by D. M. Barr
“A buoyant, commendable mystery that piles on red herrings with ferocity and glee…the spiraling final act, culminating with the killer’s staggering reveal, is an exhilarating ride.”
—– Kirkus Reviews
Welcome to the first in my series of author interviews leading up to Mystery Thriller Week. My first guest is D.M. Barr, author of Expired Listings. Barr’s debut novel, Expired Listings was selected for review by the Midwest Book Review, in January 2017:
Critique: “Expired Listings” by D. M. Barr is an exceptionally well written, genre-busting, riveting psychological thriller laced with satiric, romantic and erotic elements. A consistently compelling read from beginning to end, “Expired Listings” is a masterfully crafted suspense thriller that will prove to be an enduringly popular addition to personal reading lists and community library collections. It should be noted that “Expired Listings” is also available in a Kindle format ($2.99).
Shall we start with D. M. Barr’s bio, in her own words?
WHO IS D.M. BARR? By day, a mild-mannered salesperson, wife, mother, rescuer of senior shelter dogs, happily living just north of New York City. By night, an author of sex, suspense and satire. My background includes stints in travel marketing, travel journalism, meeting planning, public relations and real estate. I was, for a long and happy time, an award-winning magazine writer and editor. Then kids happened. And I needed to actually make money. Now they’re off doing whatever it is they do (of which I have no idea since they won’t friend me on Facebook), and I can spend my spare time weaving tales of debauchery and whatever else tickles my fancy. The main thing to remember about my work is that I am NOT one of my characters. For example, as a real estate broker, I’ve never played Bondage Bingo in one of my empty listings or offed one of my problem clients. But that’s not to say I haven’t wanted to … .
[photo credit, D. M. Barr]
Here’s a synopsis of this “genre-busting, psychological thriller”:
What if people were dying around you and you weren’t absolutely sure you weren’t their murderer? Someone is ‘deactivating’ the Realtors in Rock Canyon and almost no one seems to care. Not the surviving brokers, who consider the serial killings a competitive boon. Not the town’s residents, who see the murders as a public service. In fact, the only person who’s even somewhat alarmed is Dana Black, a kinky, sharp-witted yet emotionally skittish Realtor who has no alibi for the crimes because during each, she believes she was using her empty listings for games like Bondage Bingo with her sadistic lover, Dare. And yet, mysteriously, all clues are pointing her way. Along with clearing her name and avoiding certain death at the hands of the ‘Realtor Retaliator,’ Dana has an even bigger problem: she’s inadvertently become a person of interest in more ways than one to Aidan Cummings, the sexy albeit vanilla detective investigating the case. While his attentions are tempting, Dana is torn—does she continue her ironically ‘safe’ but sterile BDSM relationship with Dare, or risk real intimacy with Aidan? Kink, Suspense and Satire–Expired Listings masterfully combines all three while exploring the universal need for validation and the toxic nature of revenge.
Ms. Barr and I had a little virtual chat about her work, writing, and life in general and here’s what she had to say:
What’s your writing background (schooling), backdrop (where you work at your craft), and backstory (what you will tell the world when you become super famous)?
I really never studied writing—fiction or nonfiction—at school. I started writing by writing a review of a comedy improv group for a boyfriend who was in that group and sent it off to a local paper called Downtown Manhattan. They hired me as their Nightlife Editor and I reviewed shows and restaurants.
A few years later, I wrote an article about Opsail 86 for a travel trade magazine (I was a travel agent) and they started sending me on press trips as a freelancer and later hired me as an Associate Editor. I ended up spending three years there before breaking off on my own to start a PR company that helped travel agents with their promotion and corporate communications. So I actually fell into writing.
My first fiction experience was in 1979 when I attended a two-week Writer’s Conference at Hofstra University. I was there to study nonfiction magazine writing when I wandered into a fiction class by mistake. I was absolutely fascinated but never dreamed I had it in me to write fiction. When I got serious about my book (2013!), I took some classes at the Hudson Valley Writer’s Center, which was more of a critique group and got me into the habit of handing in pages. So no formal training in style—all learned by the seat of my pants.
What are your favorite books?
Oh, wow. Hard to narrow down. Atlas Shrugged, The Fountainhead, Trinity, The Grapes of Wrath, Lonesome Dove, The Kite Runner, Iron House by John Hart, all of the Marshall Karp Lomax and Biggs series and all of Michael Connelly Lincoln Lawyer books. I also love Jennifer Crusie for romance and Kerrilyn Sparks for comedy/paranormal. And I’m leaving a million other books out.
Expired Listings started out as a real estate parody that warned my fellow real estate agents about the dangers of our business and it just evolved. Since I love psychological thrillers, that’s slowly what it became, with satiric, romantic and erotic elements. I loved adding layer over layer to the story.
Do you see the need for all these sub-genres or do you think we’ve become over-specialized, as in, a story isn’t just a story any longer, but a specific type of story?
Since my book is a hodgepodge of genres, I was very put off by the number of agents and publishers who liked the writing but turned it down because they couldn’t pigeonhole it into a genre. Since most books aren’t sold on shelves but can be categorized into several categories online, I couldn’t understand this dogged devotion of theirs to genre. I refused to cut the story in half to fit in, I didn’t want to be formulaic. I stayed true to the story I wanted to tell, for better or worse.
Why writing and not ceramics, or gourmet cooking, or anything else really? If not writing, then what?
I like being read, making someone laugh and entertaining people. But it’s not my only hobby. I’m a competitive trivia player, I love word games, I love to travel and I rescue senior shelter dogs.
From where do your ideas come?
From everywhere. I used to think there was only one book in me. Now there are so many, there’s no time to write them. Anything I hear that might be funny or offbeat can either be its own story or part of a larger one.
What’s your routine? Do you work out while writing, take breaks, or simply gut it out?
I don’t have one. I write when I have the time and I plow through. It’s good to have deadlines though. I have thought about hiring an editor and having her impose deadlines on when she expects pages.
Do you work outside of writing, i.e., do you have day job?
I’m currently a Real Estate Associate Broker.
What has been your greatest writing lesson? How about life lesson?
Publishing is glacially slow so be prepared for that. Don’t ever let a bad review get you down—even the best books on Amazon have one-star reviews. Write the book that’s in your heart. Someone will want to read it. Never chase trends.
How many books to you have out?
Two: a novel and a novella.
Indie or traditional publishing?
One of each.
Country of origin?
Two, one of each.
I had two rescue dogs. I just lost one, a Newfoundland mix. I still have Doofus, my schnauzer-poodle mix. He’s about 14, dumb as a doornail, blind and sweet as can be.
Travel and if so, favorite place?
I’ve actually been lucky enough to travel the world as a travel agent and later as a travel writer and meeting planner, all before I went into real estate. Favorite place is Bora Bora.
Favorite childhood memory?
I was a huge Avengers fan, not the comic book ones, the British series featuring Steed and Mrs. Peel. When I was around 11, my dad got me backstage to meet my idol, Diana Rigg, after a performance of Jumpers (Tom Stoppard) in London’s West End. I stood there with my mouth open, amazed I was actually meeting her.
And the final question, do you think writing can save the world and if so, why?
I wish. Unfortunately, too many people out there don’t read or do read and don’t listen. Or do listen and disagree. Still, it’s so important to write and be heard because someone might listen.
Interested? Then check out Expired Listings and D. M. Barr. She’s waiting for you.
The definitive word on where to get Expired Listings:
Social Media Websites:
Keep in Touch!
Support writing. Support free thinking. Support hard work, late nights and the computer, and imagination. Buy the book!