An Interview with Barri Bryan (Billie and
had a delightful chat with Billie and Herb Houston, aka Barri Bryan,
prolific romance authors. I’ve had the pleasure of meeting
Billie and Herb several times at romance writing conferences, and
even chasing ghosts with them at a haunted hotel in French Lick,
Indiana a couple summers ago.
you’ve ever met Billie and Herb, you know what delightful
people they are. Luckily for romance readers, their love of life
and romance vibrates in their many novels.
case you’ve missed the wonderful news, Billie just took home
an EPPIE for her poetry book BRUSH COUNTRY. Congratulations Billie!
Congratulations on your EPPIE win! I'm so thrilled for you. How
long have you been writing poetry? Is this your first published
book of poems?
BILLIE: Thank you
so much. I had one other book of poems published in 1995. I’ve
been writing poetry since I was a child.
did it feel like to win the EPPIE? What place of honor did you put
it in your house? What was Herb's reaction to your win?
BILLIE: Winning an
EPPIE is wonderful believe me. I was so surprised and so excited.
I don’t have an inkling of what I said when I accepted. I
think Herb was as excited as I was, if that’s possible. The
EPPIE is front and center on the mantle in our living room.
tell us about BRUSH COUNTRY, your award-winning book.
BILLIE: BRUSH COUNTRY
is a collection of poems that vary greatly in style, tone, length,
and content. Their unity is in the setting. Each poem celebrates
the distinctive environment, the ambiguous nature and the paradoxical
people who inhabit the South Texas Brush Country, my unique and
unusual little corner of the world.
you have more poetry books forthcoming? If so, can you tell us a
little about them?
BILLIE: Hard Shell
Word Factory published my poetry book titled CHAPTER AND VERSE in
February of this year. It is a collection of one hundred poems that
have one theme--love. The poems run in length from four short lines
to a poem with twenty verses and 45 lines. The rhyme schemes are
many and varied. The subject matter addresses the charm, the mirth,
the drama, the chivalry, the bliss, the gravity, and the mystery
you know, I've read several of your books and I love them. You and
Herb are one (or should I say TWO?) of my all-time favorite authors.
Please tell us how you came up with the idea for LUCKY, HONKY TONK
COWBOY, and NO ORDINARY HERO. Sarah in Honky Tonk Cowboy fascinated
me. Where did you get the idea for her character? Her situation
is unusual for a romance heroine.
BILLIE: Again, thank
you. We got the idea for LUCKY from a story my father told me about
a young man he knew in the 1920s who, when he had no luck wooing
the young women in his small rural community, went to an orphan’s
asylum seeking a bride from among the three young women there who
had just turned eighteen and were no longer permitted to live at
The plot for HONKY
TONK COWBOY came from a rather heated discussion Herb and I had
about the difference between true love and sexual attraction. We
decided at the onset of the story that our heroine in this story
should be both strong and vulnerable and that she must have suffered
in her adult life some traumatic, life-altering experience. As we
wrote, the character of Sarah evolved and became sharper and more
The idea for NO ORDINARY
HERO grew out of our remembered experiences during World War Two.
share where you got the premise for LUCKY.
BILLIE: Herb and I
both grew up in West Texas. From childhood we were both acquainted
with characters like Lucky, the story’s hero; good-old boys,
salt-of-the earth, somewhat ornery and completely lovable cowboys.
Their paradoxical nature and off-center view of the world fascinates
us both. From that fascination and those recollections, we fashioned
Bryan is your chosen pen name. I love the story of how you chose
it. Would you mind sharing it with your readers?
BILLIE: Back in 1998
when NCP published our first novel, A LOVE LIKE MINE, they posted
on their web site a fairly torrid love scene from the book. Our
younger son has a business in San Antonio. Some of his employees
were pulling up that love scene, reading it and then asking, “Robert,
are these people related to you?”
hippie son got on his motorcycle and rode the twenty-four miles
from San Antonio to our house in record time. He rushed into the
house, took off his helmet exposing his ponytail and then he shed
his leather jacket. I noticed he had a new tattoo on his arm and
a new diamond stud earring his ear. He then told his father that
we, and I quote, “Were embarrassing him publicly.”
When we stopped laughing
we asked him what he wanted us to do. His answer was, “Get
a pen name.”
We did. The name Barri
Bryan is a combination of our two grandson’s names Barry and
tell us about your current NCP paranormal romance, 'Another Time,
Another Place'. It sounds absolutely fascinating. Of course I love
lovers, cursed to wander time in search of one another find, in
their love, the strength to break the curse at last..."
BILLIE: This is our
first attempt at writing a paranormal. It involves elements of time
travel and reincarnation. The story tells how two lovers finally
break the curse that has kept them apart for several millennia.
tell us how you and Herb came to be a writing team and how you work
BILLIE: I began trying
to put a novel together in 1990. I kept calling on Herb for assistance
and advice. He finally said, “If I’m going to help write
this thing, I may as well get credit for it.” We began to
combine what we’d written but it was a long time before we
learned how to make two writings into one cohesive whole.
We often laugh now
and say that we work together apart. We began by sharing an office.
We soon found that was not a good idea. Now we have separate work
spaces in separate rooms. We begin by making an outline for our
story and use that as a kind of road map to guide us.
We usually work individually
in the mornings and compare and discuss what we’ve done over
lunch. If we have revisions or changes we do that in the afternoon.
writing together, you conduct several workshops at writing conferences
and trot around the country. Please tell us about some of your adventures.
(Don't forget the fun times we had at the WRW conference in French
Lick, Indiana at the haunted hotel.)
French Lick a charming place to visit? I don’t think I’ve
ever stalked ghosts before but that was so much fun and a little
scary too. We love doing workshops and we like traveling too. When
we drive we enjoy stopping and visiting historical sites. Once we
got lost and were almost late for a workshop. We flew to a conference
shortly after 9-11. That was scary too.
prompted you to start writing romance?
always read and loved romances. Herb loves and reads westerns. When
we write, we combine elements from those two genres.
writing isn't the first career for either of you. Please tell us
about your other careers previous to this, and concurrent.
BILLIE: For many years
I was a high school English teacher. It was a job I loved. I left
it to care for my parents who were both ill and no longer able to
care for themselves.
Herb taught school
and worked for the Air Force. He’s also an auctioneer. He
loves woodworking and gardening.
write the most wonderful nostalgic books. I adore your Decades romances.
How much research do you put into them? How do you pick such interesting
plots for them?
BILLIE: We do quite
a bit of research before we begin the novel. We try to find some
historical event from a particular decade to serve as a catalyst
for each Decades story. A SINGLE THREAD is set in 1907. The pivotal
historical event for that story was the instigation of a poll Tax
in Texas. That may seem a small event but it pretty much took the
vote from poor voters who couldn’t pay the tax and in so doing
changed the entire political scene.
LUCKY is set in 1922.
The historical event that drives that story is the rise of the Ku
NO ORDINARY HERO is
set in 1945-46. The historical background for it is the aftermath
of a global war.
is your website and your publishers websites?
BILLIE: Our website
Our publisher’s websites are:
ELAINE: Is there anything
else you would like for your readers to know about?
BILLIE: Yes, we have
two new books coming soon from NCP
In April look for A LONG SHADOW, a Decades Romance set in the 1950s.
In 1955 Tyler Carson
celebrates her thirtieth birthday by ending a two-year, going-nowhere
love affair. She is determined that from this day forward she will
live life on her own terms. Then the return of old love and the
upheaval of social change converge to cast a long shadow of doubt
across her firm resolve.
In June look for CANAAN,
a historical romance.
Luke McDade is a drifter
and a hell raiser with no ties and a lust for living. Coral Morgan
is a woman with a past running for her life. Together they begin
a journey to a place called Canaan. But will they ever reach this
Herb like to add anything?
HERB: I’d just
like to say Hello to everyone and a special hello to you Elaine.
Thanks for the interview.
you so much Billie and Herb for chatting with us and letting us
peak into your world. As always, I eagerly await your next story.
Keep them coming, I can't get enough.
by Elaine Hopper, MyShelf.Com
Barri Bryan's charm and wit shines
through this nostalgic tale of post WWII American life as seen through
the eyes of Cara and Rand Williams.
tale of marriage on the rocks, individual and joint growth, is a
psychological exploration of a world torn apart by world war through
the eyes of one family, and one not so ordinary hero who returns
to a world and family alien to the one he left behind before the
world war. Not only has the world changed at large, but his own
world is irreparably changed, perhaps broken. He comes home to discover
that everyone believed him long dead and buried. His father has
died, his mother is remarried, his own son considers him the enemy,
and he has a new half-sister who calls his wife "Mommie",
but worst of all, the wife he has come home to, is promised to another
man, his own cousin.
psychology, and historical detail are expertly woven together to
create this beautiful tale of growth and forgiveness. A beautiful
portrayal of women coming into their own at a time the world needed
strong individuals to march into a bold new future, it is also a
frightening depiction of how heroes who come home to marching parades
have lost their place in society and even their own families. Too
often they have to carve a new niche in order to survive.
Bryan’s magical writing transported me to the 1940s, losing
me in Cara’s and Rand’s angst-filled world. If you’ve
not read this gem, be sure to do so now. Whether you love romance
or history, it is a powerful work of art that is sure to captivate.
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