Introducing – Andrew David Barker
“It’s a funny old life is it not, Mr Barker”
When my wife, a wedding photographer, told me that we were going to Paris for the weekend to photograph a couple who had just won a competition.
I thought, great… I’ve always excelled at carrying bags and cameras around.
Little did I know that the groom-to-be was fellow aspiring author and bag carrier, Andrew D Barker. We discussed his then project – a short story called, The Fin – and his love of movies, music and the occasional beer. After reading the short story, I was excited to hear that his first novel was nearing completion and couldn’t wait to read it (my small review of The Electric here.)
What a great read it is. I would encourage you to get your hands on this Barker masterpiece. It is available on Amazon as an eBook.
Andrew has recently signed a great book deal with Boo Books, and The Electric is scheduled for hardcover release on the 5th June 2014. Details here.
Right, let’s get straight into the questions.
Tell us how your novel, The Electric, came about.
The Electric is a novel born out of the disaster my feature film went through. The film was A Reckoning, a last man on earth type story that marked my debut as a writer/director. The film was finished and got some stunning reviews, but it was destroyed from seeing the light of day by strange individuals who backed the project. It’s a long and very odd story. Anyway, afterwards I sunk into depression, but after a while, I began to write. The premise for The Electric – that of a cinema that plays movies made by ghosts, for ghosts – was something I’d had for a few years. Writing a novel had always been something I felt I’d been working towards, and in the aftermath of my film, I thought it was time to have a crack at it.
I also wanted to do something that was just me. I wouldn’t have anyone else involved; it didn’t take a great number of people, equipment and money to see it done. Just me at my desk, creating, without any budgetary constraints or outside interference. Once I started, I felt the most creatively satisfied I have ever felt before in my life.
It took me a year and a half to complete, and I’ll never go back now. Writing novels is what I want to do. I want to make another film one day, but this is really what I want to do with my time on this rock.
As for A Reckoning, I will get that film back one day and see it released. If it takes me 15 – 20 years to do this, as it did for Louis C.K. and his first film, then that’s fine with me. But it will come out.
What is a typical writing day for Andrew Barker the Author?
When I’m writing, I try and write in the morning for a few hours. Then I’ll have lunch and maybe watch a half-hour comedy show. They’re my escape from whatever story I’m working on. They allow my brain to cool off. I can watch anything from old episodes of The Young Ones to Big Bang Theory to Black Books, then I might write again in the afternoon. Mornings tend to be my main writing time, however. I write at a snail’s pace but just keep chipping away at it.
Are you a plotter or a pantser (how does your story start, then evolve?)
I don’t really plot anything out unless it’s a screenplay. I tend to think about an idea for a long, long time. It is just mulled over it in my mind while I make notes, but it can take a while before I’m actually ready to sit down and write. I turned The Electric over in my mind for a couple of years before I sat down to write, and even when I did, I wrote 26,000 words in the wrong direction and had to start all over again. But that said, with The Electric, I didn’t plot it out. I had my set up and just let my characters guide me. I believe this is the best way to work. At least, it seems to be for me.
When did you realise that you wanted to be an author?
Me and a friend of mine attempted to write a novel together when we were 16. We never finished it, but I think even before that I wanted to write, but I didn’t feel I had the ability. I had quite a poor education, and reading and writing didn’t come easy to me at 16. I pretty much learned how to write after I left school by simply reading a lot. And by writing, of course. I wrote a lot of rubbish throughout my 20’s and into my early 30’s. I don’t think I wrote anything I was truly happy with until I was about 32 or 33 and I didn’t know anything before then.
What main writing lesson would you highlight to your younger self if you could go back in time?
I just wish I had gotten a proper education and perhaps gone to University to study English. But then, I’m happy now how things turned out. I write by instinct, pretty much. I don’t know if what I’m doing is correct in terms of form and structure, but if it feels right to me, then I’m happy. I’ve never really learned to do anything properly. I taught myself to play the guitar. My dad plays, and he taught me the basic chords, but after that, I just found the stuff that worked for me. I still don’t even know the names of most of the cords I play, and I’ve been playing for twenty years. I’ve just never been interested. I made a feature film and could never be bothered to learn how to work the camera properly.
Still, if I could go back and tell my younger self something about writing, it would be to be true to myself, to try and not write like such and such a writer, but to write with my own voice. For The Electric, that voice turned out to be the way my friends and I used to speak to one another when we were kids. It felt real to me. It was a truth I’d never written before. I say truthful because it was entirely me.
What marketing tool works best for you?
I don’t know. I’m still figuring all this out. Marketing is an eternal mystery to me.
What is Mr Barker currently working on, and when will we see it?
I’m actually about to start writing a Christmas ghost story – even though it’s spring – which will be my first commissioned work for a publisher. It’ll be a short story and will appear in an anthology of such stories, which will come out in time for the festivities. I’ve also just finished writing a screenplay with filmmaker David Bryant – a real 1970’s Exorcist/Omen style horror. As for the next novel, I’m going to start writing that in the summer. I’ve been playing around with four or five ideas for the past year or more, and I think I now know which one I’m going for, although it could change yet. When will that be finished… who knows?
Do you believe that authors should stick to one genre or art form?
Not at all. I wish authors were seen more like filmmakers. Kubrick made war films, sci-fi, dystopia, period drama… horror. Spielberg’s the same. Can an author not play in such a vast sandpit? Some do. I admire authors like Michael Chabon and Paul Auster, who often play with genre and subvert it. Stephen King goes far, far beyond his supposed trappings as just a ‘horror novelist’ – he’s written in every kind of genre there is, pretty much. Obviously, I have a great interest in film, have made one, and would like to make more one day. It’s all storytelling. Some ideas I have I know are novels, and some are perhaps films.
There’s a rumour that music plays an important part in your life.
I couldn’t exist without music. I was in bands when I was younger and even got signed to release a single once. We were a pretty big deal in my hometown for about five minutes. It all imploded, though. Shame we had some good tunes. My singer, Chris Topliss, was a very good songwriter. Still is, I’m sure. Anyway, I still play the guitar, but I’m more of a bedroom player now, and nowhere near as competent as I once was. However, last year I actually wrote and recorded a few songs with a mate of mine, Rhys Morris. I went to school with Rhys, and we were in bands together back then, and we also made the music for my film together. These were the first songs I’d written for about a decade though. I might throw them out on the internet one of these days.
Your top 5 artists or bands
They change all the time, depending on my mood, but the ones I always come back to are – in no particular order –
Neil Young, Bob Dylan, Pink Floyd, Radiohead, R.E.M.
White boy rock! I was born out of time. I often feel nostalgic for times and places I didn’t even live in, and music can take me there. But then, so can writing.
Thank you, Andrew
Stay informed by checking out his regular blog: Andrew Barker’s blog
That’s all folks. A big thanks to Andrew for agreeing to be interviewed. We look forward to many more great works off the Barker laptop.
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