Thursday, August 1, 2013

11 Questions with Barbara Rogan

We're dusting off our cobwebs and coming out of hibernation to welcome a very special guest today- the lovely Barbara Rogan, author of the newly released A DANGEROUS FICTION.

Jo Donovan always manages to come out on top. From the backwoods of Appalachia, she forged a hard path to life among the literati in New York City. At thirty-five, she’s the widow of the renowned author Hugo Donovan and the owner of one of the best literary agencies in town. Jo is living the life she dreamed of but it’s all about to fall apart.

When a would-be client turns stalker, Jo is more angry than shaken until her clients come under attack. Meanwhile, a biography of Hugo Donovan is in the works and the author’s digging threatens to destroy the foundations of Jo’s carefully constructed life. As the web of suspicion grows wider and her stalker ups the ante, she’s persuaded by her client and friend—FBI profiler-turned-bestselling-thriller writer—to go to the police. There Jo finds herself face-to-face with an old flame: the handsome Tommy Cullen, now NYPD detective.

Early reviews have been absolutely glowing, describing A DANGEROUS FICTION as outstanding, smashing, and, from the New York Post, required reading.

Barbara herself is the author of eight novels, and has also worked extensively in publishing. She started as an editor for a large New York publisher. After moving to Israel, she was the founder and, for 12 years, director of the Barbara Rogan Literary Agency. During that period, she served on the Board of Directors of the Jerusalem Book Fair.

After returning to the U.S., Barbara taught fiction writing at Hofstra University and currently teaches for Writers Digest University and in her own online school, Next Level Workshops, where she also offers editing services to fiction writers. She's a frequent lecturer on both the business and craft of writing and teaches seminars and master classes at writers' conferences.

Barbara, like all of us here at ATWOP, is also a member at the CompuServe Books and Writers Community, and a staff member, giving freely and generously of her time to help other writers practice their craft. Barbara kindly agreed to answer our burning questions about her writing life, her career experience, and her novels, particularly A DANGEROUS FICTION, and, no surprise, she gave us some wonderful answers.

So, Barbara- welcome to All the World's Our Page, and thanks for playing along!

A little from your life experience

1.  We like to start at the start around here. How did your love of words begin, and when did you know you were going to be a writer?

I actually remember when I first thought that I wanted to be a writer. I was about nine, home from school, sick, when I first read A WRINKLE IN TIME by Madeleine L’Engle. I was always a great reader, but that book blew me away; and it came to me then that that’s what I wanted to do when I grew up.

2. You've had many roles in the publishing industry- agent, editor, author and teacher- which has been the most rewarding so far? Which has been the most challenging?

Agenting was the most fun. I got to travel the world, meeting amazing people, and working with books—what could be better? But writing is the most rewarding; it’s what I chose at crunch time. It’s harder, but I enjoy it more than anything.

3. As a teacher of writing, you must encounter a considerable amount of writing that's waiting to be polished to perfection with a bit of extra guidance. What's one of the most common mistakes you see in fledgling novels?

They are many and varied. But learning to write is not unlike children learning to walk, in that everyone goes through the same stages. Problems mastering POV and the many permutations of “Show, don’t tell” are almost universal at the early stages of the writer’s path.

4. Each of those roles must bring you into contact with aspiring writers from all walks of life. If you could give one solid piece of advice to those just starting out, what would it be?

Take the time to learn the craft. Take classes if possible, join critique groups, study writers you admire to see how they do what they do. Write, then revise as many times as it takes. Don’t rush into print just because self-publishing is readily available.

A bit about your writing process

5. We'd love to know about your writing routine. For example, do you write every day? At a particular time, or anytime the mood grabs you? Are there snacks involved? Do you crave quiet, or are you inspired by music?

When I’m actively writing, I try to work every day, 5 days a week. I’m slow to get started; I read the NY Times and do the crossword puzzle, catch up on email, blog comments and Twitter. Once I start working, mid-morning, I don’t like interruptions except an occasional walk, which the dog insists on. But I’ll work for 8 hours or so, then put it away. Don’t listen to music—it distracts me from the voices in my head, unless I tune it out, which sort of defeats the purpose of playing it.

6. Do you fly by the seat of your pants when it comes to plot, either hopping around within the story or writing along in a linear fashion, or do you like to write by an outline?

I plot out the story in as much detail as I can, trusting that I’ll find ways to fill in the holes along the way. Stories often change in the writing, which is when the creative juices really flow, but I still rely on that road map to get me through the foggy stretches.

7. How much of the story comes together for you as you write the first draft, and how much of it really shapes up during edits? Which part of the process do you enjoy the most?

Writing the first draft is pure creation; it’s where you take chances and try things out.  Some things work, some don’t, and with time you get better at predicting. But it’s still important to have fun with that first draft, secure in the knowledge that no one else is ever going to see it. When I’m writing I wake up every morning eager to get to work.

Revising is what gives shape to that mass of material, brings out theme (which for many writers doesn’t even present itself until the book is written), sharpens the dialogue, and much more. Revising’s where the art comes in, and the conscious mind has its say--because a lot of what goes on during first drafts comes from a deeper place.

For me they’re both pleasurable processes, but the first is harder, because you’re creating something out of nothing.

All about your books

8. You've published a number of acclaimed novels over the years- do you have a personal favourite?

Several. I loved writing the new book, A DANGEROUS FICTION—it was really fun to play with a first-person narrator. Among the earlier books my favorites are CAFÉ NEVO, ROWING IN EDEN, A HEARTBEAT AWAY and SUSPICION, most of which, I’m happy to say, have recently been reissued in ebook and paperback formats.

9. Have you ever imagined any of your stories making it to the big screen? Which do you think would make the best film?

I have imagined it, because several of them have been optioned. Of all of them, I think SUSPICION would be the one I’d most like to see on screen, because I like the combination of mystery and ghost story.

10. Tell us all about your latest novel, A DANGEROUS FICTION. We're looking forward to it a great deal.
It’s the story of a literary agent named Jo Donovan, the young widow of the great writer Hugo Donovan, almost as famous for his affairs as for his novels. Jo’s charmed but hardwon life starts to fall apart when she’s targeted by an obsessed writer whose book she rejected. Friends and clients rally around; but as the attacks continue and escalate to murder, she begins to suspect that the person responsible is someone close to her, possibly among that very circle of protectors. At the same time, she’s being assailed on another front. An insistent biographer named Teddy Pendragon is determined to write her late husband’s biography, and his prying undermines the edifice on which she’s built her life, her marriage to Hugo.

11. What are you working on next?

When I finished A DANGEROUS FICTION, I found to my surprise that I wasn’t finished with Jo Donovan, nor she with me. I’d created a character who fascinated me and whose story was not yet fully told. My editor at Viking agreed; so I’m working now on the next Jo Donovan mystery, and planning at least one more after that. I’m also teaching writing workshops on

Thanks so much for having me on the blog, Claire.


And thanks again for joining us, Barbara! We loved your answers and learned even more than we already knew about you and your work, which was a great treat.

You can read the first chapter of A DANGEROUS FICTION here for free (bargain!), and then buy your own copy through any of the sellers linked there.

Find Barbara at: Her website


  1. Dear Barbara and Claire,

    great interview. I can´t wait to read A DANGEROUS FICTION :)

  2. Enjoyed the interview, Claire and Barbara. Dangerous Fiction is moving up in my TBR pile! Can't wait to read it.

  3. Eight hours! I'd love to be able to work on writing for eight hours! Or does that include NYT crossword time? [bg]
    Funny, even after all this time, I still find the drafting the easiest bit. "creating something out of nothing" is fun! It's the editing/beating it into shape that requires dedication and hard work...
    So glad there's another Jo story coming!
    Great interview ladies :-)

  4. Wonderful interview! I'm chomping at the bit to get to ADF, which is waiting impatiently on my e-reader, but I can't get to it until this weekend. *sigh* So looking forward to it!