Featured Author: Stephanie Barr – A World Unimagined

Stephanie Barr

Left Hand Publisher Featured Author: Stephanie BarrFeatured Author: Stephanie Barr writes books, fantasy and science fiction and combinations thereof. A lot of them. She is also a rocket scientist, raising two autistic children as a single mother, and herding a bunch of cats. She has three blogs, which are sporadically updated: Rocket Scientist (http://rockets-r-us.blogspot.com/), Rockets and Dragons (http://stephanie-barr.blogspot.com/), and The Unlikely Otaku (http://askthers.blogspot.com/). Anything else even vaguely interesting about her can be found in her writing since she puts a little bit of herself in everything she writes . . . just not the same piece. She has written a number of books:

Twitter: http://twitter.com/stephanieebarr
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/stephanieebarr
Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Stephanie-Barr/e/B00N9W84YK
Her writing blog: http://stephanie-barr.blogspot.com
Or sign up for her newsletter: http://eepurl.com/cBGwmb

Featured Author: Stephanie Barr Interview

LHP: How long have you been writing?

Stephanie Barr: I probably started in sixth grade, when they were doing a poetry unit (writing) in the class I had transferred into, and I happened to write some waiting in the office. I had a knack for it and started writing more, but I threw it away right after I wrote it. When I was thirteen, I wrote something I thought my father might like and showed him. He made me promise never to throw away anything I wrote again, so I didn’t. I wrote tons of poetry in high school and started writing short stories.

By the time I left college (with an Engineering Physics degree) I had left poetry behind and was awash in short stories. By the time I was thirty, I was working on my second novel and had almost given up on short stories. Eighteen years and five novels later, I rediscovered short stories, and I’ve been working on both ever since.

So, that’s thirty-seven years I’ve been writing.
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LHP: What genre do you prefer to write in?

Stephanie Barr: I like writing fantasy and science fiction. I used to like reading a bit of anything, and the key element has always been great characters and the authors who create them consistently. I’ve written a bit in many genres, but I like the freedom and possibilities of fantasy and science fiction and the opportunity to expand perspectives with all kinds of options.
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LHP: What/who inspired you to be a writer?

A World Unimagined, a sci-fi anthology by Left Hand Publishers
A World Unimagined, a sci-fi anthology by Left Hand Publishers

Stephanie Barr: I love to tell stories. I found out early; I love to read stories–couldn’t possibly tell you who started it; I can’t remember when I didn’t love stories. Found out in high school, I love to tell ’em, too. Poetry – I wrote stories. Essays turned into stories. If I could beat it into a story, that’s what it became.

When it came to writing *good* stories, the list is legion. Poe, Shakespeare, Georgette Heyer, Heinlein, McCaffery, Robert Lynn Asprin, Michener, Clavell, Dumas, Hugo…I loved it all, absorbed it, found the stuff worked best for me (character-driven stories) and just absorbed everything I could about what made them great, and for dozens of other authors, what I liked, what I didn’t, what I didn’t want to do.

Jennefer Roberson’s story “Spoils of War” in Sword and Sorcery V (edited by Marion Zimmer Bradley first impelled me into fantasy and a number of SF stories by a whole host of SF writers did the same for SF. I love them both.

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LHP: Describe your writing process. What comes first–character or plot? Do you “pants” it or outline?

Stephanie Barr: Always, always, always, character. Usually, before I sit down to write the first word, I have my main characters (it’s rarely about just one), what characteristics I want them to have and what I don’t want them to have, and then my next step is to give them a scenario that helps shape how they are now and a a scenario that lets them grow – the first is back story; the second is the book. And I’m a total pantser.

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LHP: What is your daily/weekly routine as a writer?

Stephanie Barr: Depends. I work full time, and a single mother of two kids on the spectrum, so I often only have a few hours a day I can squeeze to write or edit or read or beta or anything, usually late at night. If I’m in the zone, I can still pump out 4-5K words a day on something that my mind has cooked and ready to go. If it’s not ready, I write nothing, unless a short story hits me. But I always have new stuff to read, things to edit, etc. etc. There’s never a shortage of things to do.

I am not someone who can write every day. My subconscious tends to build it and, when I’m ready, it comes out in near final form. I rarely need more than a day or two to edit a full-length novel because I’m rarely fixing more than an occasional awkward sentence or a typo. That’s not to say there’s anything wrong with an ugly first draft and repeated revisions – it’s just not how I operate.

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LHP: Are there any software tools, resources, or websites you use often while writing?

Stephanie Barr: Sneer if you will, but Wikipedia is my first stop for finding out almost anything I want, especially science related. I wouldn’t go there for celebrity doings–I don’t write contemporary anyway–but the folks that do science are not only thorough and accurate, they are terrific at putting difficult concepts in laymen’s terms. And they have sources so I can go back for more in-depth info as I need.

I publish books on Smashwords and Amazon. I write using MS Word (just because it’s ubiquitous – I actually prefer Word Perfect but it’s not compatible with anyone so is just a waste of time now). I love research, so I search until I find what I need.
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LHP: What are some of your biggest challenges you feel like you have to overcome in your writing career?

A World Unimagined, a sci-fi anthology by Left Hand Publishers
A World Unimagined, a sci-fi anthology by Left Hand Publishers

Stephanie Barr: Time time time. I never have enough.

I am not a marketing/salesperson. I love to talk about my books, love to talk about my characters and my stories. But telling people they need to read my books makes me really uncomfortable.

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LHP: Do you have a set number of words per day you target? or do you set other goals to meet?

Stephanie Barr: I usually work with overarching deadlines. I have two stories, for instance, that need to be done by August. I have three more books I want to write this year. I’d like to finish one of them by the end of June. Usually, by putting it in big picture terms, my subconscious will pull things together so, when I have some time to sit and write, I have something to actually put on virtual paper. My backbrain will go, “Okay, make some time,” I’ll sit at the computer and the story will come out, short or novel length, whatever it needs to be. My deadlines are self-imposed and, if something else comes up, I can usually work around it, but I’ve been meeting them pretty well. I had one novel finished last fall, one I finished the first quarter this year, several short stories, cowrote another novel with another novelist and have the first half of one of the other books I want to finish this year.

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LHP: Do you prefer short stories or full-length novels in your writing?

Stephanie Barr: Yes. I love them both. Short stories are a quick shot of success. Love that. But you can do things with a novel you just can’t with a short story.
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LHP: How much time is spent on “the business of writing” – queries, seeking an agent or publisher, marketing/sales?

Stephanie Barr: Too much. And I don’t spend enough time on it. I probably spend half and half, half writing, half trying to get it ready for market/marketing. Many people I know spend more like 20:80. I probably need to do it but I don’t want to take the time from writing.
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LHP: Can you give some us some insight into your story?

Stephanie Barr: I’m in a few writing groups on Facebook and one of my groupmates posted a tumblr or a Reddit bit about how cool it would be to look at people and their quirks and weirdnesses we take for granted from the outside. The pet aspect, in particular, was mentioned and, as a cat person, I loved it. Making the aliens scientists just felt right – I can identify with being a scientist without having to make the aliens think like a human.

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LHP: What advice can you give other writers?

Stephanie Barr: A couple. There is no successful trait for a writer like perseverance. All those other skills are important: grammar, imagination, organization, etc. But it you’re not willing to push it over and over and take a lot of rejection, chances are not good you’ll make it no matter what else you have going for you.

Listen, read, and learn but don’t let anyone else try to tell you what your voice should be. Get editing help, beta readers, outside views. hear them, but don’t let them drown out what you want to say. It’s got your name on it; you should be the final word.
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A World Unimagined

Stephanie Barr recently authored “Alien Ways” for A World Unimagined on sale now.