Barb Caffrey is a writer, musician, editor, and composer from the Upper Midwest who holds a BA in Music from the University of Wisconsin-Parkside and a Master's in Music from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. She's the author of An Elfy on the Loose and A Little Elfy in Big Trouble (two YA urban fantasy/romances), and her short stories have been featured in many places, most recently in Realms of Darkover. Find her at Barb Caffrey's Elfyverse: http://elfyverse.wordpress.com
Link to your book: http://www.twilighttimesbooks.com/ChangingFaces_ch1.html
Mayra Calvani: Please tell us about Changing Faces, and what compelled you to write it.
Barb Caffrey: Changing Faces is all about the power of love regardless of outward form. I wrote it because I saw two people in love—Allen Bridgeway, a heterosexual man of thirty, and Elaine Foster, a bisexual and transgender woman of twenty-eight—who were about to make a major mistake. Elaine felt that Allen could not understand her being transgender, you see, as she has just told Allen and he's floored. (She uses "she" as the default pronoun, is a feminist scholar, and there's absolutely no way he could've known this.) Allen wants to marry Elaine, but doesn't know what to make of these revelations; Elaine is so upset that despite a nasty winter storm, she demands to be taken to a hotel. So Allen drives her, inwardly praying that they not be separated.
And his prayer is answered.
They will get a second chance at love, but with conditions. He's now in her body. And she is inside his, but in a coma, speaking with an alien/angel known as an Amorphous Mass (a type of shapeshifter). He can tell no one he's Allen; she cannot speak with anyone except the alien/angel. Both still want to be with each other, but how can they get past this?
Thus, Changing Faces.
M.C.: What is your book about?
Barb Caffrey: The power of love, and the realization that LGBT people are just like anyone else. They want love, and happiness, and understanding, and to be desired for themselves. And that if someone can see inside you—see your soul, rather than the outward form of your body—that's what true love is all about.
Allen truly loves Elaine. The outward form doesn't matter that much to him, even though at first he is absolutely thrown when she tells him, at long last, that she is transgender. She feels she'd be better off in a male body, but she'd still want to use "she" as her pronoun, and that is just deeply confusing to him. He loves her, and wants her, and desires only her…even when he's confused, and doesn't understand what she's telling him, he does know that much.
Which is why he prays, and is answered…
In case you think this is giving short shrift to Elaine and Elaine's wishes, though, don't. Elaine, too, actually wanted the same thing. (These aliens/angels do not exist in our linear time, exactly. So one of them knows that Elaine, on her deathbed, after becoming outwardly male, wanted another chance with Allen and felt she'd made a bad mistake in refusing to stay with him.)
That's why the aliens/angels do this. They believe in love. And they want love to have its day, even if it means both Allen and Elaine must change their faces so they can have another chance.
M.C.: What themes do you explore in Changing Faces?
Barb Caffrey: The power of love, mostly. Love can transcend everything, if you give it time; it doesn't matter what you look like, providing who you are matches up with who the other person is. Your gender, even, doesn't matter that much, providing both of you can look past that and see what's important: Do you love each other? Do you understand each other? Do you want what's best for one another? Do you care enough to live with this one person for the rest of your life, forsaking all others?
Allen and Elaine learn more about each other and Allen in particular learns a great deal about LGBT issues he never thought of before his face gets changed. But the love they have for each other never wavers; that much is set in stone, even if they're not sure how they can go on from here.
That's what life is about, you know. You overcome all sorts of obstacles. You have no idea what most of them are going to be when you start off on your life's journey. Some will be absolutely unprecedented, but you have to trust that with faith and will and understanding and love, you can and will overcome everything, with the right person.
Of course, the trick is in finding that right person…one nice thing about Changing Faces is, there's no doubt Allen and Elaine are meant for one another, even if Elaine doesn't always feel worthy of it or if Allen doesn't immediately "get" that Elaine is both trans and gender-fluid (sometimes feeling male, sometimes feeling female, but always, always using "she" as the default pronoun).
M.C.: Why do you write?
Barb Caffrey: The quick and flippant answer would be that the stories just do not let me alone until I tell them. But the longer answer is because I have to; if I don't, I feel like I've wasted my time and potential on this Earth. And I can't abide that, so I continue to do my best at telling the stories I need to tell…and hope that someone else, along the way, may also find some meaning from them, too. (Or happiness, or understanding, or at least a few hours' worth of diversion from their troubles. If I've done any of that, I've done my job.)
M.C.: When do you feel the most creative?
Barb Caffrey: I am much more creative at night. Every so often, I surprise myself and write during the morning or afternoon, but I don't feel as comfortable then. There's something about me that gets into gear at night, and I've known that since I was a child.
So I use the hours that work best for me as productively as I can, and go on from there. (May we all do the same.)
M.C.: How picky are you with language?
Barb Caffrey: That's a tough one. I'm also an editor, you see, and because of that I have to have the right words. I get frustrated when I can't come up with the best word for a situation, and will spend a great deal of time and energy looking for that best word.
However, unlike some writers, I do not believe a ten-dollar word is necessary unless it is absolutely required. I prefer simple, direct, and honest interactions, and I don't need those ten-dollar words gumming up the works.
So, I'd say on a scale of one to ten for pickiness (with ten being the most picky), I'm probably at about an eight, maybe a nine?
M.C.: When you write, do you sometimes feel as though you were being manipulated from afar?
Barb Caffrey: Another hard one…well, the easiest answer is to say that yes, I do. But only in certain situations. I'm trying to finish my late husband Michael B. Caffrey's writing, too, and when I work on his stuff, I definitely feel as if there's more there than just me. (I don't know if that's just a comforting mental image I'm telling myself, or if it's the actual truth. Either way, I feel it.)
When I work on my own stuff, though, I usually do not feel that way, though sometimes the story does surprise me. (I don't always know what I'm going to say next, mind, but I do know it's me saying it from whatever recesses of my mind.)
Does that help?
M.C.: What is your worst time as a writer?
Barb Caffrey: Any time real life demands intercede. I find it difficult to maintain the creative flow when I have to deal with the bank, bills, doctor appointments, car issues, weather issues…that's one reason I'm glad that I work best at night, as I have far fewer real life issues interceding at that time. <grin>
M.C.: Your best?
Barb Caffrey: At night, when the story is flowing naturally and I've been writing for two hours, but I know I have another three in me…those days are rare, but very welcome!
M.C.: Is there anything that would stop you from writing?
Barb Caffrey: No. Even my beloved husband's untimely death did not stop me, though it did slow me down for a number of years.
M.C.: What’s the happiest moment you’ve lived as an author?
Barb Caffrey: When my husband Michael and I sold our first story to the Bedlam's Edge anthology back in 2004, I was absolutely ecstatic. This was about three, four months before Michael's untimely and unexpected death, and we thought our writing careers would just get better and better from there. The sky seemed the limit, then…and we were so happy with what we were doing, separately and together, as writers. That's by far my happiest moment as an author.
M.C.: Is writing an obsession to you?
Barb Caffrey: I'd use the word "passion" rather than obsession, personally. I definitely feel passionate about writing. It is something I have to do, sure, so in that case it is like an obsession, but I don't like the negative connotations of that word much…so can we go with passion instead? <grin>
M.C.: Are the stories you create connected with you in some way?
Barb Caffrey: Well, they all come out of me…but that's not what you mean, is it?
I think my belief in love comes through in the vast majority of my stories. I also believe in persistence, in seemingly impossible quests, in music and laughter and happiness and mutual respect…all of that is because I was fortunate enough, after a few bad romantic mistakes of my own, to find the right man and marry him. (No one could've asked for a better husband than I had in Michael B. Caffrey. Trust me.)
So, Allen and Elaine in Changing Faces and Bruno and Sarah in the Elfyverse are not drawn directly from my life, no. But their belief in the power of love, and the power of becoming themselves, is. (Does that help?)
M.C.: Ray Bradbury once said, “You must stay drunk on writing so reality cannot destroy you.” Thoughts?
Barb Caffrey: That's an interesting conceit, there. I'm not sure I ever feel drunk on writing or as a creative person, but I do think writing and being creative strikes a blow against the darkness. And it's that darkness that I think Ray Bradbury is discussing; reality itself is made up of both good and bad elements, and there are moments of joy intermixed with the pain, for sure. But the dark times are hard to bear, and the only thing that can have a prayer of getting you through them is faith in yourself, and faith in what you're doing, even if no one knows what you're doing but you.
A writer's life can be lonely. I have found it so, after my husband died. But it's what I need to do, for myself, because that's what's in me. I can't break faith with myself; my talents, my will, my desire and my own stubbornness just will not let me do that. So I continue to write, and I continue to create, and I hope that in so doing I can bring happiness—or at least a moment of diversion here and there—to others.
M.C.: Do you have a website or blog where readers can find out more about you and your work?
Barb Caffrey: Absolutely! Please come find me at Barb Caffrey's Elfyverse: http://elfyverse.wordpress.com
Note that I talk writing, publishing, music, sports, current events, sometimes even politics…anything that strikes my fancy. So you won't be bored, you might learn something, and certainly you can get to know me better, if you so desire…(hey, it's a free site, so what's the harm, hm?)
Thank you for having me, Mayra, and enjoy your day!