Friday, July 2, 2010

Author Spotlight on: Barrie Summy

After five days in the desert heat, we're back home to cooler temps and 24-7 wireless. Hooray! Even better, I have a fabulous interview for you with an author I met last summer at SCBWI-LA, the wonderful Barrie Summy.

And I have two of her books to give away!!

Not only is Barrie one of the nicest people you'll meet, she's also a mom to four children, two veiled chameleons and 83 veiled chameleon eggs. And wouldn't you know -- the main character in her I So Don't Do Mysteries books has curly hair and the name Sherry! What's not to love?

Please welcome San Diego author, mom, licorice lover Barrie Summy!!

Sherrie, thank you so much for interviewing me. Hard to believe almost a year has gone by since we met in Beverly Hills at SCBWI last summer!!

I know. Time flies, doesn't it? But I'm so glad I finally get to interview you after pimping your novel last summer :-) 

I love the story of how you got your agent, Rachel Vater. I mean, it sounds like a total fairy tale! (This post has all the details.) Did you ever query any other agents?

I queried eight other agents. Mostly because I just didn’t think in a million years that I’d end up with Rachel based on pitching Donald Maass while he signed his book for me. This is one crazy industry!

No kidding! But it's great how things work out sometimes. I know you were a huge Nancy Drew fan (so was I!). Do you think you’ll write as many books as Carolyn Keene did?
Just  starting to figure out my fifth book. So, thirty-eight looks pretty overwhelming. ;)

Didn’t I So Don’t do Mysteries morph out of a Nancy Drew mystery you had written?

It did. I So Don’t Mysteries was originally titled Nancy Drew and the Mystery at the Wild Animal Park. A lot, besides just the characters changed from the original manuscript. Even the villain isn’t the same.

Oh, how funny! 
I guess that's what happens with the rewrites... 

You are one of those majorly organized people when it comes to writing: outlines, flow charts, note cards in the recipe box. Does this come from being the mother of four children?

Probably. I have to admit, though, that I’ve become less organized with each child! There was a time when I never had an overdue library book. That is so not the case these days!

Hmmm, that reminds me...I've got a few myself...

Does all that organization help you avoid writer’s block?

I think what really helps is how busy the kids keep me. I mean, I write a ton in my car. While waiting for kids to finish with swim team. Or while my youngest has her piano lesson. Or . . . you get the idea.  So, when I sit down to write, it’s like chop-chop, let’s get going. If I do have trouble writing, I give it the old college try. If it’s still now working, I turn off my computer and head to the store for some licorice.

How true do you stay to your outline?

My outlines always end up providing too much material. Which means I can never fit in all the scenes planned. Also, what works in an outline doesn’t necessarily work in the book. In other words, I stay reasonably true, but there are always changes. For me, the outline takes the panic out of writing.

So tell me about the Denny’s chicks…how many of you are there, how did you find each other and who on earth came up with the name?

There were four of us. Now, we’re down to three, but considering bumping it back up to four. We found each other at a plotting boot camp (meaning everyone plotted an entire book over the weekend) put on by our local RWA chapter. We were at the same table and just clicked. And the name Denny’s Chicks? I honestly don’t remember who came up with it.

Well it's a great name. Even if you don't meet at Denny's anymore :-)

You’ve said that it took about seven years of writing I So Don’t do Mysteries before it was published. Then you wrote the sequel in about seven months. I’m sure your organizational skills came to the rescue! Was that stressful having to meet a deadline for the publisher or was the second book easier to write?

The second was waaay easier to write. I knew the characters pretty well by then. The editor had read over my outline. Yes, I SO DON’T DO SPOOKY was a lot easier to write.

I think I So Don’t Do Makeup is your best so far. Does it get difficult to keep the character and situations fresh when you’re writing a series?

I’m guessing it probably does. But it hasn’t yet. In May, I turned in I SO DON’T DO FAMOUS, the fourth book. Which I thoroughly enjoyed writing. Of course, I had to visit Hollywood a couple of times in the name of research. Very fun!

Sounds like my kind of research!

Now I don’t want to start any cover controversies but I have to find out. The original cover had an illustration of a girl with curly hair on the cover, but the newer covers have a girl with straight hair. What’s the story there?

I think it was more about changing from a cartoon cover to a photo of a real girl. In the books, Sherry (don’t you love her name??!!) still has curly hair. They really did find an adorable model.

Well, I am willing to admit she's adorable, even if her hair isn't curly...

Are you planning to go to SCBWI-LA this year?

Sadly, no. SCBWI-LA is the same time as water polo Junior Olympics and my 3rd son’s team qualified for JOs. This year, JOs is in Pasadena. So, the SCBWI attendees will probably be able to hear me screaming! How about you? Are you going?

Yes, I'll be there, but I'm bummed that you won't. We had fun last year! But Pasadena's close by. You can sneak into the lobby after 3rd Son's game is over one night... I won't tell!

Best of luck to you, Barrie. It was fun to catch up!

A million thanks for interviewing me, Sherrie!! I’m looking forward to when our paths cross again in real life!

I have two of Barrie's books to give away: 

an original hard cover of I SO DON'T DO MYSTERIES (with the adorable  curly haired cartoon!) 

Let me know in the comments which book you'd like. You have until midnight on Tuesday to enter your name. I'll randomly choose one winner for each book on Wednesday.


Kristan said...

Aw, I used to love Nancy Drew too. I even read the series when she and George and Bess went to college... but I did lose interest after a few of those. (Perhaps more because of me than the books.)

Anyway, I think I'd like to start at the beginning, if I win. ;)

Thanks to both of you for doing this!

Lydia Kang said...

Great interview! and the books look like such fun reads. I really appreciate learning about how Barrie made it to a published author. That was great!

Michelle D. Argyle said...

I have been meaning to get Barrie's books forever! My mom works in a middle school library and I know the kids there would love them. I don't think they have them there yet. And I want to read them, too!

Great, great interview. You always ask the best questions! Thanks to you both. :)

Tabitha said...

I *love* Barrie's books! They are so much fun. :) And great interview!

I'd love a copy of I So Don't Do Makeup (I already have a copy of Mysteries). :)

Riv Re said...

So I Don't Do Makeup looks hysterical! I'd love that!

Barrie said...

Kristan, I recently read a blue edition of THE SECRET IN THE OLD ATTIC. Blue editions came before the yellow covers. They're a little bit non-PC. Interesting read!

Stina said...

Pic Me! Pick Me! Pick Me!

I would love to enter for I so Don't Do Mysteries.

Great interview. Glad to hear it didn't take as long to write the sequels.

Carolyn V. said...

I want to read all her books! I love the cover of her new one. How cute! =)

Tory said...

Thanks for sharing this with us, Kristan!

Barrie's road to publication is so incredible! Makes me want to spend every extra penny on attending a conference.

Hope you have a safe and happy Fourth w/ your family! Tory

Tricia J. O'Brien said...

What a fun interview! But I'm not surprised since it was you and Barrie. Thanks for brightening my day.

Lori W. said...

Welcome back, Sherrie and thank you and Barrie for a great interview! These books sound fun. I'd love to win the I So Don't Do Makeup one. I just re-read a Nancy Drew mystery last weekend. Loved those so much as a girl!

laughingwolf said...

thx sherrie, on getting more 'stuff' outta barrie ;) lol

either book would do since i'd pass it on to my younger daughter...

Laura Pauling said...

I love these books! I've been studying them as my mentor novel before I attempt a mg mystery! I've read the first two, so I'd love the arc of I So Don't Do Make-up!

Anita said...

I wonder how the author got her name? Unusual in a good way.

Dawn Simon said...

What a great interview. Barrie is wonderful, and her books sound super fun!

I would love either book, but I've already won a book here so I feel guilty entering. Thus, I'll have to buy my own copy.

Barrie, I went to school in San Diego! USD! Go Toreros! ;)

Sherrie, I'll be at the SCBWI Summer Conference! We have to find each other and meet in person!

Barrie said...

Anita: Barrie is short for Barbara. I know, weird. Anyway, no one calls me Barbara. And I married into Summy. ;)

Barrie said...

Dawn: Guess where our local SCBWI meets? At the nursing building on the USD campus!

Lydia: So glad you enjoyed the interview

Michelle: Sherrie DOES ask good questions! Email me the address of the middle school where you mom works and I'll send some bookmarks (

Tabitha: Thank you!!!

Riv: Well, I think Makeup is funny. teehee. :)

Barrie said...

Stina: I, too, am glad it didn't take so long to write the sequels!

Carolyn: Oh yes, read them and let me know what you think. ;)

Tory: I think conferences can be great for networking. Especially if you find one that has editor(s), agent(s) that you're definitely interested in talking to.

Tricia: Hi! Nice to see you over here!

Lori: Any fan of Nancy Drew is a friend of mine:)

Laughingwolf: How come I didn't know you had a daughter???!!!

Laura: I am blushing!

Gabriele Goldstone said...

Great interview! Fun series!! So you got to research in Hollywood, eh? Does that mean at some point Sherrie will head up to Canada, so you can research here? I

'd go for the newest book, since it's not in my local indie yet.

Barrie said...

Gabe: That is a WONDERFUL idea!!! Actually, I think visiting a bunch of schools in the Great White North would be very fun.

Sherrie Petersen said...

Oh, you really should since you're Canadian and all :P

Barrie said...

Sherrie, From your lips to Random House Canada's ears!! :)

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