Author Interview: Stephanie Barr

Book Squirrel interviews science fiction and fantasy author Stephanie Barr.

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?

My books are most easily available on Amazon and Smashwords but you can find them on any ebook and most book retailers.
Ideal Insurgent is also available most places that sell audio books.

Where can readers follow you on social media?

I’m on Facebook and Twitter.
I also have a writing blog, or people can sign up to receive my newsletter.


Book Review: ‘Spring Fling’ by Claire Buss

A relatable, easy to read poetry collection.

‘Spring Fling’ offers vignettes of daily life and glimpses into the thoughts of a young woman. Her children, family life, personal feelings and places they visit all feature in this collection of poetry. 

Some of the poems carry a kernel of a deeper truth that provoked more thought, while others skip through a scene, describing it in a way that leaves the reader nodding and smiling. In every case, it is easy to relate to the ideas expressed by the poet. 

‘Spring Fling’ has been awarded a Silver Acorn. 

Find your copy here

New Release: A Poet’s Curse

A new collection of dark poetry that delivers justice in its most poetic form.

A Poets Curse eBook 6x9People often say, “Never annoy a writer. She will put you in a book and kill you.”
These poems don’t kill anyone, but they leave the reader in no doubt whatsoever of  the poet’s feelings.

Uncomfortable truths, observations about life, and unashamedly honest responses to hateful people make this collection of poems highly relatable and deeply, darkly satisfying.

They say there is a special place in hell reserved for those who prey on others.
Until then, there is A Poet’s Curse.

Book Review: ‘Reflections of a Scurvy Bastard’ by Joseph Ferguson

Joseph Ferguson is destined to become recognised as a master poet.

Joseph Ferguson Reflections of a Scurvy BastardThis collection of poetic vignettes and observations is absolutely brilliant.

Ferguson writes with a very strong sense of realism and a degree of world-weariness in his profound poems that work like snapshots of different events and memories. He has a gift for creating vivid images that transport the reader to another time and place, and making it seem absolutely real. More than once I found myself completely mesmerised by the incredible writing in Ferguson’s poetry.

When Joseph Ferguson’s poetry is recognised as ‘classic’ and he is regaled world-wide as a master poet, it shall come as absolutely no surprise to me.Acorn Award I Golden

‘Reflections of a Scurvy Bastard’ has been awarded a Gold Acorn.

Find your copy here.

Book Review: ‘Sediments’ by Lyra Shanti

An exhibition of the extent and versatility of the talent of this wonderful poet and author, ‘Sediments’ is a definite must for lovers of contemporary poetry.

Shanti’s poetry is rich and sensory, full of imagery that draws the reader into the emotion and wellsprings of the poet’s mind.

Lyra Shanti Sediments

Drawing on mythological themes and elements of Biblical allegory, although it is by no means religious poetry, Shanti explores her place in time, relationships, and the universe through themes of belonging, human vulnerability, equality, and home. She is a master of contrast and balance, weighing sensitivity against images of those things that overwhelm, and confidence in belonging despite her humility, framed within a very real sense of awareness of the immeasurable breadth and depth of the universe.

 
Among the many brilliant poems in this collection, my favourites are  ‘Key of E’ and ‘Testament’.

An exhibition of the extent and versatility of the talent of this wonderful poet and author, ‘Sediments’ is a definite must for lovers of contemporary poetry.

Acorn Award I Golden‘Sediments’ has been awarded a Gold Acorn.

Find your copy here.

Book Review: ‘It Starts Like This’ by Shelby Leigh

A collection of thoughtful and often intense poetry.

Shelby Leigh It Starts Like This

 

‘It Starts Like This’ is a collection of thoughtful and often intense poetry that explores love, loss, anger, and the unrelenting ache of loneliness and of grief. It’s a collection which is highly relatable for anyone who has experienced the breakdown of a relationship or been let down by someone they trusted.

The poetry and expression are accessible and easily understood, and Leigh’s imagery is often quite stark and raw, but that is where her strengths as a poet lie.

That being said, this is a book that is probably even better when picked up occasionally and read over time, instead of in two longer sittings, as I found that some of the imagery and ideas were repeated from time to time, albeit in different ways and in varied expression.

Even among the poems that didn’t appeal as much to me personally, there are some incredibly powerful lines that forced me to stop and contemplate their truth and the magnificent way in which they were written. It should not be considered a criticism, though, that some poems appealed less than others: poetry is perhaps the most intensely personal and subjective form of writing, and what speaks strongly to one reader will merely whisper to another.

Leigh has penned some beautiful poems here, my favourites being ‘Scrapes’ and ‘Fears’.
Acorn Award II Silver

‘It Starts Like This’ has been awarded a Silver Acorn.

Find your copy here.

 

Book Review: ‘Lethal as Love’ by Patrick Williams

One could learn quite a lot about how to love deeply and sensuously from reading ‘Lethal as Love’, but there is also a more sombre lesson to be heeded: nothing lasts forever.

Patrick Williams Lethal As Love

Patrick Williams’ poems are beautiful in the simplicity and honesty of the feelings they convey, even though the feelings they communicate are at times complex and conflicted, especially as the relationship develops. There is no pretence or affectation in Williams’ writing, nor is there any strict observance of rhythm, rhyme or other particular poetic techniques. Instead, he uses language and form to evoke a strong sense of love and longing that is almost tangible as he leads the reader on a journey through the highs and lows of the love he so powerfully communicates in these poems.

Some of this poetry is quite erotic, so it’s definitely only for an adult audience, but there’s nothing gratuitous or tawdry or cheap about it. One could learn quite a lot about how to love deeply and sensuously from reading ‘Lethal as Love’, but there is also a more sombre lesson to be heeded: nothing lasts forever. It is clear from ‘Lethal as Love’, though, that the pleasure and passion were definitely worth the pain.

Book Squirrel has awarded ‘Lethal as Love’ a Golden Acorn.

Find it on Amazon.