Wednesday, September 8, 2021

Barbara O'Neal Interview - Write My Name Across the Sky

Photo Content from Barbara O’Neal

Barbara O’Neal has written more than a dozen novels of women’s fiction, including several Amazon top-sellers. Her award-winning books have been published in many countries, including France, England, Poland, Australia, Turkey, Italy, Germany, Brazil, Israel, and Hungary. She lives in the beautiful city of Colorado Springs with her partner, a British endurance athlete who vows he will never lose his accent.


Why is storytelling so important for all of us?
Stories are what allow us to make sense of the world. Without a story to connect things, everything in our lives is just random, incoherent. As humans, we are wired to try to make sense of that chaos, try to find some order in what would otherwise be randomness. Stories connect us to ourselves, to each other, to the world and all of time. It’s remarkable, isn’t it?

Tell us your most rewarding experience since being published.
I’ve been writing and publishing for a long time, so there are a great many rewarding moments. Emails and letters are always the source of the most gratifying—a woman told me she’d gone back to college after reading one of my novels. I’ve had people thank me for helping them to process a family issue, or a shame issue, or any number of other things. It makes me grateful for the connection writers and readers find with each other.

What are some of your current and future projects that you can share with us?
I’m currently up to my elbows in the revisions for my next book for Lake Union. It revolves around woman who has both mother and father issues, and a man (that very father) who is bigger than life, charming and awful in equal measure. He might be one of the best characters who has ever wandered into my imagination, and I love his daughter Maya, too.

Can you tell us when you started WRITE MY NAME ACROSS THE SKY, how that came about?
It’s funny how stories gel. I’d been noodling around a few things—I’m fascinated by the lives of the flight attendants in the latter half of the 20th century and how their sense of adventure transformed their lives, and how they fights for equality and job security, and I’d been thinking a lot about how hard women have to fight for their dreams.

For some mysterious reason, when I visited the Leonard Cohen exhibit at the Jewish Museum in NYC two summers ago, the entire story rolled itself out as I sat a watched a long, engrossing montage of Cohen singing over the whole of his life. His words, his unlovely voice, his intensity and the flow of time over one man’s face gave space for the book to arise. It was a wonderful experience, and I must say that doesn’t happen very often.

Cohen is mentioned in the book, but he’s no way a centerpiece of the book. New York is, and the flow of time, and lost love, and women trying to make something of the gifts they’re given.

What do you hope for readers to be thinking when they read your novel?
I hope they’re not really thinking, but lost in the story. This was totally my pandemic book—I wrote it while holed up like the rest of the world, and it was my way to escape the sorrows and fear around me and run away to a world where none of that existed. It’s an adventure, and a love story, and ultimately an escape to the most fabulous, arty pre-war apartment on the Upper West Side.

What part of your characters did you enjoy writing the most?
I loved prickly Sam with all of her tics and guarded heart, and Willow’s generous nature, but I really loved writing Gloria, whose Instagram handle is G-L-O-R-I-A. She refuses to turn into some little old lady, and insists for herself and others that you can still feel all the things all your life.

Did you learn anything from writing WRITE MY NAME ACROSS THE SKY and what was it?
I learned a ton about the flight industry in the sixties and seventies. It’s fascinating time—women were struggling to even have a credit card in their own names, and the flight attendants were taking off for trips to Casablanca and Madrid, often having long layovers where they slept in hotels paid for by the airlines. It was a long way from the way flying is now, that’s for sure.

Tell me about a favorite event of your childhood.
Moving to California in the second grade. My grandfather bought a restaurant in Temecula, which was at the time a very small town in the middle of nowhere. He moved my grandmother and uncle and our family followed soon after. I fell in love with the avocado groves and eating lunch outside in courtyard of the school and mostly, the ocean. I’ve never gotten over it, which is why so many of my books have some California in them.

What are 4 things you never leave home without?
Phone, credit card, earphones, hair tie. All the rest can be managed.

What was the first job you had?
I worked at my grandfather’s gas station, pumping gas when full service was still a thing. I could check the oil in most models, and fill the fluids. I remember an old man who had a silver Rolls and he loved to drive in and talk while I filled it up.

Which incident in your life that totally changed the way you think today?
One in particular showed me how badly I’d been indoctrinated by the sexism of my childhood. I was touring a Parade of Homes about twenty years ago, and really fell in love with one of the custom homes. It was very expensive, enormous, with a tower by the stairs that had a waterfall. A waterfall! For some reason, it just caught me, and I heard myself think, “Who is the trophy wife who will live here?”

I stopped in the middle of the stairs and thought, “What the hell? Why would it have to be a wife? Why couldn’t the woman be the person who owned it?”

I was both dismayed and liberated, and it opened the door to my being able to examine the edicts of sexism in my life. (The house, btw, ended up in The Lost Recipe for Happiness.)

If you could be born into history as any famous person who would it be and why?
Vanessa Bell, an artist from the Bloomsbury group, and the sister of Virginia Woolf. She was, in many ways, the soul of the bohemians and I find her fascinating.

First Heartbreak?
Robert Salazar, when I was 15. I thought I would totally die. He was so beautiful and had this amazing smile, and when he held my hand, I thought the sun exploded in unicorn sparks.

Which would you choose, true love with a guarantee of a heart break or have never loved before?
Oh, love, absolutely. Heartbreak can’t erase the joy.

  • Escape. This is a pure, summer escapist read
  • Two heartwrenching love stories, one now, one in the past (sort of).
  • The fabulous, art-filled prewar apartment on the Upper West Side.
  • The greenhouse and rooftop garden of the same apartment.
  • Gloria, the 70-something Instagram influencer and former TWA flight attendant who grows glorious begonias, orchids, and houseplants and shots photos of her “ordinary” life to inspire other women.
  • Billie, her doomed sister, a rock star who met a tragic fate but left behind two daughters.
  • Sam, the oldest daughter, who is prickly and strange, a game designer with a chip on her shoulder and a heart longing so deeply for love.
  • Willow, Billie’s second child, a wildly talented musician who has repeatedly failed to live up to her mother’s legacy—but really doesn’t want to stop trying.
  • A long-ago crime that’s creeping into the present, turning everything upside down
Your Favorite Quotes/Scenes from WRITE MY NAME ACROSS THE SKY
Some of my favorite scenes are the short glimpses into Gloria’s past as a flight attendant, when she was madly in love with a dashing Israeli artist who lived in Casablanca. The pair of them made my skin sizzle—he’s sexy and arty and madly in love, while Gloria is gorgeous and intensely in love, but also determined to keep her freedom.

Another favorite is when prickly Sam, who has a host of allergies and misophonia and is over six feet tall and not at all beautiful, reveals by accident that she’s really in love with a guy—to him. It’s humiliating and heartwrenching, and so very touching. This love story killed me in the best way.

The USA Today bestselling author of When We Believed in Mermaids returns with a tale of two generations of women reconciling family secrets and past regrets.

Life’s beautiful for seventysomething influencer Gloria Rose, in her Upper West Side loft with rooftop garden and scores of Instagram followers—until she gets word that her old flame has been arrested for art theft and forgery, and, knowing her own involvement in his misdeeds decades earlier, decides to flee. But that plan is complicated when the nieces she raised are thrown into crises of their own.

Willow, overshadowed by her notorious singer-songwriter mother, has come home to lick her wounds on the heels of a failed album and yet another disastrous relationship. Sam, prickly and fiercely independent, is on the verge of losing not only her beloved video game company but the man she loves, thanks to her inability to keep her always-simmering anger in check.

With the FBI closing in, Willow’s career in shambles, and Sam’s tribulations reaching a peak, each of the three woman will have to reckon with and reconcile their interwoven traumas, past loves, and the looming consequences that could either destroy their futures or bring them closer than ever.

You can purchase Write My Name Across the Sky at the following Retailers:

And now, The Giveaways.
Thank you BARBARA O'NEAL for making this giveaway possible.
1 Winner will receive a Copy of Write My Name Across the Sky by Barbara O'Neal.