August 3, 2016

Reid's Journey: an interview + GIVEAWAY with Barry Napier, author of "Dark Water" and "Rival Blood"

Who is Cooper M. Reid?

As a former Special Agent within a shadow branch of the government, Cooper M. Reid’s work took him to some odd places…researching time vortexes in Kansas, demons in Norway, and UFOs in Jerusalem. The work only got weirder when he decided to go rogue and start investigating for himself. 

So it came as no real surprise when he disappeared one year ago. 

Now that he has re-appeared, Cooper has no recollection of what happened to him. All he knows is that he is now driven to help those that are being tormented by the paranormal, and that he needs to stay hidden from the people he once worked for. 

In RIVAL BLOOD, Cooper learns that members of an inner-city gang are dying off in gruesome and mysterious ways. He believes it’s the work of a mythological creature that he always believed to be nothing more than fiction. As he investigates deeper he finds himself not only in the middle of a potential gang war, but also hunted by a seemingly unstoppable monster.

GIVEAWAY: If you'd like to win a copy of both DARK WATER and RIVAL BLOOD, Barry is giving away e-copies to one lucky winner. To enter, all you have to do is share a link to this interview on social media (Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, Google+, etc.). Then just leave a comment or send me an email showing me where you shared the link, and you're entered!
I'll pick a winner Monday night. Good luck! And now onto the interview ...

Gef: What was the impetus behind the Cooper M. Reid books?

Barry: The character was born out of two major influences: Agent Dale Cooper from Twin Peaks and Harry D'Amour from a few of Clive Barker's books. It wasn't until halfway through DARK WATER that I realized that there was potential for a series...sort of in the style of Lee Child's Jack Reacher books. Also, I had a chapbook published a few years back titled The Final Study of Cooper M. Reid and the character always stuck with me. He just kept bullying me until I agreed to write at least 3 books about him. If the proper audience finds Cooper, there could be as many as 10.

Gef: What was it about these books, if anything, that you approached differently from your previous work?

Barry: Well, it didn't take long before I felt the X-Files vibe creeping into the stories. And while I was always a mythology nerd, I also really liked several of the monster of the week episodes. So the way these stories differ from my others as far as the writing process goes is that I try to map each book out with a clear idea of where the "mythology" part is headed for the next 2-3 books while also making each book unique to itself. DARK WATER features ghosts, BLOOD RIVALS features an aswang, and still untitled Book 3 features a creature I basically made up. But under it all, there's the steady thread of one narrative connecting Cooper's journey.

Gef: The reviews you've received thus far liken the series to X-Files and Supernatural, which ain't too shabby in my book. A fair comparison, would you say? What would you say sets your series apart from others in the genre?

Barry: I wanted to incorporate a bit of the action/adventure mystery feel into these books ... something that typical supernatural thrillers don't usually have. The flipside is true, too ... I wanted to write something similar to the Reacher books that had a twinge of the supernatural. Without giving too much away, there's a certain aspect of Cooper's life that drives these books in the same way that Fox Mulder's sister drove him. So at the core, there's this internal thing driving Cooper almost as much as the mysteries themselves.

Gef: How intensive does the research process get for you? What little tricks have you picked up with approaching the research phase of writing?

Barry: I'm a trivia geek anyway. So when I have to spend excessive amounts of time researching the pirate history of North Carolina, Filipino folklore, or Civil war oddities, I'm sort of in heaven. I must admit ... I was stoked to write BLOOD RIVALS due to the aswang involvement because I thought it was fairly original. But then I found out that a few episodes of various TV shows have features the creature (hey ... I never watched Grimm and have only seen 5-6 episodes of Supernatural ... something I'm often scolded for).

So, while there are no real "tricks," the process of landing on the supernatural topic of each book takes a bit of molding and manipulation.

Gef: Is theme something you have in mind when your writing the story, or is that something that kinds of reveals itself later in the process?

Barry: I try to start out with a very basic theme. DARK WATER is, more or less, about battling our own demons in order to better understand our purpose in life. But because of Cooper's internal struggles, the theme sometimes becomes a little skewed and is the perfect example of a story writing itself. Starting from 7 years ago when I had the chapbook published, Cooper has been part of my writing life for a while ... so he sometimes has more say in regards to where the stories go than I do.

There's a theme of redemption and discovery in both of the current books and it's also floating around in Book 3 as it's being built. Cooper has this large chunk of his life missing, something he is desperate to recover and understand. And with that as one of the driving forces behind his journey, it's a hard theme to get away from. So I guess it's a double-answer: yes, I start out with a theme but Cooper tends to make it his own thing within just a few chapters.

Gef: What is the worst piece of writing advice you ever received? Or what piece of writing advice do you wish would just go away?

Barry: It's a controversial answer, but the advice to sink money into advertising and promotion annoys me. Have you looked at the prices of a Book Bub promotion? It's ridiculous. Now, I say that giving full disclosure: I'm applying for a Book Bub promotion in the coming weeks. The results are obviously fantastic and Book Bub is popular for a reason.

This is the one thing that makes me always hesitate to self publish my work ... the idea that writers suddenly have to approach writing as a business. I don't want to market. I don't want to peddle my wares on social media. I want to write. And mixing all of those in one pot is too distracting in my opinion.

Of course, this is all essentially griping on my end. There are plenty of writers that have found success with mixing all of that up. So far, I simply haven't come around, I guess.

Gef: What kinds of stories resonate with you as a reader?

Barry: I enjoy stories rich in character development. I'm also a sucker for a really good ghost story. It's an old go-to, but the thing King does so well is, as many reviewers and journalists have said, is "placing ordinary people in extraordinary circumstances." I love stories like that.

I'm also a fan of books that can unsettle me or shake me up. Something like Cormac McCarthy's "Child of God" or, more recently, Paul Tremblay's "A Head Full of Ghosts."

Gef: What kind of guilty pleasures do you have when it comes to books or movies or whatnot?

Barry: I'm not sure if it's a guilty pleasure or not, but I really enjoy reading Middle Grade novels, and even things a little below that. My daughter was reading a series last year called Clementine, a series geared for 3rd - 5th graders. The writing was exceptional. In Middle Grade stories, if you can nail the voice of the character and keep it consistent, there's something really magical there. 

I'm also a fan of poetry. One of my favorite collections is called "Indeed I was Pleased with the World" by Mary Reufle. That book stays on the bookcase by my bed because it's a great resource for when my own writing starts to feel bland and flat. I highly recommend that anyone reading this Googles her name and read any poems that pop up. Other favorites are Sandra Beasley, Major Jackson, and Christine Hamm.

I'm also a sucker for just about anything Mary Roach puts out. She's the only non-fiction author I read with regularity. Her books "Spook" and "Stiff" are amazing. I've gone to them more than once for supernatural-oriented research.

In terms of movies, it's not a guilty pleasure, but more of an admission: I've basically stopped watching horror. There are a few here and there that interest me, but the genre in film as a whole has bored me in the last few years. That being said, I still have not seen The Witch or It Follows. (Go ahead and throw your stones ...)

Gef: What projects are you cooking up that folks can expect in the near future, and how can folks keep up with your shenanigans?

Barry: Future projects that I absolutely know will see the light of day sometime soon are the next 2 Cooper M. Reid books (Book 3 coming November-ish) and a novella tentatively called "Music from the Dark Room." I'm working on a few other books including a Middle Grade book and what's looking to be a pretty lengthy cosmic horror novel. There's also a weird sort of modernized tribute to Lord of the Flies in the works, but it's been cooking for a while and I don't know when/if it will ever be done.

As for keeping up with me, I'm on Twitter at @bnapier. I'm also on Facebook, and then there's my blog.

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