This week we have an interview from the incredibly prolific Barbara G. Tarn, whose historical fantasy “Olympia Nights” will be published in the forthcoming Olympic-themed anthology, “Tokyo 2020: Warriors of Olympia”.
Could you tell us a little about yourself and your background?
I grew up in the age of the typewriter and I like to say I married Mr. Writing, although the world didn’t learn about it until I started indie-publishing back in 2011. I also grew up in non-English-speaking countries, so the first creative writing courses were available to me in the new millennium, and by then I had already been writing stories for more than twenty years, hence my critical voice is non-existent. Or better, was, since lately it seems to raise its head way too often. I’ll have to beat it back into oblivion where it belongs, and let the creative voice play like it has done for forty years!
What genre are your books? Are they mainly adult, or a mixture of children and adult?
I write mostly fantasy and originally I called my first two series “for adults with a youthful mind” – some titles in both series are definitely adult-themed, but the later ones are for everyone. Silvery Earth is a secondary world, high fantasy series made of standalone books. The world is the series, while the Star Minds Universe is a science fantasy saga that spans three or four generations, so you might want to read it in order (keeping in mind that the first two books have very adult themes and stories). Those two evolved from my older works, written in Italian (my mother tongue). Then I started two new series, Vampires Through the Centuries (historical fantasy) and Future Earth Chronicles (post-apocalypse, steampunk). And I have a few more standalone books in other genres, including contemporary fantasy (did you see the “fantasy” pattern?).
What draws you to these genres?
I like to make up stuff, although I’ve learned to research to give more depth to my worlds/planets. I started writing fantasy after reading the Weiss&Hickman Dragonlance and Twins trilogies as well as David Eddings’ series – although I never read The Original That Started It All And Was Turned Into Movies or The Saga That Became A Hit TV Series (Book1 is still on my TBR pile for that one). I love the middle ages, so that’s also what I found easier to draw – since I’m a hobbyist artist. Silvery Earth has a graphic novel and now a strip (as well as archived photocopied zines from the 90s I haven’t bothered scanning yet) as well as novels and short story collections. I learned to like historical research, but I’m still not quite good with science and technology, hence I haven’t tackled hard SF yet. I grew up watching TV (Star Trek) and movies (Star Wars), more than reading Asimof, Clarke, Bradbury et al.
What was the main inspiration for “Olympia Nights?” Are vampires a major theme in your work? Also, could you tell us a little more about the ancient Greek sports mentioned in the story?
Like I mentioned above, Vampires Through the Centuries is a newer series. It started in 2015 with Rajveer the Vampire, inspired by Bollywood star Hrithik Roshan, who is also known as The Greek God. Hence I already knew back then that Rajveer was the reincarnation of Bran the Raven’s first fledgling from centuries before (Rajveer is turned in Chittorgarh in 1299CE). I knew Helios was a Spartan Hoplite who had been a champion of the Ancient Olympiads, but I couldn’t write his story until I read The Spartans by Paul Cartledge. Olympia Nights marks the start of Helios’s second life as bloodsucker and eventually I’ll write his full story.
I started writing about vampires to explore the concept of immortality and seeing the world change under one’s eyes. That’s why Bran makes fledglings (he once mentions “one per century”, but some centuries there might be more and some none), to ground himself in the current time. And, citing Bran again, It takes stamina to live for centuries, or even millennia like he does. Not all his fledglings make it.
As for the Olympic Games of old, I’m afraid my only reference was Wikipedia, although I couldn’t really show them, since Helios was not able to participate this time. He was definitely a discobolus, like the one immortalized in a 5th century BC Greek statue, though!
When you write series, do you plan the whole ‘story arc’ out before you start, or do you release the first book and then see how it goes?
Actually, I improvise a lot. In Vampires Through the Centuries (four novels and three related novellas) each novel took the story a little further (Rajveer the Vampire, Kaylyn the Sister-in-Darkness and Shashank the Fledgling all end in 2005, then Kristine the Youngest wraps them all). With Future Earth Chronicles, I wrote books 2 to 5 all at the same time (because it was those two characters arc – journey around the world) and released them one a month for four months, one year after the first one (that was more or less concluded, book 2 starts six years later). With Silvery Earth, I write all over the place (I have a calendar of about one thousand years), filling the blanks and exploring the countries as if I were writing historical novels. For Star Minds I’m currently writing a prequel to wrap the whole series by the summer. I build my series “bible” as I go, adding details with every story added to the puzzle.
You seem to have taken part in a lot of anthologies. Who have you worked with, and did the anthologies have themes?
I have participated in two Blaze Ward Presents with two different strips and in Yearning to Breathe Free, and yes, all three had themes (moles, mad science, immigrants). All three are collaborations with shared royalties.
I went to two WMG Anthology Workshops, writing for Fiction River or Pulphouse Magazine, and yes, those were themed too. I didn’t sell anything at the first workshop, but last February I sold another vampire story that will come out in Pulphouse Magazine Halloween 2021 issue.
I also have curated some anthologies of my own, with shared royalties. I gathered my stories with the stories of nine other authors and published them through BundleRabbit that takes care of splitting the revenue among authors. I might do a few more this year, so far I have 2 volumes of Nightly Bites (vampires), 2 volumes of sci-fi stories (starships and space opera mashup) and 2 volumes of portals (fantasy and more). I haven’t decided the upcoming themes yet.
Which writers inspire you?
The reason I started writing is the late Brunella Gasperini. I laugh and cry every time I reread her books for the umpteenth time. These days I say I want to be Dean Wesley Smith or Kristine Kathryn Rusch when I grow up, but then, I am grown up, so… I’ll just keep writing and submitting or publishing my stuff because writing is fun and I write what I’d like to read and can’t find anywhere!
Do you have a special time to write? How is your day structured?
Nope. I still have a part-time day job. I write every day, keep track of wordcount since 2015 (before I used to do the first draft longhand) and I managed to write 500K+ a year for the past two years. I never did NaNoWriMo because I write all year round. I can write anywhere, on a notebook, on a laptop (I’m a typist), and I don’t need a special place to do it. It’s so ingrained that I miss it if I don’t do it for too long!
Do you work to an outline or plot or do you prefer just see where an idea takes you?
I usually have a very loose outline – especially if I need to stick to historical events (real or fictional), but I’m mostly a pantser.
Not really. I was a one-draft writer before the obsession of rewrites hit. And having been stuck in rewriting hell back at the beginning of my publishing career (before I actually started indie-publishing, while I was still trying to reach traditional publishers’ expected wordcount for fantasy books), I swore never again. Now I tend to re-read it when the proofreader sends back the manuscript, then I do the final adjustments, format and publish or submit.
For your own reading, do you prefer ebooks or traditional paper/hard back books?
For fiction definitely ebooks. My eyes are starting to betray me, and being able to adjust the font on my Kindle is a blessing. But I still buy paperbacks for research (non-fiction), comics and graphic novels, artbooks and the likes.
What book/s are you reading at present?
Finishing a paperback of Finnish weird fiction I got at Helsinki’s Worldcon (2017), then probably back to my old kindle and finish the bundles I downloaded months ago (including one of vampire books from StoryBundle).
How do you relax?
Drawing or watching DVDs – I have a lot, many genres, many countries, many languages. Drawing means both comics/strips and pencil portraits. I also have a DeviantART profile as hobbyist artist, and I often use drawing time to brainstorm the next story with myself.
How can readers discover more about you and your work?
For weekly rambles, please refer to my blog: http://creativebarbwire.wordpress.com
For news on latest releases, sales or “backstage pass” you can follow www.unicornproductionsbooks.com – I won’t resell your email.
For excerpts of “Olympia Nights” and other stories from the anthology, join the Excalibur Books Patreon here – and support your friendly neighborhood indie publisher!