This is Part 2 of an interview with paranormal author Barbara Parks. To read Part 1, click here. Barbara is a natural medium and as a teenager, she lived through some truly terrifying events. In her twenties and thirties, she established a successful podiatry practice. However, Barbara’s connection with spirit was never broken, and in her late thirties, she wrote her fascinating memoir, In the Presence of Spirits. Barbara’s story and her willingness to share it widely has inspired others to share their spiritual experiences with her, some of which are included in her other books. She now helps lost souls pass over into the light, with understanding and compassion, and offers comfort to those who are grieving their departed loved ones with messages of hope, that love never dies. Here, Barbara describes some of her more recent spiritual encounters, and shares her author wisdom, from her writing method to marketing her books, to traditional and non-traditional publishing. Welcome, Barbara!
I’ve learned that I’m stronger than I thought I was. I can always bring myself back to view life from a spiritual perspective. At first, I was advised to write under a pseudonym lest it adversely affects my professional career as a podiatrist. I was told I would lose credibility by claiming paranormal experiences and a belief in spirits and the other side. However, I didn’t entertain doing that for a moment because to me, that’s a lie. If I’m going to stand behind my work, my experiences and my beliefs, I need to put my name behind that. And if people don’t like that, that’s their problem, not mine. And as far as my medical based career goes, it hasn’t affected it one bit.
My first book, In the Presence of Spirits, is about my early life and my experiences with the paranormal. It starts by sharing the terrifying aspects of that, and how I came to accept what I was experiencing and evolved to the point where I am now – that if I could rewrite my history, I would never ever exclude that aspect of my life. If I had to go through it again, as I am now, I would love to because I would handle it so differently. And in fact, a couple of years ago, I had a poltergeist follow me home so that brought it all up. He was in our house for a matter of two or three weeks and just having the wisdom of age, and with everything I’ve learned, I was able to approach this soul very lovingly, whereas years before I would have run out of the house screaming!
I’d be lying to say that I wasn’t a little bit scared because I didn’t know if I would have the strength to move him on and to clear my home. But I was able to do that, by projecting love and compassion to this soul rather than fear and rejection. I wrote about him in my second book, Embracing the Spirits. His name is Ted and he’s the star of my first two chapters. I actually came to feel very warm towards Ted and had pity for him because he’d been in this state for over 70 years. I changed my thinking towards a poltergeist by imagining him as the newborn little boy that he was many years ago, and how sad it was that he ended up being an angry lost spirit, residing in a crumbling old hotel.
I used to pray for Ted every night and rather than lying in bed and saying a quick prayer as is my custom, I would actually kneel next to the bed so he could see me and I’d pray out loud so he could feel love and that someone cared for him. And I told him that his loved ones were waiting for him in the light, and there was no need for him to be cowering. He hadn’t lived the best life, he was a violent alcoholic and as is often the case, people who feel they’ve not done well in their lives don’t always cross easily because they’re fearful of judgement and being cast in the fires of hell. So, I assure them that that’s not the case and that light, love, and healing awaits them and that they really deserve it.
It took me six months to write the first draft of the manuscript for my first book but there was a lot more work afterward. The motivation was there because I felt passionate about it. I didn’t have to rack my brain trying to find what I was going to write about, my story was there. I would write regularly, late at night when the kids were in bed or early in the morning – I’d get up at 4.30am. I remember certain chapters where I’d get up and sit by the fire, in the wee small hours, and it was beautiful. Sometimes I’d change my routine and go and write in a book cafe, there’s one in South Perth. I also had writing goals, whether it was 1,000 words or 2,000 words in a session. I’d say to myself, I’m going to write this chapter, this is what I’m going to write about, and I’ll write it today – that worked really well.
I didn’t have an agent. I sent my manuscript to three publishers – one local Western Australian publisher, one national publisher in Sydney and one international publisher in America. The international publisher was the biggest and oldest publisher in the genre and they accepted unsolicited manuscripts. The local publisher said no thank you and the national one … I’m still waiting. The international publisher responded within six weeks, and I still remember the wonderful feeling of opening my email on a Saturday morning and the editor saying that they were interested in my manuscript, however, could I write an additional 20,000 words. To which I said, “Yes, of course.” It was a very, very long process. From that first email, it took about two years until my book, In the Presence of Spirits, got published. There was a lot of toing and froing and miscommunication.
Even though my publisher had a publicity team, the marketing was left up to me. I organised my book launch at a local performing arts centre which I thoroughly enjoyed. I arranged every interview for myself. I held spirit contact evenings. I did talks and presentations. It was all me. I then wrote, Embracing the Spirits which is about how I evolved from a frightened woman in my 20s to where I am now, my more recent spiritual experiences, and those of my patients. It was published by the same publishing house and again, the marketing of it was entirely my concern. That’s what largely made me realise that I didn’t need a publisher, hence my latest book, Surrounded by Spirits was self-published.
Really, getting a publishing deal is validation for yourself and a stroke of the ego, but to up and coming authors, I would say traditional publishers are concerned with selling the book and making money. They’re not too concerned with the author and how they think or feel, and I found that out the hard way. Do it yourself, and get it done how you want it. You don’t need someone to tell you you’re a good writer – know you are. Either way, you’ve got to push your work, so why not do it yourself and benefit.
For my third book, I did something called NaNoWriMo which is National Novel Writing Month. It’s a worldwide online event in November where writers commit to writing 50,000 words in a month and I did that. I think it works out to 2,000 plus words a day. I stuck to that. Sometimes I exceeded that. Sometimes I didn’t quite hit it. But by November 30th I had 52,000 words. I then approached fellow author Leila Summers who self-published and established a business offering publishing support. I totally handballed her the intricacies and she was very professional and very affordable – I was amazed. I can’t recommend her highly enough. She did everything – editing, book cover and got me onto Amazon with CreateSpace.
One thing I really enjoyed about the self-publishing process was that I got to choose the image for the cover of my book. With my traditionally published books, I had no say whatsoever. With Leila, it was great to be involved with the formatting of the book. With my second book, the photos were too small. I’d be discussing an orb with my readers which couldn’t even be seen and it made me look foolish. That was not the case in Surrounded by Spirts which is a continuation of my more recent experiences, like the loss of my brother-in-law two years ago, on New Year’s Day. His visits provided me and my family with so much comfort.
I’ve received beautiful feedback from all around the world which is really heartening. Even one email from someone saying that I’ve taken away their fear or grief or their sense of loss can leave me on a high for weeks. And in this day and age, with the internet, email, and Facebook, it’s easy to be in contact with your readership, which is wonderful, and I make an effort to respond to everyone. Overall, it’s been a very positive experience. I’m just happy when my time comes and I’m gone, to leave this legacy of books that shows we are so much more than flesh and blood. And that everyone is so surrounded and protected by spirits.
Thanks, Barbara Parks! I just love your story. If you’d like to get in touch with Barbara, you can do so here. It can be difficult choosing between the different publishing pathways available, so it’s really helpful when authors like Barbara are willing to share their experiences. Are you writing a book? Does self-publishing appeal to you? I’d love