Welcome to Rita’s Bower where readers gather to visit with our favorite or soon-to-be favorite authors while sipping delicious drinks and savoring decadent treats. Serve yourself a plate, settle back in a comfortable chair, prop up your feet, and welcome our guest author, Ian Barker.
Ian is the author of One Hot Summer, a humorous coming-of-age retrospective released in December, 2012 by Rebel ePublishers. Ian, it’s not often that we have a male author from Britain visit us.
Nice to be here, it’s not often you get to relax in a bower in the depths of a British winter!
Especially in the north of England. Hope you enjoy your visit. Tell us about yourself and your writing career.
I’ve always enjoyed writing but for a long time after leaving school it was just a hobby – poems in Christmas and birthday cards for friends and colleagues, the odd comedy sketch submitted to radio shows – whilst I worked in IT. Then about 12 years ago I had an epiphany and realised that writing about computers was easier and less stressful than fixing them. Since then I’ve edited computer magazines and contributed to various technical magazines and websites whilst writing fiction on the side.
One Hot Summer is a humorous, yet poignant, coming-of-age story with strong romantic elements told by an adult returning home for his father’s funeral. Without giving away too much, please share with our guests a bit of your story.
The main action is set in 1976 which was one of the hottest British summers on record. The story follows John Burton on a journey to maturity by way of love, sex, music, cars, and death. To quote the book’s log line, “All it takes for a boy to learn of the pleasures and pains of adult life is One Hot Summer.”
John certainly learned a lot that summer. Readers will find themselves laughing and shaking their heads at some of his antics. What inspired you to write One Hot Summer?
I think most of us would secretly love to be 17 again, it’s a stage in life that shapes many of our attitudes and memories for later life so this was an opportunity to relive that in words. I also wanted to write a book set in the 1970s, not from any desire to jump on the current nostalgia boom but because in many ways it was a much simpler and more innocent time – no internet, no mobile phones, only three TV channels – and despite the problems of the era we seemed to be a much happier society.
Most of us will never experience the trials and tribulations of coming of age as a 17-year-old young man. One Hot Summer offers some interesting insights into the mind of an adolescent boy. In your experience, is John a typical adolescent boy?
I hope so. Obviously when you’re writing something like this you draw heavily on personal experience so it’s a bit scary when you give it to someone else to read for the first time. But it seems to have struck a chord with readers of both sexes, so I think I’ve got the character of John about right.
Not having brothers, it was an eye-opener for me. I must ask, though. How much of One Hot Summer is autobiographical?
The plot and the characters are fictional. But to the extent that I was a teenager at the time the story takes place, then it’s very much based on personal memories. Some of the incidents in the book (no I’m not telling you which ones!) do have their roots in real events. It’s also set in the area where I grew up. The names of streets, pubs and so on have been changed but anyone who knows that part of north east England will have no problems identifying the location.
I can imagine all your old neighbors reading One Hot Summer trying to identify names and places. I, however, was fascinated by your “cartoon devil” who sat on young John’s shoulder. It added so much to the story.
Do you remember the Disney movie Pinocchio where Jiminy Cricket is appointed to act as Pinocchio’s conscience? That was the inspiration but in this case the cartoon devil provides John with a sort of “negative conscience,” he pops up at awkward moments to urge inappropriate behaviour or remind John how useless he’s being. He’s a good way of exploring adolescent inner conflict in a humorous way. He was also enormous fun to write because he’s allowed to voice what the “real” character can’t.
You’ve also published Fallen Star. How is it related to One Hot Summer?
Although Fallen Star was my first published novel, I actually wrote One Hot Summer first. It sat in the bottom drawer for a long time until, based on the experience of getting Fallen Star published, I dusted it off and revised it.
There is one character, Graham, who appears in both books. I’d intended that he would just have a cameo role in Fallen Star – in the way that Nick Hornby gives walk-on parts to characters from High Fidelity in his later novels – but when I came to write it he wouldn’t leave it at that and ended up being a key character in both books.
Graham was the town’s rebel. I’ve just started reading his story in Fallen Star. You’ve crafted some great characters in your current books. What are your writing plans for the future?
I’m currently working on a sequel to Fallen Star which picks up the main characters some four years further on. I’m notoriously slow when it comes to writing fiction, though, so don’t expect it to appear in the near future!
Where can we find out more about you and your writing?
Facebook | Twitter
Thank you, Ian, for visiting.
Thanks for having me. Back to the reality of a cold, damp winter. I hope to be back when the next book comes out.
Drop by again any time. The door to Rita’s Bower is always open to authors and readers who appreciate happily-ever-afters.
Happy reading, dear readers, until our next visit,