Barb D'Amato: ten years later
Excerpt from the interview by Lynn Kaczmarek in the August/September 2007 issue of Mystery News
Ten years ago my very first interview - ever - was with Barb D'Amato. She was on the cover of the first issue that Chris and I published after taking over Mystery News. And so it seemed fitting that she should grace the cover of our tenth anniversary issue. That first interview in July 1997 was preempted by a thunderstorm, so I was quite happy when the appointed day for this interview was predicted to be sunny and rainless. I should have known better...This time it was a technical mishap on my part that required that I reschedule for the next day. But, as with ten years ago, Barb was most gracious.
Barb D'Amato is the author of eighteen books, but the ones for which I will always remember her are those that make up the Cat Marsala series - there are nine. As Barb says, cats have nine lives. Barb's Cat, however, is a Chicago freelance journalist who finds herself in any number of difficult situations while chasing a story, allowing Barb to explore various topics from the state lottery to the Wizard of Oz. The last book in the series, Hard Road, was published in 2001 and is set during a big centennial Wizard of Oz festival in Chicago's Grant Park. Personally, one of my favorites was Hard Christmas where the use of tree bundling equipment as a murder weapon pre-dated the wood chopper in Fargo...
A lot has changed in publishing in the last ten years. "I think it's always hard to get published and I think it's always hard to get attention. I don't agree with people who think it's harder now. People always think things are harder now."
But for Barb, the big change has been the computer. "I do think that all of the advances in computing have made it just immensely easier to do research. I find it hard to even explain to people these days how in the old days (as I suppose we'll have to call them, even though they were only 10-15 years ago), if you wanted to look something up, you had to get in the car and drive to the library and hope it was there. And if it wasn't, get an inter-library loan. But not only drive to the library, but find a parking place and then get someone to help you.
"And the process of writing...just about two days ago I changed the first name of a major character. I would eventually have had to retype the entire manuscript back in the days of typewriters. The same thing if you thought of a clue that you wanted to salt through the book. In the old days you could ask somebody 'how many versions do you write of your book?' and they would know. Now, you have no idea because you go back and stick something in whenever you have an idea..."
In the end it all comes down to good storytelling. And one could say that of all of Barb D'Amato's work as well - good storytelling. And that's not a little thing now, or ten years ago or ten years from now. Check us out in ten years - Barb D'Amato is sure to be on the cover. I just hope there are no tornadoes in the area...
Read the complete interview in the August/September 2007 issue of Mystery News