We're thrilled to have Kara Barbieri swing by to tell us more about her debut novel, WHITE STAG.
Kara, what book or books would most resonate with readers who love your book--or visa versa?
I’d say White Stag would work well for those who like dark fantasy or high fantasy similar to Throne of Glass or a Court of Thorns and Roses though I could be wrong as I haven’t actually read those (yet). Obviously it’s been both compared to Game of Thrones and Twilight, so if you like either of those then it would be great for you too, I think.
How long did you work on WHITE STAG?
I started White Stag during my first stint in rehab for an eating disorder at age 18 and turned 19 while there. I was there for about a month or so. May/June-ish is probably when I started month-wise and then I finished the original rough draft in October. So it took me maybe six months.
What did this book teach you about writing or about yourself?
Well a lot of WHITE STAG was therapy for things that I personally was going through at that time and when I wrote it a lot of my emotions came pouring to the page so as Janneke learned that you can feel pain for something but not let that pain defy you—just feel the pain and move through it to a better day—that’s what I was going through too. Like Janneke, I’m fighting an eating disorder though we express it in different ways, we both begin the story with a type of self-hatred for who we are and why, and we both deal with survivor’s guilt. Me because my father had just died and I blamed myself and her from surviving the raid on her village. So, writing WHITE STAG was at some times this deep exploration about myself and who I am.
What do you hope readers will take away from WHITE STAG?
I want them to take away more than just the cool dark fantasy action-packed story bits of WHITE STAG. If anything I hope that the various themes regarding acceptance, learning to let go of self-hatred, fear, and judgment, and of the idea that monsters aren’t always what you think they are left with the reader. There are deeper themes I’ve put into the book that I think can resonate with anyone in some way.
How long or hard was your road to publication? How many books did you write before this one, and how many never got published?
So I knew I wanted to be published at 15. Like I sent terrible, terrible queries out and everything. Soon I learned about sites like Querytracker and AgentQueryConnect and frequented their communities. Ironically I got banned from AgentQueryConnect a few years ago and I still have no clue why. But Querytracker’s community really helped with me learning the way things work in traditional publishing and how to write good queries and everything. I’m still friends with a lot of people from there—some who are also published!
I think I wrote maybe seven book-length things. I say book-length things because that’s really what they were. They weren’t good enough to be called books. Or, well, the seventh was pretty near the quality of White Stag and I did have some agent interest from that but it never got anywhere so I shelved it and used what I learned from it to begin writing WHITE STAG. I don’t think I’d have written WHITE STAG as emotionally intense and challenging as it can be seen if I hadn’t written the book before it, which was my first foray into that type of writing style.
Was there an AHA! moment along your road to publication where something suddenly sank in and you felt you had the key to writing a novel? What was it?
I don’t think I could ever claim to have the key to writing a novel. I think I’m more like a headless chicken who occasionally runs across a keyboard and types nice things.
What advice would you most like to pass along to other writers?
Write. So often as young writers you hold yourself back. You criticize your work too harshly and feel like you need to abandon it because it’s bad. I know I went through that. But you shouldn’t abandon it because writing is the only way you’re going to improve. Every story is going to improve your skills even if it’s self-insert One Direction fanfiction. Don’t let anyone tell you what you can or can’t write, that you’re too amateur to write something big, or anything like that. Write what you want. And while you’re writing and you look at your chapter and feel bummed because you think it’s shit…realize that everyone starts out as shit. Most people who are published still have rough drafts that are, well, shit! I mean, mine was. That’s what editing is for. Don’t expect your work to be perfect or even “good” the first time around. You don’t go onto a basketball court for the first time and start playing like an NBA star. You have to learn all the skills and whatnot and you do that by playing. The same goes for writing.
What are you working on now?
Well, other than WHITE STAG’s sequel GOBLIN KING, which is with my editor right now I’m working on a new WIP that I’m serializing on Wattpad similar to how I did WHITE STAG though it’s not gotten nearly the same amount of attention. But I really love the story. It’s an apocalyptic fantasy set in a desert world where sled dog teams run from one walled city to the other across the open desert where there are monster-like beings called Chiroptera. The MC, Jericho, must deliver a cure to save one of the cities from falling to an epidemic but instead is ambushed in the desert. To save both her home and her girlfriend, she has to make a deal with a heretical prophet named Riga who believes it is her duty to end the world.
I suck at summarizing but I’d definitely say if you like WHITE STAG to check it out!
ABOUT THE BOOKWhite Stag: A Novel
by Kara Barbieri
As the last child in a family of daughters, seventeen-year-old Janneke was raised to be the male heir. While her sisters were becoming wives and mothers, she was taught to hunt, track, and fight. On the day her village was burned to the ground, Janneke―as the only survivor―was taken captive by the malicious Lydian and eventually sent to work for his nephew Soren.
Janneke’s survival in the court of merciless monsters has come at the cost of her connection to the human world. And when the Goblin King’s death ignites an ancient hunt for the next king, Soren senses an opportunity for her to finally fully accept the ways of the brutal Permafrost. But every action he takes to bring her deeper into his world only shows him that a little humanity isn’t bad―especially when it comes to those you care about.
Through every battle they survive, Janneke’s loyalty to Soren deepens. After dangerous truths are revealed, Janneke must choose between holding on or letting go of her last connections to a world she no longer belongs to. She must make the right choice to save the only thing keeping both worlds from crumbling.
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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Have you had a chance to read WHITE STAG yet? Is your writing therapy for things you're going through? Are you able to keep writing even when you think it's bad? Share your thoughts about the interview in the comments!
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