Interview With Sarah Barnard

Sarah was born in March 1969 in Dunfermline, Scotland, but didn’t live there long.She currently lives in Chesterfield, a lovely market town in the UK.

She’s a Pisces according to one zodiac and a rooster by another. Make of that what you will.

Mother to 2 children and running her own business from home, Ethics Trading, as well as writing means Sarah is always busy. But in what spare time she has she keeps chickens and grows some of the family’s fruit and veg.

Sarah began writing properly after a dare was issued by a good friend in November 2005. But she’s been making stories since teenage years, just never got round to finishing anything or writing most of them down

She is a publisher and author of several books, including the Portal Series, available in paperback and Kindle Edition.

1)  Are you a pantser or a plotter?

Mostly a pantser, with a sprinkle of plotting and frequent racing around manic research as I go along. I don’t like to over plot or I find it constrains the flow of what I’m working on. Or, it has done for the Portal series. The series I’m working on now seems to need a bit more plotting and research before I really get into it. I’m open to trying new ways of approaching my writing and if more plotting is needed then that’s the way I’ll go.

I feel it’s important to remember that there’s no “right” way to write, there’s no wrong way. There’s only the way that works for you, for the book you’re working on and that may vary from one piece to the next for the same writer. We all grow, evolve and change and if we embrace that then we are open to new ways, new ideas and that is what keeps our writing alive.

2)  What is NaNoWriMo? Will you be participating this year?

NaNoWriMo is the National Novel Writing Month and it takes place every year during November. Tens of thousands of people all over the world take part and it’s purely a challenge to write 50,000 words in 30 days. It’s what started my writing journey properly and it was the birthplace of my first published novel.

I certainly plan to participate this year.

The website is here: http://www.nanowrimo.org

3)  How many years have you done NaNoWriMo? What happened to the books you wrote each time?

I took part in NaNoWriMo for the first time in 2005 and have done every year since. So, this year will be the seventh year running.

        What happened to the books?

2005 – The Portal Between – edited, polished and finally published in Oct 2008.

2006 – Sam’s Story – Filed in a dark and dusty corner, but not forgotten. This was the year I tried planning in detail and I found it easier to hit the word count targets by just padding the frame I already had in place. But the end result felt stilted, constrained and I’ve not yet managed to get it into a state where I’m happy to release it and I’m not sure I ever will.

2007 – A Sci fi foray with a working title of “The Unsecluded Matriarch” Again consigned to the depths of a dusty corner of my hard drive and all but forgotten. It had some promise but went off track. At some point I may dig this one out and work on it.

2008 – The Psychic Sheep – Oh I had fun with this one. It started as a brainstorming session where my writing buddy and I fell about laughing at the idea of sheep who watched you secretly, at the notion of having to ask a sheep if you could use its fleece for anything, at the idea of a society where the sheep were in charge. But when I finished it, I hated it. So this one has little chance of being published.

2009 – The Map and The Stone – Since 2005 my kids have begged to read my books and I told them no. In my head it was “Hell, NO!” but they heard, “No, they’re grown up books.” but still they begged, “Just read us a little bit?” and then the questions would start. Who’s Lily? Why did that happen? And so on. So, in 2009 I deliberately set out to write something that my children could cope with. The Map and The Stone is the result, in print within a year of typing the first words on the page, and now I’m being badgered for a sequel.

2010 – Sage – Another foray into Sci Fi, but with an eco twist and the start of something that could blossom into another series. I’m still working on this and debating how and when to release some Sage stories on Kindle.

4)  When you decided to publish your stories, did you consider traditional vs. self-publishing?

No.

I finished The Portal Between and started sending it out to traditional publishers, totally unaware that self publishing was even within my grasp and before ereaders were popular. I sent it out and I collected rejections, hoping that someone, somewhere would take a chance on me and my book. It came very close a couple of times but didn’t happen for one reason or another.

I only really considered self publishing as an option when I stumbled across an article about it in a newspaper. That was when I put the first books into print. Then came Kindle, and Smashwords and the genius of ereaders and ereader apps. I’m not sure I’d jump at a traditional publishing deal now, unless it was very special.

5)  What was your path to publication?

Complicated, with many turns and dead ends. More like a maze really. But now I’ve reached the heart of the labyrinth I can confront the goblin king, or grab the Triwizard cup and face Lord Voldemort…..

The path to publication is changing all the time, it’s a journey with no end where you learn more and more as you go along.

6)  Besides your own books, what else have you published?

I own a small press partner publisher business. It’s a bit of a mouthful, but it boils down to me using the knowledge I’ve gained on my own publication journey to help other authors find those first choices and see themselves in print.

As part of that I’ve published 2 other writers. Morgan Gallagher who writes horror – I love her non-sparkly vampires. Vamps are meant to be scary. Kristina Jackson, who writes gentler, feel good stories. Then I have Isobel Herring coming to work with me soon. (Are you reading this Isobel? Get on with your edits!)

But my main publishing focus is on my own work and with my collaborative charity project. Ah, nicely leads to the next question….

7)  Tell me about the With Love Project.

In March 2011 there were a bunch of writers hanging out on facebook, chatting and laughing, when someone posted a link to events unfolding in Japan. A huge earthquake had hit and we watched in horror as images of total devastation flooded our screens. One of us had relatives in Japan and was afraid for them, another had a writing friend there. It touched us on so many different levels.

Then one of us said, “I want to do something. But I have kids, a job, I can’t just get on a plane and go and help, and I wouldn’t know what to do when I got there.” It was a tiny plea, an urge to reach out. But we were all in the same position. Someone suggested offering proceeds from their book to the Red Cross and we started thinking. Someone said, “What about New Zealand?” They’d had a large and destructive quake too. What about the Haiti quake?

Through those early ramblings we pulled together a book of random short stories which we released as an ebook to try to raise some money to help people in those, and other, disaster areas.

As an ongoing project I work with a writing and publishing partner in Illinois, Catrina Taylor of The Writing Network, and we plan to produce an anthology a few times a year as our own work allows. All will be constructed of donated work and all will be sold to raise funds for Medecins Sans Frontieres. I’ll expand on them, and why we chose them, in the next bit.

The With Love Project, as it’s become known, has a dual purpose. Firstly we aim to showcase new, emerging and independent talent both in the stories we include and in any artwork we use. Secondly we aim to raise money for Medecins Sans Frontieres. So far we have 2 anthologies published, one due at the end of October, and another planned for the New Year, January 2012.

If anyone would like to find out how to get involved then please check the Ethics Trading website for details. (http://ethicstrading.com)

8)  Medicins sans Frontieres, also known as Doctors Without Borders, is a widely recognized charitable organization. How does the With Love Project benefit them?

All net profits from every single sale of a With Love Project anthology is donated to MSF as soon as we receive the money from that sale. Every single penny. The last donation we sent was the equivalent of 140 malaria treatments. Thinking about the cash in those terms really helps put it into perspective. Another donation was the equivalent of 80 tests for tuberculosis. It all makes such a real difference.

We chose MSF on the basis that this was going to be an ongoing project and we wanted to help in a global way, not just for a single event. We chose them because they “are committed to providing medical aid where it is most needed, regardless of race, religion, politics or gender and also to raising awareness of the plight of the people we help.” (from their website: http://www.msf.org.uk/)

9)  In both writing and publishing, what other professionals do you work with?

I work with a variety of professionals at various stages of any project but I try to find independent businesses where possible. I’d rather support small business and entrepreneurs instead of feeding larger corporations. Local or eco friendly is even better. How we choose to do business, and with whom, can make a huge difference.

10)  Were any changes suggested to you that you were reluctant to make?

No. Any time I ask for feedback on any aspect of my work I am open to all suggestions. I do reserve the right to not implement any feedback I receive but I don’t think I’ve exercised that right yet. Not beyond the odd rephrasing here and there – and that’s more to do with character voice than anything major.

11)  How did you create your covers?

It was a different process for each book. The authors I work with make their own arrangements. The With Love Project covers are each donated and designed by the artist, with the exception of the new book, “After Dark” where the artist donated an image and I set it into the cover.

For my own work, each cover was slightly different in the process used. The Portal Between cover was created by a photographic designer in return for a credit for his portfolio. The Portal Sundered cover I made myself from a photograph I took while on holiday. The Map and The Stone cover was created by an artist who I know through facebook, but I pulled the elements together to form the final cover. Child of the Portal was an image I fell in love with when I saw it on facebook and the artist was happy for me to use it as part of the cover.

12)  What methods of promotion have you found work best?

All the ones someone else does. That’s not just laziness, it’s that when I try to sell my own books I’m not very good at it and I feel like a dodgy person lurking in the shadows, hat pulled low over my eyes, hissing as you pass….. “Pssst, wanna buy a book?” But if someone else likes my books and tells people about them, it carries so much more weight. The best publicity and promotion is from people other than the author, at this level anyway.

13)  What social media do you use? Do you combine your personal and professional or keep them separate?

I use facebook, twitter and google + mainly, but I have accounts at other places too – I just don’t use them as much. I try to maintain a blend of public personal and professional, but I keep the very personal offline. No-one wants to be bombarded by the daily blah.

14)  What is your favorite electronic or digital writing tool?

My PC. I type faster than I write. I sometimes type faster than I think. My desktop is my favourite, purely because of keyboard and screen sizes, and the angle  have it all set up. Second favourite now is my netbook, perfect for taking away from home. My kids play rugby and I end up hanging around so the netbook goes too and I sit and write by the side of the pitch, often sitting in the car to get out of the rain.

15)  What is your favorite non-electronic writing tool?

Oh, you really can’t beat a good quality fountain pen with good quality black ink. I have a parker vector that writes beautifully, smooth and just sheer joy to use. With that you need a good notebook with properly sealed paper so the ink lays on the surface and doesn’t do that nasty spidery thing.

16)  What is the most persistent distraction from writing?

My garden. No, my kids. No, the housework. Maybe facebook….. Oooh…. shiny…. Real life?

17)  What is your ideal writing environment? Have you ever been able to create it?

That varies from day to day, and from project to project. As long as I have my desk, a comfy chair and I’m warm enough then I’m ok. Oh, and snacks, plenty of hot tea and snacks – the variety of which will also vary according to the day, time of year, mood I’m in etc.

18)  Many writers go through a stage when they hate what they’re writing. Do you ever feel this way? How do you get through it?

I’m sure everyone feels that way at times. If I start to hate a piece of work then I stop working on it. Hate is so very strong as a feeling, it’s very different from feeling that writing part of something is hard work, or upsetting, or disturbing. All of those I can just work through and then it’s ok again.

19)  When the day comes that you are on stage, accepting some prestigious award, who are you most likely to forget to thank?

Forget to thank? I’ll probably freeze up and forget how to speak, or breathe, or be back stage having a panic attack while the entire room is waiting for me. But the award would be nice.

20)  Who shot first, Han or Greedo?

More to the point, which version works better in terms of the story and which serves the character development most dramatically? If Han shoots first it shows his almost bad guy status at the start of the films. He’s a gambler, he owes a significant amount of money, he’s not a good guy, he just happens to have the best ship for the job, he’s available and at the right price. He’s really not much better than the other reprobates in the Cantina. When he shoots first it illustrates the level his character begins from, and then his growth to Honoured Rebel Alliance Hero is a real life changing story.

When Greedo shoots first Han is just defending himself and could be said to have an underlying code of honour which diminishes his growth through the films, it lessens him as a character.

The Shortlink for this post is http://wp.me/p1qnT4-qZ

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About AmyBeth Inverness

A writer by birth, a redhead by choice.
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