At 17, David witnesses his father’s public assassination for turning state’s witness, his mother collateral damage, his life spared due to spent ammo. He spends decades piecing together evidence to determine the killer’s identity, all while living his life as an NFL quarterback for the Dolphins, a random lover of the famous dancer Sylphide (who lives across the pond from his childhood home) and her protege Emily—introduced by him, and a restaurateur. His sister parcels out relevant information on rare occasions, spending her grief-stricken adulthood playing professional tennis, fighting mental illness, and searching for her parent’s killer against her boyfriend’s pragmatic advice. As Sylphide moves in and out of David’s life, secrets come unmoored and land at his feet every so often. Roorbach has built a fine cast of complex and extraordinary characters, nuanced to the hilt, integrity intact throughout the novel, all maddeningly non-forthcoming for page-turning tension. It can be awkward to follow the timeline back and forth, and David’s discoveries can be out of sync, as when he realizes his sister’s major secret years after his parent’s demise, and then in a following flashback is explicitly told the secret by his sister herself. No opportunity is missed to reference Emily as “the negress”—was that even used as late as the 70s and into the 80s? Her parents could have been a bit more rounded out as individuals instead of representations. These few distractions don’t detract from a unique story with an intriguing storyline and intense meta sex scenes. Roorbach is almost his own genre. He’s the Mainer Carl Hiassen in his dedication to untangling and tying up multiple storylines and presenting humans in all their glory and warts.
I met David through Storyteller Magazine, for which he was Editor and I was a mere peon volunteer curator, both of us contributors of short stories. David’s tales live in the darkness—we won’t ask where David lives (his website says Cincinnati; seems dubious)…..
but his writing snatches you and drags you, wide-eyed and speechless, into the stories.
He, however, is a super friendly guy, so I wasn’t nervous about asking him for an interview. Links to connect with David come after the interview; check out his uber-user-friendly, gorgeous website, where anthology after anthology showcase David’s talent. The first book of his YA series “Mad Maggie Dupree” comes out June 26!
Tell me about your writing process, including schedule, environment, and inspirations. I love your blog post about the muse being a romantic notion. If you would, explain as well how you transitioned from this magical mythology to your prosaic philosophy of writing.
Well, as with most writers, my process has evolved over time. I used to like plotting and outlining everything before I even began writing my first word. When I’d get stuck plotting or writing, I’d blame my muse, the fickle little minx that she was. I honestly just thought that’s the way the writing process went. I’d have to wait for this mystical thing to whisper the next line or the key point I’d missed in my work.
That all changed a few years ago. I read about “pantsers” or those writers who didn’t plan anything and just wrote from the hip, so to speak. Honestly, I thought it was ridiculous. How could anyone write without planning, without plotting, without doing the leg work first?
Curious, I decided to give it a try and haven’t looked back. My output increased ten-fold and I enjoyed being surprised by the twists and turns the characters gave me. It’s made the process much more fulfilling.
Thought it may sound daunting to writers who are plotters and planners, I fully understand it. The thing is, now that I’m a “pantser” I don’t need a muse. I write. Period. I don’t have to wait for her to whisper to me. I trust myself as a storyteller and know I will come up with what needs to happen next as I’m writing the story. I no longer have writer’s block, because I merely write myself out of it. It helps me average over 2,000 words a day. Last year alone, I had my biggest output as a writer, finishing with 690,000 thousand words. That equated to eight novels and a dozen short stories.
Writers have to find what works for them, but they also need to be willing to try new things. Whether it’s a new spot in the house, writing at a coffee shop, or changing from pen and paper to a laptop or vice versa. Sometimes just making a small change can spark the most wonderful things.
Remember, writing is a superpower. Take a chance. Write some words. Make some magic.
My husband theorizes that people who suffered challenging childhoods prefer reading / writing horror. It happens to be true in my case. Although writing my debut novel was highly cathartic in healing some of that damage, I still love horror, so perhaps his theory is debatable. What draws you to the darkness?
I’m honestly not sure what’s drawn me to it. I’ve written in many different styles and different genres, but there’s always a touch of creepiness to everything I write.
While growing up, I enjoyed reading everything and anything I could my hands on. When we went to the library, in school, I always checked out books on UFO’s, Bigfoot, Loch Ness, Area 51, vampires, and werewolves. But when I read The Shining in middle school it was over. Horror hooked me.
Talk up your support system, from beta readers to reviewers, anyone and everyone who is your cheerleader, online and IRL.
My family and friends have been incredibly supportive of my writing. But I have to say one of the most rewarding parts of being a writer and an editor is the community of friends and colleagues I’ve met along the way. I talk daily with my writing group, made up of fellow writers from the ashes of Storyteller Magazine. I also talk with quite a few writers on Twitter as well. It’s always great to share experiences with other writers and editors.
Describe your publishing process from final draft to final product, from perspectives of self-publishing, and all that entails, and traditional publishing, including your publishing team.
I’ve enjoyed both self-publishing and traditional publishing. They have both been fulfilling and challenging at the same time. Both require a lot of work, but in the end the onus is definitely on the author to make them both as successful as possible.
I’ve found a wonderful home with Clean Reads Publishing, formerly Astraea Publishing. The owner, Stephanie Griffith, has been great. She has an impressive group of editors she works with who are thoughtful and thorough working through both Mad Maggie Dupree manuscripts they’ve accepted. This is my first foray into the middle grade arena and it’s been an awesome experience so far. They have their own art department which has done outstanding work bringing Mad Maggie Dupree to life.
What do you love most about your creativity?
That I can use it to escape at moment’s notice. No matter how good or how bad the day, writing is the gravy that makes it all worthwhile.
Author Extra: Write a flash fiction piece right now! 50 words, mister!
He heard the sound again, sharp and flinty, a bone poking his heart. He stared into the darkness, waiting for the knobby knuckled hand to clutch at his clothes, the chill bone deep. Then grandma appeared, withered and stooped, giving him a goodnight kiss, hands icy, breath from a crypt.
Connect with David:
Science fiction and horror writer Brian Barr was my first writer Facebook friend. He sent me a friend request after reading my story in Storyteller, an online literary magazine that has accepted much of his work, and he invited me to follow Dark Chapter Press, who held contests that I entered. I didn’t win any of the contests, but I was welcomed into a supportive group of creatives, several of whom are also now Facebook friends. Brian’s friendliness and positivity launched me fully into an online writerly mindset, and now I’m in several writers’ groups on multiple social media. He inspires fellow writers online by being himself, with his personality shining forth gloriously. He also happens to be a brilliant storyteller. Check out the links, like this one The Head: Book 1 of the 3 H’s Trilogy, to his work and collaborative projects, such as Empress with Chuck Amadori, throughout this blog! Here’s his Amazon Author Page.
All writers must find a sustainable writing process of their own, learning from others for enlightenment and guidance. Brian Barr’s is straightforward, “I type nearly everything, though I may jot notes from time to time as ideas come to me throughout the day. I basically sit down and type in documents, then revise when I’m done and a little as I go along. I’m pretty free-flowing when it comes to writing, and though I have ideas that are planned and notes I reserve for my stories, I’m not a huge outliner or anything like that. So my writing approach is not rigid and I mostly like to have fun and enjoy what I’m writing. If my heart isn’t in it, then I let it go. I like to get invested in what I’m creating.”
He’s open in his social media use, mixing professional and personal on his Facebook account. He has professional sites for readers: www.facebook.com/brianbarrbooksdotcom and www.brianbarrbooks.com. He says, “I use social media to interact with other writers and readers. A few I know IRl. There are my local friends and a few I’ve grown up with. Most of the people I’ve met on social media are either creators or supporters of books and comics that I haven’t met in person. I also use social media to promote my work and let people know about my books. It’s a way that I can keep tabs on my favorite authors and buy their works as well. That’s the main thing I use it for. There are a lot of Facebook groups that have been supportive from Colors in Darkness to Grimdark Readers and Writers. The two groups I mentioned are my favorite groups at the moment. There is also Queer Sci Fi, which has done a lot to promote Carolina Daemonic [Brian’s dystopian alternative timeline fiction published by J. Ellington Ashton), and various horror groups that have allowed me to share my horror work.”
Independent and ambitious, Brian explains his working style, “I’ve done a few writing workshops here and there, but they’re not my thing. Whenever I’m at one, I feel I could be at home writing, or that it’s time I could use to do other things, like walking, going somewhere, visiting friends, etc. So writing is a very solitary and personal, intimate experience for me. I feel like people at writer’s workshops can be helpful, but it can also become a way that other people tell you how to write to the point that you lose your own voice, so on a personal level, it’s been a balancing act for me to avoid those groups and do my own thing. The last time I joined a writer’s group, I acted on someone else’s advice, and I’ve been learning to respect people’s opinions, but do what’s right for me. I always felt restricted in groups when it comes to my creativity, like it would make me waste time on unneeded rewrites to please other people instead of pleasing myself and whoever would like the stories as I genuinely write them, so I’m solitary when it comes to writing stories.”
When asked his preference for self-publishing, he states, “I publish with presses along with self-publishing, so I don’t do self-publishing exclusively. I have books published by presses. With self-publishing, I can hire my own editors and cover artists, then release work when I choose. So I like the independence more. I guess that’s also why I’m not a big proponent of writing groups and stuff like that. I like to see people create on their own and put their own experiences and individuality into their own work. I’m self publishing the next books though. They were accepted for publishing, but they wanted me to use in-house artists. I have a certain way I want all my covers to look now, and they use stock photos, so I pulled them. My friends I usually commission are doing the covers and editing. Sullivan Suad and Zilson Costa are my favorite artists. For the first edition of Carolina Daemonic, a few people told me they saw the photo in other places. I want to have original art for all my books. I appreciate the publisher for accepting my work, but as I’ve been self publishing, I found I like it more. I get all the royalties and like the people I work with. It’s just been better for me.”
A highly creative individual, Brian is also a musician in a band called Pig Head Dog. Punk fans can listen to samples and follow the band on www.reverbnation.com/pigheaddog2 and www.facebook.com/pigheaddog. When asked about a connection between his band and writing, he tells me, “Not at this time. Music for now is a collaboration between friends, and I’m thankful to my friends for bringing me into my band. It’s a fun experience for all of us. I’ve written my own songs before in other projects, and I do come up with basslines for songs in this current band, but I’m not the singer or songwriter for the band I’m currently in. Bubbs Ruebella is the singer and songwriter of Pig Head Dog, and the band is his creation. I’m the newest member, and also pretty new to bass playing, which is what I do in the band. We practice on Thursday nights, or Saturdays. We’ll usually meet for 2-3 hours and work on either a set list or, most often, the newer songs we need to get down. I think we’re all fast learners and good collaborators, so after we get a song down, it’s drilled in our memory. Other than our weekly schedule, we do shows from time to time. I’ve only been playing bass for less than a year, so it’s all pretty new to me.”
With optimism, Brian says he’s doing, “pretty good. I’ve just been focused on my creative projects and freelance writing, recharging for the fall, and getting rested. I’ve been reading a lot, since I wrote so much this summer, though I’m still working on stories as well. For fun, he likes to, “write, make music, and travel. I like to watch movies, read books, and I like anything artistic or creative. So I like to look at art, interact with artists, things of that nature. I also like learning, and I study Japanese. I’ve always had a strong interest in Japanese culture, since I grew up in Hawaii, and there were a lot of Asian influences there.”
I haven’t met Brian Barr in person, but online, he’s a super nice guy, positive, and always supportive of other writers and artists. Follow him on his Facebook page www.facebook.com/brianbarrbooksdotcom and website www.brianbarrbooks.com. Feel free to ask him questions about his work, any upcoming projects, or his professional life. His illustrators, Sullivan Suad and Zilson Costa, are also open for commission, so please do inquire if you need cover art. Even if you’re not hooked on his genres, I highly recommend reading Brian Barr’s work, as it transcends those genres due to his storytelling talent.