Posted on 11/20/2018 at 10:00 AM by Sadye Scott-Hainchek
NOTE: Brandon Barr passed away November 21, just two days after we published this interview. We strongly encourage you to read on, especially if you'd like to learn how to help his wife and young sons.
The overarching theme of writer Brandon Barr’s life seems to have been that other authors have lifted him up and inspired him.
It started when he was twelve and reading Jurassic Park, after which he began to write his own stories.
It popped back up in college, when a creative-writing assignment rekindled his love of literature and returned him to the world of short stories, like one of his idols, Ray Bradbury.
It continued in his early adulthood, when he teamed up with co-author Mike Lynch to write novels, further refining his technical skills.
And it has perhaps reached its pinnacle today, as he winds down a yearslong battle with acute myeloid leukemia.
Barr’s science fiction/fantasy novels had been huge successes with readers, earning him USA TODAY bestseller status, and they eagerly anticipated his next series, the Song of the Worlds.
His AML diagnosis was certainly an obstacle, but he persevered through rounds of treatment ... and his fellow sci-fi authors have rallied around him.
Barr’s illness is terminal, and so to help him make the most of his incredibly precious time, his friends are publishing the first three books of the series for him — Rise of the Seer (book 1) has been out for a few weeks; Bridge Beyond Her World (book 2) went live today; and Her Father's Fugitive Throne (book 3) can be preordered for January delivery.
They’ve also undertaken a fundraising push for him, encouraging readers to purchase his books and/or contribute to a GoFundMe so he can rest easy knowing his family won’t struggle financially.
We often say in our author Q&As that the writers were gracious enough to answer our questions — to say that now would be an understatement.
Barr shared some thoughts on his writing and his life with us, and we exhort you to read his friends’ appeal for support, if only to enjoy more of Barr’s grace and introspection in the face of tragedy.
SADYE: Can you tell us about the Song of the Worlds series?
BRANDON: It’s what I like to call epic science fantasy (with an emphasis on fantasy). I’m currently in the middle of writing book four, and then book five will finish the series.
There’s been one major hiccup in the writing, and that has to do with my fight with cancer.
I’ve been battling acute myeloid leukemia since 2015, and sadly I’ve relapsed after both of my bone marrow transplants.
This means there isn’t much hope for my survival, and the doctors have given me “weeks” to live. I’m doing my best to thwart the weeks prediction and move into months or longer!
Thankfully, I have some highly talented author friends who are going to finish the project if I am unable to. We are working together to capture the ending I want and keep to the vision I have for the series.
The Song of the Worlds series is my greatest achievement. As a writer, I’ve fallen in love with vast universe I’ve created, as well as the characters and the themes that run deep throughout the story.
SADYE: What did you learn from writing this series?
BRANDON: With every book I write, I learn and grow as a storyteller, but the books in SOTW have taken this to an entirely new level.
For one, the characters and their struggles are much more personal to me than many of my other stories, and additionally, the theme of pain, suffering, and keeping hold of one’s faith has been the same theme in my own life these last three years as I’ve fought leukemia.
It was an important topic to me before the cancer struck.
Life is such a precious thing, and often we forget to be thankful for the many good things in our lives until something devastating wakes us from our slumbering state and reminds us, all is not right in the world. How do we respond to the suffering?
I love that in fiction (especially sci-fi and fantasy) we can explore these themes within the fantastical and extravagant plots filled with heroes and anti-heroes, assassins and sages, royalty and peasants and all the shades of grey a well-crafted antagonist can conjure up in the reader.
Fiction allows us to live in our characters' extraordinary lives and experience the world afresh.
It isn’t a heavy tome; it is an adventure with good and evil at stake. But that doesn’t preclude the powerful themes that permeate classic sci-fi and fantasy.
SADYE: What advice would you give aspiring fiction writers?
BRANDON: Write the type of stories you like to read, and then keep doing it.
I started out writing lots of short stories and eventually transitioned in to novels, but the process of writing and telling a good story grows continually through the practice of writing.
For most writers, good storytelling doesn’t happen overnight, but that’s okay!
Outside of writing and writing (and then writing some more) I highly recommend connecting with other author communities.
There are many wonderful communities on Facebook that I have learned from. Some of these communities are genre specific, and others are broader in scope.
It’s important to find groups like these where you can ask your questions and receive advice from a community of writers.
There’s good and bad advice out there, but as you listen, observe, and interact, you’ll learn and grow.
SADYE: Where do you find your inspiration?
BRANDON: The excitement of stories drives me to write.
I love reading great characters, unpredictable plots, deep, though-probing themes. I believe it is from reading great stories that I am inspired to write my own!
I did take several locations from my childhood and turn them into something huge and epic.
For instance, I grew up under the tiny shadow of “Blue Mountain” in Grand Terrace, California. It was really a brown hill that barely qualified as a mountain and would regularly catch on fire every year.
I turned Blue Mountain into the “Blue Mountain Realm,” a mountainous realm where much of SOTW takes place.
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Categories: Author Interview