Good afternoon Mr. Barret, my name is Lori (Lototy at CTR), and I am excited to feature you today for our Coffee Time readers. It is always a pleasure to get to know a little of the person behind the words we all enjoy, and I am thrilled when we can get an inside look at our favorite authors. Thank you for joining us!
Thank you for inviting me here to talk about Dead Or A Lie, and please call me Jason. Mr. Barret is way to formal for me. Everytime I hear it I look around to see if my dad is in the room!
We can start with the when, where, and why that makes you who you are. I love the fact that you are from the Adirondacks (seriously, I could probably ask you a million questions about that alone)! What a beautiful area to live in, and to visit, as a matter of fact I was just there over Labor Day. Do you believe that where you live is a huge inspiration for your writing, and why do you feel this way?
I’ve thought about writing a vampire novel set in the Adirondacks but haven’t gotten very far with the project. Every year they have a book signing in Old Forge, New York and some of my friends have gone to it but most of the readers are looking for authentic Adirondack history or lore. I’ve been invited this year and may go because it is my favorite place to be, actually my adopted hometown on MySpace. My wife and I love to kayak the backwoods ponds and streams and also some portions of the Moose River where we see and she photographs flora and fauna too beautiful to describe with the written word. The peacefulness we experience paddling along quietly without motorized disturbances is truly a gift.
As I have read you have an extensive background in science and biology. I cannot imagine writing research papers is as exciting as writing fiction, but what about you?
Writing research papers is where I first got the nerve to put words to paper and let someone else read them. The PhD I was working with at the time was a great help and didn’t mind “critiquing” my work. Our first title was a real grabber, The Toxic Effects of Copper Sulfate; or how about this one, Chlorination of Bluegreen Algae and Trihalomethane Production. Writing the research papers gave me the confidence I needed to move on to fiction.
Have you always known you wanted to be a fiction writer, and what prompted this drive?
Yes and No. I’ve always had stories in my head and had a few early attempts but never really figured I’d ever make it to this point. I’ve had a lot of help and support along the way from my wife, family and my wonderful critique partners Alee Drake, “Thistle Dew” and Jenna Grey. My first completed work was a train wreck but they helped me believe I was an author. The book never got published but it is still on my ‘to do” list. Maybe someday.
It looks as though you have an amazing support system, with your wife, daughters, and grandchildren. Do you find that a good portion of your characters and their personalities come from family and friends?
I model the response of my characters from how I would expect my friends or family to react in the particular scene I am writing but that doesn’t apply to everything! When I went to my wife’s book club meeting where they read “Dead Or A Lie” they, of course, asked Janice about the love scene. She had no comment and neither did I. Some things are left better unsaid. My daughters told me they read it but admitted that part was a difficult read for them. “Daddy didn’t write that!”
What do you find is the toughest aspect of writing fiction? Is it the emotion and personality of your characters, or the sequencing and detailing of the storyline?
The emotion is difficult in the sense that when I write the emotional parts they have to make me feel the emotion I am trying to express. The happy parts are fun and when I find myself smiling as I’m writing I feel it is coming out right, but on the other hand I know the sad scene is working when I feel it. That is not so much fun but its rewarding knowing I may have made it real for the readers. Sometimes I think of sad or happy experiences in my personal life to put myself in that mood. I like creating the world the characters will live in and making the bridge from their real world to their paranormal world make sense.
When writing, do you sequester yourself in an office or some other place of solitude, or do work better with someone to bounce ideas off of and brainstorm with?
I love brainstorming with Alee and Jenna when plotting a book. We know each other so well it isn’t difficult to tell each other that a scene isn’t working without worrying about hurting someone’s feelings and that freedom allows us too really to think outside the normal world without fear of sounding stupid. Actually in one such session Alee discovered the name of my book, Dead Or A Lie, from a passage in a scene I was reading. As far as writing, I need to be in a quiet place without any disturbances. Luckily, I now work as a construction inspector for an engineering firm and have the winter months off. I finished the prequel to Dead Or a Lie this past winter and hope to have a release date soon.
In your novel Dead or a Lie, your characters Lee and Luke are battling against time and vicious vampires to find a “cure” for vampirism. The idea of a Sacrosanct is a unique and interesting twist. What prompted you to use this concept, and how involved was it to make the idea come to life?
That’s a good question. My wife often asks me what’s going on upstairs and in reference to things other than just writing and sometimes the connection from the real world to the world I’m creating is a real thin thread. The Sacrosanct was an evolution from a thought I had while watching an episode of Extreme Makeover- Home Edition. They were making a home for a family whose daughter had Polymorphic Light Eruption Syndrome, PMLE. The little girl’s allergy to the sunlight was so severe that special measures had to be taken to protect her. So I thought what would happen if someone was misdiagnosed and the PMLE was actually something cause by an ancient ritual.
Lee is such a quirky and unusual heroine. She is full of snarky comments and attitude, but you can feel something lurking in the shadows. For all of her bravado, she still feels very vulnerable. What made you develop her character in such a way, and was it difficult to form her personality being that you are a male author?
I wanted Lee to be a twenty-first century woman. She is able to take care of herself and laugh in the face of danger, but is still a real woman with all the emotions we, as humans, have. She knows she’s over compensating but she is all alone in this world and doesn’t want anyone to see her sweat. I think it is an appealing concept, independent yet still in touch with her feelings. I also write my heroes as beta men. In other words a man who can show some emotions and feelings yet still be the tough guy. I think it’s natural to be part of both worlds these days. The damsel in distress doesn’t work for me, but I do believe we all need a little help from time to time.
I often wonder how authors produce a character that has centuries worth of knowledge and experience without making them so above the average that they are hard to relate to. Was this a consideration in your planning of Luke’s character? And how did you decide what his strengths and weaknesses would be?
Luke was angry with himself for not acquiring the knowledge he needed to save Lee but his abilities could only progress as quickly as technology did. He first had to work with a crude compound microscope, which was state of the art at that time. Later, he moved on to our current state of the art electron microscope, but what he was looking for was not observable via the microscope. What he was looking was part of the very core of humanity and could only be felt. If you put aside all of our science and technology you’ll find we still rely on our emotions to lead our way through this crazy world.
The protagonists in Dead or a Lie are very well done. They are conniving, evil, and wickedly vicious. Is this type of character fun to write, because you can really let your inner demons fly, or do you struggle to rein them in so that they are not over the top?
It must seem odd coming from a vampire novelist but I don’t really like violence. There’s too much of that in the real world but because there is violence in the real world there will also be violence in novels. The only saving grace in my books is that good will always triumph over evil. I write my protagonists as evil as they need to be, evil enough to really hate. The protagonist needs to be evil enough to threaten the well being of my hero and heroine or otherwise there would be no conflict. I won’t dwell on blood and guts just for the sake of writing horrific scenes. I don’t read horror novels or watch horror movies that rely on graphic scenes to make the story.
I read that you are working on a prequel for this book. Can you give us a preview, and does it involve Luke and his careful watch over Lee and her ancestors? And will there be more books in the future featuring these two fearless fighters?
Luke and Lee are on a well-deserved vacation from the next book, The Saint’s Sword. Set in Eastern Europe in 1332 the history of the Saint’s Sword is explored as a diverse cast of characters set out in search of this most powerful vampire-killing sword that was featured in Dead Or A Lie. Nicolai and Kiara are instantly attracted to each other, but warnings of a traitor within their close little group begins to tear Nicolai and Kiara apart. It’s up to Kiara to stand by her man to stop him from destroying himself and loosing the Saint’s Sword to the evil vampire Valnar. Lee and Luke will be returning in the following book, Sarah’s Revenge.
I want to thank you for spending some time with us today. I want to encourage everyone to check out Jason Barret’s book, Dead or a Lie, and scope out his website. There are some amazing pictures posted by his wife, and a really great trailer for this story. Thank you again Mr. Barret.