Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Richard Whitten Barnes, Luzon

AUTHOR: Richard Whitten Barnes
GENRE: Historical fiction
PUBLISHER: Wings ePress, Inc.

Please tell us about yourself.
I am a retired Chemical Marketing Exec. Was lucky enough to have a job that included a lot of international travel, so I have seen quite a bit of life.  I think that helps a lot in my imagery and character development. My university training was technical, so I always had a thirst for history. While I write mysteries, I love the research that goes into historical fiction.

Please tell us your latest news.
My latest BIG news is winning the 2012 first runner-up at the Military Writers Society of America for historical fiction. My latest SMALL news is having Parks Canada sell my books in their bookstore next year when my new manuscript is published.

Are you a full-time writer or part-time, and how do you organize your writing time?
I write every day and have for the past five years. This fall I plan to take a hiatus and spend some time on marketing, something I have not been doing enough of.

When and why did you begin writing?
On a lark I took a course in short story writing. A friend invited me into his writers group, and prodded me into turning my short story idea into a book.

What inspired you to write your first book?
My first book published was inspired by my background in chemistry. Oil prices were skyrocketing, and I had the idea that if a chemist found a way to make petroleum products dirt cheap, a lot of bad guys would want to get their hands on it—the makings of a good thriller.

What do you do when you’re not writing/editing or thinking about writing/editing?
Ask my wife. She thinks I do nothing else. Actually I am writing this from our cottage in Northern Ontario where I love to ply my 16 foot sailboat, and thank providence for beauty of the area.

What are your thoughts about promotion?
Like all writers for an independent publisher, I have come to the conclusion that spending money is not the answer. Social networking is what we must learn to do better. I am a slow but dedicated learner. For instance, I do not blog. I know this is an excellent tool and am looking for a niche to write about. (Giving writing tips is way over-done). There are ways to utilize Facebook and Goodreads that I am belatedly getting a grip on.

What was the toughest criticism given to you? What was the biggest compliment? 
The toughest criticism came from my first two editors. Thank god for them! My stories were good, but my form was awful. What a learning experience! My biggest complement came from a creative writing teacher (not mine, but a man I know casually) who read two of my short stories and was most supportive. We writers thrive on positive feedback, and his was an inspiration.

 Did those change how or what you did in your next novel?

Do you ever have writer’s block? If so, how do you get through it?
I have writer’s road bumps. For instance, in my current MS, I worried how I was going to have my heroine get herself into a crisis predicament, yet make it believable. I spent days worrying about that. I have the same block others do in thinking about a new project, but have not yet experienced the inability to put words on paper.

Did you learn anything from writing your book, and what was it?
As an historical writer, I learn new things constantly. As I said above the research is one of my favorite parts of writing. Even in my mysteries, I researched venues and facts so the reader would feel he/she was there, and my story would ring true.

Who is your publisher and how did you connect with them?
Wings ePress is an “indie” near  Louisville. They put out a good product. Four of my five novels are with them. Like most new writers, I submitted them a script, they read it and sent me a contract. I did have a choice, as a California company was interested, but Wings had been in business longer.

What is your marketing plan?
I’ve bought some books on social networking marketing, and as I said above, my goal this fall is to 1)search for an agent for my current MS, and 2) Practice what I preach about social networking.

What are your current projects?
Another historical novel.  It has to do with the Americans' 1814 burning of Fort St. Joseph which was an outpost in near Sault Ste. Marie to protect British fur trading interests.

What do you plan for the future?
O dear! Stay healthy, cut down on my bourbon, sick to my exercise program, you know.

What genre do you write in and why?
I write Mystery/Thriller and Historical Fiction. Why? Well I told you about the fun I have doing research. I do put a little romance in my stories, but can’t quite get into Romance novels. My wife wants me to do a children’s book, because I used to make up stories for our kids when they were little. I am not a cerebral writer. My forte is believable dialogue, so writing non-fiction is probably out.

Tell us about the current book you’re promoting.
My current book, LUZON,is a story about a first generation Japanese American whose family is interred. He becomes recruited by a beautiful O.S.S. agent to go on a mission to rescue an American officer in Luzon, after the Bataan death march.

What gave you the idea for this particular book?
A Japanese American in my company was used as a coast watcher and spy by the US military in WWII. He would be dropped off on a Pacific island and picked u later. His stories intrigued me.

Do you outline before you write?
Generally no.   

If not, what’s your initial process?
To be truthful, everyone outlines—at least in their head. I have a general  idea about how the story should end—otherwise why write it—but when I start writing the plot more or less takes me along. It is the most amazing phenomenon. Other writers say they experience this. I never would have believed it. My best situations are when the story just takes me there, because it is the logical sequence of events.

What comes first: the plot or characters?
I have done it both ways.

Which of your characters do you love/hate/fear/pity the most and why?
I kind of fell in love with Risa Manceda, my O.S.S. agent.  Smart and beautiful.
My current heroine has a sad demise, so I guess I pity her.
I’ve written a couple of really bad actors in THE FAIRCLOTH REACTION and my current MS.

Which characters were the hardest to develop and why?
Good question. I think developing the villain in my current story was hard. I wanted him to be despicable, but as I got into his head, and wrote of his dismal beginnings, I began to understand him a little.

How did you decide how your characters should look?
My! That is a good question. Really they just pop into my head. I do remember changing a character’s appearance so as not to be too much like another.

What was the process of creating this book from the first idea to the final published book?
Not sure I know the answer to this. I will say that I write in longhand in a spiral notebook. I will use the first several pages to jot down ideas, even a VERY rough outline just to get my thoughts straight. I may write down references for research. For historical novels, I usually have an historical time line to coincide with my fictional timeline. I try to write 500 to 1000 words per day. Sometimes I write zero, on a really good day, I might hit 1200 or more. Then I transfer that into the computer which I consider a first edit.

Did your book require a lot of research? If so, what kind?
LUZON required a great deal of research. Details about the early WWII days in the Philippines, the prison camps, Japanese interment in the USA, The Spy schools, both Army and O.S.S.

Do writing violent or highly sexual scenes bother you?  Why or why not?
Yes, indeed. I have them in all but one of my books. Can’t help think about my daughters reading the stuff! But I do it, if it adds to the story and is a logical sequence of events. In other words I don’t shy away from them.

What was the hardest part of writing your book?
I think writing about the internment camps was the hardest. It is such a sensitive subject, I wanted to get it right.

How long does it take to write a book, and what is your process?
My last two books were started in the autumn, finished in late spring, edited over the summer, published in the following autumn. So, I’d say it takes me about a year.

What are your current books out right now, and what are the books coming up for release?
As stated above my current MS (FORGOTTEN ROOTS) is out querying for an agent.

What advice would you give a new writer starting out?
That would depend on his/her goals. Writing for a living, or for pleasure?

Certainly I would take some classes. My minimal training in a short story class did not prepare me for what I had to learn by making a lot of mistakes.

One thing, especially for a younger person with limited world experience, would be to READ!  I don’t do enough of it. They say all good writers are voracious readers. But if you haven’t spent enough time seeing how people other than yourself live, you cannot write about them well.

What, if anything, bugs you when you read a novel?
I don’t like the author to expound on a detail he knows a great deal about, but has little to do with moving the story along. I’ve been guilty of this myself, after researching an interesting fact that I thought was cool, but would have bored the reader. This was one of my early mistakes, and I didn’t realize I was doing it until my editor (God love her) called me on it.

What book are you currently reading? What do you like or not like about it?
THE LAST KIND WORDS by Tom Piccarilli. I am only three chapters into it, but I can say he’s a fine writer. Don’t know how the story will hold up.

How can we find you?

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