Most authors have deep, rich imaginations from which their characters are born and live. British-born Naomi Barker has a rich and storied past which has given her a front-row seat to people and places no one can possibly dream up.
When the world was hit by the Covid-19 lockdown everyone’s daily life patterns and habits were changed in an instant. Travel stopped, socializing stopped, walking around people watching stopped. These are the exact things that filled Barker’s life and fed her creativity. An accomplished artist and photographer in her own right, she regularly attended gallery openings and art shows to support other artists and, as most creatives do, would hop on airplanes to go experience what the other corners of the world had to offer. Never being one to let moss grow under her feet Barker was faced with a challenge, how to feed and express her creativity while locked inside of her Houston home. So she sat down and wrote for the very first time, and it appears she has popped out a best seller.
DISH-Houston had the opportunity to talk with Mrs. Barker about her almost unbelievable journey from simply deciding she was going to write a book, to having Lola Delphine published and available for sale on Amazon all within a short 24 months. It’s already reached number one in 3 countries for Summer Beach Read. Reading Barker’s book was a much-needed mind vacation as she takes you through the luxury life in London and South of France experiencing the art and music scenes, and a little bit of yacht living via the main character, Lola Delphine. Lola’s emotional journey to finally acknowledge what was missing in her life and how she wouldn’t let anything stop her to get it is a lovely reminder that we all have the ability to create the lives we want and deserve. Plus, there are also a few super racy scenes that would give E.L. James a run for her money, so there is that! Getting to know this gifted visionary was a breath of fresh air so without further ado, please meet Naomi Barker.
DISH-HOUSTON: When and how did you decide you were going to write a book? Did you just need a creative outlet during Covid lockdown and decide one day you were going to sit down and write a best seller?
NAOMI BARKER: I come from a very creative background so I’m continually doing creative things whether it’s writing lyrics or drawing etc. so working on my novel was an extension of that. It was definitely a good escape during COVID to put myself back in all the fabulous locations mentioned in Lola Delphine.
DH: What was this experience like for you? Did the story fall out of your brain easily? Was there a lot of pacing, overthinking characters, wondering where the story would go next, how to finish the story, etc?
NB: The experience of writing this novel has changed my life. In the story, the characters see signs and symbols which guide them in the right direction. It was interesting things started happening like that for me within the storyline. For example, I feature the beautiful Hotel du Cap Eden Roc in the South of France. Through a little research, I discovered its sister hotel is the Lanesborough where I was born (when it was a hospital). There were so many things like this that kept happening which made the writing experience extremely magical.
I didn’t write this book in a typical way as in I didn’t map out a beginning, middle, and end. I would wake up in the middle of the night and an idea would come to me so I’d get up and start writing. I was completely surprised, it was a shock really to discover, almost like waking up being able to speak a foreign language.
There are many sides to the story besides the fun, sexy glamorous tale. I created characters that all have one thing in common, they are all searching for something or running from something. Even though Lola and her friends seem to have a perfect life, this makes the characters more relatable. I believe we all wear some kind of camouflage at one time or another.
DH: WAIT!!! WHAT!!?? You were born at The Lanesborough Hotel?
NB: Yes! It used to be a hospital. During my last trip to London, I was able to take my mother for a walkthrough. The concierge was so incredibly kind and gracious. He took us on a tour of the entire building and my mother and I were able to stand in the room where I was born! It was surreal.
DH: How long was it between you writing the first word to the date Lola Delphine was published?
NB: The book took about 2 1/2 years from the start to its being published. The first draft took a year. The editing came after that. I also narrated the audiobook and produced it during that period. I was a hermit a lot of the time because it took so much focus and no distraction. There were many days besides my daily jog I wouldn’t leave the house. But, I guess most people didn’t leave their homes much during COVID.
I feel incredibly blessed to have two of my best friends on this project, Will Martyr who very generously allowed me to use his stunning painting for the cover of Lola Delphine, and James Pearson for composing the seductive score for the audiobook.
It’s been really inspiring to collaborate with such amazing artists and also of course a lot of fun along the way!
DH: Have you always been a creative writer?
NB: This is my first novel and it’s been an incredibly transportive journey for me. As I mentioned earlier I come from a very creative background having been a professional painter for many years. I always like to express that creativity in different ways so writing is an extension of that. I found it almost like creating an abstract painting. Once I got into the flow of it, it seemed very natural and organic in a way. The story just unfolded and took its own twist and turns.
Music has always been a huge part of my life as you can tell if you read Lola Delphine which features London’s famous jazz club Ronnie Scott’s. The story also has a very musical theme running through it. I once painted a whole collection to the music of the legendary John Coltrane. I followed his notes and turned them into paintings. With writing it is different I found I could only listen to certain things, Bill Evans being one of them otherwise it was too distracting. After a day’s writing, I would pour a glass of wine and turn up very loud 80s music and dance like crazy!
DH: Now that Lola Delphine is published and out there, do you feel the need for it to be a huge success, or are you satisfied with it just being done. Like a painting, it’s finally finished, time to stretch a new canvas?
NB: It was a very interesting thing that took place during the writing of this book. I started it because I thought it would be a fun, challenging project. As it went on it became something very magical and I knew then that it was going to be a huge success. I think it’s the honesty and love in the story that the reader will feel and relate to. I hope it touches people in different ways and that’s the most important thing like any art form. The unique thing is everyone will pull something different from it. It’s quite scary to put one’s heart and soul on the table for criticism, but as I always say, “Life is not a dress rehearsal”.
DH: Do you have any desire to write again? Short-form or maybe more books?
NB: Lola Delphine, as it turns out, is a series. I’m working on the second book right now. It’s a prequel. There is a preview at the end of Lola of the first two chapters. I also am writing a few songs for some musician friends and a very sweet children’s book. Writing is my northern star so I’m not stopping anytime soon!
DH: What have these characters and their lives, for lack of a better term, become to you?
NB: Lola Delphine and everyone in the story have almost become like friends to me. I have been obsessed with them for so long, that I even dream about them!
People have asked me “Are you, Lola?”. My answer is I’m bits and pieces of all of the characters. I have been extremely lucky to go to all the places mentioned in the book because I needed it to be as authentic as possible. A lot of the character’s experiences and emotions come from things I have experienced. This book is full of clues about some of the incredible experiences I’ve had in life with travels, friends, rock stars… none of which I would ever divulge… well, maybe. They are all definitely three-martini stories! Extra dirty with blue cheese olives, please!
DH: UM… clearly it’s time to take you out for dinner! Did you have a specific writing process that drove you to get the story finished? If so, what was it? Maybe it will help others who are trying to write their first novels.
NB: I was so driven to finish this story and let Lola go out to the world, even though it was terrifying at times. I went through many emotions writing this. One of them was “What will people think?”, especially about some of the really sexy scenes. I wasn’t about to let that stop me however because fear will definitely get in the way if one is not careful.
My friend James (Pearson), who did the musical score for the audiobook, gave me some great advice. He said to me halfway through, “Think of it as a separate entity from you, and don’t worry, it’s really good.” I think all artists go through this at some point, it is part of the creative process. At the end of the day, I wrote a novel with all the love and passion, and honesty I have in me. I felt like it was my destiny to do this. Whatever happens next to the journey of Lola Delphine will be truly special.
DH: Now let’s talk about the audiobook. This was not only your first time writing a novel but it was your first time in the recording studio. That can be nerve-racking, especially when you’re narrating the story you wrote!
NB: Yes! It was my first time and you’re right about it being nerve-racking. Especially when it came to the sexy scenes. But I do think recording the story you wrote is less stressful in some ways because you know the characters and the story so intimately that one feels more in control of the outcome rather than trusting a stranger with it.
DH: Was your recording and editing experience what you expected it to be in terms of how much work goes into the recording, editing, matching sound levels throughout, and adding the music?
NB: It was a huge amount of work but really fun. I was incredibly lucky to have one of my best friends, who I mentioned previously, from London, James Pearson who is a world-class jazz pianist and composer create a beautiful audio score for me. His work is so beautiful that we’re actually turning the score he created into a soundtrack album that will be available soon!
DH: You’ve played some of his work for me and it really is so moving. It fits perfectly with the mood and emotion of Lola Delphine. Back to narrating an audiobook, is it like reading out loud?
NB: Narrating an audiobook is very different from just reading out loud normally. I learned to use my voice properly like a singer. I used my lower range to make it sound more like coffee with cream liquor. Some days we recorded for 8 hours which required a lot of throat spray! I was extremely nervous that my voice wouldn’t hold up but thankfully it did. Emotionally after recording, I was exhausted because it takes a lot of focus. It’s a performance after all. I was certainly ready for a large glass of wine when I got home!
DH: How long did it take you from start to finish to do the recording in full?
NB: I was in and out of the recording studio for a couple of months. The editing is what takes the most time though.
It was really fun to listen to the story in this format, especially with James’s beautiful music.
6) Emotionally, how did the activity of recording your book make you feel?
DH: What were your most/least favorite parts of the entire recording process?
NB: My favorite part of recording the audiobook was the fact that it really brought Lola Delphine and her friends to life. I certainly had to get over being shy in front of the sound engineer. I would warn him over a coffee when I arrived that there was quite a lot of naughtiness in the next chapter! It’s hard to say certain body parts in front of someone you only met last week! I joked it was like speed dating. I couldn’t look at him during those scenes because I would laugh. The bloopers are really funny.
DH: Hopefully you will release those bloopers one day. Everyone needs a good giggle from time to time.
NB: Absolutely! Laughter is so important, however releasing the bloopers… I don’t think 3 martinis would even make me do it!