Laraine Anne Barker


Laraine Anne Barker has always enjoyed telling stories. As a child, when playing with dolls with her younger sisters became boring, she would make up stories featuring the dolls. She also remembers how she and her sisters wrote stories into exercise books and even illustrated them, using crayons to colour them because they found that rubbing on the crayon pictures gave them a shine similar to that of glossy colour pictures in magazines. Laraine submitted her first book (for adults) to a publisher at about the age of 21 and received a very kind rejection letter in which the editor suggested the story could be rewritten for young readers. She regrets she didn't keep the rejection and follow up on the advice. She didn't start writing fantasy for young readers until 1986. After many rewritings the book started then became The Obsidian Quest (published under the Hard Shell imprint of Mundania Press). The Obsidian Quest was a finalist in The Dream Realm Awards 2001 and was followed by Lord of Obsidian and The Third Age of Obsidian, also published under the Hard Shell imprint of Mundania Press. The Mark Willoughby series was started in 1992. Silvranja of the Silver Forest was short-listed (one of three) in 1998 for a major New Zealand prize, The Tom Fitzgibbon Memorial Award.

Smashwords Interview

Which of your characters is your favourite?
That's a question I'm often asked, which is why I chose to answer it first. I think it has to be one of the unicorns, Albishadewe or Silvranja, and possibly the latter. But that would mostly be because Silvranja of the Silver Forest was shortlisted for an important New Zealand prize, the Tom Fitzgibbon Memorial Award, in 1998, when a comedy (2MUCH4U) was the winner. Even in 1998 publishers of fiction for young readers preferred comedy to fantasy.
Where did you grow up, and how did this influence your writing?
I was born in Auckland (New Zealand) and I clearly remember thinking it an unsuitable place in which to set a story. This was probably partly because all the stories I read came from the other side of the world, which seemed so much more exciting. I think this opinion changed when I read Great Expectations (which you might remember starts off in a cemetery) and realised that the Grafton Cemetery, in central Auckland, could be every bit as spooky as Charles Dickens’s creation. The book I wrote then never saw the light of day (of course) as was the case with others that followed, but I went on to set both The Earthlight trilogy (The Obsidian Quest, Lord of Obsidian and The Third Age of Obsidian) right on my doorstep. The house belonging to Peter’s aunt and uncle, with whom Peter was staying, was the very house in which I lived in 1987 when this series was started. That was also the case in 1992 when I started the Mark Willoughby series. I started Earthlight partly because when I went searching for fantasy books for a fantasy-mad 11-year-old boy I found very little apart from Earthsea and The Dark Is Rising, yet the shelves of books for adults were awash in fantasy titles.

Unfortunately, when I tried to get both series published I came up against editors who insisted fantasy didn’t sell, and as the years passed and Harry Potter came out editors clearly thought I was copying Joanne Rowling, because Mark, “the One Marked by Willow”, gets his “mark” from his enemy, just as Harry Potter does. As I said earlier, the first Mark Willoughby book was started in 1992 and many years were to pass before I heard of Rowling (as Joanne Rowling, not J K Rowling). That was in September 1997, in an announcement that Scholastic's US imprint Arthur Levine had bought Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone.
Read more of this interview.

Where to find Laraine Anne Barker online


The Birth of Flame the Tame and Flare the Fearless, Dragons of Lazaronia
Series: Mark Willoughby, Book 1. Price: Free! Words: 4,580. Language: English. Published: June 11, 2012. Categories: Fiction » Young adult or teen » Fantasy
(4.50 from 2 reviews)
The story of how the young future King Lazarone III and his distant cousin Esmeralda find and hatch what appear to be the last eggs from the last two dragons of Lazaronia. A short-story prequel to the Mark Willoughby series.
Rahti of Lazaronia
Series: Mark Willoughby, Book 12. Price: $4.99 USD. Words: 50,940. Language: English. Published: June 11, 2012. Categories: Fiction » Young adult or teen » Fantasy
A dream tells Rahti he was abandoned at birth at Olwen House and he goes off to find out why the owners didn’t adopt him, setting in motion a complex spell woven by his mother. But she didn’t bargain on his freeing his father Fallanein from his place of banishment. Fallanein promises Rahti help, for which Rahti must do two things. The first is hard enough. But he can’t possibly do the second …
Iggie, "Small Sorcerer"
Series: Mark Willoughby, Book 11. Price: $4.99 USD. Words: 39,420. Language: English. Published: May 31, 2012. Categories: Fiction » Young adult or teen » Fantasy
Iggie, illegitimate son of Lazaronia's two vilest sorcerers, believes his father Ignarius, twin to the late Lazarone III, should have been king. Determined to prove his claim to be the true heir to the throne, Iggie creates a rift to release his stepfather, the fallen god Fallanein, from the place of eternal cold where he has been banished. But in doing so Iggie drowns Lazaronia in snow and ice.
Albishadewe, "Great White One"
Series: Mark Willoughby, Book 10. Price: $5.99 USD. Words: 76,520. Language: English. Published: May 30, 2012. Categories: Fiction » Young adult or teen » Fantasy
Albishadewe’s parents are murdered and he takes refuge in a pony pack while seeking other unicorns. When an itch tells him his horn is growing and he returns to the Silver Forest, he is confronted by a young woman. He knows he should flee. But Dahrya can see him when sorcerers’ eyes see only shadows. Who is she? Unravelling the mystery of Dahrya’s identity brings more grief than he can bear.
Silvranja of the Silver Forest
Series: Mark Willoughby, Book 9. Price: $4.99 USD. Words: 36,760. Language: English. Published: May 30, 2012. Categories: Fiction » Young adult or teen » Fantasy
Silvranja’s mother, seeking the legendary Albishadewe to replace Silvranja's father (murdered by the evil driving unicorns to extinction) is also killed, leaving her foal alone. Silvranja soon discovers hers isn't the only threatened species. To restore the balance of nature she must help the unicorns' enemies--humans. In doing so she learns what it’s like to be human and nearly loses her life.
The Unicorns of Lazaronia (Book 7)
Series: Mark Willoughby, Book 8. Price: $4.99 USD. Words: 35,250. Language: English. Published: May 26, 2012. Categories: Fiction » Young adult or teen » Fantasy
Mark and Esmé are about to face their final battle against the forces of evil swamping Lazaronia. Esmé needs to consult The Voice of Judgement. To do so she must command the power of the Tower of Kaleidoscopic Light. But the tower turns her power against her. And the Voice of Judgement refuses to admit her, because for someone still living to enter its presence is strictly forbidden.
The Sorceresses of Lazaronia (Book 6)
Series: Mark Willoughby, Book 7. Price: $4.99 USD. Words: 35,060. Language: English. Published: May 26, 2012. Categories: Fiction » Young adult or teen » Fantasy
This time Mark's return to Lazaronia is instigated by his enemies, the sorceress Mirabell and the Fallen God. Left to die in Lazaronia’s desert, Mark learns Esmé is aware of his plight. But she is nearly half a world away—with not enough time to stop the fearsome vulcarrions known as the Angels of Death from tearing him to pieces. But making a meal of Mark isn't the Angels of Deaths' main intent.
Albishadewe: Quest for the Unicorn (Book 5)
Series: Mark Willoughby, Book 6. Price: $4.99 USD. Words: 38,450. Language: English. Published: May 26, 2012. Categories: Fiction » Young adult or teen » Fantasy
The sorceress Mirabell has captured the white unicorn and all thirteen dragons and also stolen the Godking’s treasure. Now she has snatched the Princess of Lazaronia. For it seems that only the life in Esmé’s body can bring the wizard Ignarius out of his eternal sleep. But the sorceress’s evil experiment means certain death for the Princess …
Rider of the White Unicorn (Book 4)
Series: Mark Willoughby, Book 5. Price: $3.99 USD. Words: 32,660. Language: English. Published: May 25, 2012. Categories: Fiction » Young adult or teen » Fantasy
The search for the golden key of the Tower of Kaleidoscopic Light has brought Mark and Esmé, separately, down into a terrible place of darkness and death where terror stalks them on every side. And it seems that even in Castle Lazarone treachery lurks …
The One Marked By Willow (Book 3)
Series: Mark Willoughby, Book 4. Price: $3.99 USD. Words: 33,700. Language: English. Published: May 25, 2012. Categories: Fiction » Young adult or teen » Fantasy
Mark returns to Lazaronia at the worst possible time—at a formal ball partnered by Lisa Marksby. On arriving he is faced by a hostile Esmé, spelled into believing Ignarius is her father and Mark her enemy, while even Esmeralda believes him to be her husband. For the wizard now has control over the Tower of Kaleidoscopic Light and brought Lisa’s brother to Lazaronia as "The One Marked By Willow" …
The Dragons of Lazaronia (Book 2)
Series: Mark Willoughby, Book 3. Price: $3.99 USD. Words: 26,740. Language: English. Published: May 25, 2012. Categories: Fiction » Young adult or teen » Fantasy
Ignarius is free, forcing Mark back to Lazaronia. But Mark now has responsibility for 3 baby dragons and 6 Pixendragons, a species thought to be extinct. As if it isn’t bad enough that the wizard is out to kill them, others are out to steal them—others with powers Mark can’t even guess at—and they are helpless against the predatory wyverns, controlled by the wizard. Full-scale war is developing.
Mark Willoughby and the Impostor-King of Lazaronia (Book 1)
Series: Mark Willoughby, Book 2. Price: $4.99 USD. Words: 40,220. Language: English. Published: May 23, 2012. Categories: Fiction » Young adult or teen » Fantasy
(5.00 from 1 review)
Confronted by a woman who looks like both a witch and a ghost, Mark Willoughby learns he is “The One Marked by Willow”, destined to save a strange land called Lazaronia from a curse of childlessness. As if this and the idea of never seeing his family again aren’t enough, Mark also has to free the Goddess Lazaria, imprisoned on her ice-bound moon by the wizard who cast the infertility spell.

Smashwords book reviews by Laraine Anne Barker

  • Smashwords Style Guide on March 20, 2012

    I loathe Word and I absolutely refuse to use it. The last decent version was 5.1. (I started off with version 1, BTW.) Word 6, the last version I used, or rather tried to use, still remains, for me, the worst piece of software ever to be released upon an unsuspecting and undeserving public. But that has little to do with Mark Coker's guide. As long as you find a word processing program that can export or save to Word's .doc format you will be just fine using this guide, especially if you start with what Mark calls the Nuclear Method. By copying and pasting my files into a strictly-text-only program I saved myself a lot of bother with one file that had become corrupted. I still use a separate file for each chapter because in the early days Word didn't like long documents, so one corrupted file in several hundred isn't too bad. But, as Mark points out, if your files have gone through several versions of Word or several different word processing programs (as mine have) you are bound to come across corruptions that you didn't even know about. And they WILL cause you grief if you don't follow the Nuclear Method. I have to say I wholeheartedly recommend this guide, especially for writers who haven't gone to the bother of finding out how to use their software properly (e.g., they use the tab key instead of setting up proper indents). The guide is quite lengthy and looks far more daunting than it is. It's actually very easy to follow and extremely thorough. I'm not letting my hatred of Word get in the way of giving it the five stars it deserves.