1. How do you dream up your characters and situations?
It’s a good question. Often it’s inspired by something I see or read, frequently a character I identified with *especially* if the character didn’t get the treatment I wanted. Characters that touch me, I study them, immerse myself in them and think about them and pick them apart so I know what I loved about them (and what I didn’t) and what aspects of them I would like to duplicate. What usually happens is I think about the aspects of the character that intrigued me, and who I’d pair him or her with, and how I’d showcase the aspects that I liked best. I have a complex personality and I often find different aspects of my own personality responding to these characters so I’ll often take those aspects and take them to a limit.
The weird thing, of course, is I do almost none of this consciously. I’ll know I like something, but my backbrain will take it and chew it and then, deliver the idea to me already built. Same with the actual writing. My backbrain writes the story and, when it’s ready, I put it down. From a conscious brain standpoint, I’m totally seat of the pants. My subconscious, however, appears to have a method.
2. What are your quirks, so readers can understand you as a writer more than your advertising spiel.
Not sure if you’re talking to me as a Stephanie Barr person: juggling rocket science for my day job, my two autistic kids that live at home (single mom), as well as the eight cats who are constantly trying to get in the way of my two computers and trying to kill me on the stairs. However, that’s pretty dull.
As a writer, I can write non-fiction on command. I have literally over a thousand blog posts on my three blogs, and technical papers and many posts talking about my children (that I’ve been encouraged to make into a book). It takes next to nothing to get me started.
With fiction, I have to have something ready. Now, the good news is my subconscious is pretty damn effective. I was in a couple of timed contests and I wasn’t sure how I’d do working with prompts, but I found it really wasn’t an issue. I love a challenge. But the novels and the stories that have depth and power, I can’t push those.
That advice you hear all the time: “Write every day” – that’s not me. If I write before I’m ready, it truly is garbage, unsalvageable and useless. Worse, my subconscious takes it as an insult (my backbrain is a total diva) and will often punish me by not writing for weeks. That’s the down side of my writing.
BUT, when I’ve got a story ready (or I’m inspired), if I get woken up at 3 am to write (and, yes, that happens), it will flow out of me almost as fast as I can type it. My conscious brain might struggle for the right word, or tweak some dialog, change the pacing or order of the items, but it comes out in near final form. It happens with a story (usually, one or two days). If it’s a novel, I might write 2-3K words a day on days where I’m working and 10-12K in a weekend if I’m in the zone. Four of my five novels had drafts written inside of two months.
I don’t do the rewrite-rewrite-polish thing either. Nothing wrong with that method, but it’s not what I do. I write it. Look at it the next day or two for sanity. Have a friend I trust read it. That’s likely all I’ll do for stories. For novels, I’ll set it aside for a month or so, then pick it up and see if I still like it. Have someone beta read it, looking for stuff that I glossed over (my most common mistake) and words I totally skipped over. But, yeah, I rarely have to do more than polish. And, when I DO rewrite (like when I made Saving Tessa a SF), it rarely takes me more than a few days. So, that’s the plus side of how my writing style.
3. How do you develop your characters?
This plays in with my answer to one. Once I have a character I want to use (or have figured out the aspects of other characters to go with my inspired character, I usually know everything I need to know about them (even if I don’t realize it consciously). And then it’s all about showing them off, letting them prove themselves, how they address their own shortcomings and flaws to grow, to learn, to become even more, to learn their limitations or leave self-imposed limitations behind.
Flaws are essential in a character. They have to grow. They have to have limitations and I encourage teamwork. I don’t have a lot of lone-wolf characters (even if that’s how they start out). Characters are the key. I set up a premise, I throw them into it, and then I mostly take notes at what they want to do. But I’ve always got back stories and histories that are part of their makeup.
For me, stories are all about people. I love people. Now, I won’t lie, I love smart people and you’ll find my characters not only are described as smart but are expected to live up to that in their actions. I like to outsmart, not outbrawn, my bad guys. And I LOVE interactions between people, showcasing them, having people goad each other into reaching their potentials. Making them see things from different perspectives (and, by extension) letting the reader do so.
4. What are you reading now?
I’m following a few dozen manga. I’m reading a book by a friend of mine (Rena’s Silver Lining by Sandy Knauer Morgen) and the Saga of Menyoral by M.A. Ray)
5. Why do you write and what drives you?
Once I have characters that compel me and a situation and I’m ready to write, I can’t not write. I find it eats up every free moment, urging me to find time to write it on the computer. I love to tell stories. I love to learn more about my own characters, listen to the tease each other, grow, play, find themselves.
6. Who inspires you?
I don’t know that I’m inspired by any particular person. I’ve always been pretty self-driven; however, I find myself far more encouraged and propelled when I have people around me who like what I write and who are clearly happy to be exposed to it. I love sharing my creations with people who can appreciate them. In that category, I have several dear friends and even my second ex-husband who are total fanboys and –girls. I love writing something I know they’ll get a kick out of.
My kids often inspire me. They’re always challenging my idea of how people should reaction.
7. What inspires you?
Different perspectives, ones I didn’t have before. I love seeing something, hearing something, talking with someone that forces me to see something in a way I never thought of before, a revelation. I love those. When a scenario immediately starts playing in my head, I know I’m on to something and it can come from a stray comment or a single act I saw in a movie or book where they did something different than I would have. Sometimes, my children inspire me
8. Is there a single thread/ idea/ belief which appears everything you write?
You’ll find a lot of feminism in my books. Not feminism as it’s often portrayed, but women as equals to men in worlds where they aren’t treated as so or in worlds where they are (both can show new perspectives). I am very much unwilling to feed into rape culture so rapists are never protagonists and don’t fare well in my books. Ever.
There’s also a very common theme in that I think who people are is much more important than what. I go into the differences between what people think one very strong character is and what they really are. How important it is to judge each person as an individual rather than a member of some particular group.
Also, there are cat in every novel, often in pivotal roles. Because, cats. And dragons. Even in the science fiction (though once it was limited to a tattoo).
9. What book/ story/ movie do you wish you’d written?
I don’t think I’ve ever coveted anyone else’s work. I can love it, enjoy it, be inspired by it, but I never wanted it for myself. I always want to do something different even if it was great as it was.
10. How often do you think of an idea, but see it’s been done? What do you do?
I don’t think I’ve ever seen an idea I had done the way I was going to do it. If I did, I guess I’d either let it go (I’m not short of ideas) or do something different. Not saying other people aren’t doing a lot of ideas in the same general tenor as what I’m doing, but I just don’t see them doing the same thing. Of course, I’ve been out of the loop a bit. Maybe it will come up.
Rockets and Dragons (writing) [http://stephanie-barr.blogspot.com/]
Rocket Scientist (non-writing) [http://rockets-r-us.blogspot.com/]
The Unlikely Otaku (manga/anime obsession) [http://askthers.blogspot.com/]
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Dragon Faerie Creative Enterprises [https://www.facebook.com/stephanieebarr/]
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