Today we sit down with award-winning author P. S. Bartlett to talk about her work, her other creative pursuits and her inspiration.
Please enjoy 20 questions with P. S. Bartlett
Q1) When did you first realize you wanted to be a writer?
That’s a tricky question. I’ve been writing stories and poems since I was a little girl, starting with homemade greeting cards and children’s books. The children’s books I would illustrate myself and bind them with construction paper and yarn. Obviously they didn’t last very long but as time went on, I went more in the direction of my art than my writing. I have always wanted to write a novel though. It just took me a lot longer to get around to it than I had planned.
Q2) How long does it typically take you to write a book?
FIREFLIES took me about six weeks of steady writing but the total amount of time was three months. Included in those three months was editing, rewrites and research, which was an absolute must before I felt it was ready to be queried. I’d say three to four months is about the average.
Q3) What is your work schedule like when you’re writing?
My life is non-stop. From the time I wake up at 6:45am, I am on the go during the week. I work full time as an office manager, then I come home at around 5:30 and help my daughter with her three little girls; my lovely and amazing granddaughters. They are Esme, six years old and two and half year old twins, Scarlett and Harper. Needless to say, I normally do not sit down until about 9:00pm. From there, I grab a cup of coffee and get to work. When I’m writing a novel, I write almost every night, between three to four hours. During that process, I normally sleep only about 5 hours per night and try to catch up on the weekends.
Q4) What would you say is your interesting writing quirk?
I’m probably the most boring writer ever! I really don’t have any except for just being comfortable.
Q5) How are your books published? (traditional, indie, etc.)
My first three novels were published with Ravenswood Publishing formerly GMTA. Wanting to have more control over the process and release of my novels, I resigned from them a year ago and have been self-publishing ever since.
Q6) Where do you get your ideas for your books?
Since I started, the ideas have come from topics that I find interesting. However, my stories are mostly character driven. Yes, they have objectives and conflicts and action and even adventure but I pride myself on creating characters that come to life and get inside your head as if they are real people. I hear their voices, see their faces and love them, even the bad ones.
FIREFLIES started with Ennis inside my head telling me to write his story. I started with him and built everything around him. With THE RAZOR’S ADVENTURES PIRATE TALES, I started with Ivory Shepard. She did the same thing to me. “Tell my story!” Therefore, I did.
Q7) If you don’t mind sharing, when did you write your first book?
I wrote my first full length novel in 2012 and it was published in the spring of 2013. I was 49.
Q8) What do you like to do when you’re not writing?
REST! No, seriously, I love to read, paint, draw, spend time with my family and friends and watch all of my DVR’d shows and movies.
Q9) What is your favorite book?
I love TO KILL A MOCKING BIRD but if you placed it in front of me next to PRIDE AND PREJUDICE, I don’t know which one I would pick up first.
Q10) What do your family and friends think of your writing?
They love it. They think it’s exciting and brave and they all support me completely. They of course want me to take this to the next level which is my plan this year but they truly have been my inspiration, as well as some author friends who are like soulmates.
Q11) What was one of the most surprising things you learned in creating your books?
I had no idea what I was doing. I can look back and laugh now but when FIREFLIES was finished, I sat back with a big grin, feeling so accomplished and then suddenly, that grin slid into an expression of terror. I hadn’t the slightest idea what to do with it!
I immediately went online and began researching publishing, which took another month. I spent hours upon hours researching, joining peer groups and web sites in search of knowledge. I also found several writers who were incredibly supportive. They opened their arms to me and answered my questions with so much generosity and wisdom. I was also already starting my social networking. If you’re self-publishing and haven’t started a blog, web site and/or began to establish a social media presence, you need to get on that now.
As far as the writing process, as Ygritte said in Game of Thrones, “You know nothing John Snow.” I just wrote. I just sat down and wrote until I was finished. I’m a story teller. I figured I’d sort out the rest later and with a lot of help, I did just that.
Q12) What do you hate most about the writing process?
Nothing. I love every bit of it. (Lies, all lies)
Formatting. I hate formatting.
Q13) How many books have you written? Which is your favorite?
I’ve written six novels, one of which was co-written with Ronovan Hester, and one novella which is a short prequel to THE RAZOR’S ADVENTURES PIRATE TALES.
I’d have to say I’m torn between FIREFLIES and DEMONS & PEARLS but only because they are so different.
Q14) Do you have any suggestions to help us become better writers? If so, what are they?
Write a lot. Read a lot and get a thick skin. If you can’t take criticism, get out now while you still can or learn to build those callouses fast.
Find a few writer friends who you respect and read their work. If it’s awesome, offer to read for each other and if they are great and you know they are, take their criticism and be humble. Learn to accept it when they tell you something needs work. Don’t worry about the rules because there are none except for the mechanics; grammar and perspective. Writing perspective is very important. You know who is speaking and who isn’t. You need to make sure your readers know too.
Q15) Do you get feedback from your readers much? How and what kinds of things do they say?
Yes and it’s wonderful. I’ve received hand written letters and cards, wonderful posts on my Facebook pages and emails as well. Normally they tell me very nice things but I have had a few who weren’t feeling some of the more intimate parts of one of my books. My books aren’t romance novels although there are romances in them if that makes sense. Sometimes they have sex. Some people are put off by that and I respect that fully. Otherwise, I’ve probably had about 90% positive feedback.
Q16) What is your preferred reading audience?
For the FIREFLIES series (two books so far), I’d say young adult to 100 years old. For the RAZOR’S ADVENTURES, I’d say a more mature audience. There are sexual situations and a lot of violence.
Q17) What do you think makes a good story?
There are many things that make a good story but to name a few, I’d have to say connecting with the characters and caring about them, conflict, emotion, flow, and taking the reader out of the real world and bringing them into the story. However, a good story depends on the readers’ tastes and what interests them as well. For instance, a reader who enjoys fantasy and science-fiction might not be drawn into a story about a beautiful black horse or a family of young girls coming of age.
Q18) As a child, what did you want to do when you grew up?
I wanted to be a famous artist who traveled the world painting quaint side-streets and people enjoying a cup of coffee in charming cafés. I wanted to paint portraits of world leaders and ride horses all day on Sunday. I wanted a house by the ocean so I could sleep on the beach all day or read a great book and have lots of cats and dogs. No wait, I still want that!
Truth: I wanted to be a fashion designer. It didn’t work out. Too long of a story for this interview but as John Lennon said, “Life is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans.”
Q19) Where can we find your books?
For now, Amazon.com and Createspace.
Q20) Will you give us an excerpt from one of your favorite works?
Oh I thought you’d never ask!!!
This particular scene has received some very good attention and reviews. I may be giving a lot away here but it’s just us right? You won’t tell anyone, will you?
DEMONS & PEARLS
I could hear him breathing deeply as he stood behind me. He stopped and tossed the blanket back on the bunk and picked the lantern up from the table. I stood like a statue as he studied me. I could feel the warmth of the lantern as he drew it closer to my skin. “What the devil are you doing now, Razz?”
I peeked back over my shoulder and watched him. He was passing the lantern over and across my back. I flinched when I felt that tender touch of his as he brushed the long white waves of my hair away from my shoulders and I heard him release a sigh.
“It isn’t as bad as it looks,” I whispered back to him. “Look at this,” I said as I started to turn around so he could see the worst one of all on my right hip but he sat down the lantern and turned me away from him by the shoulders. “Razz, really? Stop being so shy.” I chuckled at him until I turned again and looked up into his eyes. Had I not known better, I would have sworn they were glazed over with tears.
“I’m alright. I promise I am. I just bruise very easily. This one is rather tender to the touch though.” I twisted until the lantern light shined on my hip bruise. He refused to look.
I reached up and dared to achieve what I’d been longing to do since the first time I’d watched him do it—I laid my hands on his beard. I hesitated with some subconscious fear that once I’d done this, my hands would forever bear the blisters. The warmth permeated my palms but the burning I experienced was radiating from somewhere well beneath my chest. I’d never in my life felt such an ache. I pushed it down and away and focused my attention on his glorious eyes as they finally met mine.
“I don’t believe God created such a beautiful sight as the female form for it to be abused so,” he whispered to me as I caressed his face.
“Don’t look at me then, I told you. Come on, I’ll sit in the chair and you can just pretend I’m a man and cut away.”
At last, I felt his hands upon me. He was stroking and petting my hair as I ran my thumbs repeatedly down his beard. He ran his fingers again and again through my hair as if he were saying goodbye to it and then let it fall against my back. “This wasn’t supposed to happen, lass,” he said as he closed his eyes. I was suddenly amazed. Here I was completely bare and yet I had only felt uncomfortable about my wounds. The same wounds he had ignored my nakedness to examine.
“Nothing has happened or will happen. Just cut my hair,” I said softly as I finally withdrew my hands and stepped away from him. I walked to the chair and sat down, and picked up my razor. The ache I had felt moments before returned with a vengeance while he stroked my hair and stared into my eyes but I denied it. I was confused and torn and even a little frightened all of the sudden. I thought of how he’d made me feel so special one minute and so ordinary the next. The way he’d brushed me off and had treated more as some sort of pet and then so lovingly stroked my hair. How could my body be betraying me so? I was telling him nothing was happening and my body was crying out from deep inside for him to touch it.
When he at last took the razor from my hand, he held it for a moment and then tried to hand it back. “No, Razz. Please, just do it.”
He picked up my glass and downed what was left of the rum in it and I closed my eyes.
“Please stay as still as you can. I’m not a barber as you can clearly see.”
“I used to shave my uncle with that razor remember? If you miss any spots, I’ll find them.” I smiled, still with my eyes closed tight.
I felt his big hands gathering my hair together at the back of my neck. It tickled a bit but I forced myself to remain still. I heard Rasmus swallow hard and I could hear the strands shear apart as he pulled the razor straight through my hair just above his fist. I opened my eyes as his hand moved forward in front of me and laid no less than fifteen inches of my hair on the table in a clump.
I reached back with my hand and for the first time since I was a small child, I didn’t need to brush my hair out of the way to touch the back of my neck. “My goodness, how much lighter my head feels,” I exclaimed. “Please, keep going. It’s fine.”
Rasmus did not speak throughout the entire process. He sighed with every clump of hair he removed and sat them neatly atop the first big cut until he finally felt it was close enough to my head to shave the rest. He gathered his shaving tools and used soap to create a thick lather in his cup with the shaving brush. Those huge but gentle hands gave me such a sense of safety that I knew he wouldn’t hurt me or even nick me.
“It’s finished,” was all he said as he rinsed everything out in a bowl of water and began to gather up all of my hair.
“What are you going to do with it?” I turned around in my seat and asked him.
“I have no idea,” he said as he stuffed it all into a small sack and tied it closed.
I stood and swept as much of the tiny bits of white hair off of my body as could find and walked back to the mirror on the book shelf. I stared at my reflection as if I were looking at a stranger. My hand flew to my mouth and I gasped when I touched my scalp for the first time in my life. “Oh my God…” I whispered and felt Rasmus walk up behind me.
He placed the blanket around my bare shoulders and I felt his lips press through his beard and touch the back of my head. “Are you alright, lass?”
“I’ll be fine,” I said as I turned away from the mirror. “It’s as smooth as freshly sanded wood that’s for sure.”
“It will grow back and quickly too,” he said as he walked to his bunk and sat down.
“Rasmus, if I ask you something do you promise to tell me the truth?” I asked as I walked towards him, wrapped tightly in his blanket.
“I’ll do my best but I’m getting somewhat uncomfortable with you still walking around in your skin there, lass,” he said as he looked up at me now standing right in front of him.
“Will it work?”
“Oh it works. It’s been wearing me down for an hour now it wants to work so hard.” He chuckled and started to reach out for me and then pulled back his hands and sat them on his thighs.
“You know that’s not what I meant and you’re very funny. I mean, will I pass as a man now?”
“Well…not dressed like this ye won’t. At least I hope not because if ye do, I’m on the wrong side of the fence for good.” He chuckled again. His eyes sparkled and his cheeks were glowing with a blush of rose.
“Somehow I don’t think you’re going to give me a straight answer.” I smiled down at him.
“May I tell you something, Ivory?” he asked as he dipped his head to one side.
“Anything.” I breathed.
“Yer the most beautiful creature I’ve ever had the blessing to behold and if it’s even possible, you’re even more beautiful with no hair at all.”
The ache came rolling back. It grew out from somewhere deep beneath my navel until it burned me from hip to hip. My eyes closed and opened and I was breathing so deeply to release the pressure and fear within my body that the air blasted forth from my nostrils in trembling bursts. My hands clutched tightly at the blanket but I saw what I perceived to be a longing in his eyes. The fear of what could happen next was warring with the fire inside of me and I wanted to throw myself on Rasmus and defeat them both. I’d allowed myself to run wild inside his comfort and safety and in giving up my hair I’d completely lost my head in the process.
“I want to touch you,” he looked up at me and whispered, in a deep and gritty voice I’d never heard before. I finally took his emotions into consideration and imagined he burned as deeply as I did. I couldn’t look away from the hunger in his eyes. Here I’d paraded myself in front of him this way and he hadn’t made one indecent remark and barely hinted that he saw me the way most men looked at women. In all my hate and disdain of men, here sat the only one I believed I could ever want and oh, regardless of any world or King or obligation, I knew he could stamp out this ungodly burn and replace it with a flame that would burn eternally.
I took his face in my hands and nodded down at him. The sincerity in his eyes told me not to fear him and my thoughts immediately conjured images of what pleasures and delights his body could provide. I waited for him to touch me but his hands remained on his thighs. I leaned down and pressed my lips against his for a moment and he pulled away from me. I stepped back and slowly began to peel the blanket away when he reached out and pulled it closed.
“No. Put your clothes on,” he said. He stood and pulled my clothes from the heap on the floor where I’d left them, tossed them on the bunk and turned his big back to me. “I won’t have you like this. You’ll not regret me as you regret so many things in your life. I won’t be a part of that.”
“You said you wanted to touch me and I thought…”
“I want to touch you, hold you, love you and take care of you. I don’t just want your body, Ivory.”
“But, these feelings, Razz. These feelings I have inside for you they’re horrible. They make me want you as a woman wants a man and I…I’ve never felt this way ever. Not in my whole life. Oh God help me what’s wrong with me?” I asked as I tore through my clothes and pulled them on. “You must think I’m some horrible tart.”
“Put your clothes on, lass and I’ll explain some things to ye.”
Once I’d finished dressing, I sat down on the bunk with a thud and put my bald head in my hands. “I thought you liked me. I thought you wanted me. Today at the beach, you said things no one has ever said to me before. I’m a complete fool.”
Rasmus took the chair from the table and pulled it to the bunk and sat facing me. He reached out and took my hands in his and sighed. “Maybe someday I’ll look back on this night and want to punch myself in the head for this but my heart wants ye, little Razor. My heart sings for you. I’d be lying if I said seeing you the way ye were when I walked in before didn’t stir me up. Oh I was stirred up as high as a man can get but a young woman like yourself, well, you’re not some tavern whore to bounce around with for a few hours. Those feelings you’re having are lust girl, not love.”
“What if I don’t know what love is? What if to me, bouncing around a few hours is love?”
Rasmus’ brow furrowed and he lifted my face by the chin to meet his saddened eyes. “Lass, you’re not telling me you been, as we been calling it, bounced around before, have ye? I’ll kill the son of a bitch who took advantage of ye,” he growled.
“No. I only imagined my first time would be with someone wonderful and gentle and kind. Someone with big blue eyes and fiery hair who I don’t have to be frightened of and want to kill.”
“You had my heart jumping out of my chest for a minute there,” he said with a sigh and sat back in the chair. “I’m flattered that you chose me to do the honor but it’s your honor I’m worried about. Mine is fine. You’ll be keeping yours tonight. And what do ye mean who you don’t have to be frightened of?”
“I’m telling you this because whether you believe me or not, and as much as I told you I wouldn’t ever throw my head at you, I do believe what I’m feeling right now is love for you, Razz and it isn’t just my head I’m throwing, it’s my heart. The night the Spanish raided Charles Towne and killed my aunt and uncle, one of them grabbed me and…I’m not a maid anymore.”
“What the devil are you squawking? You most certainly are a maid. What a greasy and disgusting thing to do and to a child no less. If I knew where that good for nothing piece of…” Rasmus’ face turned as red as fire and his fists pounded on his thighs as he spoke and bit his lips closed.
“Cass killed him,” I interjected. “She killed him in the act. I was too frozen with fear to know if well, he’d gone all the way but afterwards, I was certain he did.” I’d hoped my words would give him some relief in knowing my rapist was dead.
“You’re still a maid. I don’t care who or what told ye otherwise. I see ye more now lass than I did walking around here naked. No wonder ye don’t give two shakes about them bruises. Those aren’t the ones that hurt. I do believe I can see right down into you now,” he muttered quietly and lowered his head.
“Yet you still don’t want me,” I felt something tear again inside my soul. All at once the thought came to me that I had so engrained in myself that after what had happened to me that no man would ever want me, that maybe I was to blame for turning all of that pent up rage into my hunger for freedom. I had vowed that no man would ever hurt me again. I swore to myself that no man would have a hand in the decisions I made. I was shaking inside now in the belief that no matter what Rasmus said, whatever feelings he had for me were now scattered to the wind.
He raised his head and dropped it into his hands. “Ivory, if you knew how bad I want ye you’d run out of here and never come back. There wouldn’t be any bouncing in that bunk for a few hours, love. I’d bury you in that bed with so much love, that I’d reach inside of you and tear out every scar, bruise or ache you have, until there’d be nothing left but skin and bone.”
“Then why don’t you do it?” I shouted at him.
“Because I want ye to love me first.”
“But I don’t know what that is, Razz. I only know what I’m feeling inside and it feels like love to me.”
“Well when ye do, you’ll know it and then, we’ll have that first time.”
Suddenly, his head snapped to the side.
“What is it, Razz?”
“Shhh…I thought I heard someone on deck,” he said as he stood and took a few steps.
“Maybe your crew is returning?” I asked as I rose to my feet and stood behind him.
“My crew wouldn’t step so lightly, lass.” His eyes were wild and he snatched his sword from its sheath from where it hung near the door. “Stay here,” he whispered as he rested his hand on the latch but a second later, we heard a loud crash and he bolted out the cabin door.
“Get out here, Ivory! She’s on fire!”
About P.S. Bartlett
Award winning author, P.S. Bartlett (Peggy) has always had a love of books and writing. She also paints and draws and although writing takes up the majority of her free time by choice, she loves spending time with her friends and family.
Her first novel “Fireflies” was published in March of 2013 with GMTA Publishing and her second, “Hope From the Ocean” was published in March of 2014, also with GMTA but she has been self-publishing since 2015.
Peggy’s goal is to become a full time writer and spend the remainder of her days creating worlds, characters and stories that will carry on long after she’s written her last word.
Connect with P.S. Bartlett