Friday, February 3, 2012

Secret of Lies by Barbara Forte Abate Q&A and Review

About Barbara

Barbara Forte Abate was born in Millbrook, New York, the middle of five children. After graduating from Millbrook High School, she married young and promptly launched into the joys of family life, in short order becoming the mother of four very fabulous children, and along the way earning a doctorate from the University of Real Life.

Initially having settled in Franklin, New Jersey, she has lived with her family in a wonderful historic home in Chester County, PA, for the past fifteen years.
While increasingly challenged for several years by old house renovations and raising her children, Barbara never considered abandoning her dreams of writing. Most often composing her stories on yellow legal pads while babies napped and supper simmered (and sometimes burned) on the stove; piling up the pages until the time at last arrived to borrow a friend's typewriter and transfer her longhand scribbles onto finished pages.

While that particular milestone transpired some twenty years ago, and the aforementioned first novel has since lived a quietly rejected life in a rarely visited closet, Barbara's passion for writing has continued at a gallop. Her debut novel, "The Secret of Lies" was released on June 30, 2010.

Barbara's website

Q & A with Barbara

What do you like most about writing?

I absolutely love getting lost in my characters lives and experiencing their joys and turmoil’s, throwing out obstacles and watching to see what they’ll do – lending them a hand when all seems lost. Considering how much I enjoy solitude and thrive on quite moments, writing is a beautiful fit for me. Finishing that final edit after a dozen rewrites and knowing a book is really done is exhilarating.

Do you write genres other than fiction?

I've only ever written literary fiction. I enjoy reading a variety of genres though, and don’t rule out branching beyond my comfort zone with future books. At any given time I have three or four books on my nightstand which I alternate reading: a novel, spiritual writing, and memoir, something related to the craft of writing.

What’s next from Barbara Forte Abate, perhaps a new book you can tell us about?

I have four other novels I’ve written, but am still working to perfect. Two are getting close to being finished; two others need a major overhaul. Until I’m convinced that a project is “really” done I generally don’t talk it up all that much because it then dampens my enthusiasm for getting it done. I can tell you that I have a penchant for writing about wounded characters in challenging situations, who are in need of hope and redemption. In real life and in fiction, I am intrigued by the unexpected strength of the human spirit when life is looking especially bleak.

What led to your crafting of the main character Stevie?

Writing Stevie became an incredibly personal and profound experience over the years it took for me to tell her story. She felt like something of a one dimensional cardboard cutout when I started writing her, a body moving about in my story, but her voice, her struggles, and inner turmoil notably took on weight with each draft. I recall a distinct point when I was writing a scene with Stevie, and it all at once occurred to me that Stevie wasn’t as much being written as she was writing herself, consistently lending me prompts into her character in order to help me get her right. It was a thrilling transition and I consequently learned the importance of listening rather than simply telling a story.

Was the secret lie in the story something you shared for any other purpose than storytelling?

As a writer and voracious reader, I think it’s supremely important to find and understand the truth that is such an integral part of well written fiction. It’s certainly wonderful to be entertained, but something extraordinary happens when we recognize those things we might have experienced or struggled with in our own lives. The very nature of secrets so often comes into question over the course of our life experience. While some secrets are arguably necessary as they cause less damage when tucked away and left alone, there are those which are something altogether different – things tangled up and sold as secrets for the deliberate intention of concealing infinitely damaging mistruths. When Stevie is confronted with the question of whether the secret she’s protected so diligently in a bid to protect her wounded family is in actuality a terrible lie, it is an opportunity for the reader to catch a glimpse beyond fiction and possibly recognize something of their own personal experience.

The environment the story took place in was described in a way that made me want to visit and stay awhile. Was there a reason you chose a particular backdrop?

From the time this story first started to unfold in my mind, I saw it in shades of an earlier time – black and white to be precise. There is a certain innocence and simplicity of life apparent in the 1950’s that was essential to how I wanted to tell this story and that era very much fit the sequence of events that would transpire over the course of the novel. As much as settings are in effect characters themselves, the ancient house on the cliffs beside the sea where the sister’s spend summer vacations felt to be the perfect backdrop for capturing the carefree sense of two young girls away from home on a grand adventure, and then later, the lonely isolated family farm will serve to magnify everything that’s been lost.

How long did the Secret of Lies dwell in you before penned and published?

I have shared a most incredible journey with this story and its characters. When the first threads of this idea came twenty years ago, I hadn’t a clue as to how to go about writing a book other than a rather na├»ve sense of logic that assured me to “just do it”. To look at that first draft now is to be horrified, but absolutely it was the bazillion rewrites that followed which taught me how to write – how to listen for the strengths and nuances of my characters, and how to bring otherwise stagnant scenes to life. Twenty years may seem like an excessive amount of time to reach a goal and cross the finish line, but for me it was necessary. I was literally learning to write a sentence at a time.

Just for Fun. What advice would you give the women characters if you had the chance to teach them about secrets?

Know what you’re protecting! My characters made a fatal mistake that so many of us make, which is that they ignored their instincts in favor of hoping it would all work itself out with the sunrise. We come into this life with the most wonderful gift of God given instinct, which is to say that if something smells rotten – even just a little – we need to keep a watchful eye and proceed with caution. Too often we end up protecting or making excuses for things or people that by any other name are simply hurtful, harmful, and evil. Equally painful and infinitely damaging, is our tendency to confuse grief with guilt, and we so often convince ourselves that we must carry blame for mistakes and sins that are not truly ours. Such burdens can effectively cripple our very existence and my characters truly do need to understand the danger of such erroneous beliefs.

Do you have a muse? Any special places you write to get the ideas flowing faster?

I can only focus when the house is quiet and the neighborhood dogs are quietly curled up under a porch taking a nap. I’m very blessed that I have a wonderful little room of my own with a creaky old desk and all my favorite pictures, books, and doodads on walls and shelves around me. I always say a prayer before I settle in to write, because my Creator is first and foremost my muse. (Besides which, His book is the blockbuster best seller of all time, so I know He understands the process and how essential it is to get the words just right.

How addicted are you to Facebook?

I’m currently in recovery! I was very late coming to the party, but very quickly caught the fever. It’s been amazing for finding and keeping in touch with family and friends, and social networking has never been such fun or allowed us to reach so far, but there is a downside in that it becomes so much easier and infinitely pleasant to drop over at Facebook and check on the happenings, rather than stare at the blank screen and agonize because my novel in progress has hit a roadblock and refuses to move on. Before you know it hours have passed and so has your allotted writing time. So I’m trying to be more disciplined about my time. A big glitch in that plan though, is that The Secret of Lies now has its own pretty new book page on Facebook, which means I’ve just increased my FB activities, when my intention has been to wean away from it.

What is your favorite holiday?

I’m crazy about Easter. Which is really very startling in a way, because springtime was my least favorite season as a child, and I considered it terribly depressing as a teenager. Rebirth, new life, the Earth waking and renewing after a long winter’s sleep….beautiful and infinitely awesome.

If you were stranded alone on a desert island, what one item would you have to have and why?

My Bible. It doesn’t require electricity or special operating instructions, which is certainly a bonus. But most importantly it has everything essential for survival: hope, eternal promises, consolation, comfort, wisdom, commandments for life ... not to mention drama, mystery, and tons of spot-on storytelling. And once I tire of all that delicious solitude, there are detailed instructions for building an ark, which I could then use to sail back to civilization.

Thank you Barbara.  The Q&A was very informative and a whole lot of fun!  Can't wait to have an excuse to do this with you again. We will just have to keep up with you on Facebook and your website.

About book:

Propelled by an insurmountable sense of desperation, Stevie Burke is recklessly abandoning home, husband, and outwardly contented life under cover of night; at last resigned to defeat in her long battle against the tortured memories of her past.

Days later, lost and floundering in a dreary motel room without plan or destination, it is a long ago song playing on the radio that gently tugs Stevie back through the dust of remembrance. 1957 – The last summer spent at the ancient house overlooking the North Atlantic. A season which had unfolded with abundant promise, but then spiraled horribly out of control – torn apart by a shattering tragedy that remains splintered in fragments upon her soul. And it is only now, when Stevie at last lifts her eyes to stare deep into the heart of her long sequestered memories, that the long held secrets of past and future are at last unveiled...

It began in much the way of all the perfect golden summers at her aunt and uncle’s beach house. Stevie is in love with Jake, an intriguing deaf boy; so thoroughly absorbed in her new romance that she easily ignores the evidences of breakdown in her aunt and uncle’s once blissful marriage and the hairline indicators of her sister Eleanor’s role in their faltered relationship. Not until Stevie and Jake slip away from the farewell bonfire on the beach, anxious for a private moment on this last night together, will she finally be forced to confront the ugly truth of those things unfolding around her. The resulting tragedy shattering her family and leaving her emotionally paralyzed.

Although desperate to leave behind the gnawing emptiness and press of memories suffocating her life, Stevie remains helplessly bound to the family farm. She eventually lands a job as an advice columnist for the local newspaper, and only then does her life finally make a turn toward steady ground, her new position as advisor to the troubled allowing her to address her own deepest feelings of love and loss.

Even then, Stevie is infuriated when her mother hires a farm hand, Ash Waterman, irrationally rejecting his overtures of friendship – drawn to him as passionately as she feels determined to push him away.

Her silent battle is continuous; an insurmountable sense of guilt holding her to the firm conviction that she is responsible for her family’s suffering. Despite Ash’s patient love and support she is unable to smooth the painful cracks etched deep into her memories, continuing to sacrifice her future in order to shelter the sins of the past. And it is only as Stevie feels her life spiraling out of control, that she at last comes to understand the true secret of the lies she has so diligently guarded.

Book can be purchase at Barnes and Noble here.

Paperback, 304 pages
Published April 21st 2010 by Dog Ear Publishing
ISBN160844418X (ISBN13: 9781608444182)

My Thoughts:

Stephanie and her sister Eleanor leaves their families farm for the summer to vacation at their Aunt and Uncle's beach house. This is something they look forward to every year. But recently the visits have become a little tense because of an under current between her Aunt Smyrna and Uncle Cal. Stevie just tries to overlook the tension and enjoy the summer.

As the girls get into their teens they become more interested in boys than finding sea shells and swimming. Eleanor is the oldest so she would stay pretty busy with her summer flings leaving Stevie to entertain herself. Then Stephanie becomes very interested in a young boy on the that is deaf. She convinces her sister and aunt to get a book from the library and learn how to sign so they can befriend the boy.

Each summer they come to stay things just get worse between the aunt and uncle. This makes their time there very uncomfortable.

I connected with the timline of this book since I was born in 1950 and the story is set in the 1950's.

The teens characters were very realistic with their attitudes and relationship toward each other.

I got a bit anxious towards the last half of the book and did not want to put it down. I think you will be very surprised at how it ends, I know I was.

I recommend this book!

I rate this book a 5 out of 5.

Disclosure: I received a copy of this book from the author for review. I was in no way compensated for this review it is my own opinion.

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