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Author Interview | Meet Barb and @parkcooper and their spooky new release #supernatural #interview

We’re so excited to feature our INTERVIEW with Barb Lien-Cooper (with a few answers from her husband and writing partner Park Cooper) of Wicker Man Studios, co-authors of the book SONG TO THE SIREN today. Another husband and wife writing team…huzzah! Please welcome Barb and Park to Book Heaven. Take it away, Barb and Park:

Question: Do you have any odd writing habits?

Barb says: I don’t know about odd, but I suppose I’ll mention that I write with my husband, so we always read the rough draft and any consequent drafts out loud. That way, if a line of dialog doesn’t work or a detail is off, I can hear it for myself.

Question: What book do you wish you could have written?

Barb says: The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson. That book was kind of instrumental in the writing of my book Song to the Siren. I remember saying to my husband while we were re-reading Hill House that my next novel was going to be my Shirley Jackson novel, but no one would know it because I’d cover my tracks. I grinned at him and said, “All I need now is a plot, characters, character conflicts, settings, themes, and so on. I don’t know where I’m going, but I have a hunch that it’s going to be a good book.” About a month later, I came up with the idea of an ambiguous horror story involving what my husband calls “scares, drugs, and rock-and-roll.” Song to the Siren is about a lot more than that, but I don’t want to spoil anything.

Question: Just as your books inspire authors, what authors have inspired you?

Barb says: I am an exceedingly picky audience member. While I read a lot, it’s tough for me to find books that speak to my myriad interests and concerns. Stories that say “this is for you, Barb” are few and far between. I’m not saying that I haven’t encountered a lot of excellent books, but I have esoteric interests, so it takes a book like Picnic at Hanging Rock or Stir of Echoes to really get to the heart of who I am as a person and a writer.

I always answer the “inspiration” question with: anyone who knows what they’re doing as an artist. If an artist is great at their craft, I’m inspired. If they aren’t, I frown and move on.

Question: If you could cast your characters in the Hollywood adaptation of your book, who would play your characters?

Barb says: I wrote the character of Samantha MacNamara (Song to the Siren), an older woman who is a professional artist, for Jamie Lee Curtis. I needed a narrator character that the audience would totally trust and believe, someone who was strong, likeable, and spoke in a straight-forward manner, as well as a beautiful older woman with short hair, so I immediately thought of Jamie Lee Curtis.

Question: How important are names to you in your books? Do you choose the names based on liking the way it sounds or the meaning?

Barb says: I won’t read a book if I hate the character names. I say, “I can’t read 400 pages of a work if I have to see that cheesy character name all through it.” I keep my names basic, believable, and yet charismatic as I can. In Song to the Siren. Samantha MacNamara is an artist, so professionally she’s known as “Sam Mac.” Her brother, Peter MacNamara, was the bassist for The Big Carnival, so he’s known as Pete Mac. Those are easy names for the readership to remember. I’ve read too many books where I forget the characters’ names and end up thinking of them as “that guy” or “the old lady” or whatever.

I always look up what the characters names mean, but only after I’ve written the book. The results are usually interesting. For instance, Reed Sinclair’s last name means “famous,” but it also means “clear or bright,” like in the word “clairvoyance,” which means “clear seeing.” So Reed started declaring himself to be “Reed Sinclair, the boy with all the clairs!” (that is, all the gifts). Since Reed was a charismatic person, as well as a little full of himself at times, I think the last name fits him to a T.

Park says: Yeah, we didn’t look up the name until later. I just suggested it as a last name because I liked the dinosaur on the old sign for Sinclair Oil gas stations.

As for problematic names, Linus from Peanuts always used to claim that when he came to a long Russian name while reading The Brothers Karamazov, he just went “beeeeeeeeeeep” over it and kept reading. But one time, my brain did something even better—Anne McCaffrey once wrote a book with a main character who was a singer/musician. I read that book. Then years later I went back to re-read it, and I found out that the main character’s name was Mellony. A dumb spelling of “Melanie,” but this was a Space Future where other characters were named things like F'lar and Jaxom and Lessa. But when I had read the book the first time, my brain had told me that the character in question was “Melody,” like the blonde from Josie and the Pussycats—perfect for a singer/musician, I’d thought (okay, maybe a little on the nose, but it was good enough for Josie and the Pussycats, so whatever). My brain had just REJECTED the Space Future name with its odd spelling, and mentally pasted a normal girl’s name (with normal spelling) in there for every single paragraph. Thanks, brain!

Question: What do you consider to be your best accomplishment?

Barb says: My marriage. My husband is my best friend, my biggest fan, and my writing partner. We’ve been together so long that I split my life into “before I met Park” and “after I met Park.” Marriage is the toughest job you’ll ever love. It takes a ton of hard work. You have to really know and respect your partner. And you have to work on your personal issues, so they don’t leak into your relationship.

Question: Where do you see yourself in 5 years?

Barb says: I hope that I’m making a living with my work, really. Beyond that, who knows?

Question: Have you always liked to write?

Barb says: I lived inside my head as a child, so I was always making up stories. I didn’t write them down until I was an adult. So, yeah, making up stories has always been a part of me.

Question: What writing advice do you have for other aspiring authors?

Barb says: Get your craft up to a professional level before you start putting your work out there. I’m a big believer in building a better mousetrap.

Question: If you didn’t like writing books, what would you do for a living?

Barb says: God only knows. My husband and I did a lot of editing and adapting manga for Tokyopop, Viz, and Del Rey Manga, so I guess I’d be editing other people’s work.

Question: Are you a plotter or a pantster?

Barb says: I’m both. It all depends on the nature of the story. Some stories require a lot of planning. Some do not. I let the story dictate my approach.

Question: Do you read your reviews? Do you respond to them, good or bad? Do you have any advice on how to deal with the bad?

Barb says: Back when I wrote the webcomic Gun Street Girl, I got a lot of great reviews and some very nice publicity, but no publisher would take the risk of publishing the work, possibly because it was another era, and the lead character was a lesbian. It frustrated me a lot. I had the reviews, I had publicity, so a publisher should have been in my future. Didn’t really happen.

So now I’m a little jaded about reviews, although I TOTALLY appreciate those people who like my work. My heart is filled with gratitude. It truly is. But-- from sad experience-- I learned that great reviews don’t always lead to bigger things. Nowadays, I take a wait-and-see attitude towards everything.

As for bad reviews, I’m not sure what to say. Some people won’t get your work. Those critics should be ignored. But a few reviews are honestly trying to tell you what you need to improve on, so those are the reviews one should consider when moving forward.

Question: What is your least favorite part of the publishing/writing process?

Barb says: Getting my name out there. Writing is a pleasure. Marketing is the price one pays for the pleasure of writing.

Question: Is there one subject you would never write about as an author? What is it?

Barb says: I won’t write about a culture I know nothing about and can’t research. I’ll give you an example. Romani culture has been portrayed in movies as a series of stereotypical tropes and cliches. I thought, “Wonder if you wrote a Romani character with respect and dignity instead?” So, I started trying to do my research... and came up against a brick wall. I discovered that people in the Romani culture have been scapegoated and misrepresented so much that they are very private and closed-mouth about their culture. I understood that, so I dropped the idea.

Question: Do you have a favorite spot to write? Where is it?

Barb says: There are two parts to writing: the planning stage and the actual writing stage. I can plan just about anywhere. But actual fingers on keyboard writing needs a fine and private place. So, I have a small office I write in. Everything I love is there: there are film and movie posters, a page of art from my comic Gun Street Girl, cheap Pre-Raphaelite art prints, and a picture of my husband from around the time he graduated from high school here. This office is my place.

Question: Is there a certain type of scene that’s harder for you to write than others? Love? Action? Racy?

Barb says: Sex scenes are difficult, not because I’m a prude, but because I have never yet read someone else’s sex scene that isn’t totally embarrassing to read. They’re not embarrassing because the scene is about sex, but I’m embarrassed for the writer, because so far, the sex scenes I’ve read are always so poorly written. Authors write sex scenes in one of the following manners: (1) cold, scientific “slot A in hole B,” 2/ Language that is so abstract that I can’t figure out what’s happening (e.g. some movie I saw one time called a certain part of a woman’s anatomy her “small male member”!), or (3) using the most explicit curse words for every part of a human being’s sex organs. It’s rude, crude, sticky stuff and it’s not fun to read.

So, I don’t write sex scenes unless they’re really necessary for a story.

Question: Is this your first book? How many books have you written prior (if any?)

Barb says: This isn’t my first publishing rodeo, no.

I wrote the webcomic Gun Street Girl, and then Park and I wrote the graphic novel Half Dead for Dabel/Marvel. I spent a good long time as a manga adaptor/editor. The book I wrote with my husband, Something More than Blood, was published by a small indie publisher. Our novel The Talking Cure was published before Song to the Siren.

Question: What are you working on now? What is your next project?

Barb says: I’m working on getting done with a bunch of story ideas I’ve left to do later. There are always more stories to write.

Question: Do you write naked?

Barb says: Oh, no. Writing is work. Clothes are for work; naked is for play.

Question: What is your biggest failure?

Barb says: Too many to mention-- but my philosophy is: if you haven’t failed at anything, you haven’t tried anything.

Question: What is the biggest fib you’ve ever told?

Barb says: Mm. One of my characters, Reed Sinclair once wrote on a wall, “Everything’s a big, fat lie.” I had that character write those words because I was tired of living in a post-truth world.

However... writing fiction is, essentially, lying for a living, in a way. Authors make you believe that characters and places that don’t exist actually do exist. So, I guess that my biggest fib is: every story I’ve ever written.

Question: Have you ever been in trouble with the law?

Barb says: Nah. Unless you’re someone like Hemingway, who was an adventurer, most writers’ lives are pretty boring, except inside their heads.

Question: Have you ever gotten into a fight?

Barb says: Only verbally, but those fights I usually win.

Question: Do you drink? Smoke? What’s your vice?

Barb says: I drink way too much coffee.

Question: What is your biggest fear?

Barb says: Mob mentality. And rats.

Question: What do you want your tombstone to say?

Barb says: This question assumes that I plan on dying someday... but to be more serious, I’m planning on being cremated. Let my books be my tombstone.

Question: If you had a superpower, what would it be?

Barb says: Since I’m a femme geek fatale, I’ve actually thought about this question a lot. I decided that most superpowers, if you can only have just one, suck. For instance, if I had super-speed, but not an invulnerable body, the second I started running, my heart would give out. If I could fly, I would probably be shot down by the authorities. Teleportation is tempting, but I’ve read that Nightcrawler was always afraid of teleporting into a wall, so teleportation is right out for me.

So, I’m going with the ability to read, write, and speak all languages. Some people might think that’s a boring superpower, but it’d be a godsend for a writer like me.

Park says: I, too, have thought a lot about this. The best power is actually: Force Fields. Look, just for example, at this power as used by the Invisible Woman or Green Lantern. It protects you from all harm. You can surround yourself with it, so surround yourself with a bubble and move the bubble around, and you can fly, or go underwater, or into space. Make a little bubble in a car or a building or a whatever, and expand it, and you destroy the car or building or whatever. You can do just about anything with that power, and be safe. I could pop a bubble around Barb and myself, and head down to the beach for the day. What’s not to like?

Question: If you were a superhero, what would your name be? What costume would you wear?

Barb says: If I were a superhero, I’d just want the costume from James Robinson’s run on the comic book Starman: black jeans, goggles, leather jacket. Form and function, comfort, and fashion all in one. But since my power, as explained above, would be the ability to understand all languages, maybe something like Library Lass…

Question: What literary character is most like you?

Barb says: I took a quiz about this very subject once and it said I was most like Jo March in Little Women. Sigh. I was expecting Jane Eyre, or Nora Charles from The Thin Man, but whatever. Well, maybe the quiz was right: I am a writer married to a professor...

Park says: A professor with a beard.

Question: What secret talents do you have?

Barb says: I can sing quite well, I’m a great cook, and I’m a great “therapist friend.”

Question: Where is one place you want to visit that you haven’t been before?

Barb says: I’ve always wanted Samantha Stephens’ witchy powers on “Bewitched.” I could crinkle my nose, go to Paris, lunch in Japan, check out the fashions in Milan, and then zap myself back home just in time to cook supper. But since I don’t have witchy powers, I’ve always wanted to explore the beaches of the world, really.

Park says: You know what’d also be good for that? Force fields!

Question: If you were an animal, what would you be and why?

Barb says: Humans treat animals so poorly that I wouldn’t want to be one. But in a kinder world, I’d want to be a dolphin. They’re smart, they have their own language, they’re playful, and, from all indications, quite smart. And if the world kept on being the way it is right now, I could say, someday, “So long and thanks for all the fish…”

Question: What’s on your bucket list (things to do before you die)?

Barb says: Making a living from my writing.

Question: If you could have any name in the world, what would you choose?

Barb says: If my name were J.R.R. Tolkien, everyone would love me, and everyone would read my books long after I died... Okay, that’s not what you were asking. Frankly, I love my name, and wouldn't want to change it. I was named after the folk song “Barbara Allen.” I share my name with Barbara Gordon, a.k.a. Batgirl. Barbara means “strange, foreign.” It’s got the same root as barbarian, as I recall. I saw a key chain that said that my name meant “beautiful stranger.” But I'd prefer to be a Barbarian, like Conan.

Park says: Maybe she’s too shy to mention it, but also Robert E. Howard wrote a slightly spooky but also heartbreaking short story titled “Barbara Allen,” and Barb loves it.

Question: Do you have any scars? What are they from?

Barb says: I have a huge scar over my right breast. I had a horrible tumor in my left ear and my veins were too small to do chemo, so they had to put a shunt there. When they took it out, I ended up with a scar about as big as a pinkie. Ruined any career as a bra model, but I wear that scar with pride. It meant I survived something. I think it looks hardcore.

I also have a huge scar on my leg from playing on a jungle gym and tearing my leg against an uncovered screw. I was too proud to tell anyone how badly it hurt, so I didn't go get stitches or anything.

But I read somewhere that scars can represent, at least according to some New Age hotshots, battles we fought in past lives. So, maybe I was Barbara the Cimmerian...?

Question: What were you like as a child?

Barb says: Imaginative and mostly quiet, but with a confounding ability to make teachers dislike me because I asked too many unanswerable questions. I looked and acted a little like Amy in the film "The Curse of the Cat People." As an adult, I'm still imaginative, still asking questions, but no longer quiet.

Park says: I was a lot like Barb. I learned to read very early, and I wasn’t interested in the silly other children my age, so since most adults didn’t want to listen to me talk and talk and talk and answer all the questions I had about why things are the way they are, I just wanted everyone to leave me alone so I could read in peace like Burgess Meredith.

Thank you, Barb and Park, for the insightful interview. It was so much fun spending time with you both. Readers, scroll down to read all about their new release, Song to the Siren

Title: Song to the Siren

Authors: Barb Lien-Cooper and Park Cooper

Genre: Supernatural

Publisher: Wicker Man Studios

Book Blurb:

When two young documentary filmmakers start investigating the enigmatic death of the infamous Reed Sinclair, founder of the never-quite-made-it indie rock group The Big Carnival, by interviewing Reed's former girlfriend, photographer Samantha ("Sam") MacNamara, she tells them the story of a seeming love triangle between herself, Reed, and a frightening entity that may have simply been how Reed's troubled mental state interpreted multiple tragedies and coincidences in his life... or she may have been a supernatural being...



If I reply to this email, thought Samantha, I’ll have to tell them what really happened. The whole thing. The slow way. Because if I just came out and tried to explain the truth to them all at once, they’d... She stared at the email that was waiting, on her computer screen, for her to reply to it...

Dear Ms. MacNamara... it began...

Samantha frowned. What would they do... if I really tried to explain what happened back then? What would anyone do? It’s why I’ve never told a single living soul...

She looked up above her monitor, at the wall of her home office, at the framed photograph of a handsome young man holding a guitar. His long blond hair was flying around as he played. He was smiling at the camera, at the person taking his picture... In the background was the rest of the band, with the drum set that bore the stylized logo of the Big Carnival. “Am I really sure I want to be interviewed, Reed?” Sam asked the young man in the photo. “Music press people, diehard fans, even people I trusted, I’ve never told anyone about... what happened. It’s amazing that after all of these years, people are still interested in you and the Big Carnival.”

She sat for a minute, as if listening for a reply that she knew would never and could never come... and then she sighed. “I’ll do it for you, Reed darling...”

Sam spent several minutes typing out a frenzied reply to the email. Then she went back and re-read the most provocative part of what she had written: I loved Reed Sinclair, but he was taken from me by another woman. It wasn’t someone made of flesh and blood—I could have handled that—but a woman made out of spirit... and hatred. She was someone who hungered for more than Reed’s blood. Belle hungered for Reed’s sanity. She took his mind, and then she took his life. The news reports back in the day said that Reed’s death was a suicide. But I was there. I know everything. Reed Sinclair’s death was cold-blooded, premeditated murder.

Sam began to giggle. The giggle turned into the type of raw, painful laugh a person laughs to try to avoid crying.

It didn’t work, though. Sam couldn’t help but let her laughter turn to crying anyway, as she’d cried so many times over Reed...

She took a few tissues from a nearby box, and dried her eyes. Then she began to delete her reply. She watched with grim resignation as every word was destroyed by the backspace key. When she was finished, she looked at the blank box where her initial response had been.

Then she clicked on another window, and looked at the information she’d found when she looked up the two young men who’d sent her the email. Ryan Torres, and Brandon Hawkins... They seemed like nice enough Midwestern boys... Brandon was about four inches taller than Ryan, with light brown hair and blue eyes... Ryan was on the thin side, but he was sort of wiry, too, like the sort of young person who might’ve run track in high school... In the first picture she’d found of both of them from one of Ryan’s many social media profiles, they were posing together and making zombie faces in front of a revival-house showing of Night of the Living Dead. In the second picture, the thumbnail of which was right below the zombie one, they were holding up two different Big Carnival albums, each young man wearing a gleeful expression on his face...

She looked back up at the photo of Reed. “I can’t hit them over the head with the whole truth. I’ll have to just lead them on a little. A... a warm, charming... evasive reply, but not to the point where anyone would realize it...”

She nodded a tight, determined little nod, and resumed typing. Dear Ryan...

Buy Links (including Goodreads and BookBub):

Author Biography:

We love good stories.

Like you, we understand the joy of reading a well-crafted story-- but we also know the "ripped-off" feeling you get when you've spent money on a story that's cliched or otherwise doesn't meet your discriminating tastes in storytelling.

We know how offensive it is to read something that insults your intelligence, too. We believe that readers are smart-- and deserving of works that treat you as an intelligent person.

We write stories like we want to read: stories that are exciting and smart and character-driven.

We're like you-- we hate characters who are dumber than we are, doing things that anyone in the real world would know are stupid. We hate stories where you know from page one exactly how it'll end.

We'll try to give you plots that don't make you groan when you read the plot summaries.

We're crafting the kind of works that stay with you after you finish reading them.

We're crafting the kind of books that you'll want to read again when you're done.

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1 Comment

N. N. Light
N. N. Light
Oct 31, 2022

Thank you, Barb and Park, for the interesting interview!

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