CL Barber is the Author of the Chronicles of Kilion series - which currently includes Keeper of the Keystone and its sequel Key to Dragon Falls. She is a member of Brentwood Writer's Circle and Chairperson of Thurrock Writer's Circle.
She has won short story and poetry competitions; has had work published in writer’s anthologies, and been published in magazines. She has a degree in history, a Masters in Education and is an Assistant Principal for Teaching, Learning and Curriculum at Ormiston Academy.
What genre do you write in and what age group are your books intended for? The genre is fantasy fiction, and like Harry Potter and Lord of the Rings, my audience ranges from the age of 10 to those in their seventies. They are books where everyone, male and female, young and old, can lose themselves and find characters they both love and hate. 'All Michael knows of his dad is that the night before his first birthday, he disappeared. The same night, a local family was slaughtered, and the murderer was never caught. Whether this was a coincidence, or whether their fates were entwined, no-one knew. Both mysteries remained unsolved.' 'Fourteen years later, as Michael turns 15, a relative bearing a gift, changes the lives of Michael and his friends, Daniel and Hazel. No longer the victims of bullies and poverty, Michael is catapulted into a world of castles and magic.' 'Yet all isn't well. Behind a façade of smiles, loom threats, plots and treason; Michael, Daniel and Hazel, away from home, find their existences threatened. Who should they trust and how can they survive?' The second book, Key to Dragon Falls, continues their fight for what is right and their determination to leave Kilion with their lives.
Which of your characters would you least like to meet in a dark alley? There are many characters who would be best met in broad daylight. However, the person I would least like to meet in a dark alley is Azarel. With a scarred face too damaged for human eyes to look upon, covered by a dark hood, and with a voice which can chill even the most ruthless of men to the bone, he would be someone I would definitely want to avoid in the dark. Having tried to steal the crown from his cousin, killing him in the process, Azarel is devoid of emotions. He has only one goal.... the crown. He won't let anyone or anything get in his way, and is happy to dispose of anyone he no longer needs or who he feels is a barrier to his greatest wish of being king. Loss of life is nothing to him, making him a person to be feared. Do your characters have any quirks that make them interesting? I believe all characters should have their own quirks and characteristics, otherwise, they remain one-dimensional. However, probably my favourite character is Hazel, who, despite her tragic background and treatment by her father, still has a zest for life and always looks for the best in people and situations. She often becomes so enthusiastic, that she has a tendency to wave her arms about and gesture in a way which often embarrasses her friends, Michael and Daniel. Her complete lack of worry when it comes to taking risks leads them to make decisions which, on more than one occasion, leads her and her friends into dangerous and sometimes life-threatening situations. However, the same characteristic also helps Daniel and Michael to deal with their own demons and emotions.
If you could own one item from your world, what would it be? The ring with the power and control that it brings. I cannot say any more as it will give away the plot but as knowledge of its powers increase, so does the need to keep it out of evil's way. However, the full extent of the powers of the ring will not be realised until the third book, when the lives of all are at stake. Will there be a third book in the series? I am in the middle of writing the third book and am excited about the progression of the characters. This book provides lots of twists, with many characters revealing their true natures, both good and bad. You're heavily involved in two writer's circles. Have you found the experience useful in your writing? Being part of two writer's groups is extremely beneficial as you get to share your work and receive honest critique. You also listen to others write, and start to think about stories and work analytically, then apply those skills to your own writing. They also often have visiting speakers who are published authors. Listening to their own journeys, successes and barriers not only provides useful advice but also can inspire you to not give up and remain determined.
Do you plan every step of your novel before you begin, or do you write spontaneously? (I do a little of both). The first book was spontaneous but meant that sometimes plots and twists didn't always match, so I had to rewrite and edit many times before the finished product. In the second book, I planned the key plot twists chapter by chapter, then allowed smaller aspects to be more spontaneous as I wrote each chapter fully. However, there were points where I deviated from the initial plot, which led to me killing off a main character at the end of the second book, which I hadn't initially planned for. This had a big impact as I then had to rethink my third book and adapt it. However, I am pleased I did it, despite the decision and the death being really hard to write. You have a strong history background. Has this helped you with your writing? It has certainly been useful when writing about Kilion, which is set in a land of castles and has a medieval feel. I have also taken some of the names of my characters from historical figures, and in a couple of instances, based their key characteristics on those of famous historical people.
Do you listen to anything whilst you write or do you sit in silence? (I listen to atmospheric music or sounds pertinent to where I am, such as a woodland at night. I find it gets me in the mood). I can only write when it's really quiet. With a full-time job as a teacher and two sons, it means that productive writing time can be limited. If there is noise in the background, I can often lose my train of thought. I also like to read my work out loud to myself, to see how it sounds. If there is noise, it can detract from my focus on ensuring that the sentences I write roll of the tongue. What is the biggest distraction to your writing? Do you turn off social media when you write? Either social media or the knowledge that I could be planning a lesson or reading a book on teaching and learning for my job. I end up feeling guilty about taking time out to do something for me, instead of doing something for my family, or for my role as Assistant Principal for Quality of Education. I need to make sure that I set aside time to write for myself, which is something I am currently working on.
When was the first moment you thought: I want to be a writer? I wanted to be a writer from when I was at school. We were given a picture in Year 9 and asked to write half a page on it. I ended up writing ninety-seven sides over the Easter holidays, including a front and back cover. The idea for this book came when I was nineteen and I spent nearly twenty years on it, editing the full book nineteen times and some chapters more than that. I didn't have the courage to get it published, as I was worried it would get bad reviews. However, I set myself the target of getting it published for my 40th birthday, and so finally just went for it. Who created your book covers? How much input did you have into the designs? I worked with an artist I had recommended on Fiverr. I suggested the design and then they turned my ideas into reality for both books. I was very happy both times with their final results. The only things which were adjusted were the fonts for the titles and their positioning on the page. What nice things have your readers said about you? I have had some lovely feedback in the reviews left on Amazon such as: "Top marks for a wonderfully vivid and imaginative rollercoaster ride though Kilion with a host of great characters who you quickly grow to love or hate! The story moves at the right pace, from tense moments of intrigue and plotting, through to action that propels you towards the next chapter. Lots of great twists and turns. I'll be downloading the next instalment soon!" "Terrific fantasy novel, the characters remind me of a modern-day Enid Blyton and her Famous Five stories and their adventures, however this book has a much darker edge to it than the late author. Overall, the description and pace of the book has been written so well this could be made into a film. Looking forward to the sequel." "A really well paced, written story that engages the reader throughout." I have had comparisons with Harry Potter and Lord of the Rings and lots of other positive feedback which certainly encouraged me to publish Key to Dragon Falls.
Are you attending any book fairs or book signings this year? No, I am not currently attending any book fairs or signings this year. With work being so busy and with two sons who are often at karate tournaments, it is difficult to get to them.