Q&A & Giveaway with Barbara Taylor Sissel! {Author of The Volunteer}

Today’s featured author is Barbara Taylor Sissel, author of The Volunteer!

Read below to discover more about Barbara and her writing… and enter the special giveaway three winners will receive a Kindle Copy* of  The Volunteer! Just leave a comment on this post for entry!

See the bonus entry details after the Q&A!


Thank you for spending some time with us Frugal eReaders! Can you please tell us a little about yourself?

First, thank you so much for having me. I love The Frugal eReader and am so glad for an opportunity to share on the site.  As for a bit about me … I am the mother of two sons and live near Houston, Texas. When I’m not writing, I love to garden. I also do cross-stitch and find both these activities very meditative and helpful in my writing endeavors.

When did you first know that you wanted to write? What inspired you to start?

I can nearly recall the exact instant. I was eleven, reading Wuthering Heights, and I was so moved by the story, so caught up in the eeriness and the heartbreak of Catherine’s and Heathcliff’s drama. It had happened to me before, but this time, I glanced up from the book and had the sense that I wanted to give others the gift I was being given. I wanted to create stories that would transport readers into another world, stories that would move them.

How would you describe the style of your writing?

I think what I write is broadly called commercial fiction and/or women’s fiction, although that would suggest it wouldn’t appeal to men and I don’t think that’s true. More narrowly, it is about families in jeopardy. Ordinary families in crisis and how they survive.  My logline reads: At the heart of every crime, there’s a family, someone you love….

From the description, The Volunteer is a story about families, how they are made, and how in one single, horrifying instant, they can be broken. I found the story line to be heartbreaking but thought provoking. Can you talk about how you came up with it?

I read in the newspaper about a man on death row who had called off his appeals and the State of Texas had granted his right to die. There was quite a debate then around the question of whether an inmate had the right to do this. People asked if it wasn’t just state assisted suicide and why should such a request be granted? Others claimed the inmate was only trying to call attention to himself and to mount some kind of protest against the death penalty. Others, including many inmates, were angry that he was asking to hasten a process that they felt was inherently wrong. I couldn’t stop thinking about the implications: How would his family feel? What would it be like to know the exact date of your death? What sort of mental and emotional process would lead someone to make such a request? What led them to commit the crime that got them on death row? Was there remorse involved in the request to die? What about forgiveness? Especially among members of the family? I really wondered about and wanted to look at these issues and the story just evolved from there.

What were the challenges of writing this novel?

The research was a big challenge in a couple of ways. It was easy enough to come by a lot of the public knowledge regarding death row, but not so simple to get a more realistic, inside view. I give credit to several sources for providing me with as close to an accurate picture as possible and I list them in my acknowledgements. But another aspect that was challenging was that so much of what I discovered was just devastating and sad so it was difficult to handle. I would find myself moved to tears over an inmate’s story or a family’s story.

What was your favorite part of writing The Volunteer?

I enjoyed developing Thomas’s relationship with Sophia, but truly, I loved writing all of it. It was very absorbing on so many levels. Speaking as a gardener, I didn’t mind a bit the afternoon or three that I spent researching Sophia’s roses!

What would you like the readers to take away from reading The Volunteer?

That forgiveness, while often difficult, is possible in even the worst situations, and that it is the only way to be free. Forgiving someone doesn’t mean you condone their acts only that you let yourself be free of anger and bitterness about those acts. It goes for ourselves, too. When we may have done a hurtful thing, it is possible to forgive ourselves and to find peace that way.

What was the creative process for determining the final title and cover for your novel?

The title came from the news articles I read. The inmate in them, and those like him, were labeled “volunteers” and I knew in that moment I would write about such a man and I would title the book after him in this role. As for the cover, it speaks to the pier Sophia visits and the danger of a child being left unattended. I wanted an image of a child in jeopardy that would suggest that left to their own devices, children often find themselves heading off an edge and into deep water. The image was meant to evoke concern, even fear for that child.

Are you working on anything currently that you would like to share? J

As a matter of fact, I’m excited to say that in the interim since publishing THE VOLUNTEER, and two other indie novels THE NINTH STEP and THE LAST INNOCENT HOUR, I signed with MIRA to write two new books. The first one, EVIDENCE OF LIFE, will come out in April of 2013. It’s the story of a woman whose family is presumed drowned in a flood. Unable to accept their fate, she goes in search of them only to discover that nothing she believed about the life she led was true. I’m working on the second one for MIRA now that is as yet untitled but will also concern a crime and a family in jeopardy.

Finally, would you like to leave us with one of your favorite passages from The Volunteer?

Some of my favorite passages happen late in the book and would maybe spoil the plot to quote, but one that I love, that seemed pulled from nowhere that was conscious, is the description of Sophia’s pier, the first time the reader goes with her when she walks there. Ever since writing that I have wished to have such a quiet, serene retreat myself, to walk through her moon gate and down the path, where the light is green and swimmy and shadows dart like fish.

Thank you so much for taking the time to let us learn more about you and your book! I wish you the best!

Thank you, Elizabeth. I appreciate the opportunity to share time with you and The Frugal eReader


At the heart of every crime, there’s a family … this fact drives Barbara’s fiction. Her novels are issue oriented, threaded with elements of suspense and defined by their particular emphasis on how crime effects families, the victim’s family, the perpetrator’s family. Her first indie novel, The Ninth Step, was published in August of 2011, and she hasn’t looked back since. The Volunteer came out in October of that year and The Last Innocent Hour, originally published in trade print, followed in November.

Currently Barbara is represented by Barbara Poelle of the Irene Goodman Literary Agency and under contract to MIRA for Evidence of Life, which will make its print debut in April 2013, and a second as yet untitled novel.

Although she once lived on the grounds of a prison facility in Kentucky (a fact that might explain the nature of her writing) she now resides near Houston, Texas. An avid gardener and reader, Barbara is the mother of two wonderful sons, who are an endless source of learning, laughter and joy.

Barbara’s WebsiteFacebook Fan Page – Barbara Taylor SisselThe Volunteer – Amazon Buy LinkThe Ninth Step – Amazon Buy LinkThe Last Innocent Hour – Amazon Buy LinkFollow Barbara on TwitterFollow Barbara on Goodreads


The Volunteer

In the fall of 1999, psychologist Sophia Beckman is compelled by the court to give testimony on behalf of a death row inmate that results in his sentence being overturned. Haunted by secrets from her past, she avoids the media spotlight as much as possible, but soon, other prisoners’ families come seeking her assistance. One family in particular, the wife, children, and brother of Jarrett Capshaw, is especially insistent. Forty-one days ago Jarrett’s request to die was granted by the State of Texas, and he became a dead man walking, a man they call a volunteer.
Jarrett’s crimes were unusual, involving the theft of precious Mayan antiquities. Murder was never part of the plan, but murder is what happened. He pulled the trigger, and as little as he feels prepared for it, as much as he struggles with matters of the soul, he’s ready to die. It is the only way his family and the families of his victims will be free to move on. While Jarrett labors to find the words to say good-bye to those he has loved, Sophia finds herself drawn into a relationship with his wife and oldest son. It is Jarrett’s family she can’t resist and there will be a price to pay. But not even Sophia could have foreseen the outcome when the brutal truth is exposed, the unalloyed facts that, incredibly, will deliver Jarrett’s fate straight into her hands. 

The Volunteer is a story about families, how they are made, and how in one single, horrifying instant, they can be broken. It is a story about mothers and the lies they tell to protect their children, to keep them from being hurt. But what happens when the truth comes out anyway and nothing and no one is spared? Sometimes the truth has the power to break your heart, and in Sophia’s case it will also endanger her freedom and threaten everything she has ever believed about her life.

The Volunteer is available from Amazon for $2.99 or Borrow FREE w/Prime!


How to enter The Volunteer Giveaway:

Leave a comment on this post!

Bonus Entries {leave an additional comment for each one!}:

Happy eReading!


*Please note that the copies will be purchased and gifted directly from Amazon to the reader!

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  1. Amy says:

    Sounds intriguing

  2. Pauline Tilbe says:

    This was a terrific story…complex characters…you won’t be dissappointed!

  3. Na S. says:

    Forgiveness can be a hard thing to do.
    I would like to read this. Thanks for the chance.

  4. Theresa says:

    I would love to win this book. Thanks!

  5. Cecilia says:

    I enjoyed the Q and A. I am interested in this book now.

  6. Debbie Bo says:

    Thank you for another giveaway.

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