Today I’m thrilled to have the talented author, humorist and all-round great lady, Barb Taub, spend some time with us. I first met Barb online, a few years ago. My eye was caught by an intriguing and very funny blog post of hers, which I am sharing with you here. I soon learned this was the norm for Barb’s writing and became an immediate fan.
Pour yourself a cuppa or some other beverage of choice and join us for a chat.
PS ~ How does a journalist from the U.S. midwest end up living in Scotland?
BT ~ It’s really my children’s fault. I would have happily continued writing for pennies at the newspaper, but the kids demanded food every day, and had even developed self-indulgent habits like wearing clothes and sleeping in a bed. Journalism was just not going to finance their extravagant lifestyle—they actually insisted on wearing shoes, if you can believe it. So I went over to the dark side, and a human resources career. And then one day, a miracle happened. My company was acquired by a Canadian conglomerate which already had a VP of HR. They gave me a bizarrely generous severance package at the same time as my husband’s downsizing employer dangled an early retirement incentive. I could now realize my dream of being an unemployed dog-walker a writer. So we headed to the UK for adventure and fat rascal scones from Betty’s Tea Shoppes.
PS ~ When I first met you online, your home was truly a castle. There must be a good story about this.
BT ~ I always said I wanted to live on an island and open a coffee shop when I retired. It would, of course, not be a good coffee shop. (I was picturing a Mr. Coffee with some generic grind right out of a can.) That way I would have plenty of time to write trashy novels without constant interruptions er… customers.
The Hub said no problem, and told me to start packing. He just didn’t mention that the “island” was England. But I’d seen The Holiday and the BBC Pride and Prejudice mini-series (Colin Firth as Mr. Darcy, of course), and so I knew that people in England either lived in a castle or in an adorable little cottage named something like Rose Cottage at Upper Little Pigston on Mushmarsh. I was very excited about living in Rose Cottage, but the Hub accidentally got mixed up and rented one tower of a medieval castle instead. It took us a while to adjust to living inside three-foot thick stone walls so cold we wore hats and gloves to bed. We moved in and began trying to understand the language. Grown men called me “flower” and I learned to appreciate the glory that is a proper cup of tea.
After a few years, the Hub announced that we’d mastered enough British and so we were moving to Scotland to discover whether haggis is (are?) some joke the Scots play on tourists, and what they really wear under a kilt. We moved into the Hobbit House, and began trying to understand the local dialect that they call “English”.
“How was yer summer—last Friday, it was?”
“Oh, aye… Last Friday it was taps off fer the lads.”
“And t’neist day it’s back to brass monkeys hoachin fer a wee welder…”**
**[Rough translation: brass monkey repairs aside, if Glaswegians know anything about warm weather, it’s to take it when you get it. So on Friday last, the ‘lads’ enthusiastically went taps (shirts) off, exposing disturbingly large areas of very pink skin. Trousers were rolled up to showcase fishbelly pale limbs as everyone stepped outside to enjoy that great day when we had summer in Glasgow.]
Grown men called everything “wee”, from my fine wee doggie to my fine wee self. I began to appreciate the glory that is a proper dram of scotch whiskey.
PS ~ I love that you collaborate with your daughter in writing the Null Series. Please tell us a bit about the series and how the collaboration came about.
BT ~ My daughter and I have this tiny little life-altering addiction to superhero movies. Okay, we’d probably starve to death with chocolate only a room away if a Marvel hero was in front of us. (Except Hulk, of course, because that would be just wrong.) But in general, give some guy a spandex outfit and a mask and he owns us.
One night we started talking about superheroes with awkward powers. Let’s say you are the Man of Steel, but you don’t dare have sex with Lois Lane because your LittleMan of Steel would probably split her in two. (And we’re not even going to discuss the havoc your Swimmers of Steel could wreck on Woman of Pasta…)
The point is that when you think about it, most people with special powers would be lining up to get rid of them and get their normal lives back. That’s where Null City comes in. After one day there, those with extra gifts turn into their closest human counterparts. For example, imps become baristas. (Of course, they’re now ex-PhD candidates in literature or classics who claim to be experts on third-world coffee blends and obscure world music groups. But hey – there is only so close to human that hellspawn can get…)
So the idea of Null City is that it takes our fantasy worlds and turns them into normal life. My daughter Hannah (aka obsessive cowriter) and I talked about Null City for her last year of high school. The one thing we couldn’t figure out was who the villain would be, when everyone is a hero. The problem with heroes, though, is that they don’t all have the same goals. What if each group – angels, superheroes, and just plain humans – is willing to do whatever it takes to make their right thing happen? So Hannah headed off to University in Scotland and I headed to my computer. One year and many hours of video chats later, the first Null City book, One Way Fare, was published by Taliesin (now Hartwood). Its backstory is the founding of Null City. In the second book, Don’t Touch, the backstory is the Metro train, Null City’s connection with the outside world. Book three, Round Trip Fare, explores what happens when saving Null City might mean destroying the world.
PS ~ Do Not Wash Hands in Plates
BT ~ As a matter of fact, I’ve just gotten back from India. This time the three of us ate our way across visited to Rajasthan, where we rode on camels, horses, and elephants. When we couldn’t come up with any other large animals to sit on, we crashed a wedding full of total strangers, visited the world’s largest cannon, and learned how to make towel monkeys. It’s hard to believe, but we had even more fun this year AND nobody was hospitalized.
PS ~ Your writing is a pleasure to read and your humor appears effortless (I mean that in the most complimentary way) as you are able to make the most mundane event into a laugh-out-loud moment. What’s the most valuable piece of writing advice you would share with us?
BT ~ I’ve always thought Dorothy Parker said it best: “If you have any young friends who aspire to become writers, the second greatest favor you can do them is to present them with copies of The Elements of Style. The first greatest, of course, is to shoot them now, while they’re happy.”—Dorothy Parker [Note: in the interests of full disclosure, I should mention that I already have a copy of Elements of Style, and that I’m actually quite happy right now. Please don’t shoot me.]
PS ~ What may we eagerly anticipate from you next?
BT ~ The newest Null City book, Round Trip Fare, will be released on 7 April. In addition, I’m working on three writing projects: the final book in the Null City series, a new cozy mystery set in India, and of course, the next book in the India travel memoirs.
PS ~ Barb modestly didn’t promote this but I happen to know that Round Trip Fare is available for pre-order at this link.
It’s always a pleasure to spend time with Barb. I’ve added below the review of Don’t Wash Hands In Plates that I posted on Amazon and Goodreads. It’s a quick read that brightens any day!
5.0 out of 5 stars Friendship + photography + travel = irresistible!
ByPatricia L. Sands on February 5, 2016
Format: Kindle EditionVerified Purchase
Friendship + photography + travel = an irresistible combination for me! I have to admit I’m an avid subscriber to Barb Taub’s informative and insightful, and always hilarious, blog. When I read she (along with her BFFs) was publishing a memoir about their trip to India, I couldn’t wait to download it. Needless to say, I laughed my way through this quick, entertaining read … even the painful moments (e.g. Delhi Belly … sorry, Barb … and death-defying driving) were hilarious and that takes a certain talent. Colors, smells, tastes, sights and sounds … and the unending hospitality of the people of India … all come alive. The reader is offered an insightful look at countryside, cities, cuisine and cultural proclivities and the photography is outstanding. Reading this tasty travel memoir is an all-encompassing experience. However, as much as I enjoyed all that, what I loved most was the friendship shared by Barb, Jaya and Janine. After 35 years, their bond is as strong as ever. That is a treasure to experience in itself!
This is a long weekend around the world and I send my warmest wishes for whatever special days you are celebrating.
May they all involve chocolate!