Golden Heart Spotlight – Barbara Binns!

Barbara’s childhood dream was a house big enough to have an entire room devoted to books. As an adult she’s surpassed that goal, a personal library that fills a room and a half. She’d say two rooms, but she managed to squeeze her writing desk and computer into one of them. In between childhood and adult, she graduated college with degrees in both Biochemistry and Computer Science. Even she didn’t know that behind all that science a writer lurked until a few years ago. She’s always been a joiner, and currently she’s a member of several RWA chapters, including Chicago North, WisRWA, Rose City RWA and YA RWA. Currently she primarily writes YA, and PULL, her debut YA novel comes out in October, 2010. But she also writes Mainstream with Romantic Elements. Her Golden Heart novel in that category is DAMAGED GOODS.

In addition to finaling in the Golden Heart, DAMAGED GOODS also finaled in the 2009 Finally a Bride contest and the 2009 Golden Opportunity Contest. Her YA novel, PULL has won both the 2009 Golden Rose contest and the 2009 Finally a Bride contest and finaled in the 2009 Reveal Your Inner Vixen contest.

To learn more about Barabara, visit her at the following locations:
Website –
Twitter – barbarabinns
Facebook – Barbara Binns

And now here’s a blurb about DAMAGED GOOD, her Novel With Strong Romantic Elements…

Eric Bolan stops on his journey back to the home he fled years earlier to help Lucinda Marie escape her life as a small town prostitute. Lucinda never expected to find herself falling for anyone, but as she travels with Eric she begins to believe that both redemption and love are possible. Then she discovers his secret, an obsession that includes a heritage of violence placing both her and her mother’s lives in danger.

 I asked Barbara to tell us a little about herself. Here’s what she had to say…

1. How long have you been writing?
Discounting an attempt at a mystery novel in my early twenties (and having found an old copy of that “epic” I totally discount it) I’ve been writing seriously for four years.

2. Did you always want to be an author or is this something you fell into later in life?
I’ll say I fell into this. I always loved reading. Whenever I felt unhappy at the ending of a story I’d make up a new and better ending and created sequels to all my favorite books inside my head. Until the day when one character who’d lived inside me for more than a decade demanded to be released. I picked up a pen and wrote Damaged Goods to shut her up.

3. What do you do in your “other” life? (Day job, family, etc.)
I’m retired!! Means I get to sleep late and do a lot of volunteer work and help out at my church. It also means I get to write.

4. Who are your favorite authors?
How much space do you have? My extensive list of favorite’s includes: Historical romance – Georgette Heyer, Sci-fi – Robert Heinlein and Andre North, Paranormal romance – Kresley Cole and Sherrilyn Kenyon, Horror Steven King, Suspense – James Patterson and Karen Rose, Mystery – Dick Francis and Tess Gerritson (Yeah for Rizzoli and Isles the new TV series based on her creations), YA – Sharon Draper and Tanita S. Davis, Contemporary romance Brenda Jackson and Linda Howard. Literary – Jodi Picoult. As you can tell I’m pretty much genre neutral as far as reading is concerned. I love anyone with a good story.

5.  Do you have an agent?
Yes, I signed with Andrea Somberg from the Harvey Klinger agency in January. She was the final judge for my Young Adult novel, PULL in the Golden Rose contest, asked for the full which I sent the next day, and five days later she asked to represent me. In March she presented the story to WestSide Books, in June we signed the contract and PULL will be published and available at your local bookstores in October, 2010.

6. Where do you see yourself in five years?
To paraphrase Browning, a woman’s reach should exceed her grasp, else what’s a heaven for? So I’m out for the brass ring – topping the NYT bestseller list in five years or less. Seriously, I’m hoping to be a multi-published author of both YA and Adult fiction with a good and loyal following.

And now, in Barbara’s own words…

Begin at the beginning and go on till you come to the end: then stop.

Not easy advice for Alice. Not easy for writers.

Recently my editor at WestSide voiced her discouragement over manuscripts with strong beginnings and compelling middles that faltered at the end. After spending hours at home reading the most recent one (9-to-5 is a myth in the publishing world) the ending failed to fulfill the promise of the start and she was forced to reject the book.

Which left me thinking: what are the ingredients that make for a compelling ESE – Emotionally Satisfying Ending? The kind of ending that makes readers seek out an author’s backlist and yearn for the next release, that sends them gushing to their friends about their new favorite author?

We all know that the Act 1 Hook is crucial. So we spend long hours crafting that perfect first line. We take classes to make us better at hooking the reader, work with critique partners and use feedback from contests to make the opening pages zing as we lead our protagonists from their ordinary world into the end of Act 1 Crisis.

Then we roll up our sleeves and tackle the vast wasteland of Act 2. It’s a minefield, so we devote time and energy to keeping those hundreds of pages from sagging and loosing the reader’s interest. With nose to the grindstone (can you tell how I love cliché’s) we check plot points and sub-plots, speed up the pace, vary the setting, and make the disasters our protagonists have to face gut-wrenching. We verify goals and motivations and ensure that conflict rises to make our book a page turner.

Finally we, and our characters, reach Act 3. At this point we often sigh with relief and say “they lived happily ever after.” Mission accomplished, we’re ready to send the manuscript off.

Problem is, sometimes we relax too soon.

Act 3 is usually the shortest act, but it contains a major story checkpoint, the emotional release the Greeks called Catharsis. This checkpoint occurs in the moments when the protagonists, and by extension the reader, exhales. The emotions should reach from the page and grab the reader’s heart, providing him or her with a reward for following along the difficult road. This checkpoint, that may take a single paragraph or several pages, can make he difference between a good story and a great read.

All my favorite books have that exhale moment, that feeling of emotional release. Whether it’s a romantic comedy or romantic suspense, paranormal or historical; no matter what happens in the plot, my favorite are defined by the end of the inner journey. They all give me endings that makes me laugh or cry or just a warm glow of triumph.

How do we as authors give our readers that sometimes elusive ESE. Those strong endings result from the build-up of emotion through every step of the Inner Journey, until the protagonists realize and overcome the character flaws that have kept them in turmoil. The writer’s final job is to provide the moment of release the reader has been waiting for. Done right, a writer leaves readers wanting more–begging and dying for more. And that frequently results in an agent or editor giving you a CALL.

My questions to writers — How do you bring your readers to the point where they feel it’s safe to relax and bring their heart rate back under control? How do you make them yearn for another book just like the one in their hands? How do you keep the reader haunting bookstores looking for more books with your name attached?

My questions to readers — Are there books that give you that exhale moment? What are your favorite books where the ending just won’t let you go?

31 comments to “Golden Heart Spotlight – Barbara Binns!”

  1. Edie Ramer
    July 15th, 2010 at 6:02 am · Link

    Barbara, it was a pleasure to meet you at the WisRWA conference. Nice to “see” you here again. I’m so impressed by all your story and your smart blog. Even though I don’t read much YA, I’m going to find PULL and read it.

    This is paraphrased, but someone said that our beginning sells the book and the end sells the next book. In my books, I like to write dramatic endings, with action and emotion. Every book is different, so some books the action part might not fit, but definitely emotion.

  2. June
    July 15th, 2010 at 6:15 am · Link

    Hi Barbara!

    Great interview and congratulations on your success!


  3. Jenn!
    July 15th, 2010 at 6:18 am · Link

    Wow, Barbara.
    What a great interview and I especially like your motto.
    Also, I really like the solid advice you give.
    Congrats on your upcoming release and Good luck on your Golden Heart final. I hope to meet you at nationals.


  4. Margot Justes
    July 15th, 2010 at 6:21 am · Link

    Wonderful interview. Congratulations!
    Margot Justes
    A Hotel in Paris

  5. Christine M
    July 15th, 2010 at 6:29 am · Link

    Wow, Barbara – great interview and what wonderful points about endings. You ask questions and I don’t think I have answers, but it’s sure going to make me look at my endings a little more carefully!

  6. Angi Morgan
    July 15th, 2010 at 6:32 am · Link

    Congrats and welcome to the whirlwind business called publishing, Barbara! Great post fill with great advice.

    I write romantic suspense, so the rollarcoaster ride of stopping and taking breaths is all through the book. At the ending, readers are allowed to sigh…mainly because the bad guy’s been taken care of… >>sinister laugh here<<< I think I get off easier writing suspense. There's actually two endings. :mrgreen:


  7. Gillian Layne
    July 15th, 2010 at 6:46 am · Link

    Congratulations, Barbara! I need to go look over my ending again, I think. 😉

  8. B. A. Binns
    July 15th, 2010 at 6:48 am · Link

    Hi, Edie, nice to meet you again, at least on the virtual plane. I’ve heard the same, that the end sells the next book. Frequently I write the beginning, write the end, then come back and do the middle. That way both the beginning and the end have the most time to to be reworked and editted. Here’s hoping we all get people interested in our stories, and get them hungry to hear more.

  9. Debra St. John
    July 15th, 2010 at 6:58 am · Link

    Hey Barbara,

    I have a library in my house, too, and it’s one of my favorite rooms! Of course I have books scattered in every other room as well, but I love having one spot to house the majority of my collection.

    Hmn? As for endings, I tend to have mine in mind even before I start writing a new book. I have to know exactly how the story is going to wind up before I start my characters on their journey to get there. I’ll often write the ending soon after I have the first couple of chapters done. Then I can work on the middle. A connecting the dots type of exercise.

  10. Lizbeth Selvig
    July 15th, 2010 at 7:28 am · Link

    Hi Barbara,
    Great post — great advice! And, I think your upcoming novel sounds so intriguing. I’m very much looking forward to reading it.

    I love to wrap up my endings with lots of happy emotion. And I also try to bring in one of the ongoing themes that’s been woven through the book. In my GH novel, for example, my heroine is a quiet, country woman who loves her solitary life. The hero is a musician who proposes on a concert stage. When she says yes, it completes a circle started at the beginning of the book. I just love those big, meaningful endings!

    Good luck with the GH, Barbara–I can’t wait to meet you in Orlando!

  11. B. A. Binns
    July 15th, 2010 at 7:49 am · Link

    Wow Lizbeth, I can just visualize that ending. Especially since I’m a quiet woman who likes solitude too – and finding life right now too hectic to be believed. I’ll bet her heart just soars when he proposes in front of the world. And when I read an ending that complements the beginning I’m usually hugging myself with joy. Hope to see you at conference, too, and hope to read that ending in print some day soon.

  12. Kim Baccellia
    July 15th, 2010 at 8:01 am · Link

    Congrats on your upcoming book PULL. I love multicultural YAs and can’t wait to read yours!

    I agree on the whole ESE idea. Books that left me wanting more had to include: SHIVER by Maggie Stiefvater, SISTERS RED by Jackson Pearce, BEAUTIFUL CREATURES by Kami Garcia, and HARMONIC FEEDBACK by Tara Kelly.

    Each of these books not only had powerful beginnings but the endings left me wanting more.

  13. Mary Lawrence
    July 15th, 2010 at 8:05 am · Link

    Hi Barbara,
    I look forward to chatting with you at Nationals. I heard Tess Gerritson speak at a Maine Literary Event a couple of months ago. She has a wonderful ability to keep a reader in the palm of her hand, up to the very end.

  14. Yasmine
    July 15th, 2010 at 8:10 am · Link

    Barbara I’m very excited about your Golden Heart nomination and I wish you a win. In four years of writing you’ve put together a solid foundation of writing skills, rock on woman! Your blog has the makings of a fantastic workshop and I believe many new unpublished and even a few published writers would benefit. Can’t wait for Pull.

  15. Lynda Bailey
    July 15th, 2010 at 8:50 am · Link

    I agree this is a great post, Barbara!
    And congrats again on “Pull.”
    Can’t wait to meet you in Orlando.

  16. Jen McAndrews
    July 15th, 2010 at 10:13 am · Link

    Hi Barbara!
    First off, I cannot wait to get my hands on PULL!! Soooo looking forward to it.
    Second, squeee! Another Dick Francis fan!! Tell me, how do you feel about Felix taking over? And Tess Gerritson… I heard her speak at Thrillerfest a few years back and became an instant fan.
    Third, I’m awful at endings. Awful. My problem is, by the time I reach those ending scenes I am just sick to death of my characters and their pathetic problems 😉 But you know, reading your post, I realize even as a reader I may not be paying enough attention to the ending – because no endings come to mind as readily sticking with me. Now, maybe I’m reading the wrong books – lol! – but more likely I’m not focused enough. I’m going to try and carve some time out this weekend to just look at endings of my favorite books. Thanks for an inspiring post!

  17. Amy
    July 15th, 2010 at 11:03 am · Link

    You raise some interesting questions here, Barbara! Getting the end right can be very tricky, I think just as challenging as the beginning or middle, though in different ways. I do agree that I think it helps if you know what you’re writing towards … or if you go back once you do know and seed your text with foreshadowing, symbolism, and always raising the stakes to increase tension.

    I will say that one common mistake I see that ruins endings for me as a reader is having an extended denouement after the final climax has happened. I was reading one novel in the last week or two where there must have been eighty pages of wrapping things up after the exciting showdown. I read those eighty pages more out of a feeling of duty than because of true interest.

  18. Andy B.
    July 15th, 2010 at 11:07 am · Link


    As always, I am impressed by your writing. I look forward to reading the completed Pull. The cover looked great! Seeing B.A. Binns there was pretty impressive. 🙂

    ESE’s to me work best when they flow organically from the story. When the ending I originally planned on changes as I write or more aptly rewrite, I find the ending is much more personally satisfying. I think (or at least hope) that translates to an ESE for my audience.

    Keep up your great work!

  19. Nancy Evertz
    July 15th, 2010 at 6:18 pm · Link

    Congratualations on your upcoming book! We met at WisRWA and I can’t wait to see you at all the GH events. Enjoy the ride.

  20. Nancy Evertz
    July 15th, 2010 at 6:19 pm · Link

    Congratulations on your upcoming book! We met at WisRWA and I can’t wait to see you at all the GH events. Enjoy the ride.

  21. Laurel Wanrow
    July 15th, 2010 at 7:25 pm · Link

    Hi Barbara,
    Great article. I want a happy ending that echos the start of the book, the first meet, or something significant in the characters’ coming together.

    The book that has stuck with me for two months now is Finnikin of the Rock by Melina Marchetta. Its a YA. **Spoiler Alert** They undertake a long quest, with many struggles, of course they end up together, but as they are working out the agreement – fighting to the end, LOL – of what together will be, little bits from their past struggles come up and are resolved via sharp, touching banter. You realize how strong their love is because of what they have been through together. I finished the book and immediately started it again and read it through a second time, which showed me just how much that ending did echo their arc.

    Thanks for the article. See you at Nationals!

  22. B. A. Binns
    July 15th, 2010 at 8:46 pm · Link

    Thanks to everyone who wrote in. Especially thanks for the book suggestions, I’m always on the lookout for new great reads.

  23. Emily Bryan
    July 16th, 2010 at 6:06 am · Link

    Congrats on your Golden Heart nod, Barb.

    And thanks for the brilliant craft advice. I love endings that invite me to imagine the characters are continueing their adventures without me. Loretta Chase’s LORD OF SCOUNDRELS springs to mind. The end made me smile.

  24. Nancy J. Parra
    July 16th, 2010 at 6:43 am · Link

    Hi Barb,

    Great post on endings. It’s something I’ve been working on for a long time. I find it hard to let go of my characters.

    Congrats on your success and I hope you reach that five year goal!!

    cheers, Nancy J. Parra

    Read DREAM MAN and MR. CHARMING available now
    Coming Fall 2011, The Counterfeit Bride.

  25. Bethany Hegedus
    July 16th, 2010 at 7:58 am · Link

    Fabulous post and questions about what makes an ending satisfying and not only satisfying but leaving a reader yearning for more while at the same time bringing the read to a point of conclusion. To me the answer is in the emotional journey and paying attention to that journey even as the plot winds down.

    As writers we layer. In drafting, there is a push at the end to just get it done. But that doesn’t mean the work is over. In the opening and middle we question ourselves, our character motivations, we go back we layer and relayer and revise and revise. By the time we get to the ending chapters, some think their job is almost done. It isn’t.

    It is our job to leave the reader satisfied and hungry for more, which can be a tricky thing to accomplish.

    With my novel Between Us Baxters kids always ask me what happens next. Where do Polly and her family move to? Does Daddy really stop drinking? Do she and Timbre Ann remain friends? They ask for a sequel. I hope and pray this is a sign the end did its job. I write them back or say, if on a school visit, you tell me. What does happen next? You care enough about Polly and Timbre Ann…you tell me.

  26. Laurie P.
    July 16th, 2010 at 8:42 am · Link

    Hi Barbara,

    What a great interview and blog post! No wonder I’m such a fan of your writing–we share many of the same fave authors! I have to agree that endings can make or break a book. I have a couple of books on my keeper shelf that perhaps didn’t pull me in as much as I would have liked, but the endings were so stunning and perfect–absolutely incredible payoffs!–that it was worth slogging through the hundreds of pages prior.

    The flip side of this is that a favorite historical author of mine (now retired) wrote an absolutely fabulous western that followed the romances of several women. The ending was good, giving the expected HEA for all the women. However, an epilogue then summed up what happened to all these characters over their lifetimes—very realistically for the time period–which meant some of the heroes died and the women never did get a true HEA. As much as I loved, loved, loved the book, the epilogue made my heart break for the characters I’d fallen in love with. I couldn’t bring myself to re-read the book, knowing how tragically some of the heroes died. The epilogue literally stole the HEA away.

    Thanks for the great tips and post on endings. I can’t wait to read Pull and I sincerely hope you accomplish your 5-yr. goal!

    Laurie P.

  27. Laurie London
    July 16th, 2010 at 10:14 am · Link

    Hi Barbara (fellow GIAMer 🙂 )
    You’ve had such an amazing year with your writing. Congrats on the Golden Heart nomination (I wish I were going to National to cheer you on) and the publication of your first novel. Can’t wait to read PULL.

    I, too, have read books where the ending seems rushed. It’s like the author couldn’t wait to get done. He/she was so relieved and worn out from the climax that they just typed The End. I like to see how the characters have changed, what their new reality is as a result of what’s happened to them. Similar to seeing their ordinary world at the beginning–I like to see their “new” ordinary world at the end.

    I’ll be rooting for you and Elisabeth (at home at my computer while watching Twitter) at the GH/RITA awards ceremony!


  28. Alisa Kober
    July 16th, 2010 at 11:51 am · Link

    Barbara, you are so right! Writers should spend at least as much time on endings as they do on the beginnings. It’s great to hook a reader early but ya got to deliver the goods! Best of luck with the launch of Pull! I checked out your website and see that you have several other novels in the works. They sound very engaging! Can’t wait to read them. Sounds like we have a great new YA author on the block!

  29. Christi Barth
    July 16th, 2010 at 12:48 pm · Link

    Good post! I’m about as hearts and flowers gooey a romantic as they come, so for me a book has to have a tied up in a bow happy ending. Hopefully that is what I deliver to my readers. But I’m not convinced the ending is what makes them want a second book – I think that is all about the voice. A stand out voice throughout a novel sucks me in and makes me want more.

  30. Erica O'Rourke
    July 16th, 2010 at 8:55 pm · Link

    Hi, Barbara!

    Such good advice — I don’t often think about the ending as a reward for the reader, but that’s such a good way of putting it!

    Congratulations on PULL. I’m so excited for you!

  31. Elisa Beatty
    July 17th, 2010 at 6:22 pm · Link

    Hi, Barbara!

    What a great post on the importance of emotionally satisfying endings! I’m going to save it for future reference!

    Congrats on the Golden Heart and on your sale!

Comments are closed.