Pop culture is a buzz with the supernatural in books, TV, and movies. Today's guest, William j. Barry, knows something about the supernatural. From his bio,
After college, William returned his focus to writing. Sebastian and the Afterlife was his first novel. The book was signed by TWCS Publishing House and released in February of 2011. He followed that book with Agents of the Reaper, the second installment in the Sebastian and the Afterlife middle-grades/teen fantasy novels. It was released February 9th, 2012.
Besides writing, the author also enjoys writing and recording music and filmmaking. William is married and currently lives on the outskirts of Athens, Georgia.
Kim: Tell us about Georgia - what is your favorite sight, smell, and sound.
WjB: Georgia is nice. If it gets cold, it doesn’t stay that way for long. But it gets entirely too hot in the summer. The mountains in north Georgia are pretty but I am more of a beach person myself. There are some nice areas along the coast. I like doing things outside on occasion, but I have to admit I’m not the outdoors-type in general. We live in Athens, a small college town with a large music scene. The music scene is one of the main reasons I moved here in the first place. There’s a tremendous amount of support for the arts in general. There are some great restaurants too. As for sights, smells and sounds, it’s tough to pick favorites. I really love the home where we live, and in the spring we have a number of Dogwood trees that bloom in our yard. That’s a nice sight for me. There’s a local coffee company named Jittery Joe's, and walking into their roasting house is truly a delightful smell. As for sounds, I always appreciate hearing an excellent local or national band putting on a great live show at a downtown venue.
Kim: You have appeared in some films - how did that happen?
WjB: Growing up I did a lot of drama in high school and at the local college; I’ve always loved performing. I’ve been a huge fan of cinema for a long time and thought it would be fun to act on film. Some friends of mine were into filmmaking and I was able to act in a couple of their short college films. This furthered my interest in appearing in some feature-length movies. A few years ago I answered an ad in a local entertainment newspaper that announced a casting call for an independent zombie movie. I went and put forth my best zombie stagger and got to be a townsperson/zombie in the film ‘Pushin’ up Daisies’ that came out in 2010. It was a great little horror/comedy (more comedy than horror). It seemed to do really well in the festival circuit. After being involved with that project I decided to seek out more movie roles. A friend clued me into a casting agency out of Atlanta. (Atlanta is only an hour or so from here). Through them I got to be in a group of football fans in the new 20th Century Fox flick ‘Neighborhood Watch’ that’s coming out this summer. Ben Stiller was in the scene we were shooting; it was cool to watch him act in person. He was super nice to everyone. I’d like to do more movies in the future… I really enjoy the work.
Kim: You are also writing screenplays and music - what inspires you to write for these mediums?
WjB: I have been writing stories as far back as I can remember, but I wrote my first song at the age of nine. Initially I took piano lessons, but then when I turned 12, I started taking classical guitar at the local college. That was followed by classical voice a couple of years later. I never aspired to be a classical musician; the lessons were just a means to help me write my original popular-style music. Lyrics for songs have always just come to me from whatever I’m going through. Over the years, my musical style has been influenced by whatever artists I was really into at the time. It may not be evident to everyone, but when I listen to old recordings, I can hear when I was going through a Nirvana phase and when I was really into Smashing Pumpkins or listening to a lot of Tom Petty. Though I’ve always been somewhat influenced by the music I like, I’ve always strived to be different from them, it’s important to me to be distinctly original.
As I mentioned before, I really love film. I get a lot of great ideas (well, I think they are great) from all kinds of places, and some of them would be great for movies. Like when I was studying a lot of psychology in college, I wrote a mystery screenplay about a man with multiple personalities trying to figure out which of his personalities murdered someone. To me, screenplays are so much easier to write than books. They are really short in comparison… and in very simple language. I can easily write a full-length screenplay in less than a month if that’s the only creative project I’m focused on. I have some aspirations of making films one day; perhaps even casting myself (like Woody Allen did). I get inspiration for screenplays from a lot of random places, often when something happens to me and I find it amusing … then my mind goes on a tangent. I would like to write my Sebastian and the Afterlife books into screenplays someday when I get the time. I always pictured John Cusack as my character Sid.
Kim: Please introduce us to Sebastian, the Afterlife, and Agents of the Reaper. What inspired the series?
WjB: Sebastian is an average 17 year-old boy. He likes to play sports, has a great family and a girlfriend he loves more than anything in the world. The only problem is that he’s just died. Sebastian wakes up in a surreal spirit realm that is somewhere between mortal life and the afterlife. It is a place where some spirits are given the opportunity to find closure before moving on. The Grim Reaper is in charge of this realm and his agents act as his police, making sure the laws are obeyed. Sebastian ends up at Sapentia, a kind of high school for the departed where ghosts can learn about their new abilities. There he settles in and makes new friends. But this mystical realm is also plagued with soul pirates. These individuals are constantly trying to kidnap innocent spirits to drain them of their spirit energy. Sebastian longs for his lost love, Sarah, who is still alive in the mortal world. As he tries to find his peace, he and his new friends are caught in the middle of a devious pirate plot to take over the spirit realm.
I had grown up writing short stories and had always aspired to write a full-length novel. I knew I wanted it to be YA dark fantasy, but I didn’t know much else. I wanted to write something I hadn’t seen before. One night I came up with the two lead characters, Sebastian and Sarah. I realized the core of my story would be the love between these two. I knew there was going to be some great barrier between them. Then I had a realization…what barrier could be greater than death? At that moment I knew I would be writing a ghost story. But I also wanted to create the rules and a fantastical universe for the story to take place in. Then I remembered a couple stories my mother had told me growing up. She claimed to have seen a ‘shadow’ in the room on two separate instances before someone had died. It wasn’t that the shadow was good or bad, it was just there to collect the person’s spirit. I always thought that was kind-of spooky… I guess that’s why it stuck with me. In my mind I always associated her stories with the Grim Reaper. When I started writing a ghost story, I wanted a hierarchy in the spirit realm, and it just made sense to put the Reaper on top. But I wanted to make him how I felt he was from my mother’s stories… not bad, but just a guy doing his job. Once all these pieces started coming together in my mind, the story just flowed as if it wanted to write itself. I love pirates as a romantic-notion villain, and I needed some bad guys for the story, so I went with it. I did a rough outline for the entire book the next couple of days after I had these epiphanies, and then began writing. I think the dark atmosphere in the book may come from my love of dark gothic tales and most things Tim Burton. I was also really into an album called ‘The Black Parade’ by My Chemical Romance. I think that certainly helped contribute to the melancholy mood. But I really feel like my two main characters, Sebastian and Sarah, inspired the storyline.
Kim: What's next for William j. Barry?
WjB: I’m in the middle of writing the third Sebastian and the Afterlife novel, the first draft is due in June so I will be focused on that in the immediate future. It’s currently scheduled to come out March of 2013. I have plans to introduce a new young adult series tentatively released in the fall of 2013. I was also hoping that 2012 would be my return to music. I already have three songs recorded toward a full-length album I’m working on. It’s pop/rock with plenty of tasty synthesizer. I hope to release it later this year.I’d like to do another movie sometime too. I have a good friend that wants to film one of my recent screenplays, so hopefully that will materialize eventually. But these days, everything takes a back seat to my writing, so I guess I’ll work hard and see what I can accomplish.
Mahalo, William, for joining us at SOS Aloha! My fourteen year old is currently enjoying SEBASTIAN AND THE AFTERLIFE II: AGENTS OF THE REAPER - review to come (after he cleans his bedroom!). I am giving away a Hawaiian "supernatural" souvenir to one randomly selected commenter. To enter the giveaway,
1. Leave a comment about the supernatural - what is your favorite myth about it?
On Oahu, recently departed souls "jump" to the afterlife from Ka'ena Point (here, here, here, and here at ALOHA ON MY MIND).
2. This giveaway is open to all readers.
3. Comments are open through Saturday, March 31, 10 pm in Hawaii. I'll post the winner on Sunday, April 1.
Kim in Hawaii
To learn more about William and his books, including links to purchase, check out his author page at THE WRITER'S COFFEE SHOP at this link.
- SOS Aloha, sosaloha.blogspot.com
- Aloha On My Mind, alohaonmymind.blogspot.com
- My guest posts at the Reading Reviewer (Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday) at marygramlich.blogspot.com
I'll post the winners of March Madness on Monday, April 2.