Book cover for Deep Blue Cover

Guest Interview with Author Joel W. Barrows

By Sparkle Abbey

Please welcome our friend and fellow author, Joel W. Barrows to the blog today.  Joel is a member of our local Sisters in Crime – Iowa chapter and we’ve mostly conversed via Zoom but recently had the opportunity to meet in person at a fun writers’ retreat – Only Books in the Building – and share some great conversation around a toasty fire with some of the other featured authors.

Author photo Joel W. BarrowsBefore we jump in with our questions, Joel, please share a little bit about yourself.

JB: I am the author of the Deep Cover thrillers published by Down & Out Books. I was born and raised in small town Iowa, though have lived in several larger cities over the years: Des Moines, St. Louis, Washington D.C. … Now, I’m back in Iowa, living in the Quad Cities, where I work as a district court judge. Besides writing, I enjoy boating and playing the guitar.

SA: Thanks! And now on to our first question. What started you on your writing journey?

JB: My wife always wanted to be a writer. Her father was a newspaper editor. She knew I was a bit of a storyteller, like my father. When she read a reference letter I had written for a friend, she suggested I try my hand at writing. One day, after I went on a rant about Big Pharma and what they might be capable of, she said, “that sounds like a good idea for a book.” I went upstairs to the computer. Two days later I had a 15-page outline for my first book, The Drug Lords, a romantic suspense thriller.

SA: And that leads us to another question. What do you write? And why did you choose that genre?

JB: I write about domestic terrorism organizations and the undercover operatives who combat them. I think this is the issue of our time. Many of the books also deal with racism and political issues. They say write what you know. My career has been in law enforcement as a state and federal prosecutor and as a judge. This is an area I know.

SA:  It certainly is and your experience undoubtedly accounts for the realistic details in your books! What about the writing process? What’s your favorite part of writing?

JB:  Inventing characters and writing good dialogue. I have always been a student of the way people communicate, verbally and nonverbally. Other than that, creating the tension.

Book cover for Deep Blue Cover

SA: Characters and dialogue rank up there as favorite parts of the creative process for us as well. So, what’s your least favorite part?

JB:  Really, I enjoy the whole process, though I suppose the research is my least favorite part. But even then, there are aspects of it that enjoy. Outlining can also be a challenge, and it is definitely not my strong suit!

SA:  Partly because we work as co-authors, we have to do quite a bit of planning when we start a project. How about you? How much do you plan before you start a book?

JB: I develop a basic story idea and spend a month or two fleshing it out and doing research. I might then outline the very basic structure of the book. After that, I kind of just let the characters lead me.

SA: Where do your best ideas come from?

JB: My own experiences, the many law enforcement officers, agents and prosecutors I’ve worked with, and the news.

SA:  It seems like some parts of the process come easy for us and others are more of a struggle. What part of writing is the most difficult for you to write? Characters? Conflict? Emotion? Or something else…?

JB: I probably don’t spend enough time on setting, which is something I’m working on.

SA:  What’s next? Are you currently working on a new book?

JB: The working title for the next book is “Deep Orange Cover: The Allegiance.” Let’s just say it involves a very gritty and frightening look at outlaw motorcycle clubs and some of their many illegal undertakings. I promise, it will grab and keep your attention!

SA: Having read your other books, we’re sure that it will! Thanks for talking with us today. We appreciate your time and we will watch for that next book!

Thanks again, Joel. Please check out the links below for more info about Joel and his books! 



Amazon Author Page


Anita and Mary Lee

Sparkle Abbey is actually two people, Mary Lee Ashford and Anita Carter, who write the national best-selling Pampered Pets cozy mystery series. They are friends as well as neighbors so they often get together and plot ways to commit murder. (But don’t tell the other neighbors.)

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5 replies
  1. Brain Stamm
    Brain Stamm says:

    I just wanted to express my gratitude for the valuable insights you provide through your blog. Your expertise shines through in every word, and I’m grateful for the opportunity to learn from you.

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