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Interview: Paul A. Barra, Author of The Secret of Maggie’s Swamp

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Paul A. Barra is a decorated war veteran, a teacher and a freelance journalist. Previously, Mr. Barra worked as a reporter for local newspapers, where he won numerous awards from the South Carolina Press Association. He was the senior staff writer for the Diocese of Charleston and won numerous awards from the Catholic Press Association.  

Some of Mr. Barra’s earlier works include four independent science readers, a novel titled Crimson Ring and a nonfiction book about the formation and success of a Catholic high school, despite diocesan opposition titled St. Joe’s Remarkable Journey. He is currently under contract for the publication of a historical novel called Murder in the Charleston Cathedral.

Paul A. Barra’s latest release is the children’s/middle grade novel titled The Secret of Maggie’s Swamp.

If you had to describe your book in two sentences, what would they be?

It’s an adventure/ mystery for young people set in the South of 1980. The protagonist demonstrates moral resoluteness and courage in the face of danger and discouragement.

Do you have a favorite line or excerpt from your current work?

“But the noise ended as suddenly as it had begun. An aspen quaked, a few leaves fluttered to earth; the forest, heavy with old growth timber, gave up no more clues. Penny could hear only her own blood pumping hard and the rain splattering on her slicker.”

What are five important things that you take into consideration while writing your story?

The suitability of the language and style for children; the narrative arc; the interplay of tension and ease; dialogue that flows, sounds real and moves the story forward; and the protagonist’s growth as the story progresses.

Why should readers pick up your book?

The Secret of Maggie’s Swamp is an exciting read for children and parents will appreciate the fact that it is also a positive read, with adults portrayed as they are, good and bad, and without them being denigrated by the child characters.

What was the turning point when you realized you wanted to write and share your voice with the world?

When as a student I published a short story in the university literary magazine, I realized that people would actually read my work and comment on it; that was when I decided to spend my life as a writer. Of course life had something to say about that, but I am finally on the cusp of achieving that goal.

What genres do you prefer to read? Which do you enjoy writing in?

I like to read English mysteries and sea stories. Until a year ago, I would have said that I enjoyed writing complicated books about approximately ordinary people caught up in drama and intrigue. I still write that way mostly but have now found a new appreciation of children’s books and their environment, and hope to have at least one manuscript for young people going all the time.

What five things would you have with you at all times if you had to be prepared to take a trip at the drop of a hat?

My Kindle, MacBook, wallet, insulin and cell phone.

If you could have one super power, what would it be and why?

I would like to speak in tongues so that all people could understand what I say. (I’m guessing that gift translates into writings as well). That would be the ultimate superpower for someone who communicates and entertains for a living.

What footprint do you want to leave behind in this world?

I would like my children to remember my time on this Earth as that of an honorable man with a well-formed conscience who followed that conscience. I would also like to known as a writer who entertained and taught in his fiction.

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