Tuesday, April 28, 2009


Good Morning, Sandra here. Have you ever had something burning inside of you that needed to be written but it doesn’t fit into any genre or niche? We are told that those books are extremely difficult to sell. We are discouraged from writing them. But Barbara Larriva, my guest today, does write outside the box and made it work for her.
Please let me introduce you to Barbara.
Q. What does it mean, writing outside of the box?
A. To me, writing inside the box means writing for an established genre. Writing outside of the box means writing from the heart even though it might not fit into an established genre or sales niche.
Q. And you always wrote outside the box?
A. Laughs. Heck no. When I first thought about writing a novel I joined RWA, the only writing group around at that time. I was told the easiest way to get published was to write romances. So I wrote a couple which were rejected. That didn't surprise me as I had never read a contemporary romance. Its not that I had anything against contemporary romance its just not my preference. Then I thought, well maybe I'll write an inspirational romance. I hadn’t really read those either. It was the rejection I received from the editor at Tyndale that made me realize what I was doing wasn't working. She wrote: "your book is neither romantic nor inspirational." So I made an announcement at the next writers' meeting I attended. "As long as I'm going to get rejected, I might as well write what I want to write." And the idea for my first published book POPPY was born soon after.

Q. How did you get POPPY published?
A. I searched in books stores for books similar in size and style to what I had and came up with a short list. Ballantine Epiphany, a division of Random House, was looking for inspirational books that were unique. They bought POPPY, published it in hardcover in 1987 and paperback in 1990.
Then in 2002, Crossings Book Club bought it (changing the name to POPPY, ANGEL OF LOVE, and made it their main fiction selection that summer.
Q. Did Ballantine publish any other books of yours?
A. Yes, THE GIFT. And unfortunately, shortly after, that line at Ballantine was eliminated.
Q. How would you describe your books?
A. I wasn’t sure how to classify or describe my books and am still not sure. I can only go by what readers have told me. They suggest its inspirational because of the impact the books have had on them. I think of them as books of hope. But they don't fit in any traditional inspirational niche. Poppy was often compared to Jonathan Livingston Seagull in style and size.
Here's a sample of emails I've received:
Anne wrote, "Little did I know how this little gem would change me. I was touched by the beauty of the story and certainly cried through it. Every year since then I have read it again, through good times and difficult."
Dawn wrote, "I cannot thank you enough for the book. I could not put it down. It was the most beautiful book I have ever read. Truly inspirational."
Q. Do you have anything in the works?
A. It's been a long time in between sales because of the difficulty of finding a niche for my “different” style books. I did sell a book recently. TAU Publishing just published my inspirational novel, CHILD OF THE SEA. I wrote it after the tragic tsunami of 2006.
After a killer wave leaves black holes
where hearts had once been,
a mystical child helps seven grieving women
learn the spiritual principals
needed to heal their tortured souls.

There is one book I wrote that I haven't been able to get published. It's called THE SEED and is about street children in India. Several New York agents and even a major publisher loved the book, but just didn’t know what to do with it. It's a hard sell because there's no niche for it. But I'm hoping the popularity of Slumdog Millionaire will help regenerate some interest.
Q, I know you're a cat lover and founded a kitty organization to rescue cats. You had 7 cats at one time and wrote a book that is really “out of the box”. Can you tell us about it?
A. I wrote a book called The Long and Short of Seven Cat Tails. Each one of my seven cats had its own chapter and told his/her story from its point of view. No one was interested in publishing it so I self-published that book for me and my family. I am so glad I have the book since five of the kitties are now gone. Two of those five lived to be 20 years old. I currently work my day job at Purr-Suasions, a cat gift shop in Scottsdale, and I sell my books there.
Q. What do you like to read?
A. I like to read inspirational books that touch the heart. Emotions and feelings are hard to find in books. From the beginning, I wanted to write books like Og Mandino, who by the way endorsed POPPY. I love stories about angels. My books hint that there are angels. As an aside, I don't watch much TV but Touched by an Angel was my favorite TV show.
Q. Thank you for joining us Barbara. Do you have any final words of encouragement for our seekers here at Seekerville ?
A.I think it’s important to write what is in your heart. Don’t write just to fulfill a trend or fad, but write what you love to read and think about. I’d like to leave you with one of my favorite quotes by Mother Theresa: "I am like a pencil in God's hand. He does the writing. I had nothing to do with it."
Barbara will be giving away one of her books to the winner of the drawing at 8:00 pm Arizona time. So welcome Barbara and don’t forget to leave your email address if you want to be included in the drawing.
She’s also brought her favorite foods. Barbara is serving a spread of strawberry shortcake with whipped cream, New York cheesecake and a plate of double chocolate brownies. Yummmm There’s a rich blend of coffee with a choice of flavored syrups to go along with the goodies.


Cathy Shouse said...


What an inspiring post!

Can you give any tips on how to stay grounded they way you seem to be? Are there days when you wonder about writing something more "commercially viable" in order to keep your publishing going?

Thanks for sharing your thoughts today.

I'd love to win a copy of your book.

cathy underscore shouse at yahoo dot com

Janet Dean said...

Welcome to Seekerville, Barbara! Thanks for your wonderful post! Your readers' comments make me want to read your books. How cool that Poppy had three releases.

Your desserts are yummy!!! I had to sample all three. You may be the first guest to bring the food.


Tina M. Russo said...

How wonderful to have you here in Seekerville, Barbara. Thanks for sharing your encouraging story.

Did you do all the legwork yourself, or work with an agent or packager?

Barbara Larriva said...

Cathy, thank you for being the first to comment! To answer your question, there are days when I wonder about writing, period. But something keeps me going. A thought, a dream, and I start a book. So as for being grounded, some days I am and some days I'm not.

Barbara Larriva said...

Hi Janet,
I hope you do get a chance to read my books. There is something magical about Poppy. Most everyone seems to love her.


Barbara Larriva said...

Hello Tina,

I did the legwork myself (with the help of my other writer friends, especially Sandra). After I sold Poppy to Crossings, I did get an agent to do the contract. But when you write outside the box it's difficult to get an agent. I've had agents love my books but tell me they don't know what to do with them, where to send them.


Julie Lessman said...

Sandra and Barbara, thank you for this beautiful interview!

And Barbara, your statement that "it’s important to write what is in your heart. Don’t write just to fulfill a trend or fad, but write what you love to read and think about" couldn't be more true, and coincidentally, is JUST what agent Natasha Kern is speaking about in her Seeker guest blog scheduled for this Thursday!

In fact, she mentions in that blog that although biblical fiction is not selling right now, she read a submitted biblical fiction ms. that so moved her, she signed the gal on the spot.

So although you said that "when you write outside the box it's difficult to get an agent," it is, I'm sure, but not all agents feel that way, at least Natasha doesn't. Mmmm ... maybe you should query her ...


Barbara Larriva said...

Thanks for the tip about Natasha Kern. I'm looking forward to Thursday's interview.


Mary Connealy said...

"your book is neither romantic nor inspirational."

Wow, rejections with cruel humor involved.

The book sounds wonderful, Barbara. I'm proud of you for writing what's in your heart. It can get so confusing to try and chase after the market until you don't know what you really want to write anymore.

Barbara Larriva said...

Mary, I agree with you about "chasing after the market." As for that rejection letter, I must admit it wasn't very funny when I first read it, but now it gives me a good laugh. P.S. the editor was right; the book wasn't inspirational or romantic.


Eileen Astels Watson said...

Thanks for this inspiring interview Sandra and Barbara! Writing from the heart really does help the author grow, too!

I also wanted to stop in and say thank you for the Writer's Therapy handbook I won here on Seekerville. I found it in my post office box yesterday and started reading it right away. It's full of wonderful help! And I just love the Seekers book mark. Wonderful quotes and prayers to live by on the back. Thank You All Very Much!

Barbara Larriva said...


Thank you for your kind words. I'm glad you found the interview inspiring.


Barbara Larriva said...

Hi all,

I'm leaving for my day time job right now. If there are any questions that need immediate answers, Sandra will call me at work and then she'll get back to you. If not, I'll be back here around 7 p.m. Arizona time.


Jessica said...

Great interview! Thank you for sharing your thoughts with us.

Sandra Leesmith said...

Sandra here. Thanks Barbara for sharing your inspiration and hope. I'm back from my ride so can redirect any comments to Barbara for you.

How about an afternoon pick-me up of some delicious lemonade. Our lemon trees are loaded at this time of year and make yummy lemonade. They're also great to slice up and slip into a cool glass of iced water.

Myra Johnson said...

So nice to "meet" you, Barbara--and thanks, Sandra, for inviting her!

I love the idea of writing outside the box! Although I'm currently writing for an inspirational romance publisher, if there is one thing I don't like about genre romance (inspirational or otherwise), it's the predictability. I love it when an author surprises me. Sure, I know the H/H are going to end up together, but it's the interesting twists and turns that keep me reading.

Sandra Leesmith said...

Thanks Myra, I'm looking forward to reading your debut novel "An Imperfect Christmas". I'll be there will be some surprises there. smile

I'm like you. I enjoy something different. But then again, I like the fact I can pick up a romance novel and know that I'm going to be happy about the end. I guess I'm just a sucker for love and happy endings.

Melanie Dickerson said...

Hi, Sandra and Barbara! I loved this interview! And I'm so glad there are people like you, Barbara. You follow your heart. I've tried to do that. Unfortunately, I want to be published really bad! Ha! :-)

Your books sound beautiful. I wish you all the best with your new book and all future stories.

Sandra Leesmith said...

Hi Melanie,
Barbara wants me to ask you: What kind of writing "Follows your heart"? Can it be incorporated into what you're writing for publication?

Barbara Larriva said...

I'm back if anyone has any questions or comments for me.


Tina Pinson said...

The fact that you write outside the box and have actually been published gives me hope. I have some stories that I've been told are "different" but like you, my heart was compelled to put the story on paper.

Thank you so much for that encouragement.

if I'm not too late, put me in for your book


Barbara Larriva said...

Tina, keep at it. Don't give up. I'm glad my story gave you hope.

You will definitely be in the drawing for the book.


CatMom said...

Great and interesting interview! And Barbara, you must truly be a wonderful lady to have had seven cats at one time *smile*. Blessings, Patti Jo :)
(Mom to six cats!!!)

Barbara Larriva said...

Hi Patti Jo (aka catmom!)

I loved all of my cats, especially the first three who are gone now. But each cat was special in its own way, as I'm sure you know having 6. Shahar is 18 and Omar is 17 so I don't know how much longer I'll have them....it's difficult when it's time for them to turn into kitty angels. But I wrote a book and made a video of all 7 so that helps.


Sandra Leesmith said...

Hi Cat Mom, How funny that you're catmom. Barbara's seven cats called her Kitty Mom in her book.
It was a great book by the way. She really captured the character of each cat.

Tina M. Russo said...

Thanks so much for being with us, Barbara. I have two cats. Oh that I could have more but these two are very special to me. Both are from shelters.

Barbara Larriva said...

Just had the drawing and Cathy Shouse and Tina Pinson each won a book. Congratulations! Hope you enjoy it.


Barbara Larriva said...

I'm off to bed now. Thanks for having me at Seekerville. It's been a lot of fun. I enjoyed meeting all of you.


Leanna said...

I know I'm late with this post. I'm on digest. But I had to comment on this post. What an inspiration! I have felt the same way with my work. I try to re-work it to fit a niche, but I feel strongly that it came to me the way it did for a reason. I just don't fit in a particular genre. Good to know I'm not alone. GREAT POST! I think everything happens for a reason, and maybe this is an answer to my prayers.

Barbara Larriva said...

Dear Leanna, thank you for your beautiful words....I, too, believe that everything happens for a reason. My book Poppy was dedicated to the memory of my daughter, Poppy. I called her Poppy because of her red hair. Her real name was Liana.
Blessings, Barbara