Hello once again readers!
Today I have another interview for you all and I am so excited! Today I am interviewing my really good friend, Carissa. (Or better known in the publishing world as C.F Barrows. 😉 ) So let’s jump right into this because I am excited!
C. F. Barrows writes not only to entertain, but to share with her generation the good news of Jesus Christ. She is a homeschool graduate, and lives in Northern Indiana with her family, a hyperactive dog, and hundreds of fictional characters birthed by her own over-active imagination.
Hello, and Welcome! Could you tell us a bit about your books?
Well, I guess technically, I have two novels. There are many more lurking inside my brain, waiting to be written into existence, but as it is, I guess there are only two which I can currently discuss.
‘The Sehret Chronicles’ is a Christian Fantasy series geared mostly towards teen and young adults. It takes place in a world called (as one might guess) Sehret, and centers on some of the people who live in it. ‘The Follower’ (the first book) is the story of two scouting patrols who are trapped in a cave-in together and, with their main routes back home blocked, have to band together to escape. It was my first novel, and my perfectionist self wants to rewrite it, but I’ve been told it’s a strong allegory of faith and the battle between good and evil. Here’s the full blurb:
“Three hundred years ago, the Rhenor nation split into two, the Reshan and the Khanor. One dwells in the Outerlands, the other in the mountains – and although the nations have made peace, their people have not. One fateful day, two small patrols meet in an outer cave in Khanor territory. The youths, spurred by mutual distrust, brawl, and the ensuing cave-in cuts off their main routes back to both the Reshan and the Khanor civilizations. Their only choice is to join forces and follow the one remaining tunnel – one that runs through an area known simply as the Forbidden Regions – to find their way back to their homes. Along the way, the beliefs of every traveler are put to the test, and the secrets of a few may threaten the safety of all. For as they go, Lusefar, lord of the Saethen, sends his agents against them, licking his lips as a ravenous dragon.”
The prequel, ‘The Merchant’s Son’, follows three of the main characters approximately seven years before the events of ‘The Follower’. It’s my favorite of the two, probably because it’s newer and there were fewer characters to wrangle, therefore enabling me to develop the ones I had more fully. I guess it’s also an allegory, both of the battle between good and evil, of the slippery slope of temptation, faith, and self-sacrificing love. Here’s the blurb for that (because I’m lazy and it’s easier to copy and paste than figure out how to better explain myself):
“Sheth Terrem is the son of traveling merchants, making one last stop in the bordertown of Lans before they return home with their newly-acquired merchandise. But then tragedy strikes, and a simple promise sends Sheth to live with a man he’s barely met, who seems as though the last thing he wants is an orphaned teenager to look after.
Sern Jesyn expected to look after the boy for a day, perhaps a week or two at the most. With unrest in the streets and among those who walk them, living alone is trial enough. Now that their time together has been termed indefinite, and long-suppressed memories come back to haunt him, he is uneasy at the thought of following through on his word.
But what neither of them knows is that their trouble did not end with the riot. Rather, it lives on in the surviving rioters, and in a boy called Siran, who has begun to find keeping his nose out of his older brother’s business both difficult and increasingly dangerous.”
What inspired you to write ‘The Sehret Chronicles’?
In high school, I contracted something called Lyme Disease. It’s a degenerative auto-immune disease which is difficult to diagnose, so I had it for a year and a half before we got a diagnosis and started treatment. During that time before my diagnosis, my mind and body were crumbling, and my faith began to erode with them as depression and confusion engulfed me. It effectively put my faith through the fire, and forced me to question just how strongly I believed, and how much I was willing to trust God. God brought me out of that valley, but through it, ‘The Follower’ was born. I channeled a lot of my own inner struggles and beliefs into it, so a lot of the struggles of the characters were my own struggles repackaged, and the revelations to which they came were those which God taught me through that struggle of an unknown illness. ‘The Follower’ was meant to be a stand-alone, but I fell in love with the characters and realized there were many stories left to be told with them, so it became a series. Funny, considering that the original story concept was just a random scene that I jotted down in my notebook and added to for fun whenever I got bored.
That is probably the coolest thing I’ve heard on how a story was created. (Not cool that you have lyme disease but as to how it came about) So, since I’m a plotter I have to ask, did you write an outline before writing the novel?
Ha. Funny story there. Yes, I did write outlines, both for ‘The Follower’ and for ‘The Merchant’s Son’. I also plotted out the series as a whole. But through the actual writing process, I have discovered this: I cannot follow a set plotline to save my life. Usually, what happens is that I start writing the novel, get a couple of chapters in, and realize that I have no idea what I’m doing. So I sit down and write an outline (as detailed as possible based on what I’ve already figured out), and I follow it faithfully for, oh, say five chapters. Then a major plot twist smacks me in the face, and in my excitement (or possibly just in reaction to having been smacked in the face), I toss the outline out the window. Okay, not literally. But I might as well. I become a pantster at least by the halfway point, and usually have to regroup and recruit friends to help me brainstorm a solution for the mess I’ve made for myself.
That’s me with outlines too. I outline then a plot twist surprises me then I just go from there. Now, tell me what was the hardest part of writing your novel?
I guess it would depend on which novel you mean. With both of them, and with other projects, my biggest problem is sticking with the story once I’ve hit that “I have no idea what I’m doing” stage. With ‘The Follower’, I followed my outline very rigidly for the first several chapters, and I feel like it restricted me to some extent, which was stressful, so I had trouble sticking with it for a while. ‘The Merchant’s Son’ started out being a more mundane story in which Sheth is orphaned, goes to live with Sern, and somehow befriends Siran while he’s living in Lans. At least, those were the bare-bones of what I had to work with, and it sounded terribly boring to me. It took a couple of major plot changes and twists smacking me in the face to convince me that it was worth finishing, but ultimately, it is my favorite of the two.
I’m trying to hard not to fangirl over all the character here. (Conceal it, don’t feel it.) Okay, so since I read the books I’ve been dying to know, what is one way you relate to your main character(s)?
Oh, boy. Only one way, huh? I’m not sure I can do that. I guess for ‘The Follower’, I relate to Sheth’s struggle in maintaining his faith in the face of trials, Jorthen’s desire for perfection, and Kyra’s desperation to appear strong when she’s falling apart inside. In ‘The Merchant’s Son’, I can relate to Sheth’s bookishness and Sern’s battle between his own nature and what Yahveh wants him to do. In both books, there is an overarching theme of trusting God even when you don’t know what He’s doing, and I guess when I wrote that, I was really teaching myself more than the characters, so I can relate to their struggles in that area.
Is there a message in your novel that you want readers to grasp?
…Oops. Did I answer this one too soon? Oh, well. I guess the general message of the series that I want readers to grasp is that God is there, and that He has a plan, even when things get hard, even when we don’t understand what He’s doing. He’s so much bigger than anything we can comprehend, and He never leaves. He’s worth trusting.
That is great! A message I think everyone needs to hear! Did you learn anything from writing ‘The Sehret Chronicles’ and what was it?
I guess for one thing, I learned that if God is in something, it will succeed despite my doubts and weaknesses. ‘The Follower’ is not a perfectly written book. I’ve gotten numerous reports of confusion from early on in the book, largely due to the number of characters. I am a perfectionist, so even letting anyone read my most painstakingly edited work takes a great act of courage. But even with the book’s flaws, I’ve heard so many more people say how much the book has blessed them and helped them grow in their faith. As much as I would love for everyone to be dazzled with my writing, it is more important to me that the message gets across without sounding preachy, and that it really does something to help people. And by God’s grace, that’s apparently what has happened.
If you had to choose, which writer would you consider a mentor?
…I have to choose? *hides* Okay, um… Not that I’d imitate all his content (especially in his recent years), but I guess Ted Dekker was a significant influence on my writing. From him I got my love of allegory, and of illustrating the contrast between good and evil, and I think I take after him somewhat in my style (though obviously, he’s much more amazing). However, I have also been told that C. S. Lewis is a strong influence, and I intentionally patterned a couple of the villains after Screwtape and Wormwood from ‘The Screwtape Letters’. And then there’s Tolkien, of course… Sorry, I can’t pick one. I just can’t.
No pressure. I don’t think I could just pick one either. (Great choices by the way) What is one entity that you feel supported you outside of family members?
In 2010, I joined ChristianWriters.com, a community of Christian writers looking to share in fellowship and encourage one another in their writing/publishing journeys. I haven’t been that active recently, but I got a lot of useful feedback and encouragement in the most formative years of my fledgling writing career. The members there even prayed for me when I said that I was struggling with writing ‘The Follower’ within my given deadline. It was awesome. I felt accepted, despite my lack of age and experience, and it was just so helpful for me.
Okay, so not gonna lie. I totally checked out that site and signed up before posting this…just saying 🙂 So, last but not least, do you have any advice for other writers out there who are looking into publishing or just writing a story in general?
Don’t give up. I know that the path ahead looks daunting at times (if not most of the time). I know the terror of sharing your writing with others who might not appreciate it in the way I hope they will. I know the lure of plot bunnies that try to pull you away from your main project with their promises of a more interesting story. But if you stick with your project and give it over to God, I promise it will be worth it, whether you end up publishing it or not. Nothing is written in vain. You either accomplish what you set out to do, or you learn from the experience. Getting anywhere in the writing world requires developing a thick skin, so to speak, and learning to realize that if people don’t love your work, it is not a reflection on you personally. You can always work harder and make your writing better. Negative feedback is not the end of the world, and failure in the short term might set you up for greater success in the long run.
Oh yeah! Where can we as readers stalk you on social media? (Pinterest, Goodread, FB, Blog etc etc.)
Well, let me just write up my list here…
Pinterest (Has storyboards and character profiles, writing prompts, humor boards, as well as a myriad of other random things): http://www.pinterest.com/CrazyWriter94/
Goodreads (I’m not very active here, but you can follow me anyways): https://www.goodreads.com/user/show/5587583-carissa
Facebook (For news and updates on books, sales, giveaways, etc.): https://www.facebook.com/pages/C-F-Barrows/356238444468516
Blogger (For randomness pertaining to books, writing, faith, and whatever pops into my head on a given day): http://www.digressionsofadementedscribe.blogspot.com