Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Big Anthony Tagliabue is a local character whose woman owns a stable on the eponymous island. She is secretly training a promising filly for the track when she discovers that Tagliabue also harbors a secret: he accepts assignments from a cryptic agent named Giselle. The latest one involves a Russian spy ship transiting the coast on her way back to Saint Petersburg. It’s another dangerous mission from Giselle and it’s complicated by his quest to solve the murder of his mate.

Award-winning writer Paul A. Barra took time out of his hectic schedule to discuss his latest thriller, WESTFARROW ISLAND, with The Big Thrill:

Which took shape first: plot, character, or setting?

I began writing Westfarrow Island once I conceived Big Anthony Tagliabue as a sea-faring adventurer, so I guess the answer would be that character and setting came first. He was in need of an adventure, so then came the plot. Slowly.

Was there anything new you discovered, or that surprised you, as you wrote this book?

It’s difficult to write action scenes that are both accurate and thrilling to read. Short, dramatic sentences are a specialty in themselves.

What attracts you to this book’s genre?

I like the entertainment of reading thrillers, stories that pull me into the plot at least partly because I like the protagonist. I set out to write what I like to read.

What was the biggest challenge this book presented? What about the biggest opportunity?

There were technical aspects to this book (commercial fishing terminology, weaponry, oceanic environment and such) that required a lot of research—and rewriting. Another challenge that turned out to be a great opportunity was the timeline of the story. It was a mess when I first submitted it but once the editor at The Permanent Press took me in hand, I discovered ways to handle it successfully.


Paul A. Barra is a former naval officer, reporter and teacher who graduated with a BS from Niagara University and an MS from Loyola University of New Orleans. He was the senior staff writer for the Diocese of Charleston and an award-winning freelance magazine writer before becoming a full-time novelist. He was decorated with a Bronze Star with Combat “V” and a combat action ribbon for his service on the rivers of the Mekong Delta in a VNN gunboat.

Barra has been writing novels full-time since his children’s adventure The Secret of Maggie’s Swamp was published in 2012 by Brownridge Publishing. Two mystery-thrillers followed, A Death in the Hills, (2014, Argus Books) and Astoria Nights (2017, Black Opal Books). BOB also published his historical mystery Death of a Sacristan featuring the real-life third bishop of Charleston, the Rebel Bishop, in April 2018. He and his wife have eight children and live in SC, with their dogs, cats, chickens, alpacas and Cletus the burro, who protects them all.

To learn more about Paul, please visit his website.