Anne Barwell on Cat’s Quill ~ Retro Reads Author Spotlight Interview

Prism Book Alliance® would like to thank Anne Barwell for taking the time to talk with us today about their retro title from Dreamspinner Press Cat’s Quill.


Thanks for hosting me today.

We are here today to talk about Cat’s Quill. What can you tell us about it?
Cat’s Quill was my first published novel and book 1 of the Hidden Places series. It’s a contemporary fantasy that begins in our world and then travels to one which exists alongside ours but where magic is the focus rather than science. It also crosses genres into mystery/detective as Tomas—the POV character—tries to put all the pieces together and figure out what exactly is going on.

Tell us more about our main characters.
Tomas Kemp is a writer with writer’s block. He comes to the English village of Oakwood hoping it will help. Tomas is not an easy person to get to know, and has a lot of barriers up around him. He’s had a few losses in his life and figures if he keeps his distance he won’t get hurt again. He’s also in denial about his sexuality which in part is what is preventing him from writing his new book.

Cathal Emerys first meets Tomas under the oak tree in the ground of Crossroads Inn. Cathal isn’t from our world, and has been punished for something he did many years ago. He’s very different to Tomas in that he’s easy to get along with, sensitive to other’s feelings, but hiding too many secrets—secrets that are about to catch up with him and put not just himself, but others he cares about, in danger.

What makes this book so special to you as its creator?
Apart from the fact it is my first published book, I love the idea of stories within stories. Tomas is looking for a sequel for a book he read years ago, one that he insists must exist somewhere. He’s also a writer, and the book he begins writing during this way has elements of what is going on around him. I also love portal fantasies—stories in which characters find themselves in other worlds, often without warning, and must find their bearings quickly in order to survive.

If you could change one thing in Cat’s Quill what would it be and why?
I’d make it longer and spend a bit more time world building. I’ve done more of that in the sequel Magic’s Muse, and we’ll see a lot more of the magic, society and politics of Cathal’s world in the final book in the series.

How will the world end?
I’m working on a side novel to Cat’s Quill at present called One Word. It’s how two of the other characters meet while Tomas and Cathal are off having their own adventure. As these two characters—Donovan and Ethan—play a decent size role in the final book, I wanted to explore their backgrounds and relationship in more detail first.

The final book in the series will be called Dragon’s Price. I deliberately left some loose ends in Magic’s Muse and these guys haven’t got their happy ever after just yet. There is unfinished business in Cathal’s world, and they need to play their part in the revolution to come.

If you could give one piece of advice to new writers, what would it be?
Keep writing, even if it’s just a few words each day. If I waited until I had good sized chunks of time before I sat down to write, I’d never do anything. Looking at the big picture can be scary, so break it down into smaller chunks if that helps. Those little bits add up really quickly.

Tell us about some of your other titles.
I write across a couple of genres, and like to write in series.

A Knight to Remember is high fantasy about dragons, and I’m planning to write the next book later this year.

The Sleepless City is an urban fantasy series I wrote with Elizabeth Noble. I’m writing a spin off called Opus with Simon—a vampire—and Ben—his human soul mate—after I’ve written the next dragon book.

Slow Dreaming is my SF story. It’s a time travel novella set in Wellington. I like setting stories locally or at least having a New Zealand connection in there somewhere.

I also love writing historicals. My Echoes Rising series is set in WWII. The first two books were originally published by Dreamspinner Press, but are coming out as second editions from DSP Publications this year. Shadowboxing—book 1—releases 31st May, and Winter Duet—book 2—comes out end of December. I’m writing book 3—Comes a Horseman—at present.

I’ve also written a story set in WWI which begins during the Christmas Truce and continues through to 1920 called On Wings of Song.

Rapid Fire Time

  1. Jazz or Pop? Both (and a bit of classical as I play in an orchestra)
  2. DC or Marvel? More of a DC girl with a huge weakness for the Bat family, but I’m reading a fair amount of Marvel these days too.
  3. Swift or Perry? Both
  4. Boxers or Briefs? For my characters – boxers.
  5. Go Fish or Old Maid? Poker or chess
  6. Apple or Android? Android
  7. Trees or Flowers? Both
  8. Lucky Charms or Trix? Neither
  9. Red or White? Red
  10. Long or Short? Depends what it is, and on my mood

What are you working on? What is next?
I’m working on a couple of stories at present. One is Comes a Horseman which is book 3 of my WWII series. The other I’m writing with Lou Sylvre. It’s a World of Love story for Dreamspinner Press called Sunset at Pencarrow and is set in Wellington. I also need to finish tweaking One Word.

After that it’s back to Astria and dragons with A Mage to Forget, and a Dreamspun Desires novel for Dreamspinner called The Right Note.

Lou and I are also working on another co-written project called The Harp and the Sea. It’s set on Skye in 1745 and there’s some magic in the plot too.


Title: Cat’s Quill

Author: Anne Barwell

Publisher: Dreamspinner Press

Cover Artist: Anne Cain

Genre: Alternate Universe/Alternate World, Fantasy, Gay Romance


Tomas Kemp has two successful novels to his name and the true belief that a successful sequel is only a matter of a little inspiration. When Tomas meets a mysterious stranger under the branches of an old oak tree, he feels compelled to tell him about a book he holds dear and the sequel he wants to read. But Cathal doesn’t share that deep belief that the sequel Tomas seeks ends happily. Cathal has seen enough of a world where stories are real to know that happy ever after is sometimes the dream that won’t come true.

But stories have never let Tomas down, and as he follows Cathal across the reality shift between their worlds, he learns that Cathal is right: Happy ever after is never just given—but sometimes, it can be fought for and won.


Cathal wiped his palms on his trousers and then turned the page of the journal back and forth, his eyes scanning the words again. “Maybe I could help?” he suggested. “Can you tell me what the story is about so I can get more of an idea of what this kiss should, er… involve?”

“Involve?” Tomas’s voice sounded strained to his own ears. He coughed, clearing his throat before speaking again. “Umm, it’s about a writer who meets someone he thinks might be a muse.”

“I see.” Cathal nodded slowly. “Why does he think that?” He edged closer to Tomas, the book still balanced carefully on his lap.

“He’s drawn to this person he’s not long met.” The explanation sounded somewhat weak now that Tomas had to actually explain it to someone else. “It’s like they have a connection….”

“Like Alan and Roger in your other book?” Cathal frowned. “That doesn’t explain why—” He checked the name. “—Deimos might be a muse though, but then I haven’t read enough.”

Tomas opened his mouth to explain more, how Deimos seemed to appear and disappear out of thin air, how he seemed otherworldly, how Mark kept thinking about him all the time. Cathal placed one hand on Tomas’s knee, his breath warm against Tomas’s face. “Cat? What are you doing?”

“I’m getting into character.” Cathal reached over and brushed Tomas’s hair from his face. “You’re a writer, so you need to be Mark. That leaves me the role of the muse.” His voice was barely a whisper. “This scene is too good for it to be abandoned like the other one.” His eyes dropped to the page and back again. He licked his lips, his fingers tightening on Tomas’s knee. Tomas’s breath hitched.

“Yes, it is.” He swallowed again, reaching out his own hand to caress Cathal’s cheek, echoing Mark’s actions in his book. “I don’t want you to leave,” he whispered, his words following the script, his heart speeding up.

Cathal closed his eyes as he followed Tomas’s cue, slipping into a role that could have been written for him. “I think I’m in love with you,” he murmured.

Their lips brushed together, tentatively, awkwardly. Tomas pulled away, unsure, his breathing growing ragged, Cathal’s skin warm under his fingers, soft but for the slight stubble across his lower cheek, blond facial hair almost invisible. Tomas leaned in again, his lips parting this time in invitation as he pressed their mouths together. Cathal moaned softly, opening his own lips, leaning into it, his fingers threading through Tomas’s hair.

Wet skin, soft and inviting, tasting of coffee and something else Tomas could only describe as uniquely Cathal. It felt right, better than anything Tomas could have imagined. He whimpered, pulling Cathal to him, convincing himself for that moment they weren’t play acting, that this was real, that the man in his arms was someone who loved him.

The need to breathe drove them apart. Cathal’s eyes opened with a start, searching Tomas’s. “I’m sorry,” he whispered.

“Don’t be.” Tomas traced Cathal’s lips with his fingers, committing the scene to memory, allowing himself a photograph he realized he wanted frozen in his mind forever. “I’m not.”

About the Author

pink-dragonAnne Barwell lives in Wellington, New Zealand. She shares her home with two cats who are convinced that the house is run to suit them; this is an ongoing “discussion,” and to date it appears as though the cats may be winning.

In 2008 she completed her conjoint BA in English Literature and Music/Bachelor of Teaching. She has worked as a music teacher, a primary school teacher, and now works in a library. She is a member of the Upper Hutt Science Fiction Club and plays violin for Hutt Valley Orchestra.

She is an avid reader across a wide range of genres and a watcher of far too many TV series and movies, although it can be argued that there is no such thing as “too many.” These, of course, are best enjoyed with a decent cup of tea and further the continuing argument that the concept of “spare time” is really just a myth.

Anne’s books have received honorable mentions four times and reached the finals three times in the Rainbow Awards. She has also been nominated twice in the Goodreads M/M Romance Reader’s Choice Awards—once for Best Fantasy and once for Best Historical.

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