Interview with romance author Chris Barili (AKA B.T. Clearwater)

Today I have the pleasure of interviewing author Chris Barili, and although he’s written in other genres, and his latest release is the fantasy novel Shadow Blade, which I reviewed last month, he also writes romance under the name B.T. Clearwater. You can read my review of his paranormal romance, Smothered, here.

In January, we talked to women’s fiction author Barbara Chepaitis and western author Loretta Miles Tollefson about the fact that women authors still are encouraged to use sex neutral pen names when writing certain genres, but here we have a male author who uses one when writing romance. We’re going with talk to Chris about writing romance and why there aren’t more male romance authors today. Or are there? Let’s find out what Chris Barili has to say about it.


Kaye: You have fiction published under your own name, but when it came to Smothered, your publisher suggested you publish as B.T. Clearwater. This is the reverse of what many female authors experience when publishing in certain genres, such as western. Did you feel like there is discrimination toward male romance authors?

Chris: My publisher didn’t encourage the pseudonym, actually. That was advice from a mentor and college professor, who recommended different pen names for different genres due to perceptions in the industry that if you write one genre well, you’re limited to that genre. I also publish westerns under a different pen name, T.C. Barlow.

And while I didn’t experience discrimination toward me as a male romance writer, I did get some raised eyebrows and comments like, “You write THAT?” So I had my youngest daughter think up a pen name that used my initials, and that sounded gender neutral. She came up with B.T. Clearwater.

Kaye: Do you think it is harder for male authors to make it in the romance genre than it is for female authors? Why?

Chris: I think it’s harder because not enough men have tried, so there’s no benchmark for it, no evidence to the doubters that men can do it. Men tend to avoid it because of the stigma associated with writing “that” kind of fiction.

Kaye: What is the biggest challenge of writing romance for you?

Chris: Probably making it “juicy” enough for a modern audience. I’m an old-fashioned guy, so I like love stories, and I tend to focus on the emotional relationship rather than the sexual one. Many (not all, but many) romance readers are looking for the steamy stuff, and that just isn’t me.

Kaye: You have a family, and are involved in cycling and martial arts, yet you find time to write and attend conferences and seminars. What are your secrets for juggling writing with your home life?

Chris: Mostly, I neglect my dog. 😊 No, that’s only a little true. As with anything, finding time for writing is a matter of discipline and sacrificing things that are less important. I had to remove a video game from my computer because it was distracting me from writing. Similarly, my DVR is 90% full of programs I fully intended to watch, but can’t get to because of writing. You have to make writing THAT important. My priorities are: my family, my health, the day job, writing. Everything else comes later.

Kaye: What is your favorite genre to write in? Why?

Chris: I’m actually published in every fiction genre: fantasy, science fiction, romance, horror, western, and crime. I don’t know that I have a favorite, but I do most of my writing in the fantasy and romance genres. They’re all fun to write, and one of the things I learned during my MFA studies under Russell Davis at Western is to let the story find its genre. Don’t try to force it into one you’re comfortable writing.

Kaye: If Smothered was made into a film, who would you like to see play male and female leads?

Chris: Interestingly, when I develop a character, I often choose a model, actor, public figure, etc to roughly model their looks. In this case, I used actor James Denton as a rough look-a-like for Mike, and Annie was loosely modeled on Jeanine Garofalo. So yeah, them.

Kaye: What’s is the single most important element in a romance story?

Chris: Damage. The lead female character has to be broken somehow, and the only way she can heal herself is to be with the male lead. It’s corner, and not a great way to base a real relationship, but that’s kind of the trope of romance. She has to realize she cannot live without him.

Kaye: Where did you find the inspiration for Smothered?

Chris: Again, my MFA studies, only this time in a class with Michaela Roessner. She had us write a sex scene that gets interrupted somehow, and I had mine interrupted by the ghost of the woman’s late mother, who appears at the foot of the bed. That interested me so much that it grew into a novel, which was my MFA thesis.

Kaye: What was the most fun part of writing a romance for you?

Chris: Romance is a very formulaic genre, and the fun part, for me anyway, is finding a way to make that formula sound new. They say there are no new stories, only new ways of telling old ones, and I think that’s what I like about romance. Proving to doubters that it CAN be original and unique.

Kaye: Is there a future for B.T. Clearwater? Can readers expect to see more from this author?

Chris: Oh yeah, B.T. has a novella published in Gwyn McNamee’s Last Resort Motel series, called “Room Fifty-Eight.” That came out a few months ago, and will appear in a box set soon. And B.T.’s latest novel, Rise and Fall, needs to go off to the freelance editor soon for a work-over. I decided to take B.T. full indie, to self-publish those stories, because self-pubbed romances can do very well. Gwyn has given me some tips on how to get it right. So when Rise and Fall and the next two in that series are ready, I’ll upload them and see how they do.

Kaye: Chris Barili has a fantasy novel coming out in June, Shadow Blade, which I recently reviewed. Would you like to tell us a little bit about that one?

Chris: Shadow Blade was actually my backup thesis. Yeah, I had a backup. Outlined both, but wrote Smothered and saved Shadow Blade for after graduation due to the world-building it needed. It tells the story of Ashai Larish, an assassin for the feared Denari Lai order. The Denari Lai are a religious order that keeps their killers loyal by addicting them to the very magic that makes them so effective at killing. In Ashai’s case, he is sent to kill a king and his daughter, but falls in love with the princess, and finds himself fighting to keep her alive rather than to kill her.

Shadow Blade is being published by WordFire Press, as a “Kevin J. Anderson Presents” title, where the best-selling author highlights a new author “to watch.” It’s on a review tour now, and should come out in e-book and hard cover in May, and by the time this article airs, it will be out as part of WordFire’s “Epic Fantasy” bundle at StoryBundle.com.

I want to thank Chris for joining us and sharing today. It is interesting to learn about writing romance from a male perspective. You can learn more about Chris and all of his works on his author blog and website, his Amazon Author page, his Goodreads Author page, as well as on Facebook and Twitter. You can learn more about the works of B.T. Clearwater on Amazon, Goodreads, Simon & Schuster, and Smashwords.



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4 Comments on “Interview with romance author Chris Barili (AKA B.T. Clearwater)”

  1. It is interesting to me to think of a man writing romance. The men who have been in my life are not romantically inclined so I find it hard to imagine.

    • Perhaps that is one reason why a male romance author would feel the need to take a gender nuetral penname. Does it give their writing more validity or make it easier to suspend disbelief within the story?

  2. It isn’t right though. We have fought hard to earn equality for women and recognition for our sex in the fields of medicine, science, maths and everything else. We accept that women can write about war and horror so why not have men writing romance. It is a bit of reverse stereotyping.

    • It is Robbie. That’s one of the points I wanted to make. Authors of women’s fiction made the point in January that they used pennames in some genres, but not others. Apparently, it’s not just women although the genres vary. It is reverse stereotyping in this case. Would his work have been as easily accepted had he used his own name? I don’t know, but it is a darn good story and it would be ashamed for people to miss out on it because of the gender of the author. What do you think? Would you be as likely to pick up and read a romance novel with a photo of a male author on the back cover?


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