P.S. Barta has been telling engaging stories since childhood, when she often entertained friends and younger relatives with tales of mystery and intrigue. She then enhanced her skills through participation in live theatre, where she was nominated for a local acting award. Her professional life started with positions in visual arts, but soon included writing copy and promotional materials. Diverting into a career in computer support and training, she has returned to her love of stories with the publication of A Case of Intent.
Though she wrote the initial manuscript in 1999, she polished the story after living in Washington, D.C., while attending American University earning a M.A. in producing film and video in 2005. When not promoting her novel, she works as a media producer and freelance writer in the Indianapolis Metro area.
Interview with P.S. Barta
The author was kind enough to answer some of my questions, they must have been good because she said they made her think!
SBR: What made you choose a political thriller setting for your novel?
Barta: I didn’t set out to write a political thriller, the story developed into a political thriller early on as the story started being about lies, betrayal, and secrets – something I was working through in my personal life at the time. When a career in computer support and training ended I knew I needed to keep myself active so I enrolled in college to finish a degree abandoned several years earlier. I took a creative writing class. I was under deadline to turn in a major assignment, but hadn’t written a word, so I went to bed. That morning I was awaken by a police helicopter outside my eighth floor apartment searching the river below and the story started to form. This was 1999 when many were walking around mumbling ‘but he lied’ and a few months after the U.S. did close an embassy in Austria in protest of the Austrian Freedom Party. Facts connected, I tossed in some of my own experiences and love for Washington, D.C., and the story took flight.
SBR: Did you have to do a lot of research in writing the book? And why did you wait 10 years after initially writing the story to seek in having it published?
Barta: I did do a lot of research or self education while writing this book. Since it was started in 1999, before the 9/11/01 attacks, and Internet sites were still new, I could get into the Center on Terrorism Research, CIA, State Department, British military sites, and get in-depth information. During a revision a couple of years ago, many of these sources have been closed down or are just PR. The library also had some books then on weapons, opera, books of names and the like. I also interviewed people with special knowledge as well as started my own poll on people’s thoughts on lies and how we deal with them.
As to why I took 10 years, I tried to secure an agent, or publisher several times between writing ‘the end’ the first time and when New Century agreed to publish it. Then while living in Washington, D.C. in 2003-05, through the Bush presidency, I sensed an undertone of unspoken discontent in the frequency of perceived lies by public figures and media. So I put a film project I was attempting to finance in the drawer and took out “A Case of Intent.” David Caswell at New Century liked it and by the end of the year we had it in print.
SBR: Is Nancy something of a psychic? There was at least 1 reference to her ability that I saw in the book.
Barta: Nancy is spiritually aware, someone who lives her connection with the Universal Infinite or Source (God) and being so is connected to the energy that flows through, around and connects us all, and trusts her inner knowing and ‘real’ dreams. Those who are unfamiliar with this practice may call her psychic. But to me everyone has the ability to connect to this energy, through prayer, meditation and inner listening. Helen and Nancy attend a New Thought service — the winged planet is the symbol of Unity, headquartered in Kansas City, MO. , and the sermon is typical spiritual metaphysics.
SBR: Is Nancy anything like you? and if so, in what ways?
Barta: Actually Nancy and the James brothers have elements of me in their characters. Nancy and I both have dark curly hair, larger frame, and have the ability to ‘connect the dots’ and question the environment around us. The James brother share my propensity to either play totally by the rules or play outside the line if the situation warrants it. However all three are different from me and have their own personalities, reactions, desires. It was strange how I was able to give them a base but soon through the telling of the story they all developed their own identity. Sometimes it felt like they were in the room recounting something they went through and I was only the scribe, the observer to their lives.
SBR: What author(s) influenced you growing up? Did you have a favorite author, if so who?
Barta: When I was young my aunt bought me a card game called Authors. This game was a matching game and each card had an image and bio of notable authors from the ages – Nathaniel Hawthorne, Louisa May Alcott, Charles Dickens, Emily Dickenson, you can guess the list. A decade of two later I started watching movie version of these classic stories. I loved movies from the first one I saw. In many ways movies were the modern literature of the twentieth century. Of course I read some of these and other authors in school, then on my own. For a few years I started to travel a lot and decided to start reading on the plane. I started with the classics – and realized that the movie often didn’t give the book justice – then on to popular authors like Janet Evanovich, Tom Clancy, John Grisham, Dan Brown. Once I decided I wanted to publish, I started reading any first novel I could find. A favorite? No, it is the story and the story telling that I enjoy – the suspension of belief and this fictional dream that is created. If the author can stay true to the reality of their story and how they present it, then I enjoy it, take delight in it, and learn from it.
SBR: Who are some of your favorite authors today? Do they fall into a specific genre?
Barta: Janet Evanovich and Charlotte Hughes for their “Full” series, the zany characters and comedy; I’m an Austin fan – both book and BBC…actually I enjoy the writing of television series, like “Castle” (Heat Wave didn’t live up to the show), the dialogue and characters work with the not too close look at the crime, so the comedy works, but enough mystery to drive the story. I appreciated series like “Gilmore Girls”, “Jag”, “NCIS”, “M.A.S.H.” Not authors who work on the printed page, but good storytelling just the same. Recently, a friend shared Noble Intentions by Katie Macalister, which I found enjoyable and intriguing. I also read a lot of non-fiction and how-to books, for research.
SBR: What advice would you give to aspiring authors?
Barta: Now that I’ve been through the process I understand that writing a novel is about passion – to either tell a story or make a statement or both. So if the would-be novelist doesn’t have a very strong desire to tell the story or make the statement, then he ‘will be writing a book’ for a very long time.
It is good to workshop your work, but you must temper listening to the workshop with following your judgment. Not to say there aren’t rules or requirements for good storytelling, and the first timer should learn to master these before he breaks them. But workshop participants, even the leader (who should be a published author with some significant sales in his library), come from their own skill set and likes. There often is someone who is nervous about sharing and will criticize everyone’s work to make an impression or feel his own worth. So listen, but evaluate their advice, try to understand what the more experienced people tell you.
Once ‘the end’ is written, and at least one revision completed, take a break from the story and clear your perspective. During this time you might want to take seminars, attend conferences, and read books on the publishing industry. This is also when you should plan out for yourself what it will look like if you novel is printed – who is the audience, regional or national, do you see this as a block buster or a quieter first book, are you willing to hold out for a full commercial publisher to pick it up or are you interested in subsidy or self-publishing? The more answers you write out, the easier it is in getting the right agent or publisher, negotiating what you want. When it seems right, go back revise again. Then start looking for an agent or small press. The book will never seem completed, and it is common to want to keep writing and revising, but resist. At some point every parent has to send their child out into the world, the same with a book. Can a book really be called a book without an audience, without having readers?
Now for the Review of A Case of Intent:
From the back of the book: Detesting lies and attempting to change her life, Nancy Drew Peerson is now an intern for Washington National Opera, living in her godparents’ condo in Crystal City, Virginia, and working hard to suppress old habits. However the stranger she meets and events for the Blue Danube Recital will lead her face to face with her past, her identity, and the worst lie of all–the one to herself.
“A Case of Intent” weaves a story set in 1999 Washington, D.C., that follows a woman who has decided to change her life and career by attending a master’s program at American University. Leaving the world of undercover law enforcement, she had developed a disdain for any lie. The story is a dramatic telling of her attempt at transformation on one level, and at another level a study of lies and truth that we all encounter, leading the reader into an examination of truth — both factual and metaphysical — in our daily lives.
Normally I will breeze through books in a day or two depending on my schedule, however this book took a little longer to read (which is not a bad thing!). There are several other story lines that are present in the first half of the book before the various parts start coming together and you get the full picture of what is going on in this novel. This can be confusing if you aren’t paying attention, hence why it took a few extra days to read this book. I liked that the main character, Nancy, was a confident women especially as you learned some details of her past. There is a romance with one of the James brothers that seemed a little crazy at the start of the relationship. The book is set in DC and Nancy is chasing her godparent’s dog and he manages to catch the dog until Nancy catches up. He invites her to dinner in his home and she accepts. While Nancy may have a certain awareness, was this really smart since she just met the man? He could have been a psychopath…which really would have just been another twist to the story. And yes I know, this is a novel and not real life but I seem to get wrapped up in the characters and what they are doing and how I would react if I were in that position.
As the author answered in the above question, there are lies all throughout the book. These lies told to Nancy had an impact on who she was and what she decided to do with her life. The lies also put her and others into unnecessary jeopardy. Because it is a political thriller, some would probably say it is because it was for the security of the nation and others, but at what point does the lying stop? And even if it was to protect Nancy, she is a grown woman that should be able to decide for herself. Other characters realize this towards the end of the book that lying to Nancy just wasn’t a wise move!
I enjoyed the book because it really made me think and try to understand why things happen the way they do in government. While this is a novel, I’m sure that situations like this do happen that the public does not know about. If you decide to read this book, make sure you take your time to be able to understand all of the characters and the various subplots.
Read the first 15 pages here
I am giving away the copy of the book the author sent me to review. The contest is open to any US or Canadian residents and you can enter until April 25th at 12pm CST when I will draw the winner.
Gain an extra entry if you post about this on your blog, just leave that information so I can check it out.