Interview: J.D. Barrett on The Upside of Over

upside of over

Hi J.D., and welcome to my blog, The Book Muse.

  

Congratulations on publishing your third book, The Upside of Over. I read The Song Of Us as well last year as part of the Australian Women Writer’s Challenge, and I thoroughly enjoyed both.  Thank you so much, Ashleigh!

Of all the books you have written, which one has been the most enjoyable to write?

They’re all enjoyable in different ways – The Secret Recipe for Second Chances will always be special, it was a life raft in many ways… The Song of Us and The Upside of Over had also been digging into my subconscious for years. Each of them is unique and took me on a very different journey! The Upside of Over certainly gave me a lot of joy as I wrote it… I had to keep pushing myself to stay brave and sass it up!

 

Olivia is an intriguing character, filled with flaws but also, I thought with a lot of self-confidence – during your time working in television and media, did you find this was a common trait of the people you worked with?

Absolutely! I mean as humans we are flawed and all loveable in our fallibility. I think if you’re working in an arena where presentation is everything it can be even more challenging and confronting when failure strikes. I also can see how easy it can be to become your persona.

JD Barrett.jpgThe experiences that Olivia went through following her personal video to her husband going viral felt raw and genuine – do you think these are common experiences for women in the media industry?

I think anyone who has experienced the breakdown of a marriage, a long-term relationship, sudden unemployment or the loss of a loved one knows what it feels like to be completely stripped bare. All those things you thought were important no longer matter, the way you sorted your life goes out the window and you’re on the coal face of what really matters and what’s left when all those comforts and distractions go. Getting to a place where you can love and accept yourself in that and reinvent from an authentic place is (I feel) one of our biggest lessons as humans.

Being as expansive as you like, and using your own knowledge and experiences, why do you think women in the media have these experiences and what do you think this does to their sense of self and identity?

Working in an industry where age and appearance is your currency throws your self-esteem out of whack. If you only feel as important and worthwhile as the number of likes on social media, the number of ratings on your network or the amount of fan mail complimenting your appearance you receive, at some stage you will come unstuck. Most of the women I know in the media are also exceptionally intelligent and savvy women. Valuing what you do over your age or the dress you’re wearing is vital but so very difficult to sustain. Television is a visual medium and unfortunately, we have a curated and reduced idea of what is aesthetically desirable. I believe this is changing.

I adored all the diversity in this novel, hearing voices we don’t often hear in literature and media. Were any of these characters a challenge to write, and what did you do to create the authenticity in them?

To be honest quite a few of them are permutations of people I know or know of, it always morphs into something and someone else during the creative process… and I think the author is present in every character. There were times when Olivia was difficult because in some ways she’s like me. The naughty poorly behaved characters were a lot of fun! Atticus became a different character to who I originally planned him to be. I believe there’s a bit of magic that goes on when you write and if you listen carefully the characters reveal themselves to you.

 

Based on this, how could other writers approach it when they are writing about similar characters?

Listen to your characters, work out who they are and what they want, find their individual speech patterns and rhythms… tune into them… and never judge them.

When you first wrote this novel, were you aware, or did you have any inkling about how prophetic it could be with the #TimesUp and the #MeToo movements that started in late 2017 following the Harvey Weinstein scandal and subsequent fall out?

I began this story, as a pilot script in 2010 so no, I had absolutely no idea. I had completed the first draft before the Weinstein story broke. I think it’s something that’s been bubbling away for years (well clearly by the stories coming forward). I was also aware of it due to my own experiences.

I did like the little nod and reference to the main character in the Song of Us – did you plan on linking the books in any way or was this just happy coincidence? (It did make me smile and chuckle, it felt very meta).

I like to have a few links because our worlds are always interconnected, and I like my readers to know the other characters they’ve invested in my other books are still going strong. There’s also a nod to my first novel, in that Olivia and Dave have dinner at Fortune. Hugo was also in the first novel.

Olivia’s achievements at the end of the book, and her coming together with her friends, family and everyone who saw her through and supported her was a lovely ending. Do you think many cases of sexual harassment brought against those in the media will have an outcome like this, or will we just see more coming out all the time, with more people trying to hush things up or make excuses?

I believe this is a watershed time and there is no going back. I truly hope the women brave enough to come forward and speak out and the men and women who support them will all have their own happy ever afters. I also believe the paradigm shift in the psyche of the media and western society, will enable potential bullies and abusers to see the light and come from a place of respect and integrity…. I am all for a happy ending, always.

J.D., Thank you for agreeing to be a guest on my blog, and thank you for writing fun yet thought provoking stories that people can relate to as well.

Great questions, thank you so much for having me! x

The Upside of Over by J.D. Barrett ($29.99), published by Hachette Australia.  

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Interview with Zanzibar 7 Schwarzenneger, Author of Veneri Verbum

NB Question 6 is intentionally written as it is, taking inspiration from a chapter in the book.

Zanzibar, welcome to the Book Muse, and thank you for taking time to dive down into this quaint little rabbit hole of mine, riddled with plot holes of course, and zillions of plot bunnies that go nowhere. But before yet another bunny creates another plot, which brings about another hole in this interview, let’s have a chat.

Q: Your first novel, Veneri Verbum, is a novel about a novelist writing a novel during National Novel Writing Month. What inspired this?

I’m a novelist and wrote my first real life book during National Novel Writing Month. It seemed a good case of “write what you know”.

Q: Christopher Cullum experiences many common afflictions of the NaNoWriMo process – what are they and are they common for many participants?

You realize Christopher is just a character, even though he thinks he’s a writer, right? He falls for his main character, doesn’t want anyone to die, changes things on a whim, and runs on caffeine. Isn’t that more or less how all writers function?

Q: Plot bunnies. Just how dangerous are they?

Shhh! They can hear you! They have very big ears, you know. They also have claws that dig deep into your soul and teeth that bite down to your very essence. Occasionally they’ll do you a good deed on a whim, but they’re about as dangerous as The Conductor. They’re just much cuter.

Q: What do you like to read when you’re not writing about Figments and Christopher, and who are your influences?

I tend to experience books more than read them, but I do have favorites. If I suddenly turned into Jasper Fforde (The Eyre Affair) in the middle of a book, I’d probably die of joy. Pleasant way to go, but still dead, so I only hope to be as funny as he is. I think the late Lewis Carroll had the best grasp of how the Figment World works, even though he was writing about chess, cards, and tea parties. The late Terry Pratchett also influenced me, although he went and died, so I’d rather not emulate him yet. Still, mad respect that he could write as much as he did with Old Timer’s disease. Oh, and Monty Python is a definite influence. Those guys understood the power of “I’m not dead yet.”

Q: What does Christopher like to read?

Christopher doesn’t really read much. He has great friends who recommend books when he needs them for a plot, though.

Q: Eye heard a rumour that speeling lyke this macks you twich. Is this true?

I’m sorry. I just had a minor seizure. You were saying?

Q: I heard that many writers research extensively when on a project. I do, and it feels never ending. What kind of research do you do?

I, um, don’t research. (One of the many reasons I’m in the Character Witness Protection Program.) I pick up bits and pieces from things I see and put them all together. There are lots of things in Reeyal Lyfe that just beg to be put into a story. I hate to be a miser, so I use them all.

Q: Speaking of research, does Christopher Cullum do any?

Christopher likes to surf Soshal Meedya without a surfboard—or an ocean. I don’t think that counts as research, but he does.

Q: What are your favourite writing snacks and drinks?

I’m a Figment, so I don’t require food or drink. I’m rather fond of the occasional afternoon tea or morning mocha, though. And cake. You can’t go wrong with cake.

Q: How many plot bunnies does it take to make you twitch?

*twitch* Just one. Or the mention of one. Or thinking about mentioning one. Mere existence is generally enough for a good shiver.

Q: Let’s get down to business…how many times can Eric die?

So far, nine hundred and eleventy-leven. Not all of those are my fault! I can account for the eleventy-leven.

Q: What is your favourite time of day to write?

I still don’t have the hang of this Tyme stuff. I write when I sit down to write and I stop when I get up. Sometimes it’s light outside. Sometimes it’s dark. Sometimes there’s a major apocalyptic event occurring, but that’s a different interview.

Q: Finally, Zanzibar, I’m sure you have legions of fans out there that have read Veneri Verbum. Just when can we expect to have the second book available, and what will it be called?

I’m mentally writing my second book, Fire N Nice, already. I hear some call this procrastination, but I call it pre-writing. I expect to have it out when it’s finished and no later. Maybe one day later. Things happen slower in Reeyal Lyfe than the Figment World.

Odd that you mention Legions, since there are Legions of super heroes and super villains in the book. I tried to pitch it as non-fiction, but was told it will still be designated fantasy.

Thank you again for participating, Zanzibar, and feel free to reblog this on your own blog for advertising purposes.

Thank you for asking me questions and putting answers somewhere on the Interwebz. I appreciate your genius in being one of the first to recognize me in my quick rise to Book Domination and Fame.

Author interview: Lynette Noni, creator of Akarnae

akarnaeWelcome to my very first author interview on my blog with debut Australian author, Lynette Noni, who penned the fabulous Akarnae. So welcome, Lynette, to The Book Muse!

1. Hi Lynette, and welcome to The Book Muse. How are you today?

I’m amazing, thank you! And thanks so much for ‘having me’ here!

2. Can you tell us what your childhood was like, where you grew up and if any of it inspired your desire to write?

I grew up on a farm in outback Australia and then moved to the beautiful Sunshine Coast when I was seven. I’ve been fortunate to have been raised by an incredibly loving family who have always encouraged me to pursue my dreams, even when those dreams have seemed impossible. I wouldn’t be the writer I am today without them constantly reminding me that ‘anything is possible’ and ‘the best is still to come.’

3. Did anything in your life growing up inspire Akarnae and The Medoran Chronicles? The series is slated as a combination of Harry Potter, Narnia and X-Men – do you have a favourite of the three?

I’ve always been a bit of a daydreamer, wandering the fantasy worlds of my overactive imagination. Unfortunately, I never found my own doorway to Medora (… or did I?) so the series hasn’t been inspired by real life events, per se. But it has been inspired by wishful thinking and many “wouldn’t it be cool if…” moments of indulgence.

As to picking my favourite between HP, Narnia and X-Men—eeek! What a tough decision! I probably have to answer Harry Potter, since I spent over a decade of my younger years waiting impatiently for each new release (and wishing for my own owl invitation to Hogwarts).

4. Congratulations on being the youngest author to be represented by Pantera Press. What a remarkable achievement. What made you decide to send your manuscript to Alison and her team?

I didn’t know very much about Pantera Press when I sent off my submission, but everything I had heard or read was complimentary. I also loved that they were committed to giving new authors a chance, when so many of the other publishing houses weren’t willing to take risks on untried and untested authors. Pantera’s website claims that they are all about ‘discovering and nurturing talented new authors’—and that is exactly what they have done for me. They have gone over and above anything I could have ever imagined to help make my dreams come true.

5. What inspired the character of Alexandra Jennings? I found her very intriguing, and look forward to more of her adventures.

Nothing specifically inspired Alex other than me having a vague idea of how I wanted her character to be presented. She is strong and courageous, smart and witty. But she also has her flaws. Most of all, Alex is real. She’s just like any other teenager trying to find her way in the world—even if her new world is just a little more fantastical than most. Alex is someone I think many of us all aspire to be like, but she’s also someone many of us can already relate to, possibly because we can see a little bit of her in each of us. That makes her journey just that much more real to us, since we can almost imagine ourselves in her place—or at least walking along beside her and her friends.

6. Like you, I am of the Harry Potter generation and never received my Hogwarts letter. If you were to attend Hogwarts, which house would have hoped to be in? I think I’d be a Ravenclaw.

Ooooh! This is SUCH a great question! I’m going to have to go with my Gryffindor pride here, I think! Yay, Gryffindor!!

7. In Akarnae, I loved the mystery surrounding everything in the characters and Medora, and I am looking forward to finding out if Alex’s parents find out that she attends Akarnae rather than the school they enrolled her in. How do you think they might react to her abilities?

Haha, to semi-quote the Weasley twins (I think), all I’ll say is, “Ask me no questions, and I’ll tell you no lies.”


8. When you aren’t writing, what do you enjoy doing the most?

That’s easy—reading!! Anything I can get my hands on, but especially YA books!

9. I’d like to ask a bit of advice for potential writers and authors reading my blog, as they, along with readers, make up my audience. What do you do when you get stuck? I know many authors have different ways to deal with this, and I always find it interesting to hear their different methods.

When I get stuck, it’s usually because I’m at a dragging scene that doesn’t excite me but it’s necessary for world building (or some other valid reason). I find action scenes easy to write because I’m so ‘in the moment’, but some of the most important stuff happens in the quiet times—that’s where the mystery can be cultivated, along with the potential setting up of plot twists. But those parts can be gritty and frustrating to write, especially if I want them to be perfect. My rule of thumb is, if it’s boring me, then it’s probably going to bore the reader. So, to combat that, I try and spruce it up, reignite a passion, make something happen amongst all the quiet. Even if it’s only a single sentence of surprise or a well-placed witticism in dialogue—just something to keep my (and the reader’s) attention. And if I have enough of those targeted bursts of excitement, it usually gets me through the grit and out the other side to more of the easier to write action scenes. Thus, unstuck!

10. Finally, is there any chance you can give us a hint as to when book two will be published? Or at least a title?

Book two is called ‘Raelia’—and the good news is that it’s already written! I just have to go through the professional editing and proofreading stages before we have a better idea of a release date. But it will be out sometime within the next 12 months—woohoo!

Thank you for answering my questions, Lynette, and good luck with the next book and the rest of the series.