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Interview: Barbara Carole, Author of ‘Twelve Stones’

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Twelve StonesToday, I’m pleased to interview Barbara Carole about her memoir Twelve Stones, which tells the story of an intensely personal, unorthodox journey to faith. Gritty, plain-spoken and fast-paced, this book reads like a novel – with vibrant characters, dialogue and action on three continents – but it is all true.

Barbara, a Fulbright scholar and graduate of the University of Wisconsin with B.A. and M.A. degrees in literature, lived in Paris for several years as a translator and assistant editor at the Paris Review before returning to the USA to teach French and French literature at UCLA.

Subsequently, she was a writer and researcher for undersea explorer Jacques Cousteau, working in Los Angeles and Monaco, France.

Barbara worked for 20+ years as a marketing executive before leaving the corporate world to focus on her writing. For more on her background and on the book, visit her website.

Barbara, Twelve Stones is a very intimate story. How does it feel to have such personal details of your life in print for everyone to see?

Ha! A lot of people ask me that. Telling it all honestly wasn’t easy, but I wanted the reader to know me exactly as I was, with no sugar coating. Because the whole point of the story is that imperfect people can find perfect love. Even ordinary people who make poor decisions, can experience extraordinary miracles.

Parts of your book had me laughing; other parts just broke my heart. Was it hard to write about the pain and losses?

Yes, it was hard. Some chapters took a long time before I found the courage. But a strange thing happened in the process: when I finished the manuscript, it no longer felt like it was my life; it was just a story. It flowed out of my heart and onto the paper, washing out the sting of hardship, the pain of betrayals and the harshness of loss. All those things remain in my memory, of course, and they were in fact my life, but now I can retain the memory without the pain. I can see a greater picture now, and what became of that life in the end, was just beautiful.

Why did you write Twelve Stones?

I told the whole story (the fun parts and the painful) to convey a single point: God honors an honest quest for truth, even the quest of a scornful non-believer. I had also made some dreadful mistakes and poor decisions that led to disaster. But miracles still happened. They happened to me. And because I am much like you, they might, just maybe, happen to you, too.

Twelve Stones reads more like a novel than a memoir or spiritual-journey. Why did you write it this way?

Twelve Stones is written like a novel, because my life was like a novel. It was kind of quirky, both daring and foolish, with a lot of colorful adventures in various parts of the world. But it is also extremely realistic. This is no “magic-wand conversion” story like so many out there where the evil person is touched by the hand of God and instantly becomes a self-sacrificing saint. I don’t believe that’s real. Turning from one life to another, changing your basic paradigm is a difficult process. Twelve Stones takes you along with me through that process. There’s nothing lofty or “religious” in Twelve Stones. It is earthy and honest, and written from the perspective of a non-believer, because that’s who I was.

You had a long career in advertising and public relations before you wrote Twelve Stones. How did that compare with being an author?

It’s all writing, but it’s a different kind of creativity. Writing marketing materials requires communicating effectively to persuade. Writing my memoir and novels I’m concerned about literary and artistic value, and I bare my soul. It leaves me naked and very vulnerable.

How many times did you revise your manuscript?

As many times as needed to make it better.

What have you learned from writing Twelve Stones?

For one thing I learned that if you are open and honest, it doesn’t really shock people. It makes them open up to honesty, too – often for the first time in their lives. For another thing, it amazed me that people found my story interesting. I thought, “Who wants to hear about this?” But people write to me from all over the country to say how profoundly it impacted their lives. They say things like, “I was up all night, I couldn’t put it down.” I hear that a lot and each and every time, I am astounded and thrilled all over again.

 How can people find out more about you and Twelve Stones? And where can they get it?

My website has lots of information (including where the title comes from) and sample pages… and Amazon has reader reviews. It’s available on Kindle and in hardcover everywhere.

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About Christopher Zoukis

Christopher Zoukis, a young writer currently incarcerated at FCC Petersburg (Medium), is an impassioned and active prison education advocate, a legal commentator, and a prolific writer of books, book reviews, and prison law articles. While living in federal prison at various security levels, retaliations for his activism have earned him long stretches in solitary, or "the hole." While in prison, he has earned numerous academic, legal, and ministerial credentials. Christopher is very knowledgeable about prison-related legal issues, prison policy, federal regulations, and case law. He is the author of College for Convicts: The Case for Higher Education in American Prisons (McFarland & Company, 2014) and thePrison Education Guide (Prison Legal News Publishing, 2016). A regularly featured contributing writer for The Huffington Post and Prison Legal News, the nation's most prominent prison law publication, Christopher has enjoyed significant media exposure through appearances with the Wall Street Journal's Market Watch, Vice.com, Salon.com, In These Times, The Jeff McArthur Show, The Simi Sara Show,TheCommentary.ca, 88.9 WERS' award-winning "You Are Here" radio segment, and The Examiner. Other articles and book reviews appeared in The New York Journal of Books, the Kansas City Star, The Sacramento Bee, Blog Critics, Midwest Book Review, Basil and Spice, Seattle Post-Intelligencer, SF Gate, AND Magazine, Truth-Out.org, Rain Taxi, and the Education Behind Bars Newsletter, with content syndicated by the Associated Press, Google News, and Yahoo News. He established three websites: PrisonEducation.com, PrisonLawBlog.com, and ChristopherZoukis.com, and was a former editor of the Education Behind Bars Newsletter. In 2011, his fiction won two PEN American Center Prison Writing Awards for a screenplay and a short story. He taught a popular course on writing and publishing to over 100 fellow prisoners. Today Christopher is successfully working on a Bachelor's Degree in Interdisciplinary Studies (Business/Law) from Adams State University. Following his 2016 graduation, he plans on attending Adams State University's MBA program. He regularly advises fellow prisoners and prison consultants about legal issues and federal regulations governing the Federal Bureau of Prisons operations. Upon release he plans to attend law school and become a federal criminal defense attorney. Christopher will not allow incarceration to waste his years or halt the progress of his life. He began his prison terms as a confused kid who made poor decisions but is today determined to create a better life. "We can't let the past define us," he says. "We have to do something today to make tomorrow what we want it to be."