Name Stephanie Barr
Where are you from:
I was born in New Hampshire (USA) and lived all over the states during my lifetime, but I’ve been living south of Houston for the past 29 years.
I have a degree in Engineering Physics from 1989 and I’ve been working as a rocket scientist ever since with various contractors. At this point, I generally work from home, because I’m a single mother of three children, one in grad school and two autistic. I also have eight cats. And a manga obsession.
Fiona: Tell us your latest news?
Although I’ve put out five novels, one short story anthology and one book of poetry out in ebook form for a couple of years, I am just now reissuing them in paperback as well. That’s five novels in the science fiction, fantasy or combined realm, three intended for emerging adults and two for adults, though I think all are quite readable for adults.
Fiona: When and why did you begin writing?
I was a freshman in high school (13 – I had skipped eighth grade) starting with poetry then moving on to short stories in college and then novels afterwards. I’ve recently rediscovered the fun of writing short stories. I have not yet rediscovered the fun of poetry.
Fiona: When did you first consider yourself a writer?
Probably since I started writing. Once I started telling stories, it’s all I wanted to do. But, a gal (two brief husbands, three children and eight+ cats) gotta eat.
Fiona: What inspired you to write your first book?
Georgette Heyer. I love her books and wrote something in a similar vein but it was sadly devoid of plot and is in my virtual drawer awaiting a rewrite.
My first novel that’s actually been published (Curse of the Jenri) stemmed from my first published short story (Code of the Jenri) which was reviewed and someone noted that the problem with sword and sorcery short stories is the world-building made it feel just like a precursor to a whole novel. So, I wrote one.
Fiona: Do you have a specific writing style?
I write in a sort of chatty style, I suppose. I’m always focused on characters so I tend to take on the tone of the particular brain I’m using.
Fiona: How did you come up with the title?
Often through blood, sweat, and tears and, sometimes, some sort of sacrifice to the Gods of creativity. Sometimes they come to me easily (Best Within, Curse of the Jenri, Saving Tessa, Tarot Queen) and sometimes they are a struggle through many many options (huge phalanx of short story titles).
Fiona: Is there a message in your novel that you want readers to grasp?
I’m not a fan of preachy fiction; I think that’s counterproductive anyway. I do have things I want to say: equality, feministic notions, that people should be judge by who not what they are, etc, but I try to make them so integral to the story, such a part of the world I’ve built, that you don’t consciously put that in your head. Instead, you just walked away, nodding at a world created to suit my preferences.
I do overtly challenge rape culture and rapists do not fare well in my books.
Fiona: How much of the book is realistic and are experiences based on someone you know, or events in your own life?
I don’t know how well I can answer this. I absorb all kinds of things without paying conscious attention and I’ll often find variations in my writing. I’m not sure if even the originators would recognize it after it’s been through the meat grinder that is my subconscious. I try to make sure cultural level scenarios have precedence in history which rarely slows me down since history is full of weird stuff.
I do very much try to make my characters feel natural and act in a realistic manner.
Fiona: What books have most influenced your life most? a mentor?
I don’t know that I had a mentor, though I’ve had several people who have helped me become a better writer. I read everything when I was younger and my tastes in my “read over and over” shelves are eclectic with James Clavell, Nora Roberts, Georgette Heyer, Robert Lynn Asprin, Heinlein, Herbert, Dorothy Sayers, Shakespeare, Poe, Michener, Stephen King, Sharon Lee and Steve Miller. For the past ten years, I’ve been reading tons of manga and I’m surprised how much of an influence it’s had on my fiction. It’s really stimulated some different perspectives.
Fiona: Are there any new authors that have grasped your interest and who is your favorite author and what is it that really strikes you about their work?
I’ve recently become enamored with the work of Emily Snyder. Before that, I was really really enjoying much of the work (namely most of the Liaden series) of Sharon Lee and Steve Miller.
Fiona: Name one entity that you feel supported you outside of family members.
I have a line of very supportive friends who have read and continue to read my stuff, from my freshman high school English teacher (Haynes-san) to my writing buddy now (Chuck Larlham). I don’t know that I can pinpoint just one and be fair.
Fiona: Do you see writing as a career?
Yes, but not as a living, at least for me.
Fiona: If you had to do it all over again, would you change anything in your latest book?
Nope. I’m self-published. If I did, I’d just fix it.
Fiona: Do you recall how your interest in writing originated?
I started scribbling while waiting for my transfer paperwork was worked through at a new school (7th grade) – some poetry my new English teacher was impressed with. I wrote poetry for a year or so, but tossed it right after I wrote it until I wrote something I thought my father would like. He did and made me promise never to throw another away. And I haven’t, even stuff that was garbage.
But much of it wasn’t.
Fiona: Can you share a little of your current work with us?
This is from Aberation Unfettered (hard SF):
Nayna stopped herself from shaking her head. No need to multiply the pain. “Didn’t need explosives, just need the metal vapor arcing to start charging a battery in reverse. They have big arrays of batteries in there, plenty of opportunity.”
“Okay, we’ll go with that explanation for now. Now, when they come through here, and they will, here’s your story. I brought you in here for a little copulation.”
“What? Why would I use a secure data room for that when we both have staterooms? Under my own code, I might add.”
“I’ll tell them you’re kinky. Shouldn’t be hard to believe. There’s only a few positions that would be effective with that work chair.”
“And you expect them to believe you seduced me in the community analysis room?”
“Oh, Rana, no. You enticed me. I was captivated by your beauty in the cold green LEDs of the analysis room. Believe me, that’s perfectly plausible. Only…”
She was wearing a zip tunic/skirt ensemble. With quick sure movements, her top was removed, and returned in place but backwards, the zipper only part way up the side. With a tug, the skirt was sent partially askew and he unzipped the skirt to where it was just held at the waist.
She tried to tug the zipper back down. “What do you think you’re doing?”
“I’m making you believably disreputable, my dear.”
“What about you? Why aren’t you ‘disreputable’?”
“I have practice putting myself back together, unless you want me to rip a seam so they know how badly you wanted me?”
“Would you be serious?”
“I am deadly serious. If you don’t want to relive the brainwashing sessions, be interrogated indefinitely, possibly tortured, even put to death, you will erase from your consciousness that you ever heard of a rumor, that you were looking at any sort of schematic, that you know anything about me other than where my tan line is.”
“But they’ll know. The records…”
“My guess is every computer in the entire bases is fried beyond salvage, every memory module attached to it, every peripheral device. I know the one here is. We’ll be working on standalone handhelds and maybe even paper for months if not longer.”
He looked at her squarely. “I think you know you don’t want to tell them you were looking at Code Q data and definitely don’t want to add you figured out the attack method on your own within seconds. If you do, you will never see the light of day. You know that.”
She did know that. “So, we tell them nothing?”
“Even better if they think there was nothing to tell. That metal whisker thing you mentioned, you mentioned it had happened before?”
“Yes, it’s happened in several facilities. They always have rules against galvanized steel and tin plating but some unrelated hardware no one thought about always turns out to be the culprit. Sometimes it takes months to find.”
“Could it happen here? With no sabotage, just bad luck? Is it plausible?”
“Well, it’s credible but, Bryder, are you going to pretend this wasn’t an attack? Are you going to cover for the terrorists?”
“Do you know what happens if they decide this was a deliberate attack by the natives?”
She shook her head, her heart in her throat at the dangerous look on his face, but she did know. Of course she did.
“If it’s an attack, tomorrow we all get moved to a different center on a different planet and Clevelhand becomes planet number 64. I’m not willing to do that.”
Her voice fell to a whisper. “But if they find out? How will we explain the lockdown?”
“I’ll tell them I thought it was a bomb and, knowing the history of the Clevelhand people, I did a shutdown as a precaution.”
Why did that sound plausible? Maybe his tone of voice. “Will they believe you?”
“The only one at risk will be me, sweetheart, and the locals.”
She took a shaky breath. The ache in her head had subsided mostly, but she felt more disoriented than ever. The Empire had to trust this man implicitly. Was this a game he was playing with her? Was he genuinely protecting a group of resistance fighters to save a planet? “How can I trust you?”
“I’m not asking you to trust me. I’m putting my trust in you. You could get me taken out with a single word.” He came up close and breathed in her ear. “But I trust you.” He chucked her under the chin. “I have pretty much any data you want, unadulterated, in my private stores. Tell me if you want anything to read on your handheld.”
Data that could not be directly accessed by the Empire, that could not be adjusted or traced or censored. “I want to know about the sixty three planets that were annihilated.”
“That’s my girl. I’ll get you the discs tomorrow, but keep them out of sight of others.” He smiled. “Now fix your tunic. You look a mess.”
She sputtered and tried to shift the tunic without removing it just as the door opened and security tramped in.
Fiona: Is there anything you find particularly challenging in your writing?
Finding time. Working full time, uninterrupted writing time is a premium.
Fiona: Do you have to travel much concerning your book(s)?
I can’t travel. Kids are first priority.
Fiona: Who designed the covers?
Ryn Katryn Digital Arts did the covers for Curse of the Jenri, Saving Tessa, Nine Lives, Tarot Queen and Conjuring Dreams. Brendan Smith did the cover for Beast Within. I did the cover for Musings of a Nascent Poet.
Fiona: What was the hardest part of writing your book?
Marketing. Not my strength. I love writing and editing is a breeze.
Fiona: Did you learn anything from writing your book and what was it?
I always learn something when I write. How to optimize dialog, little bits and pieces of history, science or other trivia, how to put things together so they are more and more seamless. I think writing is a learning process and I never want to stop learning.
Fiona: If any of your books was made into a film who would you like to play the lead?
I know a lot of writers pick out actors to help them visualize their characters, but, for me, the appearance is like the least important aspect of my characters so I don’t. Most of my female characters are tough, so I want want women who are comfortable playing badasses with lots of action, like Scarlet Johansson for Curse of the Jenri. That would be effective.
Fiona: Do you have any advice for other writers?
Write what you love. You’re going to spend hours and hours with your characters and in your worlds; make sure you enjoy it or the reader won’t either. And, if you’re going to invest so much of your life, you ought to enjoy it. Also, humor. No book was made worse by adding humor.
Fiona: Do you have anything specific that you want to say to your readers?
Look for writers who care about people and love their work. You’ll enjoy yourself much more. You might even learn something, too.
Fiona: What book are you reading now?
I’m reading the Saga of Menoral by Emily Snyder right now and a long list of ongoing manga.
Fiona: Do you remember the first book you read?
Melissa and her Family, about a cat and her kittens. It must have made an impression. I always have cats in my books. Often in pivotal roles.
Fiona: What makes you laugh/cry?
Sarcasm is my favorite form of humor and I laugh long and hard. Losing someone when there was no other way to do it, that makes me cry. I’m very empathetic so, when someone describes a loss and they do a good job, I’ll feel it.
Fiona: Is there one person pass or present you would meet and why?
I’m not big on this because I’m really not into celebrities. But, if I could, I’d love to talk to Georgette Heyer, tell her how much pleasure I’ve had from her books over the years.
Fiona: What do you want written on your head stone and why ?
She made me think. People don’t have to agree with me, but I do want people to think about their views, not just regurgitate them thoughtlessly. And be kind, but, to me, kindness falls out nicely from thinking.
Fiona: Other than writing do you have any hobbies ?
Manga obsession. Reading, of course. I used to crochet and do crewel/needlepoint but I’ve been short on time lately.
Fiona: What TV shows/films do you enjoy watching?
I like action/humor, but I mostly watch Disney and the like due to the kids, which if fine. I like those, too.
Fiona: Favorite foods / Colors/ Music
Italian, purples and blues, anything I can sing to, mostly pop, but the occasional opera or country song.
Fiona: If you were not a writer what else would you like to have done?
I would have liked singing, I think, but writing is better.
Fiona: Do you have a blog/website? If so what is it?
I have three blogs:
Rockets and Dragons (writing) http://stephanie-barr.blogspot.co.uk/
Rocket Scientist (non-writing) http://rockets-r-us.blogspot.com
The Unlikely Otaku (manga/anime obsession) http://askthers.blogspot.com/
I also have a FB author page:
Dragon Faerie Creative Enterprises https://www.facebook.com/stephanieebarr/
Amazon Authors Page https://www.amazon.com/Stephanie-Barr/e/B00N9W84YK