Barbara Fagan Speake

I do lots of presentations to community and professional groups on ‘Writing Crime Fiction’ and always finish by addressing the question of why I write. My answer? I write because I have to and I would continue to do so even if my books never saw the light of day. I believe that teaching someone to read and to write is the greatest gift we can give them. I can’t imagine my life without reading or writing.

I grew up in a crowded home in Connecticut with two parents and five brothers and sisters, only eight years separating the oldest sibling from the youngest. From an early age, I was surrounded by books, my dad an avid reader. I still picture him relaxing with a book and his Camel cigarettes. Not that he had much time to relax as for years he worked two forty hour a week jobs to earn enough to send each of us to university. We were the first generation in the family to get university degrees and I will always be grateful to my late parents for their encouragement and inspiration. 

In the early 1970s, while on a six week study tour, looking at the British National Health Service, I had the great good fortune to meet an Englishman on my first night in England. It was love at first sight. After finishing graduate school, we got married the following year and I settled in England where, apart from some eighteen months in New Zealand, I have lived ever since. We have two grown up children, one of whom lives in the US and the other in the UK.

My writing began with non-fiction, all those university and graduate school essays, a PhD and a Master’s thesis, and books for parents of individuals with intellectual disabilities during my first career as a research psychologist. When I then trained as a clinical psychologist and later became an NHS manager, my writing revolved around clinical reports, court reports, training manuals, business plans and Board reports until I retired in 2011.

But I always wondered if I had a fiction book in me. 

I wrote my debut novel, Secrets Only Sleep in 2005 and happily became an indie author. I was determined from the outset to retain my intellectual property rights and to write when and how I wanted. In 2011, I published Primed by the Past, the first in what is now an eight book series featuring Detective Annie Macpherson, a Scot who is working in Connecticut alongside a group of detectives in a fictional town called Westford. I liked the juxtapositioning of a British character with her American counterparts but it means that I have to have both a British and an American editor. My books are more psychological suspense than murder mysteries, as my background makes me question why people do the things they do. A recurring theme in the books is revenge for past wrongs and every book has a main plot and one or more subplots. Often the reader is left with a moral dilemma regarding the crimes depicted. 

I write in my own study surrounded by reference books and Macpherson memorabilia from the Clan Macpherson museum and a specially commissioned teapot with the names of the books published at that point. All my books go through extensive editing, several drafts, and scrutiny from beta readers. I had the good fortune a few years back of meeting a forensic specialist who also now reads the books in draft form. I am also lucky that my husband Terry is a graphic designer by profession and a professional photographer so he does all the preparation work and cover designs for my paperbacks which I have printed and distribute myself, while the e-books are available on Amazon. 

I guess like many Indie authors I find that the hardest part is getting known. I am lucky to have built up a firm following over the years but marketing is definitely something I need to focus on more. I keep telling myself to get my head around developing my website, my earlier one running well until my son moved away! I will one of these days. Until lockdown, most of my promotion was through word of mouth, regular presentations to community groups (some of whom are now starting to resort to Zoom presentations), attendance at crime writing festivals and involvement in two writing groups, one of which I facilitate. I know I have to do more!

One of benefits in being an indie author is meeting so many other indie authors who have similar struggles but are so immensely talented. I have spent many hours in the company of their characters and their stories and they have enhanced my love of reading. I know we are all motivated in our books to tell the best stories we can. Detective Annie Macpherson certainly has more stories to tell and who knows, one of these days I may be inspired to create a new series but only after Annie has finished with me …

7 responses to “Barbara Fagan Speake

  1. Barbara’s childhood sounds similar to mine. Although I didn’t have as many siblings, 4 of us were born within a 5 year period. Poor mom, but she loved us all. And it was my mom with the book always in her hand, when she wasn’t taking care of us. We had so many books friends said it was like being in a library.
    –Rebecca Carter

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  2. Loved reading this Barbara.. added a little extra flavour to learn more about the woman behind the great writing☘️🎈

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  3. One hundred percent, dead on! As an indie, you feel like you are swimming up stream against an impossibly swift current. Linking fins is the only way a little fish can make it. Thanks for posting!

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  4. How lovely to get to know you, Barbara. I was touched by your story – your extraordinary achievements (your parents must have been proud!) and your happiness found with your English husband. It’s always inspiring to hear from other writers about their journey both before and after that life-changing choice to be an author… especially an indie author, with all the determination and effort that takes. It’s great to see how far you’ve come and what drives you on. I’m looking forward to reading your books.

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