Author Interview With Sandy Barker

Please introduce yourself and your book(s)

I am an Aussie author with an American mom and an English dad who considers all three countries ‘home’. A lifelong and passionate traveller, many of my books are inspired by my travel adventures and my real-life ‘meet cute’, meeting my partner, Ben, in Santorini as we were about to embark on a sailing trip around the Greek Islands was the inspiration for my first book One Summer in Santorini, which is also the first book in the Holiday Romance series. Book 4, A Sunrise over Bali is out in February and Book 5, A Wedding in Tuscany in June. I’ve also written a stand-alone, The Dating Game, a romcom set behind the scenes of a reality dating show, and The Christmas Swap, about three best friends―an American from Colorado, a Brit and an Aussie―who swap Christmases. I’m writing the follow up now and it’s out later this year.

Tell us about the characters and relationships in your stories

My heroines are all a little ‘stuck’ when it comes to love and relationships. 

They’ve either been badly burned and are ‘love shy’, or they’ve become trapped in the day-to-day, barely just existing and doing the same thing on repeat―they need a shake up and that’s where I come in.

I send these characters on adventures―in love and life―to locations around the world―Greece, the UK, Colorado, New Zealand, Bali, Tuscany, Hawaii, Sydney, Melbourne … and when they get there, they meet people and have experiences who will help them transform―their lives as well as themselves. 

I explore romantic relationships―how allowing yourself to be vulnerable and to trust the person you’re falling in love with can open up parts of your heart that you didn’t know were there or had closed off a long time ago. And how falling in love, really understanding what you want and need from that person―and speaking up about it can be revelatory. It can empower you and bring you great joy.

I also thoroughly enjoy writing female friendships―they are such a critical part of my characters’ lives, so this is a theme that runs through all my books, even the more light-hearted ones. These friendships are where the main character can always be their truest selves, even if other parts of their lives are crumbling around them. And I never shy away from a best friend giving a hefty dose of tough love if it’s needed.

What lessons could readers learn about real-world relationships from your novel(s)?

Many of my romances start with friendship―attraction yes―but friendship is key to the lasting relationships I write. (I have yet to write an ‘enemies to lovers’ story, though I suspect it would be fun, so maybe one day.) 

Through falling in love, my characters realise that they deserve to be with someone who brings out the best in them, who champions their successes and isn’t jealous or petty or cruel. 

That’s why trust is a key theme in my books. And I test it. In The Dating Game the main character and the love interest comes to blows over him not trusting her. But (minor spoiler) she stands her ground and he realises he was being ridiculous, that he needs to make amends.

My characters are not perfect. But when two of them fall in love, it’s because they’re perfect for each other. They see each other for who they really are and they bring out the best in each other. This is critical for me and what I think is a true ‘happily ever after’ for contemporary romance.

What real-life relationship experiences, observations or insights have influenced your writing?

Meeting Ben was an incredibly influential factor in how I saw life and love. I’d been single for many years, exhausted by the dating grind of Sydney in the oughties, and had sworn off men. I took myself off to Greece to escape my hum drum life and regroup. 

And, very inconveniently, I met a much younger American guy on the pier just as we were about to get on a ten-day sailing trip together. He was funny, smart, interested, interesting. We had fantastic conversations―the type of conversations about life, the universe and everything that I’d been missing, craving even―and it became apparent that we saw the world through similar lenses. He was one of the few people in my life who I felt that way with. And we were attracted to each other―big time! But how would it work? He was 10 years younger that my 37. He lived in St Paul, I lived in Sydney. 

But when you fall in love over a week and a half while you’re sailing with a small group of people who become like family, you makeΒ it work. We did long-distance for two and a half years. We both moved to Seattle where we lived for four years and then we moved to Australia.

So this ‘insta love’, long distance relationship with a massive age gap that should absolutely not have worked out … well, sixteen years and counting.

What I take away from that is something that finds its way into my writing―if it’s real, if it’s deep and if it’s worth it, my characters will find a way to make it work. That comes up in every one of my books because I write travel romance. My characters have to make hard choices about what matters most.

Are there any relationship themes or topics you want to cover in future releases?

As I mentioned, I think it would be fun to explore a new trope, such as ‘fake date’ or ‘enemies to lovers’. I’m reading Beach Read at the moment by Emily Henry and it is genuinely laugh-out-loud in places where she really leans into the ‘nemesis’ aspect and at the same time I am dying for these two to fall in love. I’m thoroughly enjoying it. 

Once I finish writing the follow up to The Christmas Swap (my 8th book), I will be planning out a whole new series and I have an idea for a stand-alone that might be my first foray into ‘enemies to lovers’, so we’ll see …

Thank you so much for having me and happy reading everyone!


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