Interview With Ian Barker
I have the honor and privilege of interviewing Ian Barker, author of Fallen Star which will be released by Rebel e Publishers on November 1st.
Following in the footsteps of our writer friend Cat Connor, what is your favorite takeout meal?
Being British I feel as though I ought to nominate fish and chips, but I’m afraid American culture has got to me and I’m a sucker for KFC.
What is a typical day like for you?
I edit a computer magazine, so days in the office tend to be quite varied. A typical day might involve commissioning freelance material, writing a feature, checking proofs or trying to source products for review and software to include on the coverdisc. I get the odd day out at swanky venues for new product launches. Fiction is very much a spare time and weekend activity.
What is your writing process like, do you outline or wing it or something in between?
I’ve tried both. For Fallen Star I started with an outline and although the start and end remained pretty much the same what happened in between changed quite a lot. Perhaps because I have to work to strict word counts and tight deadlines in the day job I tend to be quite ill-disciplined as a fiction writer. I write in short bursts – often with big gaps in between – I edit as I go and I write scenes out of sequence. If the creative writing guides say it’s a bad idea I probably do it!
Is Fallen Star your first novel or are there others hidden in a drawer somewhere?
I’ve started and abandoned several novels. Fallen Star is only the second one I’ve completed. I still like the premise behind my bottom drawer novel, but I know I would write it differently – and better – now so it’s likely to resurface at some point.
I see you’re a member of the writer’s forum Backspace. Was that helpful to you in the writing of your novel Fallen Star?
Immeasurably. I’ve tried several writers’ sites over the years and have been a Backspace member since it started. Unlike some other sites that fall prey to trolls or degenerate into forums for self-promotion (hello, Authonomy.com), Backspace is full of genuinely talented people who are willing to give their time to help others. There are people on Backspace that I consider to be genuine friends even though I’ve never actually met them.
Last week’s discussion on #litchat revolved around small presses. Where do you stand on the small press vs big press issue?
Like most new authors, when pitching a book you just want somebody – anybody – to publish it. Having signed with a small press I have to say that the experience has been a good one. They may not have the marketing clout but you always feel that you’re an important part of the process rather than a tiny cog in a vast machine.
Rebel e Publishers, an up-and-coming small press, is releasing Fallen Star on November 1st. What prompted you to pitch your book to them?
I’d spent about a year pursuing the conventional route, collecting a file of rejections from agents and other publishers. I was confident the book was pretty good since nearly everyone who’d read the whole thing or big chunks of it had loved it. I knew Cat Connor through Backspace and knew that she was very happy with the Rebel experience, so I sent them some sample chapters. They asked for some more and then for the full manuscript. They then rejected it but said that if I was willing to make some changes and resubmit they’d be happy to look at it again. I spent a few months revising before sending it back and the rest is history.
How much input did you have in the cover design of Fallen Star?
Quite a lot, although we went through two versions before settling on the one you now see. I was keen on having some kind of silhouette motif as it echoes the murals that were such a big part of news coverage during the Ulster troubles.
What was the editing experience like for you?
Fascinating, and it definitely helped make the book better. A good editor helps with the structure – I added an extra chapter at one point thanks to my editor’s advice. But also with more detailed stuff, for example repetitive tics that you don’t spot in your own work – I ended up reducing the number of wry smiles. Jayne made me laugh a lot with her acerbic margin notes and it’s thanks to her that the book now has a dishwasher.
Where did the idea for Fallen Star come from?
Appropriately enough it came from a reality TV show. The BBC used to run a series called Fame Academy, a sort of school for wannabe pop stars. This started me thinking about what would happen if you stood the situation on its head, started with someone famous and then took it all away, the basic idea of the book grew from that thought.
There are two principal POV characters in your book, one male, one female. How closely do you identify with either character?
I suppose of the two main protagonists I identify more with Karl. The character that’s most ‘me’ though is Graham, the tour manager. That’s probably why he started out as a minor character who wasn’t intended to last beyond the first couple of chapters but managed to build up his role into something more important. In fact Graham carries much of the story in the early stages as he’s able to give us a sympathetic insight into the life of the band.
What sort of problems did you encounter in writing those two characters, finding the right voice for each?
Writing Karl was relatively easy. I’m a firm believer in the theory that men don’t mature a great deal past the age of nineteen anyway. Despite his lifestyle Karl is in many ways quite naïve at the start of the book. Much of the narrative revolves around challenging his view of the world and making him grow up.
Writing as a 25-year-old woman for Lizzie’s parts was much harder and involved a lot of pestering of female writer friends to read extracts and tell me if I had the tone right. Having come to know Karl first we effectively get introduced to him again through Lizzie’s eyes which provides a different perspective.
Fallen Star will be released in 3 days from the date of this post. How are you feeling about that?
In the words of Andrew Gold, a little bit dizzy and a little bit scared. When you’re trying to get published you somehow feel as though achieving that will be some kind of peak. Only once you’ve got a deal do you realise you’ve simply reached a ledge and there’s a long hard climb of marketing and promotion to come.
Do you see a follow-up to Fallen Star?
I don’t see it turning into a long series but there will be a sequel – in fact I pitched it to Rebel on that basis.
Are you currently working on another novel or have an idea for one?
As I said above, I’m working on a sequel. This will pick up Karl and Lizzie’s story about three years further on – provisionally titled Star Turn (world exclusive there, I haven’t revealed that title before!). Actually, ‘working on’ is not quite the right term, thanks to launching this book the sequel is so far on the back burner it’s barely warm!
Who are some of your favorite authors?
In no particular order, John le Carré, Len Deighton, Ian Rankin, Douglas Adams, Nick Hornby, Jonathan Coe, Alex Garland, Garrison Keillor. Anybody who can make me stop occasionally to admire the sheer artistry of the construction. Oh, and I read this great thriller called Stealing the Marbles recently…
Who are some of the authors you simply can not read?
Tolkien, I‘ve never managed to get more than a couple of chapters into The Hobbit. And Terry Pratchett his stuff just doesn’t do it for me at all. In fact fantasy generally is something I try to avoid.
If you could only recommend one book to another person, what book would that be?
To Kill a Mockingbird. If you’re going to write only one book that’s the way to do it. It’s also the only book I was forced to read at school that I’ve revisited and enjoyed as an adult.
That concludes my interview with Ian Barker, author of Fallen Star. Be sure to check out his website. I want to thank Ian for agreeing to this and for pitching my book.
Ian has always dabbled in writing since leaving school. However, he spent almost 20 years working in IT before he discovered that writing about computers was easier than fixing them. He is now editor of PC Utilities magazine and lives and works in Greater Manchester, UK. Fallen Star is his début novel.
The Kindle version of Fallen Star is available for pre-order HERE. Hop online today and order a copy.