Author Interview; Colin Barnes
October 15, 2012 3 Comments
This month I am proud to bring you my interview with Colin Barnes. One of the few horror writers I know, and the only one I know who writes Cyberpunk, I met Colin online through mutual friends (one of the benefits of Twitter) and we quickly became friends. I’ve even had the pleasure of conversing with him about horror elements in stories, and how to achieve the maximum effect. Colin has just put out a short novelette entitled REBIRTH with Anachron Press. It is a prequel to his novel ‘The Techxorcist’, with the latter to be published mid-November.
So let’s begin…
I’m from a over-populated town just outside of London in the UK, and I write in a variety of genres. I wouldn’t say I write in one specific box; all my stories tend to blur the lines and include elements from numerous genres. The main areas that I work in however would be Sci-Fi, Horror and thriller. Most of my work is on the dark side, but other than that I tend to just go wherever the story needs.
2. With all the risks and uncertainty around publishing, what was it that drew you to a career in writing?
I’ve been writing since I was a small boy, and it’s always been in the background as I grew up. Around the year 2000 I was building a business in web development, and due to working from home started to write more and more. Eventually, I decided I’d rather spend more time writing than working (though writing is still equally as hard as my business ever was). I don’t worry about the uncertainty because it’s just too uncontrollable. I take a hybrid approach: self publish some work, submit to the small presses, and query agents/go the trad. route. I don’t see any reason to limit myself to just one strategy. I just care about writing, so I’ll look seriously at an opportunity that comes my way; whether that’s self publishing, or signing with a publisher (depending on the contract of course). So, to answer your question more directly, it was the hope of writing full-time that drew me to a career.
3. You write in several genre’s, are you influenced by the same thing for each?
Short answer is yes. The long answer is no. For the most part I don’t write in a single genre, in which I mean my stories tend to usually blur across a number of genres so that all my stories are effectively the ‘Colin F. Barnes’ genre, whatever that might be. In terms of influence, I take most of my ideas from talking with friends. I enjoy banter, often sillier the better. I treat it like word-idea-association. And from this banter—which usually ends up in a competition of top-trumps on outdoing each other with silly notions—ideas coalesce into a story form. Other times it’s a call for an anthology, and I’ll either have an internal conversation with myself (I’m not crazy, honest), or with a friend and something amorphous bubbles up from the dark depths.
4. Have you ever thought about giving up? If you did, what changed your mind?
Yeah. Usually before, during and after writing a story. It’s a persistent thought process that for me is impossible to be rid of. It’s a side-effect of being a generally unconfident person. However, I take it as a good sign. If I were so confident about my work to not have these thoughts then I reckon I’ve not paid enough attention to improving my craft. That self-doubt is a barometer. If I suddenly lose that I know I’m in trouble. The self-doubt, although can be crippling, also keeps me honest, keeps me improving, and seeking ways to be a better writer. So my mind isn’t necessarily changed, rather it’s an ongoing push-pull process that keeps me in check.
5. Self-doubt is a strong element with writers. What things do you do to keep yourself motivated?
It’s a tough question to answer basically because I don’t think I do anything specifically to stay motivated, other than just a willingness to keep writing. Once a story is a finished, then the usual excitement of a new story starts over again so it becomes a cycle, or a habit.
6. As a reader, what are some things that attract you to a story?
Well-written prose is fairly high on my list. A good believable/logical storyline, preferably one that isn’t just a re-hash of something else, or is entirely made up for tropes and clichés. And likeable characters that I can cheer for. I’m not against unlike-able characters per se, but they have to have something likeable within their make-up that makes me want to see them succeed. I also like something deeper than just a good story. I enjoy ones that have several meanings, good use of metaphor, and a willingness to say something about the world.
7. So many new writers are jumping onto social media. What do you think of this medium for writers?
I think it’s a good way of networking with other writers and learning how publishing actually works by following agents and editors. It’s utterly useless in selling books though, and it’s disappointing to see so many authors constantly spam their feeds with ‘buy my book’ messages. In the end I find myself un-following these writers as they don’t engage; they just continue to spam their book. If used correctly (to actually be social with people), there can be a great deal of value in it. I’ve found numerous publishing opportunities and made some great friends in the industry just by chatting with them. As soon as you start trying to actively sell to someone you piss them off. It’d be like talking to someone in a pub and mid conversation they force their product in your face and ask you to buy it. Authors: just don’t do it!
8. Have you ever entertained the notion of writing a story in one of the ‘hot trends’?
Sure. I think every writer has questioned whether they should try their hand at a hot genre. But it rarely works. Genres go in cycles for a start, and secondly, you still have to know the genre fairly well to be able to write it. Just because erotica or thrillers (or epic fantasy) are popular at the moment does mean it’s a trivial thing to switch and be able to write a convincing story in those genres. It doesn’t stop some though, but then those efforts are usually easy to spot. I firmly believe you should write what you’re most knowledgeable and passionate about; that will come out in the work and produce a better book. Though the writers who are solely looking at the market for money aren’t always concerned about producing a good book; they just want to rush anything out to try and grab some cash. It’s short-term thinking and won’t lead to a productive and fulfilling career in my opinion.
Places to find Colin online: