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Welcome to the home page of M.P. Barker. I'm the author of A Difficult Boy, an award-winning historical novel about two indentured servants who must overcome their differences to outwit their abusive master in 19th-century New England.
Mending Horses, the sequel to A Difficult Boy, described by my agent as " a family-friendly "Water for Elephants" about three outcasts - an Irish orphan, a roving peddler, and a girl hiding from an abusive father - who join a circus, help its damaged horses, and must battle violence to mend each other." (From Holiday House, expected publication date, spring 2014)
Writing A Difficult Boy and Mending Horses allowed me to combine my childhood dreams of becoming a novelist and owning a horse with my grown-up jobs as an archivist and historian. Although I never did get that dream horse, I got to invent one in Ivy, the mare that Daniel takes care of in the books.
In the 1990s, I did a stint as a costumed historical interpreter at Old Sturbridge Village, where I got to time-travel on a daily basis to 1830s New England. You can do all the research you want, but there’s nothing like sitting with your face against a muddy cow’s belly and getting slapped upside the head with a manure-soaked tail to give your story that “been-there-done-that” feeling, and to add a new and pungent dimension to the words "in your face."
After Sturbridge, I became an archivist at the Connecticut Valley Historical Museum, where I got paid to snoop through old diaries, letters and personal papers. There’s a weird kind of visceral enjoyment in finding out people’s dirty little secrets--their prejudices, their hidden love-affairs, what they really think about the world...
Turning that information into historical fiction was an adventure and a challenge. I wanted to create characters that readers could identify with, while allowing them to see that those characters aren’t merely modern people wearing funny clothes and living without indoor plumbing. My characters' thoughts and beliefs are very different from ours, yet they grapple with familiar problems: prejudice, abuse, poverty, grief, and loneliness. And they cherish the same things that matter to kids and adults today: loyalty, kindness, trust and most of all, friendship.
I'm also the author of two nonfiction books: 140 Years of Providential Caring, a history of the Sisters of Providence co-authored with Tom Shea and Suzanne Strempek Shea; and Images of America: Chicopee, a pictorial history of Chicopee, Massachusetts.
Besides being a writer, I'm also a freelance historical consultant and a Circuit Rider for Preservation Massachusetts. My other projects have included exhibits, nominations to the National Register of Historic Places, planning studies, local history publications, and more!
Guest blogs and online interviews
Check out the following links to online interviews and guest blogs:
1 Jun 2008: Online interview (subscription required)
20 May 2008: Online interview about hair, nails, and killer sparkly red shoes to die for
Shop Talk with Laura Bowers
3 May 2008: Online interview
Trainspotting Reads Teen Book Reviews
25 Apr 2008: Online interview
Author Jessica Burkhart's Blog
22 Apr 2008: Guest blog on indentured servitude in the 19th century
18 Apr 2008: Online interview
14-19 Apr 2008: Virtual book launch party for A Difficult Boy at the Class of 2k8 web site
Day One: About the Book
Day Two: About Writing
Day Three: Character Portraits
Day Four: The Face that Got Me My Agent
Day Five: Adventures in Living History at Old Sturbridge Village
14 Apr 2008: Guest blog on cutting a manuscript from 700 pages to 300
Darcy Pattison's Revision Notes