Here’s the situation… You were raised during the Black Power Movement and have decided to pen a historical novel relevant to Bloody Sunday and the Jim Crow era. The subplot of racial tensions is a brilliant segue to murder and the bond shared by two best friends.
The Situation Room with Michelle Cuttino caught up with Barbara Grovner AKA B. Berry to discuss her novels as well as her recent publishing deal.
B. Berry: Thanks so much! I’ve known Jen Gunn for a few years. She’s an editor at Vigilante Publishing Group LLC. She and I have been through quite a few hard learned lessons in the literary world. So when she partnered with Vigilante Publishing Group LLC as the editor and part owner, I knew it was a publishing company I could trust. The journey with them has been a smooth one so far and I look forward to working with them again. I feel more respect than I had with others in the industry and very much taken seriously.
Michelle: When did you start writing and most importantly, why?
B. Berry: I guess the answer to this question is pretty much the same with most writers or authors. I’ve always loved to write. I struggled with low-self esteem most of my childhood and have continued the struggle in my adult life on different levels. With that being said, I found it much easier to convey my thoughts on paper rather than face to face in some situations. I’ve always been an avid reader of many genres as well.
Michelle: You released a book about child molestation and child rape. Why did you choose Even Numbers as its title?
B. Berry: Even Numbers was a tough book to write because it was loosely based on a true story of a dear friend. The title came about with a game the molester created to get the little girl in the story to do whatever he wanted. He’d shuffle a deck of cards and they would take turns plucking cards from a faced down stack. The molester used the randomly even numbers as the numbers that meant she should touch him…here or there. So, if the little girl picked up an even number he could request where she should touch him. It became their secret game.
Michelle: Why did you decide to write about such a taboo topic?
B. Berry: I wrote it as a sort of therapy for a very dear friend. It’s a fiction story, but loosely based on truth. I knew many women were dealing with the subject of rape and molestation, but I had no idea of the magnitude of the secrecy in the black community.
Michelle: What was the overall response to Even Numbers?
B. Berry: When I went on book tour for Even Numbers, many women would come and tell me the book told their stories. There were men that bought the book because their wives, girlfriends and family members had been through this horror and they thought the book would be a good one for their loved ones to read and hopefully shun the shame. It was then that I realized the true impact of the story.
It was an extremely difficult project for me, even though the book is actually a novella. There were times I had to walk away from it because of the reality of the story. It truly impacted me in a way I won’t forget. I hope more people will read it.
Michelle: You’ve moved onto murder mystery with the Cold Series. Tell us a little about the first installment, Cold Crazy.
B. Berry: Murder mysteries are my true passion. I’ve always loved a good story. Some may say it’s a bit morbid, but I am interested in the audacity and the mindset of a human being that can actually kill another. Cold Crazy is a story about a beautiful young oncology nurse who was senselessly killed in the parking lot of the hospital that she worked in. It’s full of colorful, crazy characters that will have you crying in one moment and laughing so hard in the next.
Michelle: How did you connect Cold Serial to the initial storyline?
B. Berry: The connection between Cold Crazy and Cold Serial is the delicious Detective Barnes. Cold Serial is a story of a serial killer on the loose in Boston, Massachusetts. The killer is targeting women that are looking for an easy meal ticket and a glamorous life. He’s rich, single and women think he’s available, so when certain women meet him, they automatically envision themselves in his ready-made wealthy life. He despises this and because of deep-rooted issues stemming from his childhood, (I know it’s always the case) he has manifested his anger and mental illness into a macabre way of relieving his torment.
Michelle: The third installment will be Cold Revenge. When will this installment be released and what will it be about?
B. Berry: Cold Revenge is a book that I’m not sure I’ll ever write. My interest has taken a turn and my writing has evolved in some ways. I may, at some point come back to the Cold series and continue the story. Books in this series are stand alone full novels with complete stories and satisfying endings. No cliff-hangers.
Michelle: Do you find it hard to write mystery or is suspense your forte?
B. Berry: Writing mystery is pretty basic. There is always a crime, the hunt and the apprehension. It’s a genre that can be written with a multitude of characters and wild circumstances so that each story is different and the storyline remains exciting and fresh.
Michelle: You will be releasing your historical fiction novel Clothesline Blues with Vigilante Publishing this month. Tell us about the book.
B. Berry: Clothesline Blues is a book about two women living on the fringes of the Jim Crow era, during a time when black women were overlooked when they had domestic issues in their home. There was nowhere to turn for help during those days and many women took matters into their own hands.
Meanwhile, in the background, the country is in turmoil as black people fight for the right to vote as well as other civil rights.
Michelle: Where did you draw inspiration from for these characters?
B. Berry: I actually grew up during The Movement. I remember the race riots and used the story in my very own life as the outline for Clothesline Blues. I chose some of the characters from that time as well. I remember the Black Panthers setting up headquarters in my hometown and the events that came about during that time in my life. I wrote the story as fiction based on truth.
Michelle: For those who may not be aware of its significance, please tell us briefly what Bloody Sunday is.
B. Berry: Bloody Sunday took place on March 7, 1965. It was a march organized to promote black voter registration and to protest the killing of Jimmie Lee Jackson, a young black man that was brutally killed by a state trooper during a voter registration in another city. The demonstrators marched between Selma, AL and Montgomery, AL.
Michelle: Why did you choose to use Bloody Sunday as the story’s backdrop?
B. Berry: It was a time I can remember. I was a child, but I remember watching the news as well as listening to adults discussing the things that were going on in our country.
Michelle: It’s very rare to find a multiple-genre writer who does so effectively. What is the key to writing in different genres successfully?
B. Berry: I’m not quite sure how to answer this question. I happen to love a genre (murder/mystery) that excites me. For it to be versatile is a plus. It’s a genre that allows me to write about any circumstance or any people because, let’s face it; murder can happen at any time and in any place and under a multitude of circumstances and with murder there is usually mystery or secrets. It’s a great genre to spin off into other genres because of that fact. You can bet there’s murder in Clothesline Blues, although there is the historical element and the book is being classified as a historical fiction because of the Bloody Sunday inclusion. For me, it’s a murder/mystery.
Michelle: I know that shyness was a bit of an issue for you as a child. Do you still find yourself reluctant about public speaking opportunities? Why or why not?
B. Berry: I have to giggle to myself. I graduated from communications school in the 70’s and have actually taken the Dale Carnegie course to help with public speaking and shyness, and still I prefer not to speak publicly. I’m even in school right now with a course in public speaking. But, I’ve come to realize it’s who I am. I don’t hide from the public and I’m very sociable (I know what kind of picture some may have when I say I’m a bit shy) but I prefer not to be the center of attention. I don’t hide in the house and avoid people. Lol!
I guess my shyness was part of my struggle with low-self esteem as a child. I work on this everyday. I no longer think I’m insignificant or invisible and realize I can make a difference in the lives of others. My life has value and I appreciate that.
Michelle: What else can we expect from Barbara Grovner and her alter-ego, B.Berry, in the future?
B. Berry: Right now, I’m working on a story that actually began as a contemporary fiction novel about three friends that explore their lives and sexuality, but lately my characters have softened and become people I didn’t expect. I’m still ironing that out. I’m also thinking of placing the story in a different era instead of modern times. I like softer personalities and today’s lifestyles seem terribly harsh to me. I read lots of genres, but I always come back to the more laid-back personalities.
Michelle: Please tell us how we can contact and/or follow you.
B. Berry: You can almost always find me on Facebook. For those that want to follow on Twitter, find me at @BarbarGrovner or email at [email protected] I’m working on a new, updated website and will keep people informed. I also occasionally write for an online magazine. You can look for my articles at Minoritiereport.com.
Thanks so much for the interview! I appreciate the opportunity.
Michelle: You’re welcome, Barbara. Thank you for sharing your time and yourself with us as well!
About the Author:
B. Berry’s latest novel, CLOTHESLINE BLUES is based on the Black Movement during the sixties at the time of Bloody Sunday. The story is an important one and tells a story of murder in the background of an extremely tumultuous time in American history.
In addition to CLOTHESLINE BLUES, B. Berry has written two murder mysteries using Boston, Massachusetts as the backdrop. COLD CRAZY is a story of a young beautiful nurse who has been brutally and senselessly murdered. COLD SERIAL is about a serial killer who is terrorizing young women.
Although B. Berry prefers to write about murder, her first book, EVEN NUMBERS is a story of a young girl who was molested by her stepfather and then ultimately raised by him. She would like to keep the subject of child molestation and child rape in the forefront of our minds.
B. Berry lives in Florida where she writes full-time. Ms. Berry enjoys quiet walks on the beach, reading cozy mysteries and working on many crafts.