Interview with Joan Barbara Simon

How would you describe yourself in a single sentence?
I'd say I'm a style slag who is partial to men's underwear under certain circumstances.
What made you write in the first place?
When I was five years old, I was picked out by the Headmistress, Mrs Hill, from the mass of children sitting cross-legged on the floor during a typical Monday morning assembly at an east London infant school. Asian, African, British, European, Caribbean, Other (please specify). No uniform, just specks of coloured cloth and peeps of skin flanked by teachers comfortable on their chairs. We must look like Hundreds n Fousands, I thought. All these colourful children. If you look at em from way up, like a bird, we must look like hundreds n fousands, like when they’re stuck on a marshmallow or somefing. Or on these chocolate buttons from the sweet-shop round the corner, you know, in those little white paper bags with a pleat on the side, and you´d always have at least two of these buttons that’d stick together back-to-back. As I scrambled to my feet, flushed by pride, my eyes on that soft, smiling woman who had just called my name, whose pale, perfumed skin always made me think of candy floss, and whose fingers now dipped into a small pouch (lovely, lovely fingers you got, Missis ´ill...) to produce a lollipop, a hard, round one that you could suck for ages, the magnitude of the moment did not escape me. Mrs Hill, full of praise as she pinned a gold star to my chest. See, I’d been getting nothing but gold stars all last week in my exercise book.

‘For wonderful, clear, joined-up writing like the big children. Well done!’

For the rest of assembly I was allowed to sit at the front, facing the congregated school, all those eyes of all those hundreds n fousands fixed on my gold star. And on ma lollipop.

When I grow up, I’m gonna be a writer n a teacher. I love words, writing ... n I love teachers.

For the rest of that morning, I would forget my secret envy of Babita and Rajinder, my best friends who could speak other languages (though they hated speaking them in front of us), and whose shopfronts were jewelled with a curly writing that looked to me like some kind of music. Why couldn’t I be two people instead of one, too? At home I would play at being one of them, invent a language to imitate them. Put my poncho on my head to emulate Babita’s wondrous black mane tamed into a thick rope of a plait that dangled in a surly fashion beyond the seat of her chair (whereas Rajinder wore his hair in a bun under a hankie with an elastic around it and when I asked him once to take it off so I could have a look he said he wasn’t allowed to). Right now, I didn’t mind my picky-picky hair or the fact that I could only speak English. For the rest of that morning, I would be the source of envy.

I’ll let you ave a lick a my lolly at play time cos we’re friends, innit? I smiled over to them. And they smiled back.

I´m gonna be a writer. One day. I just know I am.
what genre do you write in?
My books have been classified as women’s fiction, post-colonial fiction, British fiction. Adult fiction. In a bookshop you would probably find Mut@tus and Verses Nature under ‘erotica’. My other novel, Long Time Walk on Water, has rightly been described as ‘genre-bending’, although more conservative readers would classify it as post-colonial fiction, women’s fiction or maybe even romance. I don’t mind which labels are used as long as I end up in the top ten (lol).
Describe your desk
Messy and that's the way I like it. It gives me lots to think about.
Do you set writing goals and if so, what are they?
I have different types of goals. Some are short term, i.e. what’s on my To Do list for today. Others medium-term; where I should be with my writing in a month or two. And others long-term; a year or further from now.
What's the story behind your latest book?
Verses Nature is the story of Carmina and Tatar:
Tatar (Carmina thinks he stinks of Male Pig) and Carmina (Tatar can smell when a woman's on heat), locked in an intellectual-erotic Kampf that will end tragically if she loves him as much as he loves her. Sex. Power. God. Perversion. Or is it: innocence? It's about two controversial, addictive protagonists who change the rules, and in doing so, they challenge us to change our mind about what we think we know and like.

Verses Nature has, as an overall theme, and in common with all of my fiction, the notion of self-interrogation and growth. It’s about carving out space for personal development. This can’t be done without also coming to terms with one’s sexuality - I know, I’ve tried!
Is being an author your dream job? If so, how long have you been chasing the dream? If not, what would be your dream job?
Being an author is indeed my dream job. I’ve always wanted to be an author and a teacher/lecturer and I have been both. Third on my list would be to run a literary café; a place with good food, discussions, recitals, exhibitions, and maybe a small bed & breakfast on the first floor.
What has been your best moment as a writer?
Apart from holding the very first copy of my first publication, The Red Room, in my hands, and thinking: so, now you’re a writer, I’d say one of the best moments was receiving a standing ovation from an audience of several hundred for my poetry performance at the Philharmonie in Luxembourg.
Do you see yourself in any of your characters?
Aspects of me inevitably resurface in my work, but this is not to say that my fiction’s always autobiographical. Mut@tus, for example, is a story about a woman who escapes the drawbacks of her supposed dreamed catch by checking out men on the internet. Her Sunday morning marital obligations leave her hungry and generally questioning the lifestyle she’s chosen; she, who wanted so much from life. Is the grass really greener on the other side? Only one way to find out... Everyone wants to know if I’m writing from experience. Some believe to know. In a moment of weakness I gave this guy a try, met him at a conference once. I could tell that he’d read Mut@tus; he insisted on trying to impress me with some antics I had described in the book. Exactly as I had described them... I had written a novel/play, not a sex manual. I thought. When he wanted a second helping. Sorry. I’m the author, not the protagonist. My name is not Virginia Mendes.
Was one of your characters more challenging to write than another?
Characters who’re not like me, who don’t think and/or act like me are the ones I find the most challenging to depict convincingly. This is why I would say my two male characters, James Dunbar in Long Time Walk on Water, and Tatar in my current novel-in-progress, Verses Nature, have not only been the most challenging, but the most rewarding.
Do you base your characters on people you know?
Sometimes, yes. I very rarely go into any detail on the physical appearance of my characters, so I doubt that anyone I know will easily find themselves in my fiction. I do pinch character traits from the people around me, but once I lose myself in writing, these characters develop in their own right, which means away from their original source of inspiration.
When you're not writing, how do you spend your time?
When not writing, I think about writing! And sometimes I just sit back, look at my life, and say Thank You.
What motivated you to become an indie author?
I got sick and tired of agents telling me there was no niche for my work when I knew full well that there was. In the meantime I am convinced that agents need us more than we need them. Being an indie author is exciting and empowering.
How has Smashwords contributed to your success?
Smashwords allows indie authors to bring their works to the world and circumvent the hurdles which mainstream publishing puts in the way of countless talented authors.
Is there a message in your book(s) that you want readers to grasp?
Definitely, and that message is: Yes, you may, you dare, you owe it to yourself.
Published 2016-04-12.
Smashwords Interviews are created by the profiled author, publisher or reader.

Books by This Author

Verses Nature Vol.1: In The Beginning Was The Heat (Special Edition)
Price: $5.99 USD. Words: 21,800. Language: English. Published: November 1, 2016. Categories: Fiction » Erotica » Literary Erotica, Fiction » Romance » Erotic
Tatar loves women: After three thousand women, I stopped counting. If you're all so respectable, what're you doing in my bed in the first place, all you women with your lies at the ready for partners you can't bear to leave? Carmina is ready to hang her wifelife on a hook. Tatar catches her eye: He is coarse. Intelligent. He fascinates me & disgusts me. Fascination won. Time to break the rules
Mut@tus (Special Edition)
Price: $5.99 USD. Words: 77,810. Language: English. Published: October 31, 2016. Categories: Fiction » Women's fiction » Feminist, Fiction » Erotica » Interracial
A keystroke. A click. Is the grass greener on the cyber side? When Virginia Mendes casts off marital blisters for the titillating delights of online sex, she discovers more than she bargains for. Will she understand the visceral mystery of her sexuality once she takes it… offline? This dazzling, ingenious romance set in the 90s is for people like Virginia: people who dare
Long Time Walk On Water (Special Edition)
Price: $5.99 USD. Words: 85,360. Language: English. Published: October 30, 2016. Categories: Fiction » Romance » General, Fiction » Literature » Literary
London. 1960s. They happen to meet at a bus-stop, Rose and Jack. A new, an unexpected future unfolds. It was legal but still somehow taboo. Everyting gonna be alright? (Special edition containing bonus material).
Until Forever Becomes the End
Price: $2.99 USD. Words: 18,660. Language: English. Published: August 22, 2012. Categories: Fiction » Anthologies » General
This collection of poetry and prose stems from the creative writing module offered at the University of Luxembourg as part of the Bachelor in European Cultures for the academic year 2011-2012
Shaking Thoughts
Price: $2.99 USD. Words: 40,840. Language: English. Published: August 21, 2012. Categories: Fiction » Anthologies » Drama/Theatrical
An Anthology of creative writing and a jewel of a book showcasing talented authors we should all keep our eye on. Edited by Joan Barbara Simon.
The Red Room
Price: Free! Words: 33,360. Language: English. Published: August 14, 2012. Categories: Fiction » Erotica » Women's Erotica
Badass writing. Sweaty, masculine. Erotic poetry and prose for readers who like it ‘Tremendously honest and ‘dirty’... outspoken... deeply natural, classy, intelligent.’