Interview with Stephanie Barr

How do you approach cover design?
That was actually a big deal because I'm completely devoid of artistic talent. So, I talked to a bunch of people hogging artistic talent and tried to get them to do what I envisioned. Friends and family and total strangers who would work for vastly different levels of pay (or none at all).

Lots of talent going on, but some artwork was forthcoming in a reliable way or the work didn't have the look or feel I wanted. They had beautiful work but it didn't fit my books (in my opinion). In the end, I was reduced to teaching myself paintshop skills, looking for stock photos I could license for this and building them myself. I had to simplify my original thoughts, but I'm actually pretty pleased with the results. And I learned new skills which, as a rocket scientist and an engineer, I can't help but be pleased with.
What are your five favorite books, and why?
Five? I can't say for sure. But, at this moment, I'd say, "These Old Shades" by Georgette Heyer, "The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress" by Robert Heinlein, "Partners in Necessity" by Sharon Lee and Steve Miller, "Imitation in Death" by JD Robb and maybe the "Bleach" series by Tite Kubo, but I could have readily picked any of a few dozen other books I go back and reread for entertainment over and over.

The books I write and the books I read have one thing in common: characters, characters I want to spend time with, care with, feel for, identify with. You get extra credit if you can add humor (as I try to do myself).

Characters I identify with must have some internal integrity and genuinely care, if not about everyone, about someone outside themselves. I'm particularly fond of protective characters who falls for protagonists who are quite capable of taking care of themselves and/or turning gender stereotypes on their ear (as I frequently do). Characters should also have flaws and learn and grow, because static characters are flat and uninteresting. I also, personally, prefer them to be intelligent and sarcastic, given that that's my favorite form of humor. But it's not enough that the author TELL us they're intelligent - we have to see it in "action." I especially like books where the character's personality comes out quickly in the dialog or actions.
What do you read for pleasure?
Fiction and manga.

For fiction, I've liked strong characters, humor and romance. Actually, I like books that bleed over into "multiple genres" that have speculative elements AND drama AND action AND humor AND romance. If I like a character or characters, the plot and setting are almost immaterial which is why my tastes are eclectic and I have favorites in a number of genres.

With manga, characters and humor are key selling points, but also real decency and emotional depth. I've been fascinated by manga for several years now. I think part of that is how impressed I am by how the pictures add to the story and solidify characterizations (and can be used for humor) - Fumi Yoshinaga is a particularly good example and I continually admire the way she uses the drawings to reinforce the stories, the feelings, the characters. She's a great story teller. Part of it also that I'm fascinated by different cultures and I find it very interesting how similarly yet differently people see things in Japanese culture. I've probably been a bit of a Japanophile since I read Shogun.
What is your e-reading device of choice?
My android tablet (ASUS Transformer). I used to have a Sony ereader but, when I started reading manga, it wasn't particularly useful. So, I bought a large tablet which opened up the situation to add not only Sony reading software but Kindle and Nook software. Sony's been overcome and exported their accounts to Kobo, but I can read books from all those sources on a nice large screen, including manga.
Describe your desk
It's very large, takes up about a quarter of my very large bedroom and has two active computers with large monitors on it, one for work and one for home. I also have two printers (color and B&W), a home laptop (usually charging), a tablet (usually charging), several piles of books I'm in the process of reading, some office nicknacks, and any number of piles of papers and stuff that either needs to be filed or needs to be dealt with. I don't have much room to actually write by hand but I prefer using keyboards.

Both computers have keyboards on trays (IKEA desk) and a little LED light system so I can see them even if I'm working in the dark.
When did you first start writing?
Fifth or sixth grade, I started with poetry (I have no idea why) doing rhyming couplets or haiku to challenge myself when I was bored. (In general, I tend to favor rhyme and rhythm poetry and really liked how the sounds of the words could reinforce the concept). Poetry is a useful way to start (especially poetry with constraints) because it forces you to use language carefully, to understand how words sound together, find the right word, expand your vocabulary. And poetry is well suited to eliciting an emotional response. Well, at first I tossed aside what I wrote right after I wrote it with a shrug and a "That sounded pretty good." I wrote a poem I thought my father (who was not a fiction reader) might like and showed it to him. He did indeed like it (not sure if he ever liked anything else I showed him) and made me promise not to throw anything I wrote away again. So, I haven't. I was thirteen about then.

Then, somewhere along the way, I started writing short stories, building on what I did for poetry but adding dialog and expanding characters like you can't do so easily in poetry. Then, I built from that into novels.
What motivated you to become an indie author?
I was motivated to be an author, tell stories. I'm an indie author because I have a hard time getting people to understand me. Traditionalists thought I was too weird. Avant garde folks couldn't understand why my work was so easy to understand. Apparently, I've always been this way.

When I was in college getting my Engineering Physics degree, I took a class in creative writing. With every single assignment, what I turned in was different than the work of everyone else. The teacher, shaking his head, said, "I don't understand why you're in this class. You already have a very populist style. You write stuff anyone can read.[He was of the avant garde philosophy]."

"Isn't that a good thing?" I asked him. He shook his head, but gave me an A because, though it wasn't a style he favored, I used it effectively.

So, in a nutshell, I guess I don't write in the box.
What is the greatest joy of writing for you?
I love when things "click" when I'm in the zone with a character and everything coming out of his/her mouth is spot on with my image of him/her. Or, when I'm struggling to make a plot from diverse threads I came up with for no apparent reason then one more pointless detail makes everything align and the plot falls into place like toppling a line of dominoes.

That last happens to me frequently because all the good stuff is written by my subconscious so, when it's really good, it's coming out as fast as I can type it and it's like I'm reading it for the first time (which my conscious mind is doing). Those pointless details falling into place is what happens when I finally catch on what my subconscious is doing. It's really really weird but I get tickled and charmed by my own characters and dialog. When that happens, I'm a happy happy girl.
What are you working on next?
Well, that's a tough questions. At any given time, I usually have eight or ten book ideas working, so, if I get stumped on one I can write some on another, but I can't dive in and go full blast on anything until my subconscious has figured it out. So, I tweak and play with this or that until my subconscious coughs up whatever it's "finished" and I spend a month or so writing it all out.

Potential ideas I'm working with in various stages include: a third Bete novel, a dragon-trained mage with a very unusual apprentice, a supergenius who appears emotionless (but, of course, isn't) who impulsively escapes a very dangerous dictatorship to save a lackadaisical coworker, a very smart foul-mouthed technical specialist is framed for murder by the mob and chased by both the mob and the cops allying herself with a quietly observant novelist, science fiction thriller involving computer programmers who can transmit data directly by way of their foreheads but can only survive in zero gravity or the regrown nerve tissue will atrophy. And there are more.

What will my subconscious pick? Who knows? It might be none of those. That's happened before too.
Who are your favorite authors?
For fiction, what you'll find in my bedroom (which is where I keep my read over and over books): Georgette Heyer, Nora Roberts/JD Robb, Robert Heinlein, Robert Lynn Asprin, Dorothy L. Sayers, Poe, Shakespeare, James Clavell, Saki, James Herriot, Robert Ludlum, Anne MacCaffery, Sharon Lee and Steve Miller...there's more but you can see I'm eclectic.

For fiction, I have a number of shoujo and yaoi series. Among the favorite authors (some who have many books in English, others with only a few so I'm learning Japanese): Tite Kubo, Nakamura Yoshiki, Motomi Kyousuke,Sakurakouji Kanoko, Takaya Natsuki, Junko, Kawai Touko, Kodaka Kozuma, Kotobuki Tarako, Naono Bohra, Yoshinaga Fumi

Note that neither of these lists is anywhere near exhaustive.
What inspires you to get out of bed each day?
My kids. Someone has to put them on the bus. Also, my day job. When I write, it's usually late at night after the kids have gone to bed.
When you're not writing, how do you spend your time?
Reading, working, playing with children, watching movies.

NOT cleaning, cooking, partying or the like. I'm actually a dull homebody.
Published 2014-04-10.
Smashwords Interviews are created by the profiled author, publisher or reader.

Books by This Author

Legacy
Price: $2.99 USD. Words: 132,590. Language: English. Published: August 4, 2017. Categories: Fiction » Anthologies » Short stories - single author, Fiction » Fantasy » Short stories
Life brings setbacks to us all, but the suffering does not define us. Our choices do. We are who we choose to become.Some stories introduce new and unforgettable characters, while others offer new glimpses into the personal histories of characters familiar to readers of Stephanie Barr's novels. All focus on those who refused to bow their heads to fate and instead forged their own futures.
Curse of the Jenri
Price: $6.99 USD. Words: 138,910. Language: English. Published: January 28, 2017. Categories: Fiction » Fantasy » Epic, Fiction » Fantasy » General
Finally, a Sword & Sorcery epic like it ought to be: manly hero who swings a massive sword and stumbles into spells, lovely wife who can kick his ass, a fleet of fiery and fierce compatriots, dastardly villains with vile intents, even griffons, all that and a dragonet. Oh, and six kittens. Because every manly man needs kittens, right? RIGHT?!? Some violence, language and sexual situations.
Musings of a Nascent Poet
Price: Free! Words: 39,430. Language: English. Published: December 15, 2014. Categories: Fiction » Poetry » Epic
What do you call poetry that rhymes, has rhythm, tells stories (accessible to normal people not just intelligentsia) and runs longer than 20 lines, sometimes far longer? Unsellable in today's market. Also charming, thought-provoking, evocative, even brilliant, the kind of stuff that, if written 150 years ago, would have been taught to you in school. But written today. Sort of.
Saving Tessa
Price: $4.99 USD. Words: 101,380. Language: English. Published: November 19, 2014. Categories: Fiction » Romance » Sci-fi, Fiction » Science fiction » Adventure
In 2045, smart tech is everywhere and the teenage prodigy Dylan Chroz is the best. But being the best means being in demand sometimes by any means necessary. So what do you do when they steal your girl to make you perform? Do what they want? Or do you outsmart them and do your damnedest to smoke out every one of them so they never can do this again? That is, if Tessa doesn't beat you to it.
Nine Lives
Series: The Bete, Book 2. Price: $4.99 USD. Words: 99,680. Language: English. Published: September 15, 2014. Categories: Fiction » Young adult or teen » Sci-Fi & fantasy, Fiction » Science fiction » Adventure
Laren's "perfect" foster brother had no business getting sick with a deadly, and potentially contagious, disease just when the other colony was taken over by humans that hated the shapeshifters (Bete). Or when Darma was showing signs of Bete powers when she wasn't riling Laren up in ten different ways. What they needed now was a cool clear head. Who would have guessed it would be his?
Beast Within
Series: The Bete, Book 1. Price: $4.99 USD. Words: 104,280. Language: English. Published: June 30, 2014. Categories: Fiction » Young adult or teen » Fantasy
When a spaceship filled with teenage refugees ends up stranded on a strange planet, few would guess that there were those aboard as strange as anything they would find. The shapeshifting Bete hidden among the rest are driven to hide their talents when those same talents may mean survival. In the end, what makes a beast? An animal shape? A touch of magic? Or a paranoid mind? Some language and vio
Tarot Queen
Price: $4.99 USD. Words: 99,310. Language: English. Published: May 15, 2014. Categories: Fiction » Romance » Fantasy
A talented diviner leaves her home of four centuries to find a cure for the demon who woos her, only to find his demonic condition is the least of their many worries. Despite his many capabilities, she will have to depend on her own talents, skills and ingenuity far more than anyone ever envisioned. Contains some sexual situations (not erotica) and a modicum of violence.
Conjuring Dreams or Learning to Write by Writing
Price: Free! Words: 72,200. Language: English. Published: April 9, 2014. Categories: Fiction » Anthologies » Short stories - single author
(5.00)
Magic-wielders, shape-shifters, mermaids, empaths and diviners and even teddy bears and computer programmers wander through 26 stories, written into life for situations thought-provoking, compelling or absurd.