Welcome to another great Book Squirrel author interview. Today we welcome fantasy and science fiction author Stephanie Barr.
Thank you, Book Squirrel!
You’re most welcome. Tell us, Stephanie, what inspired you to write?
I love to tell stories. I love to pretend I’m in a different situation (or some variation of me) and imagine how I could overcome, beat it, react, interact with others, find my way free. I’m a natural problem-solver and I love to both create and overcome problems as I write. I love to help characters grow as they learn and interact with others. Characters are front and center in my own work, my focus, and I love to go adventuring with them and share those adventures with others.
As for something specific that inspired me, everything kind of does. I love to play what if, and imagine what might happen if I tweaked a few features. Perhaps I was encouraged in that mindset in high school with teachers who didn’t squash that tendency to turn essays into stories, but I can’t remember when I didn’t do this.
What are you working on writing now?
I’m working on cowriting the second book in the Witches and Demons series with Mirren Hogan (called Illusion), focused on an alternate here and now and magic with demons, sort of urban fantasy.
I’m working on finishing the third book in my Bete series (called Twice the Man) which are sort of science fantasy, science fiction elements (space ship crash landing on a new planet across the universe from their home planet) but adding shapeshifters and psychic powers. I hinted at unfriendly natives in the first two books and now they’re going to make their move, and quite effective it was, with a chemical that removes the shapeshifting and psychic powers of my heroes. Guess they’ll have to outsmart ’em.
I’m halfway through The Library at Castle Herriot, which is another here and now but there’s a magic library with books that can take you to other worlds including the past, but don’t take them out of the hidden library or you can’t return without living out the book as intended–and you won’t know how it goes. One false step and you’re trapped forever. I’d call it fantasy.
I’m also coordinating a charity anthology (Challenge Accepted) where all the MCs must be disabled in some way and win the day (proceeds to go to Special Olympics). And I’m involved in at least three other anthologies at the moment as well as building two of my own based on cat stories. Cats are one of my signatures and you can find one or more in all of my books, so I thought I’d write some stories for them.
Who designs your book covers?
So far, I’ve used two artists and devised some of the covers for my mini-anthologies myself (which are not good covers but the books are free so there’s that). Loraine van Tonder is my go-to cover designer. I love her work and I’ve bought more than a dozen covers from her and will undoubtedly buy more. She’s in South Africa but she is very easy to work with and consistently gives me stunning covers that really make an impression. I stumbled across her FB site from somewhere else, found a premade perfect for Curse of the Jenri with just a little tweaking and she ended up remaking covers for my existing novels (Saving Tessa, Nine Lives, Tarot Queen) except for Beast Within which was created by Brendan Smith. She also revamped my covers for my poetry collection (Musings of a Nascent Poet) and my first anthology (Creating Dreams). Since then, she has built covers for me for Incantation (Book one of the Witches and Demons trilogy), Legacy (my second anthology), and The Taming of Dracul Morsus (as well as several covers for future books).
Brendan Smith is another cover artist I’ve used several times. He made Beast Within‘s cover within an hour (apparently for fun) and provided a premade perfect for Ideal Insurgent. He also did a cover for my mini-anthology Easy Prey.
He is also very responsive.
Loraine van Tonder can be found on FB if you search Ryn Katryn. Brendan Smith can also be found on FB.
What’s your favourite kind of music?
I love music I can sing along with: pop, rock, show tunes, Disney tunes. Not a big fan of country (though there are songs that are exceptions), rap or religious music. I like bouncy music as it helps to keep me awake for day job and general everything since I don’t drink coffee. And I can listen to music when I’m doing everything but actually writing. When I’m writing, I need as close to silence as I can get with two kids and ten cats.
Forest, country, beach or city?
City. I’m not outdoorsy and, if I want something, I want to find it right then, so accessibility to everything is my goal. I don’t want to drive miles to the nearest grocery store or drive half a day to the nearest airport. I live in hurricane alley already so the beach has lost its lustre. I love to curl up in my house with a book or a movie.
What is your pet hate? Have you ever built it into a character or used it in your writing?
I don’t have many pet hates when it comes to people. I have a few pet peeves on writing: clunky dialog, characters who have to break character to do something to make the plot go, thesaurus mania (using synonyms when you clearly don’t understand the nuances), and (this is my big one) book that don’t complete a story arc
But you seem to be talking about people and I do have two: rapists and bigoted folks, people so caught up on what someone is that they don’t care WHO someone is. And, yes, I’ve used them both in my writing. Rapists are never anything but antagonists. Bigotry is not uncommon in my antagonists, but sometimes they do grow out of it.
When you were a kid, what did you want to be when you grew up?
I wanted to be a veterinarian until I realized that animals throw up. A lot. I still have a low tolerance to regurgitation even after three children and ten cats. So, sometime around then I wanted to be a writer. But, I didn’t want to be a starving writer so I was going to get a day job (which I did) but I would never, in a million years, have predicted that my day job would be rocket scientist or that I would get a degree in engineering physics – a total fluke. So, I’m still capable of surprising even myself.
What’s your favourite season? Why?
I like the fall. I was born in the fall, is one reason, but the real reason is that I live somewhere really hot (Houston) and, though I hate the hard cold and snow and stuff, I do like the cessation of brutal heat.
Who are your three greatest literary inspirations?
E. A. Poe. I started out reading a lot of classics and no one wrote poetry that touched me more than Poe. I love his tricks with suspense, is amazing vocabulary, his understanding that the sound of a word can add to the tension and emotion of a poem or prose. My early poetry, where I started when I began writing were all poems of the epic rhyme and rhythm type.
Heinlein. Not saying there aren’t some misses in the books, but, of the sheer volume of stories and novels, he’s got more greats than I could count and I’ve read most of them. He had a real turn for dialog, a great voice that made people feel real in nothing but a line or two. That’s a gift. He injects humor in most of his work without in anyway detracting from his speculative fiction, or the tension and pathos. I love that and have tried to do the same. I like his personality, often self-deprecating, when in anyone’s POV and his fondness for cats. Of course, I like his apparently effortless world-building where there are tons of details to build the world without taking any chunks of time to make them so, just weaving it into the narrative in a perfectly natural way. Plenty to learn there, too.
Georgette Heyer. Yes, yes, why would a fantasy/SF author be inspired by a Regency romance author? Because she’s very good. Not only with very intelligent characters (and with great humor) but her character interactions are fantastic and charming. I’ve read most of her books a dozen times apiece and can read (or listen on audio) to them over and over even now and find myself cheered. I want people to enjoy my own books in much the same way.
Name two things in life that you wish were easier.
Marketing. I’ve no hand for it at all. As a rocket scientist, I can speak with assurance, backed by data. When it comes to pushing my work (which I love) on people when I know the reactions are subjective, is much more challenging for me. I don’t like to be pushed myself. I have the gratification that many of the people I do know that have read one have been eager to read more, but we’re still talking about a very small number of people. Getting the book in the hands of someone open to fall in love with a new author is not so easy and I haven’t figured out how best to do it.
Raising children. Not a particularly unique thought, but since I’ve done most of my child-raising as a single mother, I wish I had a better handle on it, especially with my two youngest on the spectrum. They are both, however, two of the happiest children ever so there’s that. And my eldest, while not quite as happy, is quite a accomplished and has the nature to carve her way with distinction.
Where can we find your books?
Where can readers follow you on social media?