Author Stephanie Barr is a storyteller with a focus on people, whatever form those “people” might be. And she loves to make you think, feel, and laugh. Please welcome this dynamic writer to No Wasted Ink.
Stephanie Barr is a part time novelist, full-time rocket scientist, mother of three children (two still at home) and slave to many cats. I have three blogs, which are sporadically updated: Rocket Scientist, Rockets and Dragons, and The Unlikely Otaku. I like to read, though I’m currently obsessed with manga, and I love to write and tell stories. But I can also do the math.
When and why did you begin writing?
I started writing no later than thirteen because that’s when I first started saving it. I used to write poetry and throw it away—usually telling a story because I’m a natural born story teller—then I wrote one I thought my father, who generally didn’t like any fiction, might like. And he did. And he made me promise not to throw anything away ever again, so I haven’t. Been writing ever since.
When did you first consider yourself a writer?
Since then. Oh, I’ve grown as a writer—it has been thirty-six years—but I published my first short story I ever wrote in my first anthology and I’m not a big ashamed of it. I didn’t change it either. My first anthology (Conjuring Dreams) was really about my growth as a writer. I started out with epic poetry, then moved to short stories, then later I started writing novels. But you can see how I taught myself dialog and subtleties and such in the anthology, so I didn’t go back and change the old work. Sometimes, the old work works, too, just as it is. I still write short stories and have another anthology coming out shortly called Legacy
Can you share a little about your current book with us?
Beast Within (The Bete Book 1) starts with a cargo of refugee children (mostly teenagers) that gets diverted en route to the local moon during a war with an intergalactic aggressor. As a result, the cargo ship crash lands on an unknown planet across the universe with a thousand kids and a handful of crew and teachers. Among the thousand kids are about 40 or so kids who happen to be shapeshifters and/or have psychic powers (the Bete) who desperately want to keep their nature hidden because they will be treated like demons by some of the humans.
What inspired you to write this book?
A few things. My teenage daughter was reading fantasy YA. I’d been writing fantasy since before she was born. I was also addicted to a manga/anime she introduced me to call Fruits Basket that had shapeshifters, and I found some of their dilemmas thought provoking and some of the characters interesting. In the end, very little of that inspiration remained in the story, but it’s what sparked it. Can’t give my brain an inch.
Do you have a specific writing style?
I probably write a little chattier than many. I love humor and have to be physically restrained from using parentheses. I really like to inject the particular personality of my character into my POV writing and I have a total soft spot for sarcasm and snarky folks, including telepathic cats (which are in Beast Within, by the way). I like to focus on characters and on their interactions. I am a character driven writer. I like smart characters and usually have at least one character that’s very smart. I prefer to outsmart my bad guys. Rapists never end well in my books (and are never protagonists) and I always have cats and at least one dragon.
How did you come up with the title of this book?
The male lead (Xander) of this book is a shapeshifter who happens to change into a dragon, which is very bad ass. However, his father (who was abusive and also a dragon) used his strength as an excuse to mistreat people and told him that Xander that it was an unavoidable side effect of the dragon alter, that if he became emotional, he’d hurt the people he loved, so Xander spends a lot of time squashing his feelings, so the title reflects how he feels about himself. But, it also reflects some of the less savory aspects of humankind including prejudice and ruthlessness, so the intent was to ask the question, which one is really the beast. Hence the title.
Is there a message in your novel that you want readers to grasp?
Most of my books include the message: who you are is more important than what you are and you choose who you are. I try to drive that home on several different fronts, not only with the prejudice of some of the humans but the close-mindedness of some of the Bete.
Are experiences in this book based on someone you know, or events in your own life?
The characters tend to be built from aspects of myself (taken, sometimes to extreme), but not the circumstances. They’re usually far outside my experience base and this is really not an exception.
What authors have most influenced your life? What about them do you find inspiring?
I’ve learned from a lot of authors, sometimes just as good storytellers/character writers (Heinlein, Georgette Heyer, Nora Roberts, Clavel, Michener, McCaffery, Sharon Lee & Steve Miller), to people who had particular skills I admired (Poe:poetry/emotive response, Emily Bronte: emotive response, Stephen King: emotive response/writing kids effectively, etc). There are many mangakas I’ve found inspiring for their different perspectives. And, actually, I got started writing fantasy short stories by reading a story called “Spoils of War” by Jennifer Roberson in Sword and Sorceress V edited by Marion Zimmer Bradley that got me interested and involved in fantasy. It’s still one of the best short stories I’ve ever read.
Who designed the cover of your book? Why did you select this illustrator?
Brandon Smith. Ryn Katryn does most of my covers, but Brandon has done a few and this is one of them. I was actually just chatting with him, explaining I wanted to revamp my covers (from what I had done myself) and he built the cover in record time and it was exactly what I wanted.
Do you have any advice for other writers?
Write what you love. If you love it, you’ll always have at least one fan. Learn your craft. Always strive to be better, not to be successful (though that’s always nice) but because it has your name on it, a legacy and you want it to be good. Read everything out loud, to an audience if you can swing it. I’ve caught more errors that way than every other way combined. Everything—I mean everything—is better with humor.
Do you have anything specific that you want to say to your readers?
My books are an eclectic mix of different genres and characters, but they’re all fun, they’re all thought-provoking, they’re all full of excitement and adventure. And cats, often telepathic ones. And I’m not done, not by a long shot.
League City, TX
Cover Artist: Brendan Smith