Official Interview: E.R. Barr

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Official Interview: E.R. Barr

Post by ALynnPowers » 12 Nov 2016, 15:54

Welcome to another OnlineBookClub interview! This time I got to hear from our current November 2016 Book of the Month author, E.R. Barr, about this book Roan: The Tales of Conor Archer. Check out the official 4/4 review by OBC member @jacnthabox at this link.

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Q: Tell us about yourself and your background.
I am a Roman Catholic priest and I love what I do, but I am also keenly aware that one of my responsibilities is to be a storyteller—a storyteller of God.  It always amuses me when people kind of dismiss the fact that I’m a priest, but these same people would go gaga over someone if they said they were a shaman from Tibet.  Such mystery!  Such an ability to connect with the Otherworld!  If only we could have someone like that.  But, you see, we do.  Priests are the shamans of western civilization.  After all, there are no real druids left.  It takes a long time to be a storyteller of God—as long as it took to be a druid for the Celts.  I did 14 years of study after high school, got a few degrees, and went to work trying to show people that there was more to life than just the everyday.  It’s a main theme in my book, namely, the ability to look for the mountain behind the mountain, the really real that underlies all the reality we see.  Whew! Kind of heavy.  Sorry.

Q: What are your hobbies (aside from reading and writing)?
I love to hike, I love to play with my three chocolate Labrador retrievers, play piano, climb small mountains.

Q: When you were a child, what did you want to be when you grew up?
I wanted to be a lot of things such as a writer, a paleontologist, astronomer, archaeologist, professions like that.  But in fourth grade, one really cool nun said, “You know, you would make a good priest,” and that idea stuck with me and I never let it go.

Q: What all have you written?
I’ve written a lot of articles in my field of theology, two major articles on Tolkien and Lewis, a non-fiction book called “The Shadow Of the Cross” which is a journey through Celtic Spirituality, and lots of newspaper articles.
Q: Tell us about your book, Roan.
ROAN had its genesis in 1991 when I visited Effigy Mounds National Monument on the Iowa side of the Mississippi River.  The Indian mounds were so mysterious, built by an ancient people we knew little about.  I didn’t really start writing until 2008 and it took four years to complete the book.  It is the story of Conor Archer who finds out he is a member of the Roan, the shape-shifting people of the seals from Ireland and Scotland. The bulk of the story takes place in southwest Wisconsin in the little town of Tinkers Grove.  It is there that he must discover who he is.  Irish, Native American, and Christian stories merge together to create an action packed novel where battle must be joined with an ancient evil and the future of the world teeters on the cusp of destruction.  It is an urban/rural fantasy and is fine for people from age 12 to 101.  The book has won 14 national awards.  
Q: What kind of message do you hope to send out to readers with this book?
I want readers to began to see the awesomeness of everyday reality.  We only see part of what is here.  To get in touch with what is truly real, like I said before to see the mountain behind the mountain, is the task of every human being.  We won’t be truly alive until we do so.  That’s heavy but if you communicate that message in that time-proven method of storytelling, people just naturally get it.  There are a lot of themes in this novel, but this is the most important.
Q: Have other writers of sci-fi/fantasy influenced you? How? (Thanks to @gali for the foundation of this question)
Ray Bradbury for his power of emotion in his storytelling.  Tolkien and Lewis of course for reviving what fairy tales are supposed to be like.  Manly Wade Wellman for teaching me how to tell an American fantasy, Walter Miller for showing what real sci-fi is.  Homer for showing me the themes that never die and a way of expressing them in lyrical poetry.  Dante for showing the power of the Christian story.  Milton for demonstrating how evil truly works.  Madeleine L’Engle for showing me that viewing reality with the openness of a child is the best way to recapture wonder, beauty and awe.
Q: What other projects/books are you working on at the moment?
In a month I will publish the audio book of ROAN.  It is all recorded and I have to tell you, it is amazing.  I write like Charles Dickens did—short chapters, long book.  When that is transformed to audio, it is very compelling.  I am working on the second volume of the tales of Conor Archer called SKELLIG which will take place in Ireland and will hopefully be published by next September.
Q: What is the hardest thing about writing? The easiest?
I really don’t think that way.  It’s like life.  It has its ups and downs and you never really know what is going to happen.
Q: How do you plan your book? Do you let the characters create the plot and scene for you? (Thanks to @PandaBookLover for this question)
I have a basic plot and then I let things take shape on their own with a little nudge here and there from me.  The characters take on a life of their own.  Tolkien said one of our greatest gifts was the gift of sub-creation, by our writing we create stories like God creates reality.  I let my characters do their thing and I am just as surprised as everyone else at who lives, who dies, and what happens ultimately with the plot.
Q: How do you come up with the names of characters in your books? (Thanks to @xueli28 for this question)
I don’t mean to avoid the question, but again, they just sort of pop into my mind.
Q: Who has been the most important person in your book writing journey? (Thanks to @Gravy for providing this question)
Besides my Mom and Dad who gave me a love of story, two of the most talented and gifted nuns had the most effect on me.  Sister Marie Monica, OP taught me how to write and what a gift that was.  Sister Ann McCullough, OP built on that and helped me find my style and perfect a way of communicating truth through the choice and placement of words.  I could never have written much of anything had they not been a part of my life.
Q: What motivates you to write? Do you write for money or for fame? (Thanks to @Jackbampoe for this question)
I write because I have to.  There are stories that have to be told.  Money and fame are nice, but to my surprise since I don’t have either, I am just as passionate about writing.  And I really enjoy it.

Q: Do you ever miss your characters after the book has been completed? (Thanks to @SparklingOne for this question)
Like old soldiers, my characters never die.  They may fade from my conscious memory once in a while, but they always come back having, of course, entertained themselves with new adventures that they are anxious to tell me about.
Q: On your road to becoming a published author what would you do differently? (Thanks to @DATo for this question)
I would have started earlier.  I’ve always written but I did not pursue publishing in earnest until 2010.
Q: If you were to give advice to new writers, what would it be? (Thanks to @hsimone for this question)
Find authors you admire, figure out why you admire them, and try out their style as you seek to find your own.  Ray Bradbury was the first author I consciously tried to imitate.  I don’t write like him at all, but he sure did influence me to find my style.
Q: What’s something you wish everyone knew about you? (Thanks to @“Barbara T Cerny” for this fun question!)
I haven’t ever told anyone this:  I am a terrible dancer (which everyone knows) but I do love to dance to great pop music with my chocolate Labradors who think it’s the best thing they ever did besides swimming, barking and eating.  They told me I would certainly win Dancing With the Stars if I ever tried out for it.  Aren’t dogs wonderful?!


Thank to to E.R. Barr for providing us with such fun information. Don’t forget to check out the BOTM thread and leave your comments on this book, which has already received a perfect rating from the OBC review team. Thanks to everyone who helped out with providing questions for this interview! If there are any more questions that you would like to ask our current author of the month, leave a comment below!


The Books

Roan: The Tales of Conor Archer by E.R. Barr ~ View on Bookshelves | View on Amazon

Being Medusa: And Other Things That Suck by A. Lynn Powers (interviewer) ~View on Bookshelves | View on Amazon

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Post by hsimone » 12 Nov 2016, 17:47

What a great interview, ALynnPowers!

Thank you for your answers and sharing a piece of your life, E.R. Barr! I think your background is fascinating - a priest and a writer. I love this: "...went to work trying to show people that there was more to life than just the everyday". It's beautiful and true. Thank you again for sharing!
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Post by Gnome » 12 Nov 2016, 21:51

Thank you for this interview! It is such a treat to read about what goes into writing the story.

I'm off to follow the advice of figuring out why I admire certain writers and how I can add that to my current writing.

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Post by gali » 13 Nov 2016, 01:53

Great interview!

I am reading the book right now and it is nice to read about its birth process. Thank you both!
In the case of good books, the point is not to see how many of them you can get through, but rather how many can get through to you." (Mortimer J. Adler)

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Post by tweety bird » 14 Nov 2016, 18:53

I love that you consider yourself a shaman of western culture, and that you are open to ancient mysticism. Your influences are so much the same as mine! I look forward to reading this gem. Wishing you much inspiration and peace.

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Post by Gravy » 15 Nov 2016, 18:10

Sequel! :text-woo:
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Post by Seamusberen1955 » 15 Nov 2016, 19:12

Absolutely there will be a sequel. Should be out September 2017. Got tostay on my case so I finish It. It's called SKELLIG and takes place in Ireland.

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Post by Janetleighgreen » 15 Nov 2016, 21:40

Thank you so much for sharing with us. I am deeply humbled after reading your interview; how dare I attempt to give a book that has earned 14 national awards critique! Ha.

I am very happy to have read your book and I look forward to the next read.

Write On!!!

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Post by Jennifer Allsbrook » 15 Nov 2016, 23:16

Great interview! I appreciate your willingness to share with us. I completed Roan and look forward to the sequel. Besides Troubles, I hope we get to hear from some of the familiar characters from Roan. If not, I look forward to meeting the new cast of characters on Conor's journey of becoming!

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Post by Vermont Reviews » 16 Nov 2016, 11:14

Awesome interview. I did enjoy reading more about the author E.R. Barr. It is always nice to have more knowledge about the author of a book that you enjoy reading.
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Post by queeennnkatie » 16 Nov 2016, 16:06

What an amazing interview! I love learning about the authors who write the books that I read. I love seeing what influenced their thought process and how it ties into my books. Thank you so much!
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Post by lucymn11 » 16 Nov 2016, 17:49

Awesome interview, thanks for sharing! I always find it fun to learn more about an author and see what little parts of their personal life they may have incorporated into their work.

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Post by Horror Nerd » 17 Nov 2016, 13:21

Great interview! I'm getting this book right now. Reading it is a must. I love hearing about the conception of creative pursuits and the people who birth them. Thanks so much for this.

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Post by DennisK » 18 Nov 2016, 10:47

I'm about a quarter though the book. As I watch the story unfold, I can do so with an appreciation of from where it comes.

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Post by littlefrog » 19 Nov 2016, 22:40

Congratulations on all the awards. I am looking forward to reading Roan. It is nice to be able to have a peek into the writer's life. To see the drive and compassion just adds to the stories impact and emotion.
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