Barbara Best, Author
Jacksonville, Florida, U.S.A.
Good morning, Barbara, and welcome to Vision and Verse, the place for Art and Authors. What have you written?
For over twenty-five years and until my retirement, I worked for the Marketing Department of a large credit union. It allowed me to develop my talents as a writer and graphic artist. During my career, I was recognized for monthly newsletters, brochures, website mastheads, advertisements and a lot of other written/visual material. This helped prepare me to write my debut novel, and when the time came, design my own book cover. Drawing from life experiences and writing about things that are near and dear to my heart, has been an exciting journey.
THE LINCOLN PENNY: A Time Travel Series, Book 1 was released in 2014. THE LOVER’S EYE, Book 2 would follow in 2016, and Book 3 in my time travel series should be ready for publication sometime in 2018.
My series is about a young woman who has just hit the reset button on her life, landed her dream job, and moved to the city she loves most, Savannah, Georgia. It is the perfect place for someone with an insatiable appetite for history. But, little did Jane Peterson know, she would be living it. While participating in a reenactment at historic Fort Pulaski, she suffers the brutal consequence of an innocuous act that results in the end of her existence, as she knows it. The year 2012 abruptly becomes 1862 and Jane is thrust amid the bloodiest conflict in American history — the American Civil War.
Her ghostly appearance is a bad omen to the doomed Confederate soldiers at Fort Pulaski. During a raging battle with cannon balls raining down, and them on the losing side, Jane is forced to care for a wounded Lieutenant who is bemused by her peculiar talents and mannerisms. Among the men, she is the Mystifying Ghost Lady. In a chilling twist of fate, Jane must cross hostile enemy lines and seek shelter with strangers. Realizing the impact of her knowledge and horrors of Civil War medicine, her dream of rescue soon becomes a deep desire to save others.
Medical student Bryce McKenzie will never give up on the woman he loves. Vanished on her twenty-fourth birthday, he refuses to believe Jane Peterson is dead. They have shared a unique bond since childhood, but when did she capture his heart? With the help of Jane’s friend Sophie and only witness to her unexplained disappearance, he searches for the key to unlock an impossible mystery.
What is your favorite genre to write?
When it comes to genre, I have many on my palette — historical fiction, mystery, romance, adventure, and science fiction/fantasy. By blending these elements, I hope to give variety, surprise, and build a more engaging and satisfying reading experience. My novels reveal a genuine passion for history and innate ability to intertwine authentic detail with imaginative speculation. In addition, they are clean reads.
Coffee in the morning, tea in the afternoon.
Pizza or ice cream?
Definitely ice cream. Eating pizza all the time, day or night with my two kids when they were teens, killed my appetite for the decked-out flatbread and it sort of stuck. Now, guess what my grandkids order when we go out? Yep, that’s right.
Wine or beer?
Wine, when I’m traveling. Here, on my home turf, dining with an occasional margarita is enjoyable (salt, on the rocks, please).
Caption: Third trip to France,
Notre Dame Cathedral Paris
Germany, Austria, Switzerland, and Scotland are still on my bucket list. Can you tell I have the travel bug? I would like to see Japan again, and Africa is just a dream, but you never know.
Favorite musical artist:
Currently, I am mesmerized by the powerful singing voice of Idina Menzel and recently attended one of her concerts. She is an awesome performer.
Do you listen to music when you write? What?
Yes, if I remember to turn it on, and usually, music designed for meditation. Gentle orchestrations with sounds of the seashore and bird song in the background. I go to yoga class three times a week and this is the most relaxing for me. Although, I must admit I have become immune to the constant bleat from our television, and can tune most things out — a honed skill, still useful, and held over from motherhood.
What makes you laugh?
I usually laugh and take delight in the silly antics of animals (people’s pets). I have also been known to split my sides over a harmless prank, played on some poor unsuspecting victim to scare them half out of their wits. Some comedies, but not all, strike me funny.
Favorite work of art or sculpture:
My mouth still drops open when I think about the Sistine Chapel and having witnessed with my own eyes Michelangelo’s incredible painted ceiling. Moments later, I encountered the master’s sculpture, the Pieta, inside the Vatican. All of Rome is a work of art, a magnificent surprise at every turn.
How old were you when you started writing?
For me, self-expression began at an early age, when I took up a pencil to sketch the world around me. Soon, my pencil would begin to put thoughts and feelings to paper in the form of words. Creativeness has always been an important part of my life. It unlocks the inner me.
Caption: Caribbean Cruise, Barbara and her husband Bob.
Describe your perfect evening:
Hmm, I might get this question confused with a “typical” evening, where you can find me with hubby Bob on the sofa in front of the TV with our devices, a computer perched on my lap, a remote clutched in his hand. But seriously, my more perfect evening would be somewhere watching a glorious sunset over the Atlantic. I am a beach lover and have always lived close to the ocean. To expound on this topic, my favorite sunsets over water: St. Augustine and Key West, Florida, the Caribbean on a cruise, and I have caught a couple of beauties in Europe and Japan — it is enough to take your breath away, inspire the meaning of life, and form a lasting impression. Add to that, the company of a family member or good friend, which is most of the time, and I am as happy as an oyster (clam for those further north) at high water.
Caption: American Civil War reenactment in Georgia.
In my novels, I write about a woman who travels back in time. It may seem strange, but I, too, have gone back to the mid-1860s and I can tell you the transformation is amazing. As a reenactor immersed in the persona of a proper lady during the American Civil War, I know what it feels like to wake at the crack of dawn to a bugle’s razor-sharp call to Reveille, recoil from the powerful blast of cannon fire, and walk among Gothic archways in massive brick fortifications. I have danced the Virginia Reel and played period games at a soiree. Amid a sea of white canvas, I have camped in a simple A-tent on a barren hillside dotted with crackling campfires that cast an orange glow on somnolent faces and rifle stacks under a starry night sky. Sometimes it is so real you think you are there.
One night, during a Civil War reenactment at historic Fort Pulaski, Georgia, I realized I needed something from my car outside the fortification’s mighty walls. Solo and with my lantern held high, I took the walk out. On my way back, along the outer rim of the moat, over two drawbridges, and past the ancient iron gate and wooden doors of the sally port where a single Union soldier stood his post, it happened. I got this tingly, unexpected sensation that briefly befuddled my sense of reality and time. Reenactors often talk about rare déjà vu moments during events when the mind plays tricks and you suddenly feel as if you are there. This is most likely why moving from one time to another, for me, is natural. We reenactors are all time travelers, in a way.
What do you do when you get a writer's block?
I am not a disciplined writer, so I probably have had a block or two without knowing it. Usually, I write freely and have no set schedule or deadline (there was enough of that in my Marketing days). I write anytime the mood strikes and, I can honestly say, that is a lot of the time. When I do notice a break in my life’s work, I usually get a gnawing sensation in the pit of my stomach, made worse when I get a bit twisted on a storyline or lose direction. When this happens, I change things up. I switch to research or move my writing to another location or device. Thankfully, we are mobile these days. When “the block” raises its ugly head, I have also found it helps to clear my mind with a reminder “be patient, it will come . . . and it always does.”
Who is your favorite author?
There are so many and it varies from time to time. I am a history buff and was captivated by two remarkable writers, Jeff and Michael Shaara and their three novels of the Civil War. I am also hooked on Diana Gabaldon’s work, her authenticity and imaginative story about the journey of a woman who traveled from 1945 to 1743 Scotland. There are loads of “what ifs” when you think about suddenly living in the past that most of us have considered at one time or another.
Best book you ever read:
Margaret Mitchell’s “Gone with the Wind” stands out, because it is the first novel I fell totally in love with and have read several times since.
Last book you read:
Jim Fergus’ “One Thousand White Women” (The Journals of May Dodd)
What would you do for a living if you weren’t a writer?
Writing “for a living” would be a huge stretch at this point in my life, but in the Marketing days, when writing drew a salary, my dream was to write freely and personally again. And, more importantly, why not a book? Now that I am retired and that unique privilege has come to fruition, I consider it more a serious and unique craft, a passion, if you will — an art form, like painting on canvas or playing the piano, which are other things I have done for pleasure and to fulfill my need for self-expression. I vaguely apply a business mind to my work and have the dream of every writer that I can get the words right and someone will actually take notice and be entertained by what I have done.
Who is the one person who has influenced your personal life the most and why?
My answer is fairly predictable. My mother, for her imagination, stories and adventuresome spirit. I remember her describing a brush with death when she was a child. She grew up during America’s Great Depression, which is a sizable feat and intriguing yarn on its own, but that is for another time. As the story goes, my mother and her younger brother Bill were crossing a railroad bridge set high above a broad, swirling river. When they reached the center, she was the first to hear the whistle blow. A train was barreling down on them at a high rate of speed with no time to slow. Chillingly, there was no time for my mother or her brother to retrace their steps to safety. Neither one of them could swim. Taking young Bill by the hand, she helped him slide down under the tracks onto one of the vertical pilings and yelled for him to “hold on, don’t let go!” She did the same, briefly catching the popped eyes of the terrified conductor before she climbed out of sight and, no doubt, rescued them both from peril. My mother was always a good talker and storyteller. Even though I couldn’t have been more than five or six, I distinctively remember the visual picture it formed in my head, and the physical sensations and emotions it inspired. In hindsight, I would also like to add that my mother’s free spirit gave me the ability to try things others might not. Even now, she would say, “Why, Barbara, you surprise me!”
If you could sit down and have a conversation with ONE person, living or dead, real or fictional, who would it be and why?
Wow! Although I am intellectually challenged in comparison, I would love to spend time with famed astronomer and Pulitzer Prize winner, Carl Sagan. “Imagination will often carry us to worlds that never were. But without it, we go nowhere.” Sagan’s invitation to join him on a journey to understand the universe and, in the process, discover our greatness as human beings on this planet still gives me goosebumps to this day. After all, where would we be without our mind's eye? The God-given gift that allows us the freedom to go virtually anywhere and do anything. As a sidebar on space, the final frontier, I am a longtime Star Trek enthusiast (or Trekkie for those who share my appreciation for the related series, books and movies). I used to write Star Trek episodes for fun during my teenage years.
What advice would you give someone who aspired to be a writer?
Read, read, read and write, write, write. My son-in-law asked me once, what made me write a book? He was curious how it happened, out of the blue, when so many people just talk about it. I think there is a writer in every one of us. We all have the tools to express ourselves, and a concept of creativity, style, courage, self-confidence, healing and spirituality within our grasp. Our ability to think and speak, and to put those thoughts and words down in the form of writing is the ultimate freedom to be oneself. Beyond that, and I cannot say it more plainly, just do it!
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