Between the Pages Past
By Dennis Collins
Barbara D'Amato

If there's one advantage to writing this column that outshines all of the others, it has to be the privilege of interviewing people like Barbara D'Amato. I've admired her work for years and along with legions of others, have always considered her the complete author.

But Barbara is more than just a wordsmith, she is an ardent supporter of the craft and champion of the fledgling author. She works tirelessly to help make conferences beneficial and worthwhile and is always willing to offer encouragement to young writers.

Barbara is a prolific writer with twenty books published. She is best known for her Chicago police procedural stories and especially the Cat Marsala series. She's not afraid of uncharted waters though. Her recent novel, "White Male Infant," travels half way around the world to take on an extremely tough subject, the kidnapping of infants.

Barbara has two children and two grandchildren. She lives with her husband in Chicago where she tends her vegetable garden during the day and rides around with the cops at night.

I caught up to Barbara as she was preparing to leave for a major conference in Texas. She took the time to pleasantly answer every question I threw her way.


DC: How long have you been writing?

BD: About thirty years depending on how you count. I never have known whether to count in or out the efforts you make in college or later that are not persistent.

DC: Was there any author or particular book that inspired you?

BD: I was thrilled with Agatha Christie when I first came on her books many years ago. She was so spare, her characterizations such Rembrandt-clear sketches, just enough and not too much. And of course there's never been anybody else who could plot so fairly and yet so deceptively.


DC: How long did it take you to get your first book published?

BD: It took me about ten years to get my first novel published.


DC: Are you an outliner or do you just start writing?

BD: I outline, but only two or three pages. Over the year it takes me to write a book, the ideas change and grow, as they should.


DC: Your recent novel, "White Male Infant," is quite a departure from your normal Chicago cops theme. Why the change?

BD: The Idea for "White Male Infant" came to me all at once. Suppose you began to fear that the child you adopted as an infant four years earlier was not an orphan, as you had been told? Suppose you came to believe he had been kidnapped from his birth mother? What is your obligation? To keep him in the only family he has ever known? To find his mother who is grieving for him, and return him?


DC: "White Male Infant" addresses a very sensitive subject. Were you concerned about acceptance?

BD: I've been surprised how polarized readers are about "White Male Infant." Some believe that the decision of the central character - the adoptive father - makes at the end is dead wrong, and others are furious with him for not having made that decision earlier.


DC: Was there some particular incident that inspired this story?

BD: My best friend throughout grade school and high school was adopted and my high school boyfriend was also. In those days, they were not allowed to find their birth parents. The question, "Who am I?" always lingered with me.


DC: This novel looks like it took lots of research. Can you tell us about that?

BD: I like doing research. It takes me into areas I wouldn't visit otherwise and I get to meet people in interesting jobs.


DC: How about future projects? Can we look for more Chicago police adventures or will there be more of a potpourri?

BD: I'm working on a book now that takes place in Chicago and involves police officers, but is more focused around the misuse of psychoanalysis.


DC: Any advice for new writers?

BD: New writers need to know you aren't born knowing how to write a whole book. Persist.


DC: Any parting words?

BD: Fiction is Magic. It transports.

2002 Past Columns - Dennis Collins

2002 Past Columns - Susan McBride

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