Emma Barry talks her new release, SIGHT UNSEEN
Masquerade balls. Spy fantasies. “Let’s pretend to be strangers” moments. They all jump off from the same question: who can I be if I don’t have to be me?
In one of my all-time favorite romances, Elizabeth Hoyt’s The Raven Prince, the widowed Anna wheedles her way into a secretary job only to fall hard for her employer, the gruff Earl of Swartingham. He’s brusque and snappish and obsessed with farming techniques…and she can’t have him. But when she finds out he frequents a London brothel, she dons a mask to spend an illicit night with him. As Anna, she could never, ever do something so wicked. For the anonymous woman, however, anything is possible.
Or maybe you don’t have to be no one, and you can hide behind someone else instead. In Roxanne, a rom-com riff on Cyrano de Bergerac starring Steve Martin and Daryl Hannah, a lovelorn fire chief with what he sees as a prohibitively long nose falls for a new-to-town astronomer. But when he realizes she has a crush on a hot (but sadly unworthy) firefighter, the chief uses the other man’s name and face to woo her through a series of scorching speeches and letters. If he’s not himself, he can say what he really wants to.
I’ve always enjoyed these set ups as a reader. They’re plain old hot, but also, as Irene Adler says in Sherlock, “However how hard you try, [disguise] is always a self-portrait.” Characters tell all sorts of truths about themselves when they try to lie.
But is the same true for writers?
When Sight Unseen came together last year, it offered something amazing: I could write whatever I wanted, without any connection to my other work or brand, and I didn’t have to put my name on it. I got to be the one in the mask.
I’m going to walk softly to describe the novellas in the collection without giving away which one is mine. In Sight Unseen, you will find five radically different pieces:
- The first novella is a high fantasy about a rebellion leader suffering from amnesia with killer world building and an intriguing mystery.
- The second has a cynical, sardonic heroine who thinks she’s in a contemporary—but she’s actually in a paranormal (seriously hot hero alert here).
- The third is a twisted motorcycle romance; it’s another kick-ass heroine paired not with a biker, but with the club accountant, and they’re exposing drug smuggling.
- The fourth is about two members of a declining rock band who’ve been in love for a decade and who face artistic and personal crises tangled with the romantic one.
- The final piece features a heroine who must sacrifice herself to save her planet and who receives a surprising proposal from the most eligible man in the universe.
The five novellas are distinct from each other and from our other work. But they raise so many questions. Have we hidden our names but told the truth anyway? Do our themes and voices bled through? Can you recognize an unsigned piece by one of your favorite writers?
For me, this game has been liking riding the Gravitron at the State Fair. It’s the kind of freedom that has had me shrieking with laughter one minute and dizzy and sick-faced the next. It’s taken every expectation—including mine—and thrown them out. Strip away the names, and the writing becomes more important. No, the writing becomes everything.
I’m biased, obviously, but I think the five of us met the challenge. The final product is unique, and I’m crazy jealous of anyone who gets to read it blind.
Come play with us.
Emma Barry is a novelist, full-time mama, and recovering academic. When she’s not reading or writing, she loves hugs from her twins, her husband’s cooking, her cat’s whiskers, her dog’s tail, and Earl Grey tea. You can find her on the web at www.authoremmabarry.com.