About Barbara Gerber
Barbara Gerber has had a love affair with words ever since she learned to read. Books, magazines, stories, conversation—she loves it all. She also thinks too much—about everything. Thankfully, she realized early on that there wasn’t a human being alive who could listen as much as she wanted to talk, so she would have to write.
She started by writing a newsletter for a local natural grocery, and then for a farmers’ market. Soon she was freelancing for newspapers and magazines about sustainable agriculture and food safety, environmental issues, food traditions, women in business, and parenting concerns. She wrote personal profiles for several smaller publications, and her work appeared in national publications as well.
But soon it seemed time for “the big one”—time to gather her ideas, experiences, and observations together and funnel them into a larger work: a novel.
In the way one can see storm clouds gathering on the horizon, or sense that a swell is forming offshore, Gerber says she “felt something coming” in the fall of 2006. And she wanted to be ready for it. So she found a copy of Julie Cameron’s The Artist’s Way and dove in. Described as “A Course in Discovering and Recovering Your Creative Self,” the 204-page book was a tremendous help.
“I’m a good student,” Gerber said. “I read every word and took notes. I did every exercise, every reflection, every affirmation. I took it very, very seriously, and it had a tremendous impact on me. That book reignited my imagination and gave me the courage to take a risk.”
With the soil of her creativity thus “fertilized,” she got her first glimpse of what would become Love and Death in a Perfect World during a family vacation with her husband and two children at Joshua Tree National Park in March 2007. At one point during that idyllic week of hiking, climbing, and camping, she was watching her fourteen-year-old son scramble up a steep, narrow outcropping of rock when he lost his footing. Although there were only a few moments of uncertainty before he righted himself, the close call took her breath away.
“What if he fell? What if he became seriously injured? What if he died?” The questions preoccupied her for hours, long after her son was safe. When she awoke the next morning, she recalls feeling like those thoughts and the powerful location of Joshua Tree were fast becoming “the big one.”
“That moment started something for me,” she said. “Every parent worries that his or her child will be put in harm’s way. But rather than shudder and put those scary thoughts out of my mind, I decided to explore that space, that dark possibility. The troubles young Dylan encounters in the book—though he never stumbles on a rock outcropping—stem from that moment.”
By June, she was inventing characters and their backstories, researching Joshua Tree National Park, the town of Twentynine Palms, the characteristics of gifted children, and global water issues. By July, she had written the first chapter, and the endeavor was fast becoming central to her life.
“Nothing made me happier than delving into this invented world,” Gerber said. “I wove in so many things—a conversation overheard in the drug store, a kid I knew in high school, that weird boss at that weird job I had right after college. It seemed that everything I ever thought of or noted or wondered about suddenly sprang to life—I was able to find a place for much of it, and the book just kept growing, both in scope and in length.”
But balancing her writing with being a mom and a full-time teacher was a daunting challenge. The first draft wasn’t completed until August 2012, and the final one not until December 2014.
“It took me forever,” Gerber said with a laugh. “It took me so long to write this book that over the seven-year process, I ended up identifying more with Rosemary’s mother than Rosemary herself even though she’s the main character.”
Originally from Seaford, New York, Gerber earned a degree in English literature from San Francisco State University and has lived in Santa Fe, New Mexico, since 1987. She enjoys good books, music, the outdoors, all things funny, and spending time with her family. She also really, really loves cats and chocolate.
A sequel to Love and Death in a Perfect World is in the works.
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