Another Column at MyShelf.Com

Beneath the Covers
A Romance Column

June Wedding, Must Haves, and an interview with Barbara Raffin

Many couples dream of getting married in the month of June. There is something magical about a June wedding.  Why?  Who knows exactly, but June is the "in" month if you are planning a wedding.  Where does a person even start to begin to plan the fairy tale wedding they have always dreamed about for years?  I hope thaty, with my internet research I can help get you started in the right direction to turn all your dreams into a reality.

Brides Magazine
This magazine lists every known topic and latest fashion and accessories you will need for your special day.

Check Sheets and Last Minute To-Do List
You've got a lot to keep track of so, this link is a must-have to your favorite bookmark list.

Horoscope & Fun
While you are planning you event, take some time out to click on this fun wedding category.

Photo Gallery
Hairstyles, flowers, dresses, cakes and more all be found in the extensive photo gallery.

Wedding Bells
From the makers of Wedding Bells Magazine of Canada, this gorgeous site gives you hints, stories and ideas from the wedding professionals

     For the month of June, I had the privledge of sitting down with Barbara Raffin and discussing her book The Indentured Heart.  I discovered Ms. Raffin's heartfelt writing in her book The Indentured Heart. Her characters had suffered so much, it was only fitting they deserved a happy ending.  Her Characters and plot were masterfully crafted. Her writing style is polished to perfection, it will stand up flawlessly to anyone in the romance industry.  I am sure any true romance reader would appeciate the depth of emotion she exhibits in her writing style. 

Writing with A Style Fresh As A Spring Breeze
Interview with Barbara Raffin

     Suzie Housley:  Barbara, tell us about yourself. What was your growing up years like?

Barbara Raffin: Somehow, I don't think I'll ever be done. But my childhood was spent in the country with very few neighbors and a large gap in age between me and my brother and sister, which meant I had to rely on my own imagination to occupy myself. I could do no wrong in my father's eyes and I picked up my mother's love of reading. My parents made me feel loved, secure, and capable of anything...even though they didn't always know which tools to give me to attain my goals. For instance, they once bought me a chemistry set for Christmas because I was always asking "why" and they thought that was a scientific question. It's not. It's a psychological question. 

But they encouraged my reading by making sure I always had a book shelf on which to stack my book collection and by never censoring what I read. As a result, I read a very broad range of topics and I developed a true love for books. 

Suzie Housley: Please tell us how you developed the idea for The Indentured Heart and share a bit about how the story was created. 

Barbara Raffin: I'm a very practical person and I had done volumes of research for another American historical.  SoThe Indentured Heart grew out of leftover research.  Though, my previous book had nothing to do with shipbuilding, as IH does, and was set during the American Revolution instead of prior to it...which meant more research, and it was set along coastal Colonial Virginia instead of the furthest west of the British outposts...yet more research.  But the actual story first came to me in an image of a woman's black sleeved arm raised, her hand pointing.  I had no idea where she was or what she was pointing at.  So I forgot about it...until it came back to me and I saw she was in a black, hooded carriage.  The next time the image appeared, she was pointing toward a man on the "auction block," saying, "I'll have him."  That was my kind of woman.  She turned out to be Megan McCall, a lady shipbuilder who'd been crippled by a carriage crash and needed a strong man to carry her about and that man turned out to be Royce Devlin, convicted pirateer who'd been sold into indentureship.

Suzie Housley: Was ebook format your first selection when you were selecting a publisher for The Indentured Heart ?

Barbara Raffin:  The funny thing is I kind of forgot to query the traditional pubs first with IH, at least with the latest incarnation of the book.  A proposal from the first version did go to Pocket Books several years ago.  I can't blame them for rejecting the story.  Poor Megan suffered the Perils of Pauline in that version.  I don't recall sending the second incarnation of IH to anyone.  But the third, its improvements prompted by my discovery of the power of dialogue, went to my agent in the mid nineties.  But she wasn't enthused about the book and we shelved it...until I wanted to sell another book to Awe-Struck eBooks.  Awe-Struck had done a phenomenal job selling my first book, Wolfsong. So I dusted off IH and sent it to them, certain my crippled, bitter, whiskey drinking heroine would find a home with them.  Editor/owner Kathryn Struck emailed me before she'd even finished IH that she wanted the book. I never even considered sending that final version to any publisher other than Awe-Struck.

Suzie Housley: Do you find that publishing firms tend to not have an open mind about a character with a disability? 

Barbara Raffin:  Since I explored so few publishers with IH and the one I sold IH to happened to have started their publishing business by specializing in books with disabled characters, I can't really say I've encountered that problem.

Suzie Housley: Do you consider ebooks will one day out sell print books? Or do you think they will share an equal place in the book industry. 

Barbara Raffin: I'm hoping to see a day (soon) when ebooks share an equal place in the book industry. I love books and would hate to lose the "printed" page all together.  But I personally love reading on my Rocket Reader so much I wish all the novels I want to read would come in electronic format.  I can make the font size comfortable for my eyes and the text is always perfectly backlit. 

Industry wide, I see great potential in the economy of ebooks.  Think of how much paper could be saved if text books alone were published in electronic format.  Old editions could be upgraded with a simple download.  Misprinted facts? Likewise repaired with a simple download. As a bonus, no more heavy book bags or book filled backpacks weighing heavily on young, developing backs.

One area in which epublishing shines is its ability to publish riskier books, books that traditional publishers are afraid to publish because they don't fit into a ready-made niche, books they don't quite know how to market, books that push the envelope such as The Indentured Heart with its roll reversals between hero and heroine. Traditionally, it's the heroine who's the servant and the hero who's wounded and drinks too much.  Epublishers can and do take risks primary print publishers don't, the result being novels with characters who work in untraditional jobs, have disabilities, and might be older/bigger/bolder/brassier/etc. There's also greater freedom in the historical genre with time periods and locations. When paranormals fell out of favor with the traditional publishers, epubs were more than happy to pick up the slack.

Suzie Housley: How long does it take you to research and write a book? 

Barbara Raffin: I'm actually lazy about research...which may account for why I write mostly contemporaries. That said, research on my first historical (an American Revolutionary set in what is presently Michigan) started with a vacation stop at an archaeologically reconstructed fort which "spoke" to me. Six weeks later, I returned to do serious research which included revisiting the fort and entrenching myself in the local library to read through volumes and volumes of published papers by the territorial governor of that time period. Since I knew nothing about the period beyond what I'd learned in school, I spent months reading about the politics of the era, fashion, how goods were transported to an isolated outpost, indigenous Indians (every tribe is different), and old diaries. One of my favorites was written by a trapper who actually documented some of the language of various tribes. A year into the project, I returned to the old fort and interviewed a park service historian. That from a lazy researcher. 

But, once the research sucks me in, I get excited about what I'm discovering.  In the process of researching that book, I learned about heroic women who actually existed and impacted the American Revolution and all that somehow led to Megan McCall, lady shipbuilder...even though she turned out to be a pre-revolutionary woman. Of course, her being a shipbuilder meant I had to then research the shipbuilding process, shipbuilding locations, types of wood used in shipbuilding (of which there are a lot more than one would imagine), and what kind of people she would have to work with. Of course, being pre-revolutionary, I had to research politics and laws of that era (which held some surprises for me such as it being legal at that time and in that area for slaves to be educated). Being that she was crippled, I had to research how doctors would have dealt with her injuries and what, if anything, anybody knew about rehabilitating her. Then there was my hero who'd been convicted of pirateering and sold into indentureship. Remember that early image I had of my hero on the auction block?  That was not commonly the way white indentureds were sold as they could too easily blend in with a crowd and run off. So they were sold off the ships unless slave drivers or the sort bought them up and drove them inland for sale. All in all, I probably was able to cram the additional research forThe Indentured Heart into about a six month period.

All this talk about research is making me nostalgic.  I just may have to research another historical just so I can discover more goodies about the past.  At the very least, I need to revamp that first historical and find a home for a book I've been told is too historical to be a romance and too romantic to be an historical.  Bless epublishing for giving such books an outlet.

Suzie Housley:Do you do a lot of reading (for pleasure as opposed to research)? 

Barbara Raffin: I prefer pleasure reading, which I always seem short on time to do. But I seem to be an obsessive collector of research books...which for me means everything from antique furniture to Zen Buddhism. I LOVE books about things, places, and what makes human beings tick.

Suzie Housley: When did you realize that you wanted to be a writer? 

Barbara Raffin: I listed wanting to be a writer as my secret ambition on a freshman high school questionnaire, though I don't recall ever having thought about it prior to that.  However, I did write my first book at age 12 because the adventure books I loved didn't have female leads in them, so I wrote my own. 

Suzie Housley: Do you write full time, or part-time?

Barbara Raffin: I'm fortunate that I can "afford" to write full time.  No, I'm not rich.  I'm just frugal.

Suzie Housley: Describe what a normal writing day consists for you? 

Barbara Raffin: My preference would be to get up and stumble from my bed to my computer. There's nothing better than starting your writing day while still in that half awake state. But I have a dog who is still a puppy at age four and she insists on twenty minutes of outdoor playtime every morning. That's EVERY morning, through rain, hail, sleet, snow, or humidity thick enough to cut. After that, I get to turn on my computer and write for the morning...providing I can resist the ringing phone, the retired husband wandering through my office, or the call of the email. Afternoons I generally use for household chores, running errands, and socializing. Evenings I use for the "business" of writing (answering emails, making promo items, researching/surfing the net, etc)...unless it's Thursday. Nobody gets between me and my TV while Survivor, CSI, and ER are on.  On Wednesdays, it's West Wing and Mondays, Everybody Loves Raymond.

Suzie Housley: Do you find certain themes cropping up in your writing? 

Barbara Raffin: I find most of my heroines identify with their fathers, probably because I had a strong bond with mine.  Also, most of my heroines seem to need to loosen up. Maybe that comes from my being a Capricorn. We are born old and grow younger as the years pass. I expect some day I'll be found curled up in a fetal position sucking my thumb. This practical Capricorn also likes to live vicariously through her heroines' risk taking. 

Suzie Housley:  What do you hope your readers will come away with after reading your stories

Barbara Raffin: I love novels that take hold of my heart and put me through a roller coaster ride of emotions, so I hope readers come away from my books with an emotional high. 

Suzie Housley: Of all of your books you have published which one is your favorite? Why? 

Barbara Raffin: That's kind of like asking a mother which of her children is her favorite. Each of my three published books are favorites for their own reason. Wolfsong gave me my first experience at being published and what a rush it was to discover strangers were actually reading my work and becoming fans. It also taught me readers just want a good story. Time Out of Mind is the book I used to call my favorite because it was all emotion and feeling. It was a book that came through me rather than from. I love its gothicy mood. The Indentured Heart taught me to use dialogue. In IH's earlier incarnations, my characters spent a lot of time fighting inside their heads. Once I let them speak their thoughts, Megan's and Royce's story soared. IH also introduced me to the best villain I've ever written (the nasty overseer Jubal Toombs), my two favorite secondary characters (the loyal lady's maid/slave Jaisy and her husband, the angry, proud, Dunn), and a hero I love and respect and a heroine whose strength made me want to weep for all it cost her. 

Suzie Housley: You certainly do such a wonderful job in keeping the reading spellbinding, how do you go about developing your characters and plots? 

Barbara Raffin: Thank you for the compliment. I'm a very character driven writer who has always had a fascination with why people do what they do.  So I approach character development from a psychological perspective.  Why do they do what they do?  What will happen if this challenge is presented to them or that obstacle is put in their path. Though my characters have a knack for putting up their own obstacles, which I suspect is why their development is satisfying. Their problems grow out of their own weaknesses and are resolved by their own strengths. In romance, in character driven stories, I believe this is key to satisfying plot development. For the writers who are reading this interview: Let each of your characters state his/her goal, make it clear why he/she wants what he/she wants, and the story will grow out of all the conflicts to their achieving or changing those goals. Give them a reason to grow and make them suffer along the way.

Suzie Housley: Is there any book in particular based on facts, which actually happened based on instances in your own life? 

Barbara Raffin: None of my books are based on actual personal experiences. Though the more I write, the more I use my experiences in my books. One of my as yet unfinished books involves a little boy who's fixated on the Wizard of Oz. His dialogue is based on phrases my grandnephew used during his fixation with the Wizard of Oz. His mother, my niece, has been over-heard warning other relatives to be careful what they talk about as what they say may wind up in my next book. 

Mostly, personal experience works into my stories as an idea for the story, or a detail such as the setting for Wolfsong. I spent many vacations as a kid with my family at this wonderful two-story log cabin on Lake Gogebic in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. I loved that cabin so much, I always knew it would be in one of my books and Wolfsong was the perfect story for it. Also, when I wrote Wolfsong, timber wolves were just beginning to migrate back into the area, which prompted the idea for my story to be set against a wolf repopulation project. I could describe wolf/canid behavior accurately because I'd done animal behavior seminars as a hobbyist dog trainer (I've trained three of my dogs through better than a dozen obedience and agility titles).

The idea for Time Out of Mind grew from a presentation given at a workshop by another writer. Her comment simply spurred my imagination. Making TIME's hero Michael Archer a chainsaw sculptor came from seeing a local wood carver sculpt black bears from logs with a chainsaw. Thus, the "begging bear" in my story.

Suzie Housley: What are your future writing plans? We would love a preview of what is to come next.

Barbara Raffin: I just finished a contemporary romantic suspense with a sci-fi twist involving a hero who's an alien clone.  Think "Starman" meets "The Terminator", but without the blood and gore. But I'd also like to go back to that first historical I wrote set during the American Revolution at the furthest west of the British outposts and rework that one.

Suzie Housley: Is there anything that we havenít covered that you would care to share with us? 

Barbara Raffin: You asked such good questions, I can't think of anything else except thank you.

Suzie Housley: On behalf of everyone at, I wish you much success in your future writing career. It has been a pleasure reading/reviewing your book and conducting this interview.


The Indentured Heart
By Barbara Raffin
Awe-Struck eBooks - 2002
ISBN: 1587493284  - eBook
Historical Romance

Buy a Copy
Read an Excerpt

Reviewed by Suzie Housley, MyShelf.Com

Madness is in the eye of the beholder . . .

     Controversy surrounds the Mistress of Hillhouse, Megan McCall, concerning the death of her husband and her unborn child. The carriage accident not only claimed the lives of her family, but also left her crippled and unable to walk. It is rumored that she was responsible for the horrific crash that sent the carriage plunging over the embankment that left death and destruction in its fiery path. The new widow’s sole survival rests heavily upon the shipbuilding business she inherited from her father’s untimely death—believed to be from the hands of ruthless pirates. She is determined to make a success of the failing business and refuses to allow her inability to walk to slow down her progress. She purchases the indentureship of Royce Devlin. Royce’s primary duty will be to use his apparent strength to carry her wherever she needs to venture. He will provide her the means of portability to live her life as normally as possible. How will she feel when she learns of the crime that earned him his indentureship?

Looks can be deceiving . . .

     Royce Devlin had been condemned to serve in Newgate for the crime of pirating. In exchange for his prison sentence, he agreed to serve fourteen years as an indentured servant. He finds himself placed upon a ship bound for America. Upon reaching his destination, he is surprised to learn his papers were bought by a frail looking woman. Closer inspection reveals Megan McCall is not the timid woman he first envisioned her to be, in her eyes he sees a hard look of determination and a spark of madness. Could he convince her to trust him enough to allow him the opportunity to rescue her damaged heart? Or would he be putting his own life in danger?

     Barbara Raffin has written a superb historical romance. Her plot is loaded with intriguing elements of mystery, suspense, and a double portion of love and romance. I found her characters to be very well developed and very easy to adapt to their many challenging conflicts. Ms. Raffin is a writer with a fresh voice that sparkles like crystal water. Her eye opening approach to writing is sure to set the romance industry on fire!

2003 Past Columns

Barbara Raffin
© MyShelf.Com. All Rights Reserved.