I have been impressed by the talented UK-based author Colin F. Barnes for quite a while. It doesn’t seem to be any limit to the amount of words he gets down on paper or his new story ideas. But even when he spends so much time writing, he still has time to help other writers and give advice when a story seems to go nowhere.
So when he told on Twitter that he had a new book out; Dead Five’s Pass, I just had to introduce him to you. He has been very kind to answer my answers about his new work, speculative fiction and his writing. So, here it is:
What is Dead Five’s Pass about?
Dead Five’s Pass is a dark adventure tale that centres on a volunteer mountain rescuer. The story is about how she handles the grief of a lost-child, and a messy breakup. She has to deal with her past demons in order to face those in the present. Here’s the blurb that gives more specifics:
When a new cave is discovered in the Rocky Mountains, no one considered the terrible consequences that would follow.
A volunteer mountain rescuer dealing with the loss of a child, the break-up of a relationship and the grief of a rescue gone wrong, Carise Culey isn’t sure she’s the right person for the job when she receives an emergency call. A climber is missing, presumed dead, and his girlfriend is found bloodied, beaten and catatonic with fear.
Carise soon realizes the discovery of the cave is worse than anyone could have imagined and learns of another group of teenagers already on their way there. With the onset of harsh winter weather, and the threat of an unknown evil, she reaches out to her ex-boyfriend and fellow rescue volunteer, Marcel, for help. The two must travel to the cave to save the kids, themselves, and perhaps all of humanity…
Dead Five’s Pass is a tense, frightening tale of ancient secrets, high stakes, and dark, dangerous places.
What inspired you to write the book?
It was a culmination of a few things I think. The initial catalyst was a request by Dave Thomas, editor at DarkFuse, to submit something after he read my novel, Artificial Evil. I really like the novella format and was at the time in a fairly dark place in my life so this felt like a good opportunity to explore some of the issues I was dealing with.
Secondly, I had a short story that I wrote a decade ago for a fiction course I was doing with the London School of Journalism. The story was a throwaway thing just to explore a specific part of the course, but it had always stayed with me and I knew the story had a larger scope waiting for me to return to it one day. Having these elements combine provided me an opportunity to resurrect that story and expand on it.
With regards to specific inspiration for the story, I’ve always enjoyed H.P. Lovecraft’s fiction, and wanted to try my hand at a Mountains of Madness-esque story. Having friends in Canada, I decided to set it in the Rockies. Combining that old short story, and the inspiration from Mountains of Madness I had plenty of material with which to write this novella. It proved to be quite a cathartic experience.
What is your relationship to the speculative genres, especially horror and science fiction?
To use a cliché, my relationship with those genres is love/hate. Sometimes they’re so full of old, overused tropes that I want to disassociate myself with them, but other times, they allow writers to truly do something amazing. Like all genres, they have their own rules and structures, and for the most part I think that’s what lets them down. Horror especially has suffered with that; it’s one of the reasons why most bookstores no longer have a horror section. Too many writers doing too many of the same things for too long has created a stagnation. Science fiction, however, is thriving despite the oft-used tropes and clichés. That’s because what was science fiction and what was fact is blurring as our society becomes ever more technologically advanced.
Speculation is harder now, but with that comes the opportunity for exploring something different. Science fiction is getting closer to contemporary fiction. As an example: William Gibson’s move from ‘out there’ cyberpunk during the 80s and early 90s to contemporary stories shining insights on the use of technology within our culture.
Personally, I don’t think I write horror and it’s a genre I read very little in. My darker stories are often allegories for contemporary issues. I also like to add more adventure elements into my fiction. I’ve changed over the years; as I get older I no longer want to write dark, miserable fiction. I want all my stories to give hope, entertainment, and joy, even if you might have to go through a few darker times to reach it. That only makes the hope and joy more concentrated though. That’s the am, whether I reach that or no is up to the reader.
In my Techxorcist trilogy, I take a different approach to science fiction: I basically scrub the world back to a time before technology ruled (with a few exceptions), and use that as an experiment to explore how people would compete for resources and power. Again, reflecting the world around us today: the fight for supremacy of the Internet, oil, and personal freedoms.
Using a genre to explore those issues adds a level of abstraction that I think makes it easier to get across a point without being so direct. Additionally, it’s more entertaining, IMHO. Speculative fiction, for me personally, is more entertaining than just regular fiction.
Could you tell a little about your writing and other books?
I’ve touched on a number of things in the previous questions, but looking at my writing from an interior perspective, I think of my writing as primarily entertaining. I want to tell a story that readers can get involved with, and enjoy a slice of escapism. I pay a lot of attention to my characters. I tried to give them realistic reactions and paint a spectrum of morals. People are messy and complicated, and I like to explore that in my work.
As for my other books, I’ve tended to be a literary magpie, cherry-picking the best bits from various genres. I don’t like to be tied down to one thing, but over time I’ve developed a catalogue of similar-feeling stories that I like to call high-tech, high adventure thrillers. They run the gamut of Cyberpunk, Technothrillers, Action Adventure and dark/horror, though I’ve almost phased horror out completely from my work as explained in the previous question. Some day I might return to it but right now I’m really into the technological aspect of our culture. It feels like we’re on a ledge, leaning over to a weird and difficult future.
I love looking at how humans will live in the future, whether that be post-apocalyptic, or dystopian. I suppose that’s a reflection of the tyrannical governments we currently have. It feels like there’s a global reaction happening. Two sides are colliding and there’s a lot of chaos out there.
• Artificial Evil (Book 1 of The Techxorcist)
• Assembly Code (Book 2)
• Annihilation Point (Book 3)
• Apex Cypher (Prequel Novella)
• Dead Five’s Pass (Novella)
• The Daedalus Code (Novella)
• Heart for the Ravens (Novella)
All of those can be found on my website: www.colinfbarnes.com
Tell a little about yourself
I always really struggle with these kinds of questions. I’m a fairly average individual. Born in the UK I grew up in a working class household. I started out training as a graphic designer at college but left to work in a career in optics. From there I started a number of tech companies all the while wishing I could write full time. That opportunity presented itself in 2012 and I’ve not looked back since.
For a more formal response, I’ll include my ‘about’ page from my website:
Colin F. Barnes is a publisher and full-time writer of science fiction and techno thrillers and a member of both the British Fantasy Society and the British Science Fiction Association. He honed his craft with the London School of Journalism and the Open University (BA, English).
Colin has run a number of tech-based businesses, worked in rat-infested workshops, and scoured the back streets of London looking for characters and stories—which he found in abundance. He has a number of publishing credits with stories alongside authors such as: Brian Lumley, Ramsey Campbell, and Graham Masterton.
Stephen King and Frank Herbert were his first adult books, which he read during his primary school education. Luckily, some teacher left them in the kid’s library among all the Janet & John books. It was clear that dark, gritty and speculative fiction would be his direction.
From there he moved onto James Herbert, Brian Lumley, Anne Rice. Shortly after he found his cornerstones: H.P.Lovecraft, Clark Ashton Smith, William Gibson, and Ray Bradbury. It’s a combination of all these that led him to write what he writes, and he owes them a debt of gratitude for their great stories and for providing him with the catalyst to tell his own stories.
Thanks for the interview, Margrét. I really appreciate it.
Thank you, Colin! Best wishes on getting the words out!
If you’re interested in Colin and his work, check out his website: www.colinfbarnes.com