Just Five Questions with Barbara Claypole White

Bestselling author Barbara Claypole White creates hopeful family drama with a healthy dose of mental illness. Originally from England, she writes and gardens in the forests of North Carolina, where she lives with her beloved OCD family. Her novels include The Unfinished Garden, The In-Between Hour, The Perfect Son, and Echoes of Family.  Her January 2018 release, The Promise Between Us, shines a light on postpartum OCD. She is also an OCD Advocate for the A2A Alliance, a nonprofit group that promotes advocacy over adversity. To connect with Barbara, please visit  www.barbaraclaypolewhite.comor follow her on Facebook. She’s always on Facebook.

I’ve gotten to know Barbara through the Women’s Fiction Writers Association, which she helped found. Barbara is thoughtful and hysterically funny. She is rock-n-roll with the mostly lovely British accent. She is as generous with her time as she is gifted as a writer. I’m thrilled to have her as my inaugural interviewee in this series.

But first, a bit about her new novel, The Promise Between Us:

Metal artist Katie Mack is living a lie. Nine years ago she ran away from her family in Raleigh, North Carolina, consumed by the irrational fear that she would harm Maisie, her newborn daughter. Over time she’s come to grips with the mental illness that nearly destroyed her, and now funnels her pain into her art. Despite longing for Maisie, Katie honors an agreement with the husband she left behind—to change her name and never return.

But when she and Maisie accidentally reunite, Katie can’t ignore the familiarity of her child’s compulsive behavior. Worse, Maisie worries obsessively about bad things happening to her pregnant stepmom. Katie has the power to help, but can she reconnect with the family she abandoned?

To protect Maisie, Katie must face the fears that drove her from home, accept the possibility of love, and risk exposing her heart-wrenching secret.

Doesn’t her new book sound good?! Now, on to the Five Questions:

When faced with setbacks or rejection with your writing, what was something that made you push through?

More writing. I’m blessed to be someone who can write through anything, provided my iPod is playing a song that speaks of my character’s emotional state. However, I also believe in my mantra: “Let writing be the cure.” Writing is how I process the world, how I make sense of negative emotions I don’t want to own, how I write myself into a better story. I have to keep writing—it doesn’t matter what or how much. Book launch has derailed my current manuscript, but this Q & A is today’s writing fix. Thank you!

Glad to help, Barbara! What methods do you use to balance the quiet life a writer needs to work with the necessary business of being a person with friends, family, and social responsibilities?

What is this balance of which you speak?

I aim for daily structure, which means I safeguard my morning writing hours, schedule appointments for the afternoon, and put off author business until the evening. Every Friday I clock off at 5:00 p.m. to drink and chat with my BFF; domestic chores get crammed into weekend afternoons; and Saturday evenings are family movie night. In addition, I fly back to England twice a year. On those trips, my time belongs to my aging mother, but I keep my pre-breakfast writing routine and turn the flight home into a writing retreat. Sounds like I have it together, right?

Here’s the reality: I have a middle-aged brain, I’m a delinquent friend, and things derail quickly in my corner of the sandwich generation world. Right before ECHOES OF FAMILY was due to my editor, for example, my mother fell and was hospitalized. For six weeks. To make life more interesting, she was in a public ward with no cellphone, and my sister was on vacation. Instead of going down the rabbit hole with my manuscript, I became the point person for an ongoing crisis across the Atlantic. And did I mention that my 102-year-old father-in-law falls constantly and has psychotic episodes? Deep breaths, Barbara.

Thankfully, I have loyal friends, and my husband and son are amazing. Both my guys struggle with obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), which adds a heavy layer to family stress, but I couldn’t do this without their unconditional support. I brainstorm with them constantly, and they provide feedback on various drafts. That support is mutual. If one of them says, “I need you to do this,” I do it.

Somehow it works, since I have five published novels. But I have horrible guilt whenever I hear my husband say, “I don’t really see Barbara. She’s always upstairs in her office.”

What is your morning routine? 

Every weekday, my alarm goes off at 6:00 a.m. Sometimes I lie in the dark for a few minutes and think about the scene I’m going to work on, but after grabbing coffee and getting washed, I’m at my desk by 6:30 a.m. The first thing I do is boot up my computer and manually turn off the Internet. The next two hours are my favorite time of the day. The house is quiet, and I do nothing but write. I stop to get breakfast, check email, and do a fly-by on Facebook before turning the Internet back off. Then I write until lunchtime, when I shower and sometimes exercise. I don’t set my alarm on the weekends, but I still write for a few hours first thing. My mornings, seven days a week, are for writing, and when something messes with that I get twitchy. And a tad unpleasant.

What’s your favorite form of exercise? (And on the flip side, what’s your favorite way to be lazy?)

Gardening or any form of yard work. My New Year’s resolution was to get back on the treadmill EVERY DAY, but I have failed miserably with that goal. My favorite way to be lazy? Sit on the front porch with a gin and tonic—during the gloaming—and listen to the birds in the forest. (In the summer, I watch the hummingbirds on my garden.)

Do you have any go-to methods for eating well? (And on the flip side: what are your food vices?)

The temptation to graze is ever-present (the downside of working from home). However, I drink tons of still water or Perrier, which stops me from snacking between meals. As for my foodie vice—easy! I’m a chocolate fiend, but I make this deal with myself: if I don’t eat chocolate on Monday or Tuesday, I can have a mid-morning chocolate break every day. In England, we call that elevenses. Yum.

Thank you to Barbara Claypole White for bringing her humor and candor to leahferguson.net–and for giving Leah a good excuse to get to hang out with her again, even if only through email. The Promise Between Us can be purchased through Amazon, Barnes and Noble or Indiebound (and as always, if you can take a moment to leave a review on a book you’ve read and enjoyed, it is very much appreciated!).

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