My guest reviewer bagged herself a chat with author J D Barker. Her review for his release Forsaken can be found here. Ahuge thank you to him for taking the time out, and huge thank you to Noelle for asking GREAT questions:-)
Noelle: "I had the pleasure of reading and reviewing Forsaken by JD Barker. My review has been posted under the Guest Review but below is a few questions and the fantastic responses from the author himself. As he is American, he put a *disclaimer* about some of the spelling which made me smile --as I am Canadian--living in the UK --so no issue for me. Hope you enjoy!"
Interview with JD Barker
A note from JD Barker: First and foremost, I would like to apologize for any spelling or grammatical errors below. Here in the U.S. we spell favourite, favorite, realise, realize, and so many others.
My torch is a flashlight, my mum is my mom and I wear pants rather than trousers. If you find such errors below, please write a strongly worded letter to Apple and tell them it’s time to include an English to English wizard in future software. This world is shrinking fast and if one of my characters walks into McDonalds, I’d like to know if they’re supposed to order chips or French fries. The foreign language editions of FORSAKEN are in the works, I can only imagine the changes going on under the hood.
Noelle. I am a big Stephen King fan how did you come to use the character from Stephen King's Needful Things?
JDB: When I write, I tend to try and keep moving, particularly on a first draft. When I come to a spot that may slow me down, I throw in words or filler so I can get past it and address it later. Many times, I do this with names. Rather than naming a character in a first draft, I may just call them “Mr. Pilot” or something generic so I can identify them, then go back and swap the placeholder for a real name when I come up with one. With FORSAKEN, I knew Rachael bought the journal at an antique store but I had nothing planned beyond that. When it came time to write the epilogue, the thought “what if she purchased it at Needful Things?” popped into my head. I went ahead and wrote it believing I would have to change it prior to publication. When my wife read the book and got to this chapter, she said, “I really like this, I think you should just try and get his permission.”
Sure. Just get permission from Stephen King to use an iconic character in my very first novel. How hard could that possibly be? I figured this was a failed mission from the start so why not take it all the way, right? Stephen King owns a winter house in Florida not far from my parents and while visiting, we decided to hop into the car with a copy of the manuscript and just give it to him.
In Florida, they have islands just off the coast called keys, he lives on one of these. We turned off the main road and followed the street over a one-lane bridge onto his key. After the bridge, you have to turn left (toward the public portion) or right (toward the half he owns with a handful of others). We turned right. Immediately we saw a “Private Road” sign, then a “No Trespassing” sign, then there was a gate, then another gate… I began watching the trees for snipers as we drove slowly down the drive. About a mile from his house, we decided this was a bad idea, turned around, and went to get lunch. I remembered that I have a friend who knows Stephen King so I reached out to him. He immediately scolded me for potential stalking and told me just to email the relevant pages to Mr. King’s assistant. He then gave me an email address. When we returned home, I sent it over. Four hours later, I heard back – he liked it and was fine with me using it. To this day, I’m afraid to check my email for fear of finding a reversal.
He’s an extremely talented man and I’m sure he recalls just how difficult it can be to break into this business. The fact that he was kind enough to allow me to visit with one of his characters is a debt I can never repay.
Noelle: Forsaken is your debut novel and is nominated for a Bram Stoker Award - I understand the winners will be announced in May - what does this mean to you?
JDB: It’s a huge honor (this would be one of those spelling problems I mentioned earlier). I’m in the same category as David Cronenberg and Josh Malerman (who just received a film deal with Universal). Past winners include J.K. Rowling, Robert Bloch, Ramsey Campbell, homas Harris, and over course, Stephen King. To be in this kind of company cannot be expressed in words.
Noelle. Who are your favourite authors/inspiration?
JDB: I read a lot, across all genres. I’m a fan of anyone who can tell a story so well I forget I’m reading and just get lost in it. Dean Koontz makes this seem effortless, Neil Gaiman too. I love Mark Twain, Charles Dickens, George Orwell… it’s an endless list. The book that actually inspired me to start writing fiction was called SECOND CHILD by John Saul. There may even be a Nicolas Sparks book on my shelf but I’ll never admit to reading it.
Noelle. Did you expect all the positive reviews you have been receiving?
JDB: Anytime you write a book, it is such a personal experience. In my case, nobody reads it until it’s well into a second or third draft, then my wife gets first look. I’ve encouraged her to be brutally honest; if something doesn’t work I need to know. Then I take her feedback, rewrite again, then the manuscript goes out to First Readers. My First Readers are typically people who work in fiction or have degrees in English. They too are encouraged to be as honest as possible in their assessment. Once I get these copies back, the book goes through yet another rewrite, then out to professional editors and finally it lands on my publisher’s desk. By the time it gets to this point, I hope I’m delivering the best possible story but you never truly know until real readers pick it up and start to provide their feedback. The time between publication and the first few reviews is stressful but exciting all the same. Ultimately, I just want to create a book that entertains and there is nothing more thrilling than knowing I’ve done that for so many people.
Noelle. What is something that your readers may not know about you?
JDB: Some of my earliest writing assignments were actually celebrity interviews in the ‘90s. I interviewed the likes of New Kids on the Block, Tiffany, Vanilla Ice, and Debbie Gibson for magazines such as Seventeen and Teen Beat. Not my proudest literary moment but it was a lot of fun.
Noelle: . I have read that you tend to hide yourself away when the characters come calling. Is there a particular place you go to draw your inspiration?
JDB: Oh, I don’t know that I hide from them, they just seem to come calling on their own schedule rather than mine. I’ve found they tend to get louder if I ignore them so best to give them a listen. Nobody likes to be ignored.
Inspiration comes from many places. I subscribe to the “what if” theory. You can take any situation, add a “what if” and it will lead your imagination somewhere. For instance, you order a cup of tea at a restaurant – what if the waitress drops off the cup and it doesn’t contain tea but is full of _______ instead? What if you look up and find everyone in the restaurant watching you? What if you look out the window and people have stopped on the street to watch you? What if cars have stopped? What if you glance up at a television and the newscaster has your picture on the side of the screen and is saying something like, “it’s been delivered and all eyes are on….” What if there is a timer ticking away at the bottom of the screen: 5, 4, 3, 2…?
Stories surround every moment of our daily lives. With a little twist, even the most mundane can go somewhere.
Hmm. Now I’m thirsty.
Noelle:. What really scares you?
JDB: Bugs. I hate bugs. The Kardashians too but mainly bugs.
Noelle: I really enjoyed the 'story within a story' when reading Forsaken. Were you ever worried that the readers might not enjoy this?
JDB: Absolutely, but I try not to think about these things while writing. I think it’s best to get the story on paper, then evaluate during the rewrite process. With FORSAKEN, I knew I had to tell the backstory and I didn’t want to use flashbacks. The tricky part was weaving these pieces together so both stories (1692 and the present) begin as separate tales and eventually merge together as the action picks up. My agent wanted to remove the journal entries completely when I sent her the first half of the book, then she read the rest and insisted they stay. I’ve had people tell me that this is their favorite part of the book. Others have told me the opposite. Personally, I think it helps with the pacing – you find yourself flying through the 1692 sections to get to present day and vice-versa, before you know it, you’re at the last page.
Noelle:. Have you always written/wanted to write horror books or can we expect something else/different from you in the future? What can you tell us about your next book?
JDB: My next book walks the line between thriller and suspense/horror. Peter Straub refers to these as “chillers”. I like that. As an author, publishers try to label you with a genre right out of the box and hold you to it as your career progresses. I prefer to cross genres and challenge myself. I think this keeps it fresh for me as well as the readers.
My primary goal is to tell a good story. I do love a nice scare though. I tend to write with the lights off and when I craft a scene that makes me want to turn them on, I know I’m on to something. Horror is in my blood. I’m nearly done with the outline for a book so frightening I’m not sure I’ll be able to write it. Like FORSAKEN, it blurs the lines between fact and fiction but in such a sinister way, it’s been the cause of many sleepless nights. Like the characters mentioned above though, I know the only way to silence it will be to put it on paper, let the voices tell their tale.
Noelle: I read that you are an avid reader, what book are you reading now?
JDB: I just finished GHOST STORY by Peter Straub. It started out a bit slow but once it picks up, it’s worth the wait. There’s a reason it’s been called the greatest ghost story of all time. Straub is a master. I’m starting DEPARTURE by A.G. Riddle next. I’ve heard good things.