I met Barbara A. Barnett at TNEO, a graduate-level workshop for Odyssey alumni. In addition to being made of awesome, she is a member of SFWA, an organization for professional SF/F writers. Her stories have appeared in pro magazine Daily Science Fiction, as well as Fantasy Magazine and many others. Find out more here.
Now, without further ado… take it away, Barbara!
1) Tell me a little bit about yourself. Where are you from? Where did you go to school?
I’m from southern New Jersey, though I escaped temporarily to earn my bachelor’s degree in English and music (vocal performance) from the University of Maryland. I’ve spent most of my non-writing professional life working for performing arts organizations, from cataloging for a music library to grant writing and database management for opera and theater companies. I’m currently working toward a master’s degree in library and information science at Rutgers University and interning in the orchestra library at the Philadelphia Orchestra.
2) Your stories seem to vary a great deal, from literary fantasy to epic fantasy and beyond. Do you prefer a certain style/genre?
I just love a good story, regardless of style or genre, which is probably why I’m all over the place as a writer. That, and variety keeps me challenged,
which in turn hopefully keeps me growing as a writer. I’d hate to get complacent.
3) Tell me a little bit about the characters and worlds you’ve created. Which story/book was the most fun to write? Which story/book was the most difficult?
Only a little bit? After so many stories, that’s tough. I’ve written about ancient Roman actors, an opera-singing pseudo-zombie, steampunk lemurs, a fortune-telling bunny, fairy-slaying leprechauns, a matchmaking monkey, and the ghost of Edgar Allan Poe–just to name a few. There’s fun to be had with every story, but probably the most fun I’ve had recently was a fantasy story I finished last month called “Memories of Mirrored Worlds.” It was the first time in a while where I didn’t have to worry about deadlines or word limits and could just play. As for the most difficult story, there’s a lot of competition for that distinction. I remember hitting a point during the first draft of “Mortis Persona” (Fantasy Magazine, November 2010) that I just could not push past. After much pounding of my head against hard objects, I went back to the beginning and started revising to see if I could figure out where I had gone off the tracks. Thankfully, that worked and I was able to move on.
4) What draws you to speculative fiction? Do you write in any other genres?
I write the occasional quirky mainstream piece, but my brain usually insists on throwing something fantastical into the mix. What I love about speculative fiction is that by telling a story against a fantastical or science fictional backdrop, you have the potential to give people a fresh, less mundane light in which to view aspects of their everyday world. You can offer a perspective that, while not possible in the real world, still manages to illuminate it.
5) What do you find most challenging about writing?
All the self-doubt that comes with it. Those moments of staring at a jumble of words while thinking, “I don’t know how to write no one will want to read this oh my god why do I suck so much?”
6) What do you enjoy the most about writing?
One of the best things about being a kid was that I got to spend an inordinate amount of time making up stories. And now? I’m essentially doing the same thing, only with a lot more thought and effort and a few less Star Wars figures. It’s awesome.
7) Do you enjoy writing short stories or novels more? Which form do you think you are the most successful at?
Since I’m still working on my first novel, I can say with certainty that I am far more successful with short stories. I enjoy writing them both, though I must confess that there’s a more immediate sense of gratification with short stories since they don’t take so darn long to write. But I’m also (hopefully) improving with every story I write, and I think that feeds into what I’m able to bring to my novel, even though a novel is a far different beast in many respects.
8) What do you like to read?
It would probably be easier to tell you what I don’t like to read. As I mentioned earlier, I just love a good story. Speculative fiction makes up the majority of what I read, but even within that category, the stuff I enjoy covers a pretty broad range. I’ve also been reading a lot more non-fiction than I used to.
9) Your professional sales are as numerous as the stars. Any new stories on the horizon?
Dude, I’ve got nothing on the stars. There are a lot of writers out there who are far more successful than me. As for what’s new on the horizon, I have a short story forthcoming in Penumbra’s Edgar Allan Poe issue in October. Several other short stories are making the slush pile rounds, and I always have something new in the works. There are all these ideas jumping around in my brain going, “Me! Me! Write me next!”