Took the Sunday off to return to streaming, so we’re back as scheduled with a new author interview. Today I bring you Stephanie Barr with her entry “Curse of the Jenri”, hope you guys enjoy 🙂
SPFBO 2020 Interviews
STARTING OFF WITH A BANG
Introduce yourself! An easy question to start off with. Who are you, what do you write?
My name is Stephanie Barr and I’m a single mother with special needs kids, full-time honest-to-God rocket scientist that also has a bazillion cats, and story writer/novelist specializes in fantasy, science fiction, and everything in between.
Is this your first time in SPFBO?
What book did you enter into this year’s event?
Curse of the Jenri, an epic Sword and Sorcery novel that is, coincidentally, the first novel I ever wrote (that doesn’t still need to be totally overhauled). It started as a short story where I was overturning the trope of damsel in distress and became somewhat epic involving all kinds of things that matter to me. Including, of course, a herd of telepathic kittens. I have a tribe of women (combination amazons and ninjas) and a mishmash of capable male mates that always come from outside since Jenri (the women) cannot have male offspring. I have focus main characters but it’s really an ensemble cast which is one of my favorite kind of book to write.
In fact, I liked the secondary characters so much, I wrote a mini-anthology of their various “origin” stories that’s available for free everywhere but Amazon who makes me charge 99 cents. Delicate Dangerous Queens
Does one of the main characters hold a special place in your heart? If so, why?
I like how stoic Layla is, but I’d be lying if I said Tander wasn’t my favorite, with his easy good humor, misplaced pride, and continual growth throughout the book. Also, he’s funny.
What was the inspiration for the story? What are your future project(s)?
The short story that inspired Curse of the Jenri was, in turn, inspired by the Sword and Sorceress anthology, especially the stories by Jennifer Roberson, most especially “Spoils of War.” While you won’t find any of my stories with the same plot or her incredible cadance from that story, it certainly set my imagination flying and I’ve been flying every since.
What are the key themes and/or messages in the book?
Strong feminist themes – women are quite capable, thank you, and rape is always wrong.
Pride is no substitute for brains.
You have to grow up some time.
Use everything you have to do the right thing.
Teamworks makes things possible.
I’m sure there are other ones but this strike me first.
What were the key challenges you faced when writing this book?
I never did this before so this was my learning book. It’s been torn apart and put together more times than I can count.
Also, for a long time, my ex and I were strongly disagreeing on this—and I often trust his judgement—but I finally went with mine.
What is the future for the characters? Will there be a sequel?
There is a future planned but for the next generation. I’ve already got a cover so I have to write it, right? Characters from this book will be side characters in Children of the Jenri.
MORE RAMBLES ABOUT WRITING
What is your favorite book you’ve written?
I hate questions like that because I like most of them the best for different reasons. Well, I love different characters in books and that’s why I love different books. I love Dante da Silva for his smooth amorality in Tarot Queen and I love Dylan Chroz for his sincere awkward devotion in Saving Tessa. I love Nayna from Ideal Insurgent for her single-mindedness and practicality and her gift for lying on the spot (which she totally learned from Bryder).
Having said all that, my favorite (at the moment) is probably Catalyst because I love everyone in it (but the bad guy) and there’s a lot of wish-fulfillment in there.
Who are your favorite authors?
My tastes in literature go all over the place. Georgette Heyer and Nora Roberts, Michener and Clavell, Heinlein and Herbert, Edgar Allan Poe, Shakespeare, Saki, Asprin and Adams. I could be here all day.
What makes a good villain?
A certain level of megalomania is pretty common. Sociopathy and lack of empathy are usually key. And I need a motivation that feels real. When I say feels real, they’re often bloody stupid, but that can sadly be quite real. I like a motivation with precedence which leaves pretty much anything because people have, historically, done truly heinous things for the dumbest possible reasons. But it needs to be consistent. If it’s fame he wants, he has to be focused on appearances. If it’s power, he’s not going to hand it off to just anyone, etc.
Do you have any writing blogs you recommend?
I’ve been out of the blogging world for a while but obviously the blogs involved with SFPBO seem fantastic. I’m also familiar with Quill and Pen Society ( https://quillandpen.com/ )which is pretty interesting and I like The Protagonist speaks also: https://theprotagonistspeaks.com/
Do you have any writer friends you’d like to give a shoutout to?
Jen Ponce, Mirren Hogan, and Chuck Larlham are some of my writer buds but really I know so many great writer buddies now I’d be here all day.
Did you learn anything from writing your latest book? If so, what was it?
No corner is so painted that my backbrain can’t find a way out.
Are you a plotter or a pantser? A gardener or an architect?
Pantser. My backbrain always does the good stuff and I’m (my forebrain) is just there to check spelling.
If you had to give up both snacks and drinks during writing sessions, or music, which would you find more difficult to say goodbye to?
Writing used to be the only thing I couldn’t listen to music while doing but I’ve discovered I can write to Pentatonix. Still, I don’t want to give up snacks.
Which is your favourite season to write in, and why?
I’m an inside girl. It doesn’t matter to me.
It’s sometimes difficult to get into understanding the characters we write. How do you go about it?
Not one of my problems. My characters are something I know themoment I know about them (backbrain again fleshing them out before I see them), so we are in sync from day one. I always start with the characters, no what they want and who they are before I write the first word—well with novels. Sometimes a short story will start with a scenario and a character forms afterwards. But with the novels, when they show up, I get ’em. Most of them have at least some of my quirks so I identify with them easily.
What is your writing process? Do you have one? What is your workspace like?
I have two desks since I work at home as a rocket scientist. One has my work computer and does only work stuff. One is my home computer that does everything else including writing. I’ve found I have my best results when I do sprinting with another indie writing buddy. With two kids, I rarely have time unless I make it.
Where do you draw inspiration from?
Anything can be inspiration. I love to learn and listen so I never know what will spark a story. My backbrain loves to throw something at me that I loved previously so I can chuckle maniacally when I can use it in a story.
How many plot ideas are just waiting to be written? Can you tell us about one?
Maybe half a dozen. Another novel I intend to write will be SF with “codeslingers”—people who have had neurological damage that can be regrown but will atrophy except in zero g so they’re effectively trapped on space stations. They have a panel in their front forehead that allows them to communicate with one another instantly and also transfer data to and from a computer instantly.
Do you have any new series planned?
Not really another series. Most of my books are stand alones (and even series books can be read on their own. But, then, you never know.
MORE ABOUT YOU
What do you like to do in your spare time?
HAHAHAHAHAHA! Okay, I read a lot of manga. If you ask me what kind, I like several kinds but I’m kind of a in a yaoi kick for the past decade or so.
If you couldn’t be an author, what ideal job would you like to do?
Rocket science sounds good. Or I might have pursued foreign languages or singing.
Coffee or Tea? Or (exult deep breath) what other drink do you prefer, if you like neither?
Diet Mountain Dew or Diet coke.
You can travel to anywhere in the universe. Where would you go, and why?
I kinda like it here. Traveling is always such a hassle.
I wouldn’t mind visiting Japan (kind of a Japanophile). Wouldn’t mind visiting some of my friends around the world, but I’m not really the travelling kind.
Pick any three fiction characters. These are now your roadtrip crew. Where do you go and what do you do?
Roarke from the In Death series (J.D. Robb), Manny from The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress (Robert Heinlein), Ichigo Kurosaki from Bleach (Tite Kubo). Since I’m the only female, it will be up to me to ask for direction so we can get back home because I always get totally lost at night. I need to get back home because my son can not be left alone in the house unless I want to come home to find it in splinters.
Then we can order pizza and play swap the stories. I know most of their so I have the edge. (Total homebody)
What superpower would you most like?
Healing. There is nothing worse than feeling helpless as someone else suffers.
What are two of your favorite covers of all time? (Not your own.)
I don’t normally get pulled in by covers (no, really!), but I might have been with the cover for The White Dragon (Anne McCaffery). I really liked A.D. Trosper’s original cover for Unveiled—but you’ll have to take my word for it because she changed it.
If you could invite one person to dinner, who would it be and what would you cook?
I can’t just invite a chef?
My grandfather, who has never met my daughter. I hope he likes lasagne.
Share something your readers wouldn’t know about you.
I’ve never had vocal training but I’ve always loved to sing. When my oldest daughter was five, she started singing and I didn’t want to teach her the wrong way to sing that she’d have to unlearn. So, at the age of thirty, I found a singing instructor (ex-opera teacher) and he didn’t want a long-term student and we agreed I’d go for two months to learn the basics.
At the end of the time, I said, “Yeah, thanks, this was really helpful.”
He was like, “Where are you going?”
“Well, you didn’t want to have a long term student.”
“That was before I heard you sing!”
And then he offered to teach me for free.
So, yeah, I like to sing.
It’s a very difficult time right now for the world. When quarantine and pandemic comes to an end, what is the first thing you would like to do?
I know my kids would like to get out of the house. I’ll take ’em some place like a trampeline place so they can play and I can read.
Finally, what is your preferred method to have readers get in touch with or follow you (i.e., website, personal blog, Facebook page, here on Goodreads, etc.) and link(s)?
Facebook group: https://www.facebook.com/groups/CatsandDragons/
My blog: http://stephanie-barr.blogspot.com
Or sign up for my newsletter: http://eepurl.com/dqUBxn