T. A. Barron interview with David Alan Binder
Post date: Feb 24, 2016 2:14:00 PM
T. A. Barron interview with David Alan Binder
1. Where are you currently living?
On a farm near Boulder, Colorado
2. Where would you like to live?
Right where I am.
3. Why did you start writing?
I’ve always loved writing and telling stories. I wrote stories and poems since I was a kid, even writing and illustrating a silly little magazine in middle school called “The Idiot’s Odyssey”. My first novel, written after college during a year of far-flung travels in Asia and Africa, didn’t exactly get a great reception: It got rejected by every publisher who saw it (32 of them). Ten years later, when I was president of a business in New York, I still yearned to write. Often I’d get up at 4 a.m. to write, and I’d also scribble ideas during meetings or in the back of taxis. Finally I had to make a choice – to do what I love best, because life is just too short not to follow your passions. So I had the fun of shocking my partners by telling them that I was going to quit my job, move back to Colorado, and see if I could try to write something that somebody might like to read. Well, that was 24 years ago – and 30 books ago. More good things have happened in that time than I could ever have guessed. But the best thing of all is to know that I’m doing something I truly love. So I feel deeply grateful that life has worked out this way!
4. What is the most important thing that you have learned in your writing experience, so far?
One of the great things about writing is that it allows me to experience, to explore, anything I want. As a writer I can find the voice of a twelve-year-old girl, be an ancient stone, or become a young wizard. I can experience life in the most wondrous ways. And as the characters grow, I grow too. And, I hope, so do readers.
5. What would you say is your most interesting writing quirk?
The creative process isn't limited to the hours I spend in my writing chair in the attic of our home in Colorado—though that is still my favorite place to work. I love to sit up there with a steaming hot mug of cinnamon tea.
I always write the first draft with a blue felt pen and a pad of paper, because that is a good creative chemistry for me. Probably because, as a kid growing up in Colorado, that's how I started writing. And I do lots of rewrites. How many? As many as it takes to get it right! Like a good stew, novels get better when you boil them down and integrate all the ingredients. Most of my novels take six or seven full rewrites and at least a year or two to finish.
6. Do you have any secret tips for writers on getting a book published?
A good literary agent can help you find a publisher. In addition, thanks to the increased availability of self-publishing, and also the ability to reach new readers through the internet, there are more alternatives than ever. But for the time being, at least, there is nothing that beats having a major publisher adopt your work and distribute it to book stores, electronic readers, MP3 players, and the like, across the planet. To accomplish that, a literary agent can be very helpful. Of course, before you start showing your work to any prospective agents or publishers, you need to make sure that your writing is the very best you can do!
7. How did you acquire an agent? Any tips for new writers on getting one?
There isn't any magic to finding one—just a lot of perseverance. However, I strongly urge you to join the organization called the Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI). They have many chapters in the USA, and often hold conferences where aspiring writers can meet literary agents as well as editors who are actually seeking new talent.
8. Where do you get your information or ideas for your books?
The best inspirations for my stories come from real life. The drama—no, the miracle—of real life provides all the mystery, terror, humor, and depth that any writer could ask for. That goes for a writer of highly imaginary tales just as much as a writer of non-fiction. In every case, observing the world closely, in all its contradictions and complexities, woes and wonders, is the soul of good writing.
As for information, I do a lot of research before starting the writing process. For example:
When preparing to write the Merlin Saga, I researched the legends of Merlin for a full year before I could even begin writing. I started with the ancient Celtic text called the Mabinogian, and worked forward from there.
The Heartlight Saga also required research. To write Heartlight, I needed to learn a lot about the life cycle of stars, the nature of light, and the marvelous morpho butterfly. For The Ancient One, I researched nine different tribes who lived in the Pacific Northwest five hundred years ago. In addition, I needed to understand the smells, sounds, and ecological interconnections of an ancient grove of redwoods. The Merlin Effect required learning about the legend of Merlin, Spanish galleons of the 16th century, the physics of whirlpools, and—best of all—the gray whales. Not to mention the motions and sounds of waves, the rhythms of tide pools, the screeching of gulls. Research is often hard work, but it can be loads of fun. There is so much to learn. And I get to choose the subject!
9. Do you have any suggestions or helps for new writers?
I consider three things essential to the writing process: First, notice the world around you, with all your senses wide open. Second, remember that writing is a great way to explore the universe—not just in space and time, but also in the realm of ideas. Third, don't forget that writing is a craft, and the best way to improve is by practicing every chance you can.
And then a fourth: Don't take rejection letters to heart. Everyone gets them, even established writers. They hurt, but they are just part of life. If you have something to say, and refuse to give up, you will find a way to say it and share it with others.
Finally, in case it's helpful to you, please check out the page (For New Writers) on my website: http://tabarron.com/for_writers/.
10. How many books have you written?
I have written more than two dozen books and my books are published in more than 20 countries.
11. What are some ways in which you promote your work?
Look, we all know that passion for your creation is not enough. Relying on your publisher is not enough. So how best to promote your work? The first and most important thing is to write the absolute best stories you can. You can’t successfully promote without having the goods.
I don’t have any magic solutions to offer. (Magic is Merlin’s realm, not mine.) But here are a couple of things that have helped me spread the word:
First, set up a good website that provides genuine value to the various constituencies of your audience. For me, those constituencies include writers, imaginative young people, educators, youth service workers, and fantasy appreciators. I’ve included special pages and attractions for all of them.
Second, take full advantage of social networks. But give people real value — not just avid promotion. For example, I had fun getting up a Facebook fan page that feels genuine, colorful, and interesting, giving people a way to travel in their own imaginations. Now I have more “friends” than I ever thought possible. And are they ever passionate about my books! I don’t understand it and can’t explain it … but this seems to be an effective tool to reach people.
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