marketing, travel journalism, meeting planning, public relations and real estate. I was, for a long and happy time, an award-winning magazine writer and editor. Then kids happened. And I needed to actually make money. Now they’re off doing whatever it is they do (of which I have no idea since they won’t friend me on Facebook) and I can spend my spare time weaving tales of debauchery and whatever else tickles my fancy.
The main thing to remember about my work is that I am NOT one of my characters. For example, as a real estate broker, I’ve never played Bondage Bingo in one of my empty listings or offed anyone at my local diet clinic.
But that’s not to say I haven’t wanted to…
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Saving Grace by D.M. Barr ~ Genre: Psychological Thriller
Grace Pierrepoint Rendell, the only child of an ailing billionaire, has been treated for paranoia since childhood. When she secretly quits her meds, she begins to suspect that once her father passes, her husband will murder her for her inheritance. Realizing that no one will believe the ravings of a supposed psychotic, she devises a creative way to save herself – she will write herself out of danger, authoring a novel with the heroine in exactly the same circumstances, thus subtly exposing her husband’s scheme to the world. She hires acclaimed author Lynn Andrews to help edit her literary insurance policy, but when Lynn is murdered, Grace is discovered standing over the bloody remains. The clock is ticking: can she write and publish her manuscript before she is strapped into a straitjacket, accused of homicide, or lowered six feet under?
With a cast of secondary characters whose challenges mirror Grace’s own, Saving Grace is, at it’s core, an allegory for the struggle of the marginalized to be heard and live life on their own terms.
What inspired you to write this book? Saving Grace is about a woman who wonders if her husband plans to murder her for her inheritance once her rich father in Florida dies. My father lives in Florida and my husband has asked more than once about my expected inheritance. I started thinking, what if…
What can we expect from you in the future? My next book, just finished, is a contemporary romantic comedy about pursuing second chances.
Do you have any “side stories” about the characters? I based my favorite character, Zev, on the Hasidic men I met at my last job. They always made me laugh and so Zev provides the much-needed comic relief in the book.
Can you tell us a little bit about the characters in Saving Grace? The protagonist is Grace Rendell, a 45-year-old New Jersey wife and mother who is the only child of an ailing billionaire and has been treated for paranoia since she was six. Her husband is an advertising exec named Eliot who grew up poor and appears to be cheating on her. She has two sons and a father named Barrington who lives with his “chippie of the month” Caprice. Grace’s therapist is Emma Leighmann and the woman who helps her write her book is Andrea Lin, whose pen name is Lynn Andrews. Tom Druthers is the poisons expert who helps her and becomes a love interest. Andrea’s brother “Hack” and his friends also play a big part in the novel.
What did you enjoy most about writing this book? Actually, I rewrote this book around ten times, so I guess what I liked most is when I was finally finished.
Tell us about your main characters- what makes them tick? Once Grace goes off her meds, she comes to believe that once her father dies, her husband will kill her for her inheritance. So she decides to write a novel, with the main character in the same predicament, so she can subtly expose his plot to the world without destroying her life and her family’s life if in fact, her views are a result of her resurgent paranoia and are completely wrong
How did you come up with the title of your first novel? As a Realtor, I specialized in Expired Listings. It seemed like a great title for a book where a serial killer was offing all the real estate agents in a small town.
Who designed your book covers? Each was designed by a different artist. Kim Killion worked with a photo and concept I selected for Expired Listings, and I had a second, less graphic cover designed by Syneca Featherstone. There are two covers for Slashing Mona Lisa, one designed by Carl Graves and a second by the artist at Beachwalk Press, and for my current novel, the cover was designed by David King, the inhouse designer for Black Rose Press, again using a photo and concept I chose.
If you had to do it all over again, would you change anything in your latest book? My first editor for Saving Grace was Elf Ahearn. If I could do it all over again, I would have listened to her suggestions from the start. In the end, I used them anyway, but it took a long time for me to accept her criticisms were right on.
Did you learn anything during the writing of your recent book? Prowritingaid.com is an invaluable tool.
If your book were made into a film, who would you like to play the lead? Sandra Bullock would make a perfect Grace.
Anything specific you want to tell your readers? When you read the metaphors, if they seem odd or strained, remember that Grace experienced everything she knew of life from books. Also keep in mind that Saving Grace is an allegory for the struggle of the marginalized to be heard and live life on their own terms. To me, it’s about women who are forgotten by society after they’ve had their children and “served their purpose.”
How did you come up with name of this book? Not only is Saving Grace an expression, it is also a perfect description of the plot.
What is your favorite part of this book and why? I always love the funny scenes, so I love the scene that satirizes critique groups. I also love every scene with Zev, especially the one where he’s in Hack’s home and some bullies throw a note attached to a rock through the window and he holds it up to Hack and says, “I believe this is for you.”
Are your characters based off real people or did they all come entirely from your imagination? A combination. There are parts of me in all my heroines: I was a Realtor like Dana Black, I was a reporter with weight issues like Camarin Torres, and like Grace Rendell, I’m a housewife and mother of a certain age who sometimes feels like no one sees me anymore.
Do your characters seem to hijack the story, or do you feel like you have the reigns of the story? My characters always do things that surprise me. In Expired Listings, I didn’t originally intend for Aidan Cummings to become a love interest but once Dana saw him, there is was. In Saving Grace, Zev is a character who came from nowhere.
Convince us why you feel your book is a must read. It’s a unique concept, the idea of a woman who couldn’t write a book to save her life, until she had to. Not that many books out there who weaponize literature.
Have you written any other books that are not published? No, happy to say everything I’ve written has been published, except my newest book which I hope to sell in the next few months.
Originally Hack’s story was much more elaborate and ran concurrently with Grace’s. There were elements I hope to include in a sequel.
Is there a writer which brain you would love to pick for advice? Who would that be and why?
I had the opportunity to interview Brad Parks and ask him how he was able to make Carter Ross so likeable. You can see the interview at www.author-groupie.com, where I interview authors with a new adult fiction book just out, or one that’s in pre-order.