This is our first Writer Wrangler episode and we hope it won't be the last. Our little and very young blog just got lucky and had the chance to talk to talk to emerging author, William J. Barry who wrote Sebastian and the Afterlife.
|William J. Barry|
William J. Barry: I’m not sure exactly. I’ve been writing stories ever since I can remember. I’ve always just tried to do the best at describing the scenes I watched play out in my mind. I’m sure some technique and style have seeped in from my reading over the years (or at least I hope so), but I honestly couldn’t put my finger on the sources (besides maybe an English teacher or two). I wrote a few screenplays before writing Sebastian and the Afterlife, that may have influenced some of my sequences (especially action sequences) to be straight forward and visual.
TS: What were your "getaway books" growing up?
WJB:I remember when I was really young I was a big fan of Bunnicula, by James Howe, and its first couple of sequels- Howliday Inn and The Celery Stalks at Midnight. It was a cute children’s book series about a vampire bunny. (TS: WOW! I think I’ll get this series for my nephew to influence him to appreciate the paranormal genre this early)
Another big impact was in the 10th grade. I went to the school library and checked out The Complete Tales of Edgar Allan Poe (click the link for a free download of the book). I really connected with his work and was fascinated by how he wrote madness and the macabre so beautifully. I still name Poe as my all-time favorite author.
TS: What are you currently reading? How is it so far?
WJB: The Graveyard Book, by Neil Gaiman. I just started it recently, but it’s excellent so far. As usual, Gaiman’s writing is brilliant and draws you into an excellent story.
TS: When and/or how did the idea for Sebastian and the Afterlife book came about?
WJB: I had been wanting to write a YA novel for a little while, but had not been able to come up with a story idea that I was happy with. Then on a random night (March 23, 2009), the lead characters of Sebastian and Sarah came to me. I knew that I wanted to write an adventure story, but at its heart, it would be a love story between these two characters. I realized that I needed some great barrier to come between the two lovers. What greater obstacle could come between them than death? At that moment I knew that it was going to be a ghost story. Once I knew that, I became inspired, and the rest of the story came to me. I outlined the major plot points in each chapter for the entire book that night and the next day. The day after I finished my outlines I started writing.
TS: Why write about death and the afterlife instead of the current night crawler favorites like Vampires and Werewolves?
WJB: When I started, I felt like the market had plenty of great wizards, vampires and werewolves already. I wanted to write something dark, but less explored. I think if I wrote about vampires or werewolves, I would have felt pressured to adhere to certain accepted rules about them, rather than have the freedom to create most of the rules myself. But honestly, choosing ghosts came down to starting with the main characters first, then realizing the situation that they would be put into. I feel like the characters chose the story for me. I’m glad it happened that way… I hope I always put my characters in front of everything else.
TS: Who is the inspiration behind Sebastian?
WJB: He is loosely based on me at 17. A naive well-meaning guy with average intelligence and abilities that sometimes made questionable decisions … and could be a little over dramatic. Among other details, I played soccer for the Angels and despised our biggest rivals (a school with a name that sounded similar to Westside). Anyway, when I was young I really loved the name Sebastian, and wished it was my name (probably in part because the lead singer of my favorite metal band as a kid, Skid Row, had a lead singer named Sebastian Bach, whom I thought was cool). Ha! I’m starting to show my age now. (TS: I remember you was one of my High School Anthems, we’re not THAT old Mr. Barry)
TS: It is often said that authors write themselves in their books, is this true in your case? If so then who is the character you most identify with?
TS: So we heard from the grapevine that the sequel is coming out next year. Can you give us more information about the release date and a sneak peak about Sebastian and friends?
TS: How many books are you planning for this series?