Arbor Barrow is a local author living in the middle Tennessee area. She works at McKay’s as an assistant manager.
When did you first realize you wanted to be an author?
I've written stories for as long as I can remember so it's always been part of who I am. When I was a little kid I would take my dad's voice recorder and create characters to "interview." I think the moment I became truly serious about writing was when I was 12 and I came up with the idea that would later become the foundation for my current book series. I especially knew it was what I wanted to do when a lot of people and adults in my life told me I would never make any money from it, and I decided that I didn't care. I just wanted to tell my stories regardless of my financial situation.
Can you give a summary of what your current series is about?
The Kinetics Sequence is a series about seeking the independence to choose your own path, older generations passing on broken legacies, and most importantly finding out what’s important in a world embroiled by war.
Eugene, the primary voice of the series, thought he was a normal high school kid until his whole school was thrown into a literal nightmare. Upon finding out he was part of a secretive society of people with multitudes of powers, he wants to reject the knowledge and powers handed to him, but chooses to jump in head first when his best friend Willow is kidnapped by the very enemy his people are fighting.
The Kinetics Sequence is a planned five-book series with two books written and the third currently being worked on.
Do you write more for yourself or your audience?
First and foremost I write for myself. I write the kind of stories that I want to read and approach stories in the way that always grabs my attention in other stories. Secondly I do take time to write for my audience. I want to write things that challenge, intrigue, and captivate. I’m always pushing myself to write better words, create more engaging stories and characters, and work towards a writer's voice that will leave an impression.
Who are your favorite authors and what tips did you use from them to add to your writing?
My all time favorite writer is Katherine Applegate. She and her husband Michael Grant (Gone series) made an impression on me with the Animorphs series and the greatest thing I learned from reading their works and their advice for writers was to never avoid hard and uncomfortable topics in YA fiction.
Neil Gaiman is also one of my favorites. I’ve not read the scope of his work like I have with Katherine Applegate but I recently signed up for his Master Class on creative writing and I realized his approach to writing is very similar to my own, though mine is still in its infancy in comparison. His advice to create a “compost pile” of ideas and to find the stories among real, genuine human interactions and experiences has stuck with me.
Who are your least favorite authors and why? Do they influence your writing even if you don't want them to?
I’m not sure I have a least favorite author. I have books that I don’t like but not a whole bibliography from an author that I’ve decided aren’t worth my time. I think it’s hard to not be influenced by the stuff you read, even if for just a short time, and I think the bad stuff is what has influenced me the most. Those are the things that tell me what NOT to do, or what can be done, but maybe done better. Poorly executed stories aren’t just bad to read, they are often exciting in retrospect, because they fill me with ideas of how I could take a concept and make it better. The last book I read that left a poor taste in my mouth was Saturn Run by John Sandford. I was left empty by cookie cutter characters even though the plot had a lot of promise and the writing itself wasn’t the worst. A seemingly simple thing like characters made this book a less than great experience so that helps me double down on making sure my characters are three dimensional and not pulled from over used molds.
What's your favorite book or books?
OH BOY. What a question, here’s a selection from a variety of genres:
Animorphs by K.A. Applegate as a whole,
Hidden Talents by David Lubar,
Spaceship Next Door by Gene Doucette,
The Martian by Andy Weir,
The Getaway Special by Jerry Oltion
The Song of the Lioness series by Tamora Pierce
Unwind Dystology by Neal Shusterman
There’s probably more! But I’ll leave you with that.
Has it been difficult finding a publisher agent?
Honestly, beyond the first couple years before I self-published the first book of Kinetics I haven’t tried. There is a level of difficulty that I encountered early on in my writing career that I realized I needed to be a better writer to confront.
Do you think it's better for an author to self publish or to try to find an agent?
It depends on what an author wants out of their writing experience at the time of those decisions. Initially I tried to go the traditional route before choosing to self-publish based on the fact that my skills needed more work. I still wanted my stories to be out in the world so I’m using the Kinetics Sequence as a learning ground to get to the projects that I believe are perfect for traditional publishing. This is not to say that I think my current work is trash, it just has a lot of room for improvement and with every page I write the better a writer I become.
I’ve seen success on either side of that coin and ultimately the decision of which direction to go comes down to how much of the work you are willing to put in on your own. Self-publishing requires a lot of work in terms of editing, formatting, cover selection and/or design marketing, promoting, etc. And most if not all of these things will cost money if you can’t feasibly do them on your own. If you have a polished and marketable enough project or the right contacts, an agent or publisher can do the vast majority of that work for you.
What is your writing process?
A series of starts and stops where I’m constantly evaluating if the story I’m trying to tell is the one I want to tell or if the meaning is getting lost.
l I outline a basic plot structure. I make sure I know my story ending. I make sure I know where I want my characters to start psychologically and where I want them to end up by the last page.
l I break that outline into the beginning, middle, and end and work on the tonal shifts from beginning to end.
l if I haven’t already begun to write I start. I start by writing out all the scenes I can think of for the story, even if they are out of order and jumbled and don’t make sense.
l I organize those scenes into some kind of order that works with my outline.
l I throw away the outline and only use it for reference if I feel like I’m losing my way.
l I try to use the scenes that I’ve written as the markers to guide the writing in between.
l I go until I get writers block. And when I get writer’s block it’s because I’ve failed to consider something, or a character is acting out-of-character or, conversely, IN-character but the situation I’ve put them in is wrong or not challenging.
l At any point in here I may decide that the flow of the plot is wrong or not right and I might re-outline to discover any plot holes. At this point I go back the the beginning of this list and start again, using what I’ve already written and worked on as a foundation for making a stronger plot, stronger characters, and a stronger built world.
I have at times removed whole portions of stuff that I’ve written and set them in another file (because I typically write on the computer) and go back them if they seem to fit in other areas or with other characters.
My writing process in general is a work in progress of learning, unlearning, research, recalibration, building upon old frameworks and molding something new.
What is your favorite genre? Least favorite?
My favorite genre is science-fiction for the ability to turn fantastic technology and worlds across the galaxy into macrocosms for current day social and environmental issues.
Least favorite is paranormal romance but mostly for superficial reasons. If I’m introduced to the right book I’m sure I could find more than a few redeeming qualities to outweigh the bad.
Do you think books are still as popular as movies and games or do you think interest has waned?
Books are more popular than ever! Sure they have to compete with the TV and movie industry but I don't think that's hurt the popularity of books at all. I had a professor in college tell me that books would be dead in ten years, and that was nearly thirteen years ago! Books hold a quiet, solitary, and immutable quality that a lot of people are looking for in our oversaturated social media world and there's something for everyone even if everyone isn't looking right away. I see books as having a long lasting presence in our lives.
Visit Arbor’s website, Amazon, Patreon, and Instagram!