Interview With Barbara Casey - Author of The Cadence of Gypsies and The Wish Rider

I have had the pleasure of interviewing Barbara Casey before after the release of her true life book on Kathryn Kelly. To read that interview click HERE!

The Cadence of Gypsies and The Wish Rider are the first 2 books in your new F.I.G. (Females of Intellectual Genius) series. Can you share some background on how the idea for this series came about and what readers can expect as you continue to develop new story lines for this series? 

In doing some research for another book, I came across information about the “most mysterious manuscript in the world”—the Voynich Manuscript. For some reason, it reminded me of an orphanage I used to drive by each day on my way to class when I was attending the university in Raleigh, NC. From that, I just let my imagination run amok. In The Cadence of Gypsies, I introduce Dara, Mackenzie, and Jennifer (the three FIGs), all of them orphans, all of them with IQs in the genius range, and all three with special talents. It is through Carolina Lovel, their teacher at the orphanage where they live and go to school, that I bring in the connection to the Voynich Manuscript. In order to help Carolina discover the truth about her own background, they must travel to a little village in Italy where the Voynich was first discovered. That is also where Carolina learns that her own mother is a gypsy.

In The Wish Rider, Book 2 of The F.I.G. Mysteries, I bring back all of the primary characters that were involved in Book 1, but the focus is on Dara, the FIG who is taller than all of the other girls her age and the most outgoing, and her search for her mother who abandoned her in a candy store when she was only three years old. Her search takes the FIGs and Carolina to New York City where they encounter the horrors of a little-known sub-culture hidden beneath Grand Central Terminal.

I am already working on Book 3, and it will focus on Mackenzie, shy with a slight stutter when she becomes nervous or anxious, and fiercely loyal to Dara, Jennifer, and Carolina. Mackenzie, unlike Dara, never knew her biological parents because she was placed in the orphanage when she was born. So her story has complications that will be heartbreaking at times, but will leave the readers filled with joy. I also have plans for Book 4, which will be a total surprise for the readers keeping up with the FIGs.

Book one, The Cadence of Gypsies, offers history, locations in Italy and more than anything, intimate details on the lives of gypsies. What kind of research was required to bring authenticity to each of these areas? 

Review - HERE!

I had traveled to Italy many years ago and actually visited Frascati and the old villa there where the Voynich Manuscript was first discovered. So it was easy for me to create that setting. I also have a copy of the Voynich. For the other things I bring into the story, I did a tremendous amount of reading and was fortunate enough to find some very old out-of-print books on gypsy spells and gypsy culture. I also interviewed a professor who teaches Romany history. In all of the books I write, even fiction, I want to make sure my facts are accurate. I think that authenticates the story and makes it more believable—and enjoyable—for the reader.

Book two, The Wish Rider, holds 2 story lines that alternate - that of Carolina and her three F.I.G's (Mackenzie, Jennifer and Dara) as they search for Dara's mother in New York as well as a parallel story line following Lyuba (a gypsy) in Italy. How do you keep this flowing smoothly for readers so they don't get lost?

Lyuba has a strong connection to the FIGs since she is Carolina’s mother—something they learned when they traveled to Italy in The Cadence of Gypsies. Because Lyuba is a choovihni—a wisewoman—for the gypsy tribe, she sees and feels things that no one else can—even from a long distance. She knows if her daughter, Carolina, is in danger or unhappy. And because Carolina loves “her girls” Dara, Mackenzie, and Jennifer, Lyuba knows when they are in danger or are unhappy as well. Even though Lyuba is in Italy, she knows their fear and senses the danger around them when they search for Dara’s mother. She is a strong link to their survival and will continue to be a factor in their lives.

Do you ever find yourself getting drawn into the storyline and characters as you're writing?

I truly enjoy the journey; sitting down each morning and seeing how the story is going to develop. I get involved with my characters to the point that they live with me – their problems and joys become my problems and joys. As I work on Book 3 in The F.I.G. Mysteries, there are new dangers and new challenges for the FIGs. I find that I am so emotionally involved with them that I literally cry knowing what they have already been through and what they must face. These three orphaned girls who happen to be geniuses are simply trying to make sense of their lives, knowing they can never be like everyone else.

I would love to have you share with aspiring writers a little insight into the hard work and man hours required to produce a quality book. While I know it varies from book to book, approximately how long does it take for you to produce a book - from first concept, through research, to first draft, to finalized manuscript? Once it's ready for the printers, how long does it take before the book is available for purchase? 

Review coming Sept. 6th
Every writer is different, of course, but for me, I spend a great deal of time just thinking about the story and finding suitable characters. I like to know how the story will begin and end, and I like benchmarks in between to aim for once I actually start to write. That is when I also do my research and make tons of notes. By the time I do sit down and start writing, it doesn’t take me long to complete the first draft—maybe six weeks or less. Then I go back and let the characters reveal more of themselves and polish.

When I feel the story is complete, I put it away for a couple of weeks and force myself not to look at it. It is amazing what will pop out when you let a manuscript “rest” for a while. Once I do a final edit on it, I send it to my publisher. From there, it is out of my hands except for proofing the galley and approving the cover. The time it takes to get printed and actually released depends on the publisher’s schedule. Normally, it takes about a year from the time I submit the final manuscript to the publisher and when the book is actually available to purchase.

In addition to writing, you are also a manuscript consultant, represent authors through the Barbara Casey Agency and are a partner in Strategic Media Books. What do you look for when considering new authors? What important tips can you offer on preparing a submission?

I can’t stress enough the importance of submitting quality work. Too often, writers get impatient and submit work before it is ready. It really must be polished. This is true whether the writer is submitting it to an agent or directly to a publisher. Agents, like publishers, usually specialize in certain areas, so it is important that writers do some research and check out agency/publisher websites to make sure they work with the type of manuscript being submitted.

Marilyn, I would like to share one other thing. You were nice enough to interview me recently about my nonfiction biographical/true crime book: Kathryn Kelly – The Moll behind Machine Gun Kelly. It has just been optioned for a television mini-series and major film. I am thrilled, but even more so because this was the first nonfiction book I had written for publication. I am sure your excellent interview played a part in Kathryn getting noticed.

Thank you so much for your time and for letting me talk about the F.I.G. Mysteries. I have truly enjoyed visiting with you again, and wish you and your bloggers all the best. - Barbara

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