We all have our ways of escape, whether it is in a guilt-inducing TV show, a long jog, or maybe a glass of wine. For artist and author Holly Barbo it is writing fantasy and thriller novels that keep her sane in what can seem, especially lately, like an upsidedown world. Her passion for writing started to pick up after the recession hit and the family furniture store fell on harder times. Becoming an author was never her plan, Barbo said. It just kind of happened, starting with, as she remembers, tax week of 2009 when she was sitting in the store. “There was only so much dusting and rearranging of furniture to do so I began writing in between customers,” she said.
Writing has become another notch in Barbo’s belt as an artist. Not only is she a furniture designer, but she also makes hand-crafted wooden jewelry, works as an interior designer, and draws in her spare time. “I’m a creative person. Writing is just another outlet.”
Barbo said she didn’t tell anyone about her new creative outlet at first, but the story was just “pushing and pushing” and she couldn’t stop writing. After sharing her new pasion with her husband, Chris, on a drive home from the store, he asked, “Oh, is it about furniture?” It certainly was not. Barbo’s first project as a writer was “The Sage Seed Chronicles” , which follow characters living on planet Ose in a fantasy thriller. The series includes five novels and was rereleased last year with all new, beautiful covers, Barbo said.
Writing fantasy thrillers was her first love because of the creative latitude fantasy offers. Each story requires a new world be built with every detail outlined. Barbo said she draws inspiration from current events and the news. “I get to take the world’s problems and fix them,” she said. While it may be close to impossible to solve the issues that plague headlines in this world, she can combat them freely in her writing. “I think about whatever is irritating the heck out of me and weave it into my writing,” Barbo said.
More than just getting enjoyment from her novels, Barbo hopes her writing can offer readers new ways to think about the problems of society in a more abstract way. She said she appreciates writing because she can work through ideas and problems in a non-threatening way for her readers. In a fantasy land, personal bias and sensitivity can’t take hold the way they do down here on Earth. “Ideally, I’d like readers to take something from my writing. If I can get people to question, that’d be delightful.”
Beyond her fantasy series, Barbo has a standalone steampunk novel, “Sunstone,” and several of what she calls “quick reads”—short stories with underlying plots built around topical issues. “A Crystal Snowflake”, a contemporary thriller, is based around cyber-terrorism with big banks as the main antagonists. “I wonder where I got that idea?” Barbo said.
Last year was a busy one for Barbo. She re-released her series with new covers, introduced her readers to the quick reads, and had her novels added to a number of multiauthor collections. Unfortunately, Barbo was slowed down a bit when she injured her foot in November, but she said she hopes to start writing a short series again soon. Thirteen of her 14 books are available as ebooks and in paperback, except her collection of short stories—“Tendrils”—which is available only in paperback.