1. “Ian.” That name’s so, well, English.
My parents chose it because it’s hard to shorten into a nickname. Actually it’s not really English at all, it’s Scottish for John. Depending on how the independence vote goes I may have to give it back.
2. Tell us about your non-fiction writing.
I spent a long time working in IT and writing in my spare time. I then discovered that I could write about computers and people would pay me for it! Shame it took me almost 20 years to work that one out but it led me into writing for, and eventually editing, a computer magazine. Since then I’ve written several ebooks on technology subjects and contribute to a number of techie websites.
3. Now, and you knew this was coming, tell us about your fiction.
I started by writing short comedy sketches for radio shows. Over time, that grew into short stories – honed through writing sites like the old Redrum Tavern and later Backspace – and eventually to a novel. A much rejected novel I should add, which eventually got put in the bottom drawer whilst I wrote another, better, one.
That second novel, Fallen Star, a look at the price of fame and the shallowness of celebrity culture, also got quite a lot of rejections but was eventually accepted by Rebel ePublishers and published in 2010.
I then reworked my bottom drawer novel which became One Hot Summer, a coming of age story set in the 1970s, published in 2012, also by Rebel. So my first novel is actually my second and my second is my first. In order to avoid causing some sort of rift in the fabric of time, my third novel will actually be my third!
4. What’s it like dealing with cheeky American readers, who think you sprinkle an unnecessary “u” or two in your wourds?
Frankly, it’s our language and it’s not my fault if Americans can’t use it correctly. I contribute to a US website quite a bit so often my spell check is set to US English but that doesn’t make it right. On a serious note, the Internet has made us a much more global society and I think that people are less inclined to notice the differences in words like colour/color, etc. than they might once have been. There are definitely two “i’s” in aluminium, though!
5. Describe your writing process.
Erratic. When you spend your working day writing non-fiction it’s quite hard to motivate yourself to do fiction in your spare time; the stuff that pays the bills always takes priority. As a result my fiction writing tends to be somewhat episodic. I break a lot of the “rules,” like write every day and don’t revise until you’ve finished. I just write when I can and revise as I go along.
I tend to write the ending of a book quite early in the process then fill in the middle bit. If I haven’t got an ending by the time I’m about 10,000 words in then I can be pretty sure the idea isn’t going to work.
All of the above means I’m not a fast writer when it comes to fiction; it takes me around two or three years to produce a novel.
6. What is your sanity check when writing? In other words, what kind of gatekeeper do you use before you think something is publishable/readable?
I seldom show firsts drafts to anyone and I’m a big fan of reading aloud to ensure that the text flows properly and that dialogue sounds natural. Through participation in online communities like Backspace (second mention I know but I’m not on commission, honest!) I’ve been fortunate enough to become friends with some very talented writers who are willing to read and critique material.
This was particularly useful on Fallen Star where one of the POV characters is female. Having beta readers of the opposite sex helped make sure I was in touch with my feminine side, and she came across as believable.
7. Will the United States and England go to war again?
Over spelling maybe? I doubt it, but if you are planning to declare war perhaps you could wait until after you’ve delivered our F-35s? Thanks.
8. You have a title with a small press. What do you think of this route to publication (and, yes, this is an obviously leading question)?
For the benefit of readers who hadn’t already noticed, we do share the same publisher. As I said above, I’d had a lot of rejections elsewhere so I seized on the first publisher to show interest like a drowning man clutching at a lifebelt. It’s nice to know that someone else shares your faith in your work.
The production process with Rebel has been excellent. The editing, cover design, and book production is, in my view, second to none. I’d say that, with both novels, the editing process has made them better than they were originally. There is perhaps a lack of clout when it comes to promotion, but to be fair I know some authors with big publishers who don’t get much of that either.
9. What, exactly, are mashers?
They’re the implements you use for making mashed potatoes. Or am I missing something here?
10. What projects are you working on, and when can we expect to see them?
I’m writing a sequel to Fallen Star which picks up the main characters a few years on from where that book ends. I’m hoping to complete the first draft this year (see above about slow process) so it may emerge blinking into the light some time around 2015.
Ian’s website is here: http://www.iandavidbarker.co.uk/
Follow him on Twitter: @IanDBarker
And the mystery of mashers continues.