Today we're excited to chat with Barbara J. Hancock, author of After Always. Read on for more about Barbara and her book, plus a giveaway!
Meet Barbara J. Hancock!
Barbara J. Hancock lives in a cabin in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains with her many rescued pets and the guy who lured her into the wilderness with promises of lots of peace and quiet for writing. To this day, the Appalachian wildwood is the best gift she’s ever been given. Her favorite pastime (besides animal rescue) is bringing darkly romantic stories to life by firefly light.
Lydia Li’s life ended when Tristan died. At least, that’s how it felt. Sure, they had problems and he could be a little...intense...at times, but he’d loved her. He was the Romeo to her Juliet... And now he was gone.
When her parents get her to agree to a summer across the country with a music
teacher who runs an inn, Lydia agrees. But it’s different than what she expected. There’s something else there. Something that feels a lot like Tristan. But that’s impossible, right?
Then there’s Michael Malone, the quiet guy who’s Tristan’s opposite in every way. And Lydia can’t help but be drawn to him...and whatever the house is hiding.
1. What gave you the inspiration to write this book?
I always knew I would write the core story of After Always because it’s my story. I survived an abusive relationship as a teen and I’ve thought about how I walked away and who I was and who I’ve become since then. I’ve experienced a destructive, obsessive love and that’s how the idea for After Always began. Since I’m also fascinated with ghost stories, it was natural to combine the two. What if I’ll love you forever was a dark promise kept from beyond the grave?
2. Which came first, the title or the novel?
Originally, After Always was called Heaven so Fine taken from a line in Romeo and Juliet. A truth people often don’t understand about abusive relationships is you can love your abuser even after you realize they’re obsessive and dangerous and often that’s because of the qualities that drew you to them in the first place. No one is all bad. In After Always, Tristan is passionate, brilliant and artistic. It’s easy for Lydia to imagine him becoming stars after his death. But he was also other things--moody and violent. Lydia has to deal with a loss of love and survivor’s guilt while also admitting to herself that their relationship was darker than anyone imagined. Oh, yeah, and the whole Tristan might not be gone after all. Lots of us have experienced the chill of a guy not letting go when he should. I took that idea and ran with it.
3. Thinking way back to the beginning, what’s the most important thing you've learned as a writer from then to now?
It’s okay to explore the shadows. Take your readers into the dark or join them there because not all of us live in the sunshine. But bring a flashlight. Take them through the darkness to a triumphant resolution. Life is hard. One of the aspects of writing dark romance I most enjoy is the deliverance of a happy ending. For a long time as a young writer, I shied away from the darkest corners. I go there now. I don’t hold myself back. And I think that makes the pay off of the HEA ending that much more satisfying.
4. What do you like most about the cover of the book?
There’s nothing I don’t like about this cover. The artist nailed the book, but what I love most is the passion of it. The storm clouds, the waves, the way Lydia stands, the sweep of the wind in her hair—the cover portrays the dark obsession of her violin playing and the seduction of the ocean that claimed her “soulmate’s” life. But the gulls in the air...I feel like they convey hope. And that’s what the story is really all about.
5. Which was the most difficult or emotional scene to narrate?
Without specific spoilers, there was a flashback scene that I wrote, then cut, then put back in. I’m a storyteller. It can be strange because you’re always telling your own story and also never telling it. I’m an introvert who hides behind my characters--my artists, musicians, and warriors—the make believe helps me to share what I want or need to say. After Always is my Me Too. That’s why I ultimately kept Lydia’s flashback. It was incredibly hard to put it on paper, but afterward I felt lighter and much more connected to what Lydia was going through. I reminded myself that there was nothing to be ashamed of. Many of us have been bruised—whether physically or emotionally. We go on from there. Looking back I think I’ve always been determined to go on from there. I want to share that determination with others.
6. Which character gave you the most trouble when writing your latest book?
Michael Malone was the hardest. In fact, I didn’t get to know the heart of him until deep in the editing process. I’m a dramatic artist. So those kinds of characters I experience an immediate connection to. I understand the way they think and the deep feels that drive them—both good and bad. Michael is the guy next door. The handyman. The dependable person who always has the tools to fix whatever is broken. It sounds superficial—fixing things. But it’s also a drive that’s full of emotion for Michael because he wants to help people. Especially the people he loves. Michael carries a multi- purpose tool in his back pocket and he often takes it out and fidgets with it when he’s thinking or talking to Lydia. That tool is like his heart in his hands and once it came to me I knew him. Once I knew him, I loved him, and the rest of his and his family’s story flew onto the page.
7. What would you say is your superpower?
I want to believe. So I do. Sometimes it takes superhuman effort, but I always get there. Believe in what? In everything. A long time ago, as the daughter of an alcoholic and after the negative impact of one of my first romantic relationships, I could have easily embraced cynicism. Jaded is always never more than a blink away for me. But I hold it at bay. Because I want to believe. In love. In light. In happily ever after. In hope. So I do. If that isn’t a superpower, I don’t know what is.
8. Is there an organization or cause that is close to your heart?
Animal rescue! I have three cats and two dogs. All of them were strays. Four came from the humane society. One—my black cat—I found on a rainy street at twilight in October several years ago. I saw her only because another lighter- colored kitten had been run over. It must have been her brother or sister. What a little feral miracle Lucy was, all wet and pitiful! It took us weeks to tame her. So my cause is...spay and neuter your pets and consider adoption. The life you save might be your own!
By: Barbara J. Hancock