Writer of the Month
Richard Farren Barber’s first novella The Power of Nothing was published by Damnation Books in September 2013. His second novella The Sleeping Dead will be published by DarkFuse in August 2014. Richard took part in our Writing East Midlands Mentoring Scheme in 2010. He was also the Winner of the Writing East Midlands and Lincolnshire Echo short story competition 2012/13 with The Watching Post.
Richard Farren Barber was born in Nottingham in July 1970. After studying in London he returned to the East Midlands. He lives with his wife and son and works as a Development Services Manager for a local university.
He has written over 200 short stories and has had work published in Alt-Dead, Blood Oranges, Derby Scribes Anthology, Derby Telegraph, ePocalypse – Tales from the End, Gentle Reader, Murky Depths, Midnight Echo, Midnight Street, Morpheus Tales, MT Urban Horror Special, Night Terrors II, Scribble, The House of Horror, Trembles, and broadcast on BBC Radio Derby.
Your new novella, The Power of Nothing, is available to buy now. Can you tell us a bit about it?
Steve works in a shop in a small East Midlands town which is gradually dying. When a grey man starts to follow him, nothing Steve does makes any difference. When Steve finally loses his temper and kills the grey man he thinks it’s the end. Until the grey man comes back.
The Power of Nothing is a horror story with a political edge. I was interested in how people react when they feel no one is listening to them. I wanted to explore what it does to someone who is confident and passionate but constantly hits up against apathy.
What draws you to writing horror and dark fantasy?
I think writing horror in particular allows me to tackle the really big subjects. Horror deals with the rawest human emotions – from what we’re prepared to do to protect the people we love to what death means to us.
I love the fact that I can get my hands dirty with these big themes and hopefully draw emotions from the people who read my work. When you’re working in the genre you can’t avoid these subjects – someone is going to be in peril, someone is potentially going to be lost, and what is more terrible than the concept of not just being lost now, in this existence, but forever.
Tell us about your writing process, what do you find to be the most difficult part, and why?
These days I tend to have a few things on the go at the same time; maybe writing a novel and editing a few short stories whilst proofing a novella or short story, so it’s very much a juggling act. I keep notes as they arise – it might just be the opening line of a story or maybe an idea for a title even if I have no concept of the story itself.
I love the rush of creating a first draft, it’s definitely my favourite stage. Proofing has to be the toughest part of the process for me. It’s done through gritted teeth because I understand how damaging typos can be to the reading experience, but I find it very hard.
Who, or what, has had the biggest influence on your writing and why?
I was brought up on 80s horror so that has a big influence on me. Stephen King looms large and I think at first I started out as a very weak imitation of his writing. Hopefully as I’ve grown as a writer I’ve managed to develop a voice which is more Nottingham than Bangor, Maine.
My other influences within the genre are Ramsey Campbell and Robert Westall. But I think as a writer you pick things up from anywhere and everywhere. You see something you admire and try to understand why it strikes you.
What has been the toughest criticism given to you as an author? What has been the best compliment?
I think when I was starting out the toughest criticism was probably not getting any feedback, just gathering rejections. It is hard to send something out and see it come back without really understanding why it wasn’t right. For me there are some stories in particular that I’m particularly proud of so when they come back from a publication I feel a pang of sadness.
The best compliment was having my short story Skin Deep put forward for the Bram Stoker awards. To this day I have no idea who made the suggestion but the idea that someone was sufficiently touched by the story to act upon it was a fantastic feeling. It’s very odd to understand that there are people out there who have never met me but we still retain a connection through words I wrote on a page on a kitchen table in Derbyshire.
You went through the mentoring scheme with Writing East Midlands in 2010. How did this impact you as a writer?
Well the first thing to say is that just being selected had a massive positive impact on me. I immediately took my writing more seriously. Having someone else look at my writing and champion it was a huge boost. My writing schedule became more defined which improved my output. I also forced myself to learn to write directly onto a keyboard as before then I was writing longhand and then typing everything up before I could start to edit it.
I was very conscious I wanted to squeeze the opportunity for everything I could. I must have driven Miranda (my mentor) mad but she was very supportive. For me the mentoring scheme wasn’t necessarily about writing the book in front of me, it was about learning skills and techniques that I could take into all aspects of my writing.
I think the experience is something that is difficult to fully appreciate. It definitely made me a better writer, a more determined writer and a more confident writer. It isn’t a coincidence that I made a point of acknowledging Writing East Midlands in the forward of The Power of Nothing.
You can find out more about our Writing School East Midlands Mentoring Scheme here.
Being a writer based in the East Midlands, how do you feel about the opportunities on offer in the region?
I’m probably very biased because I have done very well. From the Free Read scheme, the mentoring scheme, the Lincolnshire Echo short story competition to the Alt-Fiction genre convention, there are so many different schemes and initiatives to get people writing and keep them motivated to stay writing. I think the support through the Writing School is a great way to bring new people into the craft and also allow anyone, at whatever stage they’re at with their writing, to develop further.
Read more about the Lincolnshire Echo short story competition here.
Can you say what you’ll be working on next?
I’ve just finished a novel, Fodder, which I’ll now leave for about six months before returning to it. While that’s basting I’m going to do a final edit on my last novel, The Lost before sending it out to publishers. I’m also planning to write two more novellas during spring 2014 and my next novella The Sleeping Dead will be published by DarkFuse in August 2014.
You can find out more about Richard and his upcoming work on his website at www.deadfallonline.co.uk. Richard also writes a blog about his work and life as an author, it is available at writingeastmidlands.tumblr.com.