the writer is a lonely hunter

writing by Gail Aldwin and other authors

Interview with Barbara Conrey

on May 22, 2023

It is my pleasure to welcome Barbara Conrey to The Writer is a Lonely Hunter once again. We first met online in 2021 when she was kind enough to answer questions about her debut novel Nowhere Near Goodbye. (You can find the piece here.) She now has a splendid second novel released with the evocative title My Secret to Keep. This fascinating story made me wonder about Barbara’s writing process which she explains in this author interview. But first, here is some information about the novel:

When Maggie Bryan works up the nerve to tell her parents she’s pregnant, they immediately disown her. Later that night, her boyfriend is killed. In desperation, she turns to her brother, Sam. Against his wife’s wishes, Sam brings Maggie to his home in rural Pennsylvania.

While Maggie awaits the birth of her child and navigates the tension in her new home, she decides to finish high school. There, she meets Anne Phillips, a volunteer educator and full-time architect. Over time, Maggie becomes drawn to Anne in ways she doesn’t understand, but she knows enough to keep her feelings hidden.

After a devastating loss, Maggie tries to move on, but secrets and betrayals keep her from living her fullest life. Beginning in the late 1940s and spanning decades, My Secret to Keep portrays a woman at war with society, her family, and herself.

And now to the questions:

How much planning was involved in writing a novel that spans decades?

Writing a novel that spans decades is eerily similar to those blasted reading math problems when I was in grade school – and I wasn’t very good at them then, either. So there’s a lot of counting forwards and backward and practically using my fingers to ensure I’ve got my timelines right.

The blurb describes Maggie as a woman at war with society, her family, and herself. This so clearly describes the protagonist, and yet she achieves acceptance too. Did you know what would happen at the end of the novel when you started writing the book?

The ending of this book nearly did me in because Maggie only achieved acceptance, and by this, I mean accepting herself after she lost Anne. I was devastated.

You cleverly dovetailed the latter part of the novel with the story in your debut, Nowhere Near Goodbye. This gave me the chance to reconnect with Kate’s story. Was this your intention?

Most people don’t know that once Nowhere Near Goodbye was under contract, I had to rewrite a good half of the book. I had originally submitted it as a two-person point of view, with one being Emma and the other being Kate. My editor convinced me I could make a stronger story by changing to a single point of view, Emma’s.

So I had all this material. Some of it I used in Maggie’s character in Nowhere Near Goodbye; don’t forget, I had to rewrite a good part of the book, so I fleshed out Maggie’s role, and when I did that, Maggie became much more interesting. That’s when I started thinking about a prequel to Nowhere Near Goodbye to tell Maggie’s story.

Maggie’s early trauma and rejection by her parents create ripples throughout her life. Do you consciously draw upon psychology to create your characters?

Absolutely! I love broken characters and hope they can find it in themselves to overcome their histories and heal. My secret career has always been psychology.

The love between Maggie and Anne is deftly handled and shows their differing attitudes to single-sex relationships. How important was it to keep tension between these two characters?

I wrote Anne and Maggie as opposing forces in the same body. Maggie desperately wanted to be like Anne. She loved and admired her but could never forgo what people thought of her. And Anne simply did not care. Anne was a good, generous, kind, intelligent, and motivated person. Talented. And she loved who she loved without guilt or regret. That alone created tons of tension between the two women.

The dedication is to your mother; in it, you say, ‘We rarely saw eye-to-eye, but then we did.’ It sounds like there’s a story behind these words. Are you willing to share?

There are many stories behind my dedication. My mother and I were like oil and water, but in the end, at the very end, she accepted me as who I am. And I accepted her as who she was. We had a complicated relationship that somehow eased into ‘acceptance.’

What’s next for you, Barbara?

Oh! I thought you’d never ask! I’m just finishing up my third book, tentatively titled Always Ours. It’s a story about a wife who wants to be a surrogate and her husband who thinks this is a wonderful idea but then changes his mind.

I always write on the dark side, so as I finish getting this ready to hand off to my agent, I’m at that stage where I sometimes think this is the best thing I’ve written and other times think it’s rubbish.

Thank you so much for answering my questions, Barbara. I love the title of your new work and I very much look forward to reading it.

About Barbara Conrey

Barbara Conrey is the USA Today Bestselling author of Nowhere Near Goodbye, her debut, published on August 4, 2020, by Red Adept Publishing. Liza Fleissig represents her at the Liza Royce Agency. Her sophomore novel, My Secret to Keep, released on August 23, 2022.

Barbara is an active member of the Women’s Fiction Writers Association, Women’s National Book Association, and Author Talk Network. She also moderates the online book club for the Facebook Group Bookish Road Trip.

Travel is her passion, along with reading, writing, hiking, and exploring antique shops. Her greatest love is Miss Molly, her rescue beagle. Barbara lives in Pennsylvania, close to family and friends.

If you’d like to know more about me and my books you can find me at

Purchase links: Amazon UK, Amazon USA

Find Barbara on social media

Barbara Conrey Books – BookBub

6 responses to “Interview with Barbara Conrey

  1. Jim Bates says:

    An interesting and informative interview. Thank you Gail and Barbara!!

  2. Needless to say, I adore this interview!

  3. mybookworld24 says:

    Would love a read 🙂

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