Pro-File: Barb Collins
1. Tell us about your current novel or project.
The newest book out (May 2013) is Antiques Chop, the seventh in the Trash ‘n’ Treasures mystery series that I write under the name Barbara Allan with my husband, mystery writer Max Allan Collins. The books are in the cozy area, but rather subversively so, and we think very funny (Antiques Knock-off won the Toby Bromberg Award from Romantic Times for the most humorous mystery). And Antiques Chop is up for the Nero (Wolfe) award. We are both big Rex Stout fans, so that means a lot to us.
2. Can you give us a sense of what you’re working on now? I’m writing the ninth novel at the moment; the eighth, Antiques Con, will be published next spring – it’s set in New York with a comics convention setting. (When I say I’m writing, it’s because after we plot the book together, I do the first draft without Max, then he expands the book with his input.)
3. What is the greatest pleasure of a writing career?
OMG, I am so not the typical writer. I’m only in the Big Top twirling by my teeth because I have a net below - a writing partner who also makes me feel confident about swinging on the double-trapeze. (I don’t know why I used circus metaphors - I hate circuses.)
4. The greatest displeasure?
Actually parking my butt in front of the computer. But once I get there, I can have fun. Kinda. Sorta.
5. Advice to the publishing world?
Forget the established formulas. Max and I were so lucky that our editor, Michael Hamilton at Kensington, let us do whatever we wanted with the series such as: using an on-going “soap-opera” arc, along with the mystery; a cliff-hanger at the end of each book to bring readers to the next (mystery solved, however); an inside map and cast list; even a handwritten chapter by the protagonist narrator who was in jail without access to a computer. And our lead characters are very flawed – a divorcee on Prozac and her ditzy theater diva mother who is on bipolar meds. The only thing Michaela continues to give us criticism about is not having the murder happen in the first chapter...which we don’t believe is necessary to hold the reader’s attention, and works against getting the cast and the conflicts set up.
6. Are there any forgotten writers you’d like to see in print again?
Yikes. Now you’re going to see my lack of literary knowledge. Nope. I mostly read biographies (and Max Allan Collins, and a few writer friends). I am much more influenced, particularly in my short stories, by the old Alfred Hitchcock Presents TV series. That led me to Roald Dahl, but he’s not forgotten. Is it okay to admit I grew up on Nancy Drew?
7. Tell us about selling your first novel.
I published a short story, “Regeneration,” some years ago that Max and I thought had the makings for a good thriller; it’s about the boomer generation getting old and losing their jobs and not having saved any money, and what lengths they’d go to, to re-invent themselves - basically a sell- your-soul-to-the-devil tale. We had already done a number of short stories together, but writing this book as a team gave us an opportunity to see if the partnership worked in the long haul and if the marriage would hold. It turned out to be a surprisingly pleasant experience. Regeneration has recently been reprinted by Amazon, with a very nicely narrated audio book available.