Interview with Brian Barr
I've done interviews in the past but mostly for New Zealand writers and for my other site. It was very successful so I thought I would branch out and take interviews with other authors from around the world. Welcome Brian Barr. I did try to count all your books but I lost count. What an awesome accomplishment.
Tell us about your latest novel or project:
Serpent King: Shadow and Light follows Zian Ur, a Reptilian from the Nagan Empire. As the son of a commander general and a state priestess, Zian comes from a noble family in an imperialist warrior society of conquerors who colonize and destroy worlds. Though his heart is fixed on becoming a Nagan warrior that his family can be proud of, Zian finds that his life path will be quite different from other Reptilians.
What got you started writing?
I’ve loved storytelling since I was a kid, and started writing stories early. I loved ghost stories as a kid, and comic books, so they are the main things that got me writing.
What challenges did you face when you first started writing?
It took me a while to find confidence and know that being published, or writing long works, wasn’t a hard thing. I found I could write long works in high school, and I started getting published a few years ago. Writing books and getting them out to people who will like them wasn’t this unattainable thing, but it took me a while to get that.
And a very prolific writer as well.
Do you ever get the opportunity to travel for your writing? Either to market or to research.
I went to a local author showcase this year and that was my first time. I’m a shy person but it showed me I could go to an event and share my writing, so I’m open to other opportunities in the future.
I think most authors are introverts.
Who in your life is your greatest cheerleader or support in your writing?
My friend Justin Blackburn, and my bandmates, especially Bubbs Ruebella and Jason Wooton. My friend Adelyn Soto gave me great feedback on The Head, especially in how I set the story in Columbia and Lexington. Another person who has been extremely helpful, although I only know her from Facebook, is Lael Braday. She’s great, along with Lisa Arrigo who helped get the word out on The Head and The House.
What was the first thing you did after your first book was published?
When Carolina Daemonic came out in 2015, I did interviews and promoted it to the best of my ability. I sent come copies to local libraries. This is what I try to do for all my books, to let people know what I do because I love to write.
Do you read your book reviews? How do you handle the good and the bad ones?
I do read reviews of my book. So far, most of the reviews have been positive. Sometimes, I have to laugh at the bad ones because they rarely go into detail and are contradicted by four and five star reviews from other readers. The bad reviews I take to heart and love are the ones that highlight their problems with the story, because I can either learn from those reviews and fix problems I didn’t see before, or respectfully disagree and know that I wrote what I wanted and another audience liked it.
A very healthy attitude.
How long does it take you to write a book? Do you have any secrets to productivity?
Some novels take me a month or less. Others take me a season, some a year. For me, it’s all about passion and wanting to write.
Where did you get the idea for your first or latest book?
I created Zian Ur, the Serpent King, almost a decade ago. He was based on another serpentine character I created in high school, named Naga, who was indestructible and sentenced to live forever on Earth by the gods. I named the planet in my Serpent King: Shadow and Light after Naga as well.
For the novel, I wanted to write an origin story of Zian Ur and the world he came from, as well as the society of conquerers that influenced him.
Do you have any writing rituals?
I either play music or the television while I write. I don’t have any elaborate rituals for writing.
What is your best experience meeting a fan?
Hearing a friend tell me how much he loved Carolina Daemonic’s first novel at a punk show was pretty cool. Just random times where I’ve gone places and people will tell me they read my book, liked it, and highlight specific parts of my work they loved. That means a lot to me. I can’t explain it.
If any of your books was to be made into a film, which one would you pick and who would you have play the main characters?
Man. There is also a comic series I’ve been working on with my friend Chuck Amadori since 2013 called Empress, which is on Comixology and Amazon. It would be awesome for that to be made into a movie. What’s weird about Empress is we put out the comic around 2013-2014, and then two years later, a mainstream comic creator I love came out with a comic of the same title and had already gotten a movie deal for his Empress. I wish he would have done a Google search before doing that, since we are indie guys and it would be weird putting out our Empress movie after his. It’s just great we have online evidence that our comic came out first…
I would love to see this first Serpent King as a movie. Carolina Daemonic is a multiple book series in both novels and short stories, so that would have to be a series of some sort, whether live-action or animated.
How important do you think marketing is for authors today?
Very. I am a 90’s kid and I grew up in a time where you heard about artists getting screwed over- comic book artists who went over to Image, rappers who left major record deals, bands, etc. I think it’s important for creators and artists, especially authors, to have a more hands-on approach in their business and in their promotion, their marketing, their publishing- everything. Some creators still have that silly idea of “hey, I’ll do the creative fun stuff, and my press or manager or whoever will do the boring business and marketing stuff.” That is such a bad and self-destructive idea in my opinion. I think an author should be just as inspired to market and promote their own work as they are in making it. If you don’t want to share it, why write it? Authors should do everything they can to get their work out there, and become involved in knowing how they get paid for their work, what their options are in selling their work, connecting to fans- everything.
There is certainly another kind of joy you can get from marketing even if it is just to be proud you did something well.
Do you have any book you have written that won’t ever see the light of day and why?
I have a few. I’m in the process of serializing a high school fantasy novel, and I realized that my writing is way more organized now. There are dots that aren’t connected in this early work, and passages that are unnecessary, so I decided to just rewrite the story. This is the same story my character Naga was in: Cherubim of the Ultima. The first chapter, Enter Genesis, is on Amazon.
Yeah, I have a few of those and just gave up on them. You are amazing to tackle a story from so far back in your writing development.
Many authors have a word or a phrase they automatically use too often. Do you have one?
I can’t think of anything specifically on the spot. I think there are a number of words I use often. I try to switch up my word usage in order to not become repetitive. I try to switch up character actions so characters don’t nod and blink and smile and shrug every two paragraphs in a dialogue. There’s a book right now that I’m writing, and I know I’ll have to go back and diversify the wording.
What quirk or trope of your genre do you like or dislike?
I love speculative fiction of a whole. I like fantasy, especially if it’s dark. I also like horror, especially if it’s of a fantastical nature, and I like science fiction. I’m pretty diverse within spec-fic, and though I like reading general fiction from time to time, I don’t see myself writing general “real world” fiction any time soon. My imagination is always racing, and writing a story about regular people doesn’t do it for me.
At least Spec-Fic is a genre that allows for diverse writers.
Often writers get to approach some serious subjects. Which serious subject are you most proud to have written about or was the hardest to write about?
Both Carolina Daemonic and Serpent King tackle heavy subjects. Carolina Daemonic is the heaviest by far. It looks at various political and social issues, from racism and homophobia to sex worker’s rights, imperialism, slavery, the industrial prison complex… so many subjects that are important to me. The hardest to write about was political extremism. We live in a crazy world and capturing it in fiction feels essential but can be quite draining and scary.
Thank you so much for you time and sharing some of your own story. Good luck on all your future projects.