Gina M. Barlean, 54, is the author of five novels: Casting Stones (2012), Dead Blow (2013), Thorns of Rosewood (2014), Flames of Rosewood (2015), and Bad Blood of Rosewood (2016); one book of blog essays: Moments of Clarity (2014); one informational book on networking: Build a Writing Team (2014); a short story: Man with a Green Scarf (2017); and two collections of short stories: Recipes for Revenge (2012), and Dark Works (2014). Her novel-in-progress, working title: Father, Mother, Son, is scheduled to be released in 2018.
“I grew up on a farm with pigs, cattle, horses, and acres of corn and alfalfa. By the age of twelve, as every farm kid can say, I was driving the small tractor to pull the hayrack while my dad and hired guys threw bales. Drove the same tractor to pull pipe during irrigation. Eventually I helped with many things, from tagging, vaccinating, and herding cattle, to walking beans, turning bales, feeding bottle calves, helping scoop out bins, walking fence lines, driving the grain truck, and once in high school, I even went out to disc a field. Mom found things for me to do, too, and certainly by high school, I knew how to make mashed potatoes and gravy, one of the three things my mother put on every plate of food she made, or so it seemed. Twice a day my mother fed my father this way. Plus a big breakfast. And mid morning lunch. and afternoon lunch. I have no idea how he got anything done for all of the eating. When he was in the field, she took it out to him, me often helping or doing the chore for her. My father wouldn’t have dreamed of taking a brown bag with a sandwich and an apple with him to the field. Nor would have anyone else’s farmer fathers. That farmwife would have been the subject of much ridicule by other farm women as they visited after church on Sunday.
I had the unique opportunity of growing up spending a lot of time alone. My siblings, all older, were gone, almost grown, or outgrowing childish thing. Their children, only a few years younger than I, when left at “grandma’s house”, aka, my mother and father’s house, were often my responsibility to keep an eye on. This allowed me to be as much an observer as a participant in play, and in also, grown up matters. Not only grown up matters, but matters of people who were growing older. I know what a big help I was to my mother when we carried loads of laundry up the cellar stairs to hang on the line, or when it was time to clean the gutters on the house, or to run out to the root cellar to fetch a jar of pickles.
One interesting part of my youth was how much time my parents spent with their siblings, all older, and very Czech. Unique characters, every one of them, and you’ll certainly see them all in my books, not specifically, but their personality traits will show up in places. I’d venture to say, watching the mannerisms and speaking habits of relatives, and neighbors in our small Nebraska community, was a wonderful education in character development. Think of Boo Radely in To Kill a Mocking Bird, or Annie Wilkes in Misery. To create unique characters, you need to observe people and that’s certainly something I’ve had an opportunity to do.
Do I have a Masters of Fine Arts? Nope. I don’t have a bachelor degree in English or writing or journalism either. Life: it’s my only education. Oh, I’ve had some classes. I read books and articles to learn about all-things-writing. I’ve also made sure to meet and know people who are more learned than I. Life can be an amazing teacher if you’re willing to be a tenacious student.
Although I can give no credit to years of higher learning, I do owe what I’ve learned to those who have reached out and taken me under their wings. There are many. Some have helped me a little, and some have helped me a lot. I’m grateful to all. And I know it’s important to give back.
Paying it forward, I’ve made a point to be involved as much as I can be in the Nebraska Writers Guild, as a board members, a committee chair, and helping out where I can. I’ve participated and helped to found critique groups in my area. I’ve hosted small seminars and workshops which involved other writers I respect. I’ve worked with libraries and book stores and art galleries to arrange speaking opportunities for fellow-Nebraska-authors.
Thank you for visiting my website and reading my books.