Interviews

Techie’s ‘Block’

Author Ian Barker doesn’t remember a time he didn’t write. In fact, one of the school reports from when Mr Barker was about twelve years old says he has ‘an easy style and interesting ideas’. Be that as it may, the author went on to spend almost twenty years working in the IT sector, writing short stories and poems for his amusement. ‘I then discovered that it was easier to write about computers than to fix them, and so, I combined my job and hobby by going to work for a computer magazine,’ says the sixty-one-year-old UK-based author, speaking to the Literary Express in an exclusive interaction. 

Author Ian Barker

A ‘Fallen Star’, Another Rising

Talking about his debut novel entitled ‘Fallen Star’, Mr Barker says it came about from watching a reality TV show. ‘This was in the early days of digital TV when for the first time you had a red button option to view a live stream even when the show wasn’t being broadcast. I got a bit hooked, and watching all of these people trying to become pop stars, I started to wonder what would happen if you turned the situation on its head and took fame away from someone who had known almost nothing else,’ he tells us.

His latest book titled ‘One Hot Summer’, nonetheless, is a coming of age story, and while it’s not autobiographical, it does reflect the time – in the mid-1970s – when the author was a teenager, classic ‘write what you know’. Mr Barker, who writes mainly about technology and contributes articles regularly to BetaNews.com, shares, ‘I started to write One Hot Summer first but abandoned it for a long time. It was only the experience of writing and publishing Fallen Star that allowed me to come back to it and produce a much better book as a result.’

ENGAGE WITH EXPRESS: You can buy yourself a copy of Fallen Star and One Hot Summer by clicking on the books’ cover images right below.

‘Up’ Until the End

Upon being asked if he tends to plot the story out before putting pen to paper, the author says he does have a rough idea of where things are going to go. ‘I’ve usually worked out what the ending will be by the time I’m about a third of the way through – in fact I’ll quite often write the last chapter to give me something to work towards. It’s filling in the middle bit and getting to the right conclusion – that’s the hard part of my experience!’ he says with a smile. 

Emphasising that he likes a lot of authors and that it is always hard for him to pick favourites as he feels he’s being disloyal to many others, Mr Barker lets on that if he had to pick some out he’d choose John LeCarré and Ian Rankin. ‘That’s because they’re absolute masters of their craft, and their books transcend their genre,’ he says. He then adds, ‘I’d also pick Nick Hornby and Jonathan Coe for their ability to dissect society’s and people’s concerns and motivations while still being entertaining.’  

When asked if he plans to focus more on fiction in the future, Mr Barker says categorically that on account of being an active contributor to an online platform, finding the time to write fiction can be surprisingly hard. ‘I, therefore, tend to fit it in when I can – which is sometimes not as often as I’d like. I always have a notepad handy so I can jot down thoughts and ideas. When I used to commute to an office every day, I found I quite often had ideas in the car so I’d carry a little digital recorder to make notes on the move,’ shares Mr Barker, who goes on to state that writing a novel and getting it published was a conscious decision he made which seemingly cropped from his desire to leave something behind after his father had passed away. 

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Getting Personal

Giving us a glimpse of his personal life, Mr Barker says he’s lucky enough to be able to work from home, even so, he tries to keep to regular office hours. Sharing with us that he has a room set up as an office with a proper desk and chair, which helps to separate ‘work’ from the rest of daily life, the author says he usually begins his day at about nine in the morning, the first half-hour or so spent on emails.

He then checks whatever tech writing he needs to do, and because a lot of this is on the US deadlines or embargo times, he often tends to leave some of the morning free for research or other writing. The author’s afternoon is usually taken up with tech writing, and he usually finished work around five in the evening. ‘I can’t work in silence, so I always have the radio on or some music playing during the day,’ Mr Barker shares. Over the course of the interaction, we also learn he is a member of the 009 Society as well. ‘This sounds very James Bond but is actually about building model railways,’ he states with a guffaw.

Work, Business, and All That Jazz 

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Speaking about his work in progress, the author says he is currently working on a sequel to Fallen Star, which picks up the characters a few years further on from the events of the first book. ‘Progress has been a bit slow on that, although the coronavirus lockdown has helped – silver linings and all that,’ he emphasises. He also adds that he would want to make a living by writing fiction, but he is not sure if it’s going to happen. ‘I’m happy to have been able to complete and publish a novel – that’s an achievement in itself. Getting some positive reviews and knowing that other people have enjoyed your work is nice too,’ he says. 

And does he have any piece of advice for budding authors? ‘Don’t give up,’ responds Mr Barker, adding, ‘As I have already said, just completing a book is an achievement and you should be proud of that. I’d also say listen to criticism, if several people are saying the same thing about your work, they may well be right.’

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‘Look at the Failures Before Success!’

The sexagenarian, who knows a bit of French and enough Spanish to get by in shops or order a beer, avers that it’s important to remember that the publishing world is notoriously fickle, for it’s constantly on the lookout for the next ‘big thing’ but often doesn’t seem to know what that is. ‘Just look at how many now quite famous authors have been rejected multiple times before finding success,’ he pronounces. 

And is there a thing or two that he would want to see changed in the world we bide in? ‘I think we should be more tolerant of other people’s opinions,’ declares Mr Barker. ‘Today, many people seem to be too quick to want to shut someone down just because they’ve said something that others disagree with rather than being willing to listen to the alternative point of view,’ he points out, ending the interaction with a quote of the late broadcaster and motoring journalist Gordon Wilkins, something that Mr Barker wants to ween is true: ‘It’s the key to a wonderful life: once you decide what you want to do, and you approach it with sufficient determination, it’s amazingly easy to achieve what you want.’ 

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