Ms. Casey's two middle-grade/young adult novels, Leilani Zan and Grandma Jock and Christabelle (James C. Winston Publishing Co., Trade Division) were both nominated for awards of excellence by the SCBWI Golden Kite Award, the National Association of University Women Literary Award and the Sir Walter Raleigh Literary Award. Shyla's Initiative (Crossquarter Publishing Group), a contemporary adult novel (occult romance/mystery), received the Independent Publisher Book Award and also an award of special literary recognition by the Palm Beach County Cultural Council. The House of Kane (ArcheBooks Publishing) was considered for a Pulitzer nomination. Another contemporary novel for adults, Just Like Family, received “Special Recognition from the 7-Eleven Corporation.” Most recently, her young adult novel, The Cadence of Gypsies, was reviewed by the Smithsonian for its List of Most Notable Books. The Gospel According to Prissy, a novel for adults, has received excellent reviews and received an IPPY Award for Best
Regional Fiction. Warner Brothers Studio has also expressed interest. Newly released in paperback, The Coach's Wife (ArcheBooks Publishing), also a novel for adults (contemporary/mystery), was semi-finalist for the Dana Award for Outstanding Novel and listed on the Publisher’s Best Seller List.
Her award-winning articles, short stories, and poetry for adults have appeared in both national and international publications including the North Carolina Christian Advocate Magazine, The New East Magazine, the Raleigh (N.C.) News and Observer, the Rocky Mount (N.C.) Sunday Telegram, Dog Fancy, ByLine, The Christian Record, Skirt! Magazine, and True Story. A thirty-minute television special which Ms. Casey wrote and coordinated was broadcast on WRAL, Channel 5, in Raleigh, North Carolina. She also received special recognition for her editorial work on the English translations of Albanian children’s stories.
Ms. Casey's award-winning science fiction short stories for adults are featured in The Cosmic Unicorn and CrossTime science fiction anthologies. Ms. Casey's essays and other works appear in The Chrysalis Reader, the international literary journal of the Swedenborg Foundation, 221 One-Minute Monologues from Literature (Smith and Kraus Publishers), and A Cup of Comfort (Adams Media Corporation).
Ms. Casey is a former director of BookFest of the Palm Beaches, Florida, where she served as guest author and panelist. She has served as judge for the Pathfinder Literary Awards in Palm Beach and Martin Counties, Florida, and was the Florida Regional Advisor for the Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators from 1991 through 2003. She is a frequent guest lecturer at universities and writers’ conferences around the country including the SCBWI Regional Conference, the Harriett Austin Writers Conference in Athens, SIBA (Southeastern Independent Book Sellers Association), Florida Writers Association, and the University of Auburn, Montgomery. She makes her home on the top of a mountain near Trion, Georgia, with her husband and Benton, a hound-mix who adopted her.
AN INTERVIEW WITH THE AUTHOR
I asked Barbara to share with us her inspiration for the story she tells in The Coach's Wife. Here is her response:
There has probably never been a time when I didn’t enjoy sports on some level. As a young child it was with the innocence and wide-eyed excitement that goes hand-in-hand with competing and winning a prize. Later, the rewards were less material and somehow more spiritual in nature. When I married Willis Casey, however, my enjoyment and appreciation of sports, especially collegiate sports, took on a totally new and deeper meaning. I could no longer be satisfied to just sit on the sidelines and cheer. I quickly became aware that there were other factors involved in the so-called game of sports--factors that played a critical role in the over-all scheme of things as they existed within a university.
Willis was the director of athletics at North Carolina State University in Raleigh. It was through his eyes I learned that collegiate sports was not “just a game,” and that a winning athletics program was much more far-reaching than I had ever imagined. It influenced things like student enrollment, scholarships, donations, accreditations, standing within the community, and even the personal development of young men and women. As I became more involved, I began to experience the ever-changing and often volatile emotions that existed with each game played, or each event. If a team won, the exhilaration was unreal; but if it lost, there was only the feeling of despair. With time I adjusted. I allowed myself to be interested, but not so emotionally involved that it spilled into all the other areas of my life. I thought I was in control. Nothing, however, prepared me for that season when the men’s basketball team went to Albuquerque and won the NCAA National Championship.
Under the direction of a highly emotional, super-charged Italian coach by the name of Jim Valvano, this team game after game seemed to lose, only to pull out a win in the last seconds of regular play or in overtime. It managed to survive the regular season, and as underdog, the Wolfpack team took not only its fans but the entire country by storm and marched into “The Pit” as it was called at the University of Nevada to pull off one of the biggest upsets in the history of collegiate basketball. It is still talked about today as though it just happened.
Willis and I were sitting in the stands at center court that final game as we watched the winning dunk shot. The entire coliseum exploded. Willis pulled me through masses of cheering fans, past the security guards and onto the court. The Wolfpack players were laughing and crying and piling on top of each other in a heap. Coach V, as he was affectionately called, was running around wild-eyed, flailing his arms, searching for someone to hug. He found Willis. Then he found me. The overwhelming joy of the Wolfpack fans was so strong that time seemed to momentarily stop so that the enormity of what had just occurred could catch up with reality.
The Coach’s Wife is not reality. Nor is it a replay of an unbelievably thrilling event that took place during Willis’s tenure as athletics director. It is a story that is simply the product of my imagination brought to life on a printed page. Within that story, however, is a spirit that reflects something that is real—that one glorious moment when winning the NCAA Basketball National Championship became a reality for the Wolfpack.
Another deafening roar exploded from the coliseum, and when it did Marla threw down her partially smoked cigarette and ground it into the polished tile floor with the toe of her shoe. Quickly she reached for another cigarette from the opened pack in her small red handbag. She lit it, sucked the smoke into her mouth, held her breath, coughed, and then slowly released it. Marla didn't smoke, but when she paced up and down the hallways of basketball coliseums, puffing on cigarettes seemed appropriate. It gave her something to do with her hands, and it helped keep her sane.
Marla Connors, recently married to head basketball coach Neal Connors, travels with her husband to Albuquerque, New Mexico, where the Piedmont State University Coyote team is playing in the NCAA Finals. Marla has not been accepted by the Coyotes, that loyal bunch of fans who follows the university team, partly because she is almost twenty years younger than Coach Connors and a divorcée, but also because the fans are afraid she will distract her husband from his duties as head coach. They see her as someone who married Coach Connors just for his money. Only Gale, the older wife of assistant coach Stu Simmons, goes out of her way to be a friend to Marla.
The Coyote team is plagued with problems from the very beginning of the season, and when they finally manage to reach the NCAA Finals, it's even worse. Their center is caught using drugs, Athletics Director Charlie Morgan, who is also in Albuquerque for the games, makes a pass at Marla in her hotel room, and Coach Connors comes down with the flu. No one believes that State can win the big game.
With so much happening, Marla can't shake the feeling that something evil is taking over her life. She tries to convince herself that it is emotional anxiety left over from the abuse she experienced during her first marriage to Dr. Martin Andrews and that the stress from the tournament has brought it once again to the surface. She soon learns, however, that the evil is real and it threatens not only everything she loves, but her very life.
Everything you can imagine is real.
Marla Connors wrapped her full-length, black mink coat tightly around her and sat back in the rich brocade chair--one of a matching pair--that faced the ivory damask sofa. She had chosen this particular chair in the lobby because it allowed her full view of the front entrance of the hotel as well as the bank of brass-framed elevators located off to the right. She watched a group of noisy Wolfpack supporters get off one of the elevators, all of them wearing red and white and carrying an assortment of pompoms, banners, and other displays of school spirit to wave during the basketball game. Several other people, also Wolfpack fans who had waited to see if State would make it to the NCAA semifinals, were trying to check in at the hotel desk.
Even though Marla could easily see anyone coming into or leaving the lobby of the hotel through the massive glass doors, as well as anyone using the elevators, she for the most part was hidden from view by a tall palm and several smaller potted plants placed around the seating area. And even if someone did notice her sitting there, no one would recognize her--not with the wig. The shoulder-length blond hair and heavy makeup, as well as the coat, made her look older than her thirty-three years.
Another group of loud fans clamored out of an elevator. Charlie Morgan, the new athletics director, and his assistant, Ray Knox, were among them as well as Stuart Simmons, one of the assistant coaches. The Piedmont State University Wolfpack team was scheduled for the first game of the semifinals in the NCAA National Championship basketball playoffs, and many of the fans had already started drinking. Their boisterous and obnoxious behavior was only a mild indication of what they would be like during and after the game.
He entered through the glass doors and stood for a moment in the sunlight that was scattered on the thick maroon carpet. Tall, muscular, erect, his sixty-year-old body looked like a poster ad expounding the benefits of keeping in shape. He had probably been doing a pre-game interview outside for one of the television networks. His thick graying hair was slightly wind-blown giving him a boyish look, and he still had on the sweats he had worn to practice that morning. Marla crossed her legs and when she did the coat opened slightly, exposing her bare leg and thigh. She smoothed the blond hair with her hand and licked her lips. Other than that, she made no movement. He would see her. He always did.
CONNECT WITH THE AUTHOR