I'm thrilled to have Rick Barry with us today. Make sure you notice the picture below. Rick purchased a WWII uniform for promotional reasons and wears the uniform at times when doing booksignings! Do check out his books. Now, read on!
How long have you known you wanted to be a writer?
The idea of writing anything at all for publication first struck me in fifth grade. That’s the year I was reading Hardy Boy mysteries and couldn’t get enough of them. I remember sitting down at my father’s desk and taking out a piece of notebook paper. I concocted two boys’ names and started writing. Two or three paragraphs later, I had no idea how to continue what I’d begun and decided I must not have the "right stuff" to be an author. But I still loved to read.
Later, in my sophomore year of college, I entered a magazine’s writing contest just for fun. I didn’t win the contest, but they bought my article and printed it as an honorable mention. Following that first tiny success, I wrote other articles and short fiction for publication on and off for the rest of my college career and never stopped.
What is the genre you write in? Would you explain what it is?
This is a tough question for me. I’ve actually written and sold material for a spectrum of genres, sometimes simply for income, but more often with a spiritual purpose in mind. On the secular side, I’ve freelanced for local newspapers and even written material used for achievement testing in public schools. More often, though, my work has been for Christian publishers, including tween fiction, YA short stories, devotionals, non-fiction articles for teens or adults, and two novels: one fantasy and one World War II story.
What I’m writing at any given moment depends on what message I have to deliver and which audience would be best to receive that message. I might be worried about this rainbow of styles and genres, except most of what I write does sell to publishers. Also, I note that C.S. Lewis likewise delved into widely divergent styles as he penned apologetics, science fiction, and children’s fantasy. Even if I don’t stick to one niche, at least I’m in good company.
How do you spend your writing days?
Very rarely do I have a genuine writing day. I’m not a full-time writer. I hold an administrative position in the home office of a Christian mission. The reality is that I write in whatever spare minutes I can muster. Some days that translates into thirty or so minutes in the morning before my normal work day, followed by another twenty or thirty minutes at the end of my lunch hour, and possibly an hour before bed—if I still have enough functioning brain cells.
Out of necessity, I’ve become an advocate of the tortoise philosophy: "Slow and steady wins the race." I’d love to devote huge blocks of time for writing, but for me that just isn’t possible.
However, if a person can jot just one paragraph in a day, that’s enough words to create an anecdote. If that writer can pen a double-spaced page per day, within a couple of days that’s enough to equal a short devotional. By consistently writing one measly page per day, by the end of a week you’ll have a decent-length article or short story. Using this approach, I wrote both of my novels over the course of roughly a year, although of course I had to spend some days on research, and often on Sundays did neither writing nor research.
What is the spiritual message in your latest book? What can readers expect to gain from reading it?My latest novel goes by the working title of The Methuselah Project. One editor and one literary agent have requested sample chapters, but it’s not yet sold. As the reader follows the unexpected life of Roger Greene, the story demonstrates how a man who at first doubts the very existence of God can naturally and very rationally embrace God and place faith in Him.
Of course, the reader won’t realize this at the outset. One of the best illustrations I’ve heard concerning Christian fiction is to compare it to hiding a vitamin in a chocolate bar. If you hold up a brown bottle and call out, "Who wants a vitamin?" you won’t get many takers. But if you stroll through a room holding a tray stacked with Snickers, Three Musketeers, Almond Joy, and other candy bars, you’ll find many eager takers. So I try to tuck the "vitamin" of a spiritual message into a delicious story, whether the tale is a short one or a full novel.
Describe your most recent published novel. How and where can readers buy it?
In December 2008 JourneyForth Books published my fantasy novel Kiriath’s Quest. This is a YA fantasy in which the king of Xandria has been kidnapped by an invading horde of Grishnaki, who are physically powerful creatures, but lacking in intellect. In exchange for the king, the Grishnaki demand one thing—the knowledge of how to make steel. The ransom is impossible, for with steel the Grishnaki could create weapons, even armor, and eventually wipe out the humans of Xandria. So Prince Kiriath and his best friend Brand determine to sneak into the Valley of the Grishaki alone in an attempt to free the king before it’s too late.
I can’t promise that every bookstore carries Kiriath’s Quest. Some do; some don’t. The easiest way to buy a copy is to log onto Amazon.com and order it for $8.99.
Where do you get your ideas and your character names? Do you find your characters similar to you in any way?
For Kiriath’s Quest, I had fun picking obscure names out of the Bible for many names. In the Scriptures, for instance, there’s a place called Kiriath-Arba. I chopped off the ending and used the result as the name of my prince.
In my WW II novel, Gunner’s Run, the main character comes from northern Indiana. So I chose a very typical Hoosier name, Jim Yoder, for the starring role in that book.
Frequently the first or last name of my characters carries a hidden implication. The color green signifies life, so I named the leading man of The Methuselah Project Roger Greene, because he ends up living a long time. The significance of such names will whiz over the heads of many readers, but others will catch the meaning.
Are my characters like me in any way? Absolutely. At least the major male characters often are. For example, Jim Yoder took French in high school; so did I. Roger Greene has a huge interest in aviation and military aircraft; so do I. Prince Kiriath esteems devotion, duty, love and loyalty, which are all qualities I admire in any person.
As a Christian writer, I pursue my craft with a biblical worldview. Certainly, not everyone in my stories is good, but I won’t glorify sins that God hates.
Do you ever feel like giving up?
From time to time I’ve felt that temptation. Especially when it’s taking a long while to snag the interest of a publisher for a book. During such times I encourage myself by recalling true publishing stories, such as how the Dr. Seuss books were originally rejected time and again before finally achieving acclaim. Many well-known authors today endured multiple rejections before achieving publication. So, even though we’d all rather be overnight successes, that doesn’t usually happen.
On the other hand, there are special rewards and joys that balance out the tedium and lonely hours spent pecking away at a keyboard. A teacher in Ohio once mailed me a large envelope of fan letters from her students, who wrote bold statements such as, "You are my favorite author!" An adult travel agent in Texas contacted me to say that she had suffered a stroke and been diagnosed with cancer shortly before reading Gunner’s Run. She identified with the main character, who began Chapter 1 angry at God. "The spiritual journey of Jim Yoder mirrored my own," she wrote me. Later, an 88-year-old former B-24 pilot read the same novel and urged his wife to read it too. They got in touch and invited my wife and me to an evening of refreshments and shared his own experiences of being shot down over Romania, which was fascinating!
Who has inspired you the most?I enjoy reading a wide variety of authors, including Jack London, Arthur Conan Doyle, Robin Cook, Clive Cussler, and many others. I consider J.R.R. Tolkien the master of quality fantasy, and his work definitely inspired Kiriath’s Quest. When I’m crafting stories set in WW II, however, non-fiction accounts of men who served overseas provide more inspiration than fiction writers do.
How did you choose (or get chosen by) a publisher? Now do you sit back and relax from the success?
It was at a very non-literary Bible conference that I began chatting with two editors from JourneyForth. They expressed interest in seeing Gunner’s Run, bought it, and then wanted to see my next manuscript too.
Personally, though, I don’t believe that seeing my work published ever justifies sitting back and applauding my accomplishments. I apply the mindset of the Apostle Paul in Philippians 3:13-14, where he explains that he forgets those things that are behind and keeps pressing forward for God. That attitude nips vain pride in the bud and contributes to greater productivity.
Share some of your likes and dislikes, your hobbies and interests. Where would you travel if you could?Some of my likes are photography, the scent of lilacs wafting on a spring breeze, a gloriously brilliant sunset of reds, oranges, pinks and purples, spicy Mexican dishes, conversing in foreign languages (I’ve studied French, Spanish, and Russian), and listening to a sermon that suddenly helps me to understand a Bible passage as never before.
For dislikes, I might mention fried fish, the long-lasting odor of a dead skunk (why can’t someone invent a perfume that lasts so long?), the haughty air of people who seem to believe they are superior to others, the taste of Brussels sprouts, and the irritating whine of mosquito wings hovering by my ear.
History in general interests me, and the WW II period has fascinated me since my teen years. Just recently my wife and I fulfilled a longtime wish of mine to travel to France, where we rented a car and toured Normandy, spending a full day at the D-Day beaches where Allied troops came ashore. I enjoy international travel, and my regular ministry has taken me to Eastern Europe over thirty times. Such trips are sure to provide my imagination with fodder for future stories.
Do you have a web page? Anything else to add?
My web site is www.rick-barry.com. At the moment I don’t host a blog. If I do start one, first I’ll make sure I have enough interesting material to make it worth people’s time, since thousands of other blogs are already vying for readers’ attention.
As a final word to my fellow Christian authors, I would encourage them to reconsider regularly the question, "Why am I really writing?" If the answer is simply "to earn a living," that’s fine. There’s nothing wrong with any honest, moral method of feeding yourself and your family.
If, however, the main goal (admitted or not) is to get rich, or to feel the pride of seeing your name in print, or to give others a reason to admire you, then I humbly say that your goals are falling short of their potential. If God has given you a talent for this craft, let me suggest that you polish that skill and use it to entertain and instruct while edifying believers, while pointing unbelievers to the Cross, and ultimately to glorify the God who placed us on this planet. May we wordsmiths let our lights shine to glorify Him, not ourselves, as we exercise the skills He has given us.
Thank you so much, Rick, for being here today! I've really enjoyed reading your answers. May God's richest blessings rest upon your writing endeavors.
Blessings, dear readers!