Author Interview: Lisa Barr

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Lisa Barr is the author of The Unbreakables, one of our upcoming book club titles. Before you read our member reviews, take some time to learn more about the best-selling author.

Get to know the writer behind the book in this interview:

Tell us about your book, The Unbreakables…

I loved writing EVERY second of this book. After my debut novel, FUGITIVE COLORS (historical suspense)– I decided to ‘jump’ genres and write something fun, sexy, and empowering. My protagonist Sophie Bloom’s life falls apart when she is betrayed by her husband and her best friends. She flees Chicago (her hometown) and heads to the South of France to heal her broken heart.

There, she discovers her joie de vivre: a lust for life, love, sex, and art. With Sophie, I created a woman who learns what it truly means to sculpt a REAL masterpiece … her own life. I drew on my own personal experience in this book – as a mum of three daughters, and as a woman who had a traumatic divorce and then found the love of my life, and married him.

THE UNBREAKABLES is a passionate tribute to a woman’s strength in the face of heartbreak and adversity. Sophie Bloom is a Hot Mess turned badass, and I kinda fell in love with her … I hope my readers do too. 

The story is set in France, what influenced this decision?

The setting is like another character in my novel, with a personality of its own. The South of France is captivating in its ethereal loveliness.

The air, the sea, the historic Medieval structures, the fragrance of lavender, the perfumeries … you can lose yourself there, and conversely, find yourself. Sophie rediscovers her true self amid the natural beauty.

And, by the way, doing research in Saint-Paul de Vence, was, ahem, NOT torture. I bathed in it, utilizing all five senses, every step of the writing process, and gifted it all to Sophie. 

What kind of reader would love this book?

Women of all ages will devour it. Surprisingly, I have a lot of male readers. It’s like sneaking your sister’s Cosmopolitan in the bathroom.

The novel really showcases the ins and outs of relationships from all angles and ages: marriage, divorce, parenting, mother-daughter bond, girl code, lovers and leavers. It also gives hope to those looking to reinvent themselves, those seeking a total escape, and interestingly, it provides a guide to those needing a new lease on life.

One young woman wrote to me that after reading my book, she left her job and her bad boyfriend, moved from New York to Rome and is now living her best life — I love that! The book is beachy, sexy, artsy, and empowering.

I highly recommend a good bottle of red wine while reading it (you’re welcome). 

Another one of your novels, Woman on Fire, is set to be a movie. What can you tell us about this?

I have been on a non-stop book tour with WOMAN ON FIRE for the past fourteen months! It’s a gripping tale of a savvy young journalist from Chicago (yes, I’m always giving my hometown a cameo!), who gets embroiled in a dangerous international art scandal centered around a Nazi-looted masterpiece.

It is a woman vs. woman showdown. I worked on this novel during the Covid lockdown, putting all my favourite elements into the book: suspense, history, art, passion, daring journalistic pursuits, and of course, strong, fiery women (my specialty). 

In exciting news, actress Sharon Stone is set to adapt the book into a film or a TV series. Most of all, I really dig writing strong, fierce characters.

You’ve had a successful career, what has been your biggest achievement?

I think it comes down to this … and I’m going to shamelessly pluck this quote right out of THE UNBREAKABLES – taken from Lea, a French millennial artist.

She and Sophie Bloom become friends (and yes, a whole lot more) Sophie has revealed to her the devastating pain of her broken marriage. Lea looks at her and says: “My mother used to tell me when I doubted myself that no one wants to be with a shell. Be the pearl, Sophie, and you will find you again.” 

This is my life in a nutshell. I have persevered through tough personal situations, but always followed my passion and believed in love, no matter what. As a journalist, I have interviewed presidents and prime ministers, rock stars like Madonna, Guns ‘n Roses, Sting, Duran Duran.

I’ve achieved my ‘bucket list’ in the book world, and I’m doing what I love. But hands-down, my biggest achievement is being Mum to three daughters – teaching them to trust their instincts, to stand on their own two feet, to reach for the stars, and to always know that they are ‘enough’. I have a very strong bond with my girls – so grateful. The best chapter of all. 

Where do you get your inspiration?

I always say you can take the girl out of journalism, but not the journalism out of the girl. Having been a reporter/editor for years, I’m a news junkie and that’s where I always draw my best stories.

For example, when I read and researched the explosive scandal that rocked the art world known as “The Munich Art Hoard” – I knew I had found the “nugget” for WOMAN ON FIRE.

THE UNBREAKABLES was inspired by the Ashley Madison scandal. It was July 2015, and a story broke about Ashley Madison, a website for married cheaters. Their motto was “Life is short. Have an affair.” (I’m not joking). Hackers made good on a threat that if the infidelity site didn’t shut down, they would reveal the estimated 32 million names of its users, and they made good on their promise.

And so there I was (in real life) with a small group of friends having dinner, and one person was reading off the list of Ashley Madison cheaters in our community (Awful, right?). We were all sucked in — not my proudest moment.

I was shocked. Neighbours, high school friends, acquaintances, etc. were on this exposed list of cheaters from the hacked site.

It was the train wreck that you knew you should just look away, but simply couldn’t. The story quickly began to form in my mind …  

Who were your favourite authors growing up?

I was influenced by D.H. Lawrence, William Shakespeare, Leon Uris, Judith Krantz, Erica Jong, Judy Blume, Joyce Carol Oates. But top dog is EVERY SINGLE NANCY DREW BOOK ever written…Nancy’s sleuthing taught me how to write a page-turner.

I was the little girl with the flashlight under my covers, reading long after “lights out.” THE DIARY OF ANNE FRANK is probably my most important literary influence — still on my nightstand after nearly four decades. 

Share one fun fact we wouldn’t know about you.

When I was 17 years old, I was on an internship program during high school in Springfield Illinois (our State Capitol). I was approached by a special law enforcement unit, and they asked if I would be willing to be used as ‘bait’ to help lure and break a sex trafficking ring.

Of course, I said YES.

In those days, you didn’t need a parent to sign off on anything. Well, we broke the sex trafficking ring and people were arrested. You can only imagine what that experience was like for a teenager – it was life-changing.

I knew at that moment that I would go after the hard stories and seek the truth, no matter what. I gave the story to my protagonist Jules Roth in my novel WOMAN ON FIRE as her back story. 

What are you reading right now?

By day, I’m deep diving into lots of research books for my work-in-progress. But at night, when time is all mine, I read all the fun stuff … I just wrapped up HELLO BEAUTIFUL by Ann Napolitano – absolutely loved it! 

What’s next for Lisa Barr?

My new novel coming out in 2024 is called THE GODDESS OF WARSAW.  It is an historical thriller. It is a suspenseful tale of a Hollywood actress – a ‘femme fatale’ — and her dark, secret past during the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising.

It’s gritty, sexy, artsy, haunting, and historical – all the twisty things I love to write, read, and imagine. I mean, how else can I be a heroine, an assassin, AND a femme fatale – all from my little corner in Suburbia!

Thank you for chatting with us Lisa!

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