The Creation of Young Heroes: An Interview with Author T.A. Barron

By Lauren Brooke Horn

T.A. Barron is the award-winning author of the Merlin and Heartlight sagas. His newest release, Atlantis Rising, is the first in a trilogy exploring the mythos surrounding the creation of Atlantis. In this interview, T.A. Barron takes a moment to talk about his new book, the writing process, and his advice for aspiring authors.

TA Barron and Lauren at Wordstock

T.A. Barron and Brooke at Wordstock 2013

LBH:  Your new book, Atlantis Rising, explores the lost mythology behind the founding of Atlantis. What can readers expect from this exciting new release?

TAB: As you know, there are hundreds of stories about Atlantis—but all of them deal with the terrible destruction of that legendary place. That’s fitting, since the whole legend began with Plato’s description of a mythic island that was completely destroyed. This new trilogy, however, is the creation of Atlantis—its magical beginnings, the heroic young people who helped make it possible, the forces of arrogance and greed that threatened to stop it, and the enchanted place itself. So this is truly a creation story . . . but of Atlantis. It will be a story of real sacrifice and ultimate triumph (and, of course, the seeds of its ultimate tragedy).

LBH:  You’ve published quite the collection of successful young adult and children’s books. What attracted you to these genres in particular?

TAB: I write books I would like to read. That means each story must have a character, a relationship, a place, a dilemma, and an idea that I care about. A lot. I like a story where an individual must deal with personal issues as well as overarching issues. So, rather than an age-specific genre, I chose to write of the mythic quest—call it fantasy if you prefer—because it allows me to incorporate all of these qualities.

LBH:  The writing process is unique and highly personal for each individual author. What interesting quirks and habits have you developed in regard to your own writing process?

TAB: Writing is a strange, mysterious process. After more than twenty years, I still don’t know how it really works. But I do know it requires a special, personal chemistry. So I always write the first draft with a blue felt pen and a pad of paper, because that’s a good chemistry for me. Probably because, as a kid growing up in Colorado, that’s how I started writing. Once the manuscript is ready—a good first draft but still far from finished—I transfer it to a computer. Then I do six or seven complete rewrites—as many as it takes to get it right.

I also do a lot of background research—about Celtic lore, Native American dances, sunken treasure ships . . . whatever is needed to make the story authentic.

Last of all, I do some careful, delicate editing—marking up the printed copy with my friendly blue pen. And I do lots of rewrites. How many? As many as it takes to get it right! Most of my novels take six or seven full rewrites and at least a year or two to finish.

LBH: What are your thoughts on the technical side of book production? Specifically, could you provide your perspective on the recent changes in the publishing industry due to the emergence of e-books into the market?

TAB: In today’s publishing world, I suggest an author’s top priority is to find a literary agent. As most have experienced, it can be difficult to get published without one. How do you find one who is right for you? There are professional writers’ organizations, such as the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators and the Science Fiction & Fantasy Writers of America, that could be helpful. Or you could track down whoever was the literary agent for a published book you admire by contacting the editorial division of the publishing house.

You may be wondering why you need an agent. 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 bookstores, electronic readers, MP3 players, and the like across the planet. To accomplish that, a literary agent can be very helpful.

LBH: What advice would you pass along to young and aspiring writers?

TAB: For starters, writing is the hardest work I’ve ever done—as well as the most joyous work I’ve ever done. Which is why all the hard labor is worthwhile. But in this regard, talent will only take you a small part of the distance you need to go. What is necessary in addition is discipline and persistence. Stay with your writing, no matter how many rewrites it takes to get it right!

And finally, I would tell aspiring writers: As you think about your dream to write . . . remember what Merlin said about the value of dreams (in The Mirror of Merlin, the fourth book in The Lost Years of Merlin series):

“A life—whether seamstress or poet, farmer or king—is measured not by its length, but by the worth of its deeds and the power of its dreams.”

So . . . write well, my friend! I wish you all the grace and truth of Fincayra, Middle Earth, and Avalon. You will find that, and more, I am sure.

Four Amazing Books You Won’t Find On Any Other Summer Reading List

By Rebekah Hunt
As the middle of summer approaches, people are getting ready to go on vacation (or are already on vacation, if they don’t go to summer school like I do). Anticipating the free time we’ve suddenly got, many of us are thinking about leisure activities like camping and going to the beach, or if you’re a huge nerd like me, reading for fun! The internet is absolutely chock-full of summer reading lists. However, I am constantly disappointed by the lightweight, pop-lit content of these lists. If we don’t want our brains to atrophy while we soak in the sunshine, we should probably read something intellectually stimulating. I’ve compiled a list of amazing, novel, bizarre, and interesting books guaranteed to keep your brain as bright as your glowing beach tan!
The Consolation of Philosophy
Boethius  (A.D. 524)
Sixth-century Roman philosopher Anicius Manlius Severinus Boëthius’ The Consolation of Philosophy is the last great Western work of the Classical Period. He wrote it while in exile awaiting execution on a trumped-up treason charge, and it was the last effort in his lifelong struggle to preserve ancient classical knowledge, particularly philosophy. It is written as an imaginary dialogue between himself and philosophy, personified as a woman.
The book argues that despite the apparent inequality of the world, there is, in Platonic fashion, a higher power and that everything else is secondary to that divine providence. While not explicitly Christian, it is considered to be the single most important and influential work in the West on Medieval and early Renaissance Christian philosophy.
The Liber Monstrorum
Possibly Aldhelm, et al. (late-seventh or early-eighth century)
The Liber Monstrorum is an Anglo-Latin catalogue of marvellous and fantastic creatures, which may be connected with the incredibly important and influential Anglo-Saxon scholar Aldhelm. It is transmitted in several manuscripts from the ninth and tenth centuries, but is often studied in connection with the far more popular Beowulf, since the Liber makes reference to some of the same people, including King Hygelac of the Geats.
This old English text is short enough to read while waiting for a bus, but offers a brilliant, thrilling, and often hilarious glimpse into the terrors that people believed walked the earth, and their ideas about things that actually did: from elephants and leopards to Minotaurs and Titans. For example, “…next to the river Euphrates they write that there is an animal which is called antelope, because with its long horns which have the shape of a saw it cuts through mighty oaks and fells them to the ground.” Amazing!
Liber Chronicarum
Hartmann Schedel (1493)
Hartmann Schedel was a German physician, humanist, historian, and one of the first cartographers to use the printing press. His Chronicarum (popularly known as the Nuremburg Chronicle, for where it was written) is an illustrated world history, in which the contents are divided into seven ages (First age: from creation to the Deluge; Second age: up to the birth of Abraham; Third age: up to King David; Fourth age: up to the Babylonian captivity; Fifth age: up to the birth of Jesus Christ; Sixth age: up to the present time; Seventh age: outlook on the end of the world and the Last Judgement). The Chronicarum’s beautiful maps were the first ever illustrations of many cities and countries, and are definitely worth looking over as an important piece of history and art.
Micromégas
Voltaire (1752)
While admittedly a short story rather than a full book, French philosopher and satirist Voltaire’s Micromégas (available as a free ebook!) is more than deserving of a place in this list. It is a significant development in the history of literature because, along with his story Plato’s Dream, it is a seminal work in the genre of science fiction. It recounts the visit to Earth of Micromégas, a being from a planet circling the star Sirius, and of his companion from the planet Saturn.
The home world of Micromégas is 21.6 million times greater in circumference than the Earth, and he stands 20,000 feet tall. He is banished from his world for writing a scientific book about insects, and takes the opportunity to travel around the Universe in a quest to develop his intellect and spirit. Micromégas and his friend wind up encountering humans, who test the philosophies of Aristotle, Descartes, Malebranche, Leibniz, and Locke against the travelers’ wisdom. I won’t spoil the ending because it’s pretty awesome, and if you’ve never laughed at jokes created before the electric light bulb, you’ve basically never lived.
Happy reading!
Image by Anne Adrian. Used with permission under the Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic license.