Feminist, Fictionista, Foodie, Francophile

Tuesday, September 11, 2018

stephanie Barr Interview

Introducing writer Stephanie Barr

 Although Stephanie Barr is a slave to three children and a slew of cats, she actually leads a double life as a part time novelist and full time rocket scientist. People everywhere have learned to watch out for fear of becoming part of her stories. Beware! You might be next!

You’re a rocket scientist! What do you do? I've done a number of things. I'm a dabbler. I've rebuilt data handling systems for ground chambers, designed ground comm systems for those same chambers (used for crew to test suit capabilities and procedures and test hardware). I've done qualification and acceptance testing for payloads going in the Mir (Russian) space station and the Space Shuttle,  wrote communication software for robotics, evaluated main engine software changes, addressed micrometeoroid/orbital debris risks, spent several years as an EVA Safety Engineer – (EVA +> when they go out in spacesuits) including more than one Hubble mission and Columbia's last flight. Now I help evaluate design changes and issues for our large launch
vehicles (Delta IV and Atlas V)

If you ran the space program, what would be your priority? A manned Mars mission? A moon base? Moon base. Pretty much any technology or system we'd need on Mars we could test on the moon where we're actually close enough to do something if it went south.

Did you ever want to be an astronaut? Nope. Can't stand free fall.

You’ve been writing since you were a child, at what point did you veer into science? I've always loved science and could do math and languages. I loved all kinds of academics, including literature. I loved writing but I figured I'd need a day job, so I majored in Engineering Physics because I could get a scholarship from the Physics dep't and the Engineering College at the same time. And then I was just too stubborn to get out. I really love problem solving so it turned out to be a good choice.

In Conjuring Dreams: Learning to Write by Writing, you chronicle your writer’s journey beginning with a story you wrote when you were thirteen. In your introduction, you outline the skills for writing a short story versus longer work and how they intersect. Did you find it hard to transition to novels? Do you still write short stories? I didn't find it hard at all to transition to novels. It seemed a natural progression, though, of course, writing novels is a different beastie and it took a few tries. My first novel is still in the virtual drawer, in desperate need of a plot injection. My second novel (Curse of the Jenri) was rewritten tons of times and is full of all kinds of extremes you don't see as much in my later novels. For decades, after I sunk myself into novels,
I didn't write but a handful of short stories.

Then, when I got divorced (to someone who was and still is one of my biggest writing fans), I couldn't write for months. I kind of got my feet wet with a few short stories for contests, wrote some more with a buddy (not co-writing but writing stories we exchanged and talked about) and ended up in a bunch of anthologies with enough stories left over to write another anthology, Legacy, which has some of my favorite shorts, but all from the past few years.

You write both alone and with co-authors. How is the process different?
Actually, Incantation is the first novel I've written with someone else. It was a completely new experience for me. I generally write a scene at the time where I have both characters working things out. Mirren prefers to have each of us focus on different characters and write conversations one line to each other as we go. As a control freak, it took some getting used to and I had to be reprimanded several times. We're writing too more books to go with it for a three book series (seem to be her favorite), but I'm not sure I'll do this again afterwards. It was a valuable learning experience but it requires a lot of patience and compromise.

How did you meet Mirren Hogan, who co-wrote the book you have in Rite to Reign?
I met her on FB in a group called The Dragon's Rocketship. I liked her work, she liked mine. We starte beta reading and doing writing sprints together, even though she lives half a world away. She's comfortable co-writing and offered me the opportunity so I took it.  

Tell me about the book you’ve written for Rite to ReignFortunately, Mirren are pretty compatible in the things we like to write. We both love dragons and she's pretty tolerance with my predilection to add cats. We both liked the idea of having demons and of twisting the standard fare by having male witches with the hots for each other. We started in Europe on the Mediterranean for the royal angle, but we eventually moved to Texas and threw demons, unicorns and more into the mix. It was a lot of fun.

You write both one-offs and series. What book would your readers most like to see turned into a series?
I hear about moving forward with Curse of the Jenri (sword and sorcery) most often. I generally do series with the same world but different main characters (as I did with my one series, the Bete novels). I actually have two more novels planned in the Jenri world so looks like they'll get their wish.

You have a family (and cats!), do you need quiet time to write or can you work through the chaos? Do you ever listen to music as you write? If so, what’s the soundtrack of your life?
i can work and write in noise. I can work with music (and I have an eclectic collection of music from show tunes to 80's to a capella to Disney I listen to for that), but I can't write to music since I listen to music with words and I end up singing or writing lyrics into my book.  

Can you write in short snatches or do you need to block out a particular length of time?
In the past, I'd try to block out a chunk of time but I never really could pull that off or it would actually not work. I do better to go with snatches or just ignore the distractions and write when the mood is on me. And, when it is, I go gangbusters. When it's not, I don't write because I just have to throw it away if I write when I'm not ready.

Who was/were the writer/writers you absolutely loved when you were a teenager? Did they influence you?  Of course. McCaffery, Heinlein, Herbert, James Clavell, Georgette Heyer, Edgar Allan Poe, Victor Hugo, Shakespeare, Alexander Dumas, Piers Anthony and dozens more. And I learned from all of them, what I liked, what I didn't, what I wanted to do better, what I wanted never to do.  
What’s your favorite genre to read?
I'm actually not specific to genre when I read. I like books with good characters, characters that make me love them. Humor helps. Speculative fiction is great but I've got books of all stamps on my shelves.

No, wait, my daughter got me hooked on manga about ten years ago and that's what i've been reading for pleasure since. I'm an addict. (Mostly shoujo and yaoi, but some shonen ai).

What’s a book you recommend to friends? There are dozens, but I've recommended Agent of Change to multiple friends. And Georgette Heyer who wrote intelligent romances that I've managed to get several guys hooked on.

What are you writing next?  I have three novels in the works, though The Library at Castle Herriot might come next. It's modern day, set in Scotland in an old castle with a magic library the witch who lives there tries to protect. If you take a book out of the special portion of the library (which is not easy to access), it takes you, the castle and everyone in it back in the story, either through doors or, if it's a real time, to the past. And you have to play the story out in order to come back as a protagonist. One wrong choice and you're stuck.

I also have the third Bete novel bubbling around in my back brain (Twice the Man) and a sequel to Curse of the Jenri (Children of the Jenri).

I'm also organizing/editing a charity anthology of stories with disabled main characters set in the future or fantastical setting with proceeds to go to Special Olympics.

Oh, and Mirren and I ARE working on the sequel to Incantation involving a sister to our protagonist.

Social media links: 

Twitter: @stephanieebarr
Writing Blog: http:

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