Friday 23 August 2013

Interrogating Tom Barber

Introducing Tom Barber, a young blonde author who writes about Sam Archer, a young blonde policeman.

How do you strike the balance between writing something you want to write and writing something that people want to read, in terms of the compromises you make, if any? 

For me, the two are the same thing. I am your typical thriller fan; if I purchase a book, I want every last drop of adrenaline I pay for! Writing a book is a major, time-consuming commitment, so if I’m going to do it I’m damn well going to come up with something that both myself and other people will enjoy.

What excites, attracts or appeals to you about the genre(s) you write in. 

This might be slightly unusual for an author to admit, but I'm a movie fan first, book fan second. I’ve always read tons of books and love good ones, but I'm not ashamed to admit my favourite thrillers take place on the big screen. I’m not talking about recent work either; I’m talking about The Terminator, T2, Die Hard, Alien and my all-time favourite movie, Aliens.
All those films are perfect examples of what I’m trying to achieve in my work.
Jaw-dropping action, and tension. The highest of stakes. Characters that seem so real you couldn’t bear the thought of them not making it to the end credits. Intense emotion as well as action, and a pulsating 3rd Act that takes your breath away. I can remember vividly the first time I saw each of those movies, and I can say without a doubt they are my biggest influence as a writer.
I try to tell my stories in a very visual way so my books can be enjoyed like movies.
And most importantly of all, I want my thrillers to blow you away!

Do you have a box, drawer, folder etc where you keep thoughts and ideas for future stories? Such as names you have come across, bits of dialogue, ideas, characters - even if you have no idea when you might use them? 

I always remember good names when I hear them! I’ve used a few already, like Porter, Farrell, Wicks, Drexler, Rivers and Jorgensen, but have others stored away. Naming a character can be surprisingly difficult; sometimes, it can take me a number of attempts before I get it right.
In terms of other ideas, I scribble stuff down as it comes to me. I leave them near my computer or around the house but luckily, no one else can read my handwriting!

How do you manage plot bunnies (ideas that invade your mind that aren’t usually helpful to the story you’re writing but breed 

Simple: cut them out. The best thrillers are lean and mean, with no extra fat. I’ve thought of quite a bit of stuff that I’m currently saving for later books, good ideas that don’t quite fit a particular story I’m working on at that moment.
If you’re going to be a successful thriller writer in the long run, you need to pace yourself!

How much of you is in your characters? Which of your characters is the you that you’d most like to be? Or be with ? 

My lead character, Sam Archer, is the most obvious person I share similarities with (he’s slightly more heroic than me though!). I have the same kind of sense of humour as his best friend, Chalky, but like Archer I hate coffee, don't eat breakfast and get restless pretty fast.
Archer’s situation in my first book, Nine Lives , was very similar to my own when I wrote the novel. Unlike a lot of thriller heroes, he is very young in that story, only twenty six, but is desperate to be given an opportunity to show what he can do. I felt the same way in my own writing career. Luckily, we’ve both been given our chance. 

Do you become so wrapped up in your writing that your spouse wonders if they're married to you or one of your characters? 

Luckily I’m 26 years old and single, so that isn't a problem! I often try to come up with dialogue and talk to myself when I walk the dog, so people I pass probably think I’m crazy.

What type of book do you like reading? Is it the same genre as you write? 

Yes. But there’s a catch.
In all honesty, aside from most of the Jack Reacher books, I can’t remember the last thriller I started and actually finished. In my opinion, I think the genre is running the risk of becoming slightly stale, much like the vampire/werewolf craze. The thriller genre is chock-a-block with ex-Special Forces soldiers or government-trained assassins struggling to move on from their pasts.
With Archer, I’ve tried to do something different.
Given that he is still young, just 28 at this point, he doesn’t always have the answers and he feels just as much fear, pain and regret as the rest of us. In response to your question, I grew up on Stephen King, David Gemmell and Lee Child. I think you can see elements of each author in my work; heroism, shades of horror, action and character.

What lengths do you go to to convince us readers that your book has the X factor? 

Check 'em out, guys. Trust me; you'll enjoy them. I try to make each one like a roller-coaster, stories that will stay with you and make you feel a bit better about everyday life when you read the last page. However, I want you out of breath by the time you finish, so I’m not going to make it easy!

How do you feel when a reader points out the spelling mistake(s) you have made?

Appreciative. It used to jar me when I spotted a mistake in a book I was reading, but then I realised after going through each of my books about forty times (no exaggeration) with my editors that Microsoft Word can seem to have a mind of its own! An advantage of Kindle books is that such things can be corrected in a matter of hours.

What do you like most about visiting KUF/GR/forums? 

I love interacting with people who’ve enjoyed my work, plain and simple. I don’t get to meet a lot of readers who’ve read my books but it’s always nice to correspond with them.

What is on your near horizon? 

Aside from writing a stack of more thrillers, I’m planning to set a up a film production company in several years. I want to start seeing some of my work on the big screen, most likely starting out as independent film. I recently released a thriller novella called Condition Black which could well be the first thing I want to see go into production.
I’m also going to be living on the road for the next few years before I settle down; the beauty of writing is one can do it anywhere, and there’s a lot of the US and Europe that I want to explore. By the time I was 22 I'd already lived in 5 different continents, so I think travelling around is in my DNA!

Where can we find you for more information? 

I’m active every day on my Twitter handle @TomBarberBooks. Go there if you’d like to sign up to my mailing list, check out my work and website, or just get in touch! I’d love to hear from you. 

Thanks for your time Joo!


  1. "Jaw-dropping action, and tension." That's what I'm after. I've had 'Nine Lives' on my TBR list for a while now - I'm going to have to dig it out! A great interview by the way. I found myself nodding along with the "The thriller genre is chock-a-block with ex-Special Forces soldiers ..." bit. And plot bunnies was a new one on me!

  2. Finished one way and return fire in one evening each, I agree:unputdownable !! my only complaint is that they are not translated already in French as I am sure all of my friends would like your books very much,

    keep going