This Author Spotlight features writer Jen Barton, author of FIONA THORN AND THE CARAPACEM SPELL (see above).
Jen Barton was born in Williamsport, Pennsylvania in 1971 and spent much of her life on the East Coast. In 2008, at age 36, she and her family moved to California. With two cars, she and her husband moved two dogs, two guinea pigs, a cornsnake and their 10-year old daughter across the country. She counts the five day road trip, including a near escape by both dogs on Day 3, as one of her best experiences to date.
In 2009, with a Bachelor of Arts in English and Philosophy from Millersville University, Barton realized her childhood dream to become a writer. One van full of bored kids, one long day of travel, and Fiona Thorn was born. She’s been writing ever since.
When not taxiing her teenage daughter hither and yon, Barton loves reading (especially fantasy by George R. R. Martin), cooking (anything with pasta is a hit), and writing (magical worlds with obstinate teen girls is always a favorite).
I’ve always loved to read, ever since I can remember, and from that came the desire to tell stories and try to write. I’ve written stories here and there over the years, and always had a vague idea that being a writer was a good fit. For a brief time I was a reporter for a very small paper, covering local events. But not until a few years ago, when a group of bored kids were killing time on a long car ride, did I settle in and begin. That day, after imagining weapons and powers, their dresses and horses, a group of four very special girls asked me to write them a princess story. And Fiona Thorn was born.
2. What do you like best (or least) about writing?
I love the beginning. The blank page has so much potential that it inspires me, it frees me in a way, if that makes sense. But what I love most is when my characters do things that I, as the writer, had no idea they were going to do. I still haven’t worked out how that happens, exactly, and it always feels like a bit of magic. Those are the best days.
Revising I could do without. Ugh.
3. What is your writing process? IE do you outline? Do you stick to a daily word or page count, write 7 days a week, etc?
Once the idea comes I like to sit with it for a while. I let it swirl around for a week, maybe more, just kind of stewing in my mind. I’ll dream about it if I’m really excited, but it always begins there. Then I usually do a vague outline, making sure I know what I want to accomplish with a particular chapter or scene. This helps me stay focused, because I can easily get off track. Many times I will know where the story is going to end also. But the middle is up to the characters. That’s the fun part. Seeing how they react to the situations I’ve decided to put them through always surprises me.
4. Who are some other writers you read and admire, regardless of whether they are commercially “successful?”
I am a fantasy nerd, I guess, which makes me a huge fan of George R. R. Martin. I literally lived A Song of Ice and Fire. I loved the nine book series by Robin Hobb, beginning with Assassin’s Apprentice. I grew up on Stephen King. I can’t tell you how many sleepless nights I owe to him. I am also a big fan of Barbara Kingsolver, especially The Poisonwood Bible. I’m deeply impressed and in awe of Elizabeth Strout’s work, Olive Kitteridge. But above all else, I love East of Eden by Steinbeck. It has everything, including Samuel Hamilton, the person I want to be when I grow up. :)
5. Should the question mark in the above question be inside or outside the quotes?
HAHAHAHA! The question mark belongs inside the quotes. I feel like I’ve dated myself somehow. I didn’t realize two spaces after a period had gone out of style either until I got more interested in formatting. So funny.
6. What’s your stance on the Oxford Comma?
Sounds like an elitist piece of punctuation that dresses very well; cute little bow-ties and carefully distressed jeans. Probably has fantastic parties, too.
7. What is your book Fiona Thorn and the Carapacem Spell about and how did it come to fruition?
When Fiona Thorn, an ornery orphan with an expertise in explosives, sets out to rescue her imprisoned friend, Jaydin Rowan, she wants nothing more than a few sleeping guards and a satchel full of Blast. What she gets is a run-in with three bickering princesses that puts all four girls on the wrong side of a locked dungeon door.
Now, accidentally involved in a plot to assassinate the King and accused of kidnapping the princesses, Fiona must find a way to free them all, save the King, and rescue Jaydin, all while struggling to pay the magical debt that’s slowly killing her. Unless, of course, the princesses’ annoying sibling rivalry kills her first.
Packed with powerful magic, fun-loving fairies and a vicious ogre turned pet, Fiona Thorn and the Carapacem Spell is a fantasy kids’ book sure to become a favorite in middle grade fiction.
Fiona came about after my daughter and some young friends asked me to write a princess story for them. Once I started, it took on a life of its own.
8. What’s your current writing project?
I’m working on a few things. I’m entered in a contest now called America’s Next Author. It’s a bit like American Idol for writers. We’re judged on social media exposure as well as our story quality, so I spend a fair amount of time tweeting and trying to scare up votes. My short story about a feisty old woman trapped in her dying body is called “Movin’ on Up” and can be found here, http://www.ebookmall.com/author/jen-barton if you’d like to check it out. Shameless, I know. But that’s the life of an indie author, I guess.
I’m also thinking about the outline for the second book in Fiona’s series, which right now is called Fiona Thorn and the Secret of the Ringing Trees.
And on top of that I’m working with an artist, developing a picture book around a poem I wrote called Purple Chocolate. It’s a bedtime story for young kids, designed in a Dr. Seuss style. I’m very excited about that. It’s looking so good.
9. What book(s) are you currently reading?
Dragonriders of Pern is on my bedside table. I guess I’m not much of a fantasy nerd if I haven’t read that yet. Running with the Demon by Terry Brooks is in my purse and is mostly what I reach for these days. And I have a new book on my phone that I can’t wait to share with my nephew. It’s called A Shadow Passed Over the Son. Very fast paced and fun!
10. Who or what inspires your writing?
I find inspiration in all kinds of places. Under the surface of everyday things is a world rich with material. Add a bit of imagination (my hands are making the rainbow motion just like Spongebob) and the base of the tree in your back yard becomes the house of a Fairy Queen who happens to be hiding a renegade from a distant kingdom...
Finally, is there anything you’d care to add? Please also include where people can read your published stories, buy your book, etc.
I’d love to say Thanks, Ryan for hosting me and asking fun questions! It was fantastic to share a little about what I do. Sometimes being a writer can be lonely, and it’s good to connect with someone other than your characters!
Fiona Thorn and the Carapacem Spell is available on Amazon in ebook and paperback, http://www.amazon.com/Fiona-Thorn-Carapacem-Spell-ebook/dp/B0095ZITN6.
And more information about my writing is available at the sites below:
And more information about my writing is available at the sites below:
Thank you, Jen, for sharing your work. Best of luck with America's Next Author. We'll certainly do all we can to help you.
Please chat with us again when Fiona Thorn and the Secret of the Ringing Trees is available!
Be sure to check out Fiona Thorn and the Carapacem Spell, visit Jen's website, follow her on Twitter, and vote for her on America's Next Author.