Monday, April 15, 2013

Interview with C. F. Barrows

C. F. Barrows!

C.F. Welcome to Homeschool Authors. Tell us a little bit about yourself.
Well, I suppose you already know one thing about me: I was home-schooled. I was in it for the whole ride, from pre-school to my graduation in 2012. I come from a family of seven, and enjoy music – especially singing, and playing/composing for the piano – sketching, reading and, of course, writing. I’m a black belt in Blue Wave Taekwondo, but am not especially active, due to a rather disabling case of Lyme disease. I love being helpful, whether it’s by proof-reading a friend’s work or volunteering at the local library, and am a card-carrying perfectionist. I'm also a little bit crazy and often get picked on by my loving family for it, but that's the way God made me, and I wouldn't change it for the world. Writing is my passion and my ministry, and my goal for every project is to "do it heartily, as doing it unto the Lord, and not unto men" (Col. 3:23).

What was your favorite part of being homeschooled?
I suppose my favorite part of the ride was the freedom, the flexibility involved. Home-schooling allows the parents to observe their kids’ different interests and learning styles and tailor their educations to match. I was always rather an independent learner, even learning to read before my mom ever sat down to teach me. By the time I reached my senior year, I was learning more from reading library books and internet articles than I was from my English curriculum. I’d decided in perhaps my sophomore year that I wanted to be a writer when I grew up, and I’d told my mom about my aspirations. So instead of using a curriculum for English in my senior year like a normal kid, I got to write a novel. It was a huge undertaking, but very rewarding.

What is your favorite fantasy book/author and why?
It’s rather funny – I’m actually not a big fantasy reader. Take a look at the pile of books I always bring home from the library, and you’ll see primarily suspense or action-adventure novels, with the occasional self-help book, YA or sci-fi novel thrown into the mix. I was a Ted Dekker fan for a while, and still enjoy a few of his books, especially the Circle Trilogy. (And yes, I call it a trilogy, because ‘Green’ doesn’t count, in my opinion.) But I don't like the dark turn his work has taken, so I don't read much of his work anymore. I grew up on C. S. Lewis and J. R. R. Tolkien, and the works of both hold a special place in my heart, but I suppose I’ll have to call this one a draw, perhaps erring in Tolkien’s favor. But maybe that’s just because of the current hype surrounding the movie adaptation of ‘The Hobbit’.

If you could pick anywhere in the world, where would you like to visit?
I have a great deal of Irish blood in my veins, so Ireland has always held a certain appeal for me. It’s a beautiful country, and so rich in history. However, I’d also love to go to either England or New Zealand, the former being the birthplace of many famous authors, and the latter being absolutely beautiful. (And it’s also where ‘The Lord of the Rings’ was filmed, so hey, what Tolkien fan wouldn’t want to visit?) I took a trip to Mexico once, and very much enjoyed it, so that’s another candidate. Again, I’m the kind of person whose favorite things in any category shift constantly. But wherever I went, I’d want it to be rich in history and have a stimulating atmosphere.

What caused you to start writing?
I don’t even remember when I started writing. I’ve found poems and shards of stories from when I was very young, and the oldest full story I’ve recovered was written when I was probably eight or nine years old. I do seem to remember driving my little brother crazy because whenever we played “The Game Without a Name” (our ironic name for our version of Make-Believe), I’d plan out elaborate storylines for each day’s play sessions, and of course spent the first five minutes of each day’s playtime trying to convince my brother to help me act out my ideas.

So I’ve always loved making up stories, and that love only increased as I grew older and learned to better express my thoughts and ideas through my work. I don’t really know what made me love it in the first place, but I didn’t really get serious about it until high school. Until then, it was just a hobby, something I loved to do but didn’t consider anything more than a fun, rather unique pastime, albeit one for which I seemed to possess a knack. But as my writing matured in style and content, and I realized all the ways my writing could be a blessing to others, not only entertainment, I slowly came to the conclusion that this was my calling. It was something I could do well, not only for my own enjoyment, but for the benefit of others, and to me, that seemed like something worth pursuing.

What inspired you to write The Follower?
The Follower was originally just a random scene I had in my notebook, which I added to whenever I had some free time, and which I didn’t think would ever become anything more than a way to keep myself amused when I would have otherwise been bored stiff. However, like a few others of my many story concepts, it grew and matured to the point where it was a novel in the making. Then my mom got wind of my growing interest in it and made it my senior English project, so of course it suddenly became a much more serious project. For the first stages of plotting the story and executing the early chapters, it was still just a fun school project that I hoped would at least be readable when it was finished. But as I got further into the story and began developing the characters and themes involved, it became something I hoped would be not only enjoyable, but also a learning experience for both the reader and myself. It became more than a story – it became my ministry, something I poured my heart and soul into, and ultimately trusted God to tell me where to go with it when I had no idea what should happen next.

What is The Follower about?
The Follower is the story of eight young military scouts who are trapped together in a cave-in and must band together to escape, despite their differences and the dangers involved in taking the route available to them. And even those who live in the mountain don’t realize just how perilous their journey will become, or how fully they will have to depend upon each other to survive. Here’s the full synopsis:

“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.”

Where can people buy The Follower?
The Follower is available in both eBook and paperback formats. The eBook can be purchased through Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Sony, Apple, Kobo, Diesel, and Smashwords, and should soon be available on at least two more sites. The paperback is available through, through my CreateSpace eStore ( ), or directly through me. Copies bought through me are signed by the author (yours truly), and can be obtained by e-mailing me at with your order and any preferences as to how you would like the message written. (We can work out the details of delivery by e-mail.)

Who will enjoy this story?
It seems, based on reader feedback, that The Follower appeals to a broad audience, including both fantasy/sci-fi fans and those who don’t normally enjoy speculative fiction. Since the main characters range in age from fifteen to twenty-five, The Follower might be classified as a young adult novel and should certainly be enjoyable to teens, but based upon the content and reader feedback, it should be enjoyable for any readers over the age of ten, including adults well over the “target” age group. I tried my best to keep any objectionable content out, but parents should be advised that there are some scary sequences and some relatively mild violence including a battle and some references to things such as characters being tortured by Saethen, so it could be scary for younger kids. Some of the more depraved characters also indulge in an alcohol-like substance which they use to quiet their guilty consciences, but it is clearly portrayed as something harmful and not to be sought after.

What is your favorite quote from The Follower?
There are many lines – some comical, some profound – which I enjoyed writing and reading, but one conversation in particular always stands out to me. At one point in the story, Sheth Terrem – a Yahveh-follower and the character who gave the novel its name – is discussing the group’s predicament with Yannah Delraen, another major character. Yannah feels that there is no hope for the situation, and doesn’t believe that there is any rhyme or reason for the terrible things that have happened so far. Sheth’s response (rather patched-together from several lines of the same conversation) is rather simple, but still hits home to me, since it sums up both the book’s theme and a lesson I myself learned throughout the writing process:

“Do you believe that Yahveh created the world, Yannah? … Then He must be awfully big – bigger than anything we can comprehend. … We can’t see the extent of [His] plans. We can’t comprehend the idea that suffering can work out to anyone’s good. We can’t wrap our minds around the fact that Yahveh knows everything we’re going through, and has it all under control. But He does. All we can do is follow.”

Do you plan to write more books?

Oh, definitely. I have several more books in the plans for 'The Sehret Chronicles' alone, most either following up on or providing background for the characters and themes of 'The Follower'. My current project is a prequel to 'The Follower', which will explore the back-stories of a few of the characters and set the stage for events in the sequels.  After that (or possibly before I'm done with that, if my history is any indicator), I'll start on the first sequel and continue the story I began with 'The Follower'.

I also have several other YA, science-fiction and suspense stories sitting on the proverbial back burner, so I’d say I’m down for quite a few more books. How many more? Only God knows that – all I can do is work with the ideas He’s already given me, and try to follow His will for my career to the best of my ability.

Do you have any final thoughts?
I just want to put this out there for any other aspiring authors reading this: Don’t give up on your goals just because they’re hard to reach. I can’t tell you how many articles I’ve come across, how many comments I’ve heard, that indicate that teenagers can’t write. I disagree – I think teenagers can do many things that others don’t expect of us, but we have to be willing to rise to the challenge and do what’s necessary to accomplish our goals, and not expect others to do the work for us, or pat us on the back for putting forward only a minimal amount of effort.

It’s also important to be sure that you’re pursuing the right path, and not chasing after something that you weren’t meant to accomplish. I have found that the voice of experience is a good one to heed, and that seeking help from more experienced authors – and even some of my peers – helped me greatly in confirming my calling and improving my abilities. So work hard, heed advice, and no matter how old you are, or what it is that you think is your calling, remember to lean on God and follow His calling, trusting Him with the process and the results. You may not become a best-selling author, or even one with more than a handful of readers mostly consisting of friends and family, but remember that when God calls you to something, it’s never for nothing. Even if you don’t end up where you wanted to be ten years down the road, trust that there was a reason for your effort, something God sees even if you don’t. “‘For I know the thoughts that I think toward you,’ declares the Lord, ‘thoughts of peace, and not of evil, to give you an expected end.’” (Jeremiah 29:11, KJV)

C. F. is going to giveaway a copy of her book! Open to US residents only (due to shipping costs) enter below
a Rafflecopter giveaway


  1. Congratulations, it looks like it might be a good read.

  2. I'm so excited about this giveaway and book! It looks so good! Okay, so here's my question: What do you struggle most with in your writing and what do you do to try and improve yourself in that area?

    -Jessica P.

  3. Good thoughts, C.F. I do my best to encourage other writers like me, and it's nice to see someone else doing it (and doing a good job of it) too.

  4. Thanks for reading, everyone! :) This interview was a lot of fun.

    @Jessica: Great question! I guess one of my greatest struggles with my writing is learning to quell my perfectionist nature. Now, on the one hand, I love being a perfectionist -- it drives me to do my best, to leave no stone unturned when editing, and pretty much shatters my rose-colored glasses in regards to my own work, which helps me avoid the "My work is perfect" syndrome.
    On the other hand, being a perfectionist also mean that no matter how much nitpicking I do with my work, no matter how much others like it, I still have to fight the urge to spend all my time trying to "fix" what I've already written, while not spending enough time on writing what follows. Why is this a problem? Well, as an example, I'll have to confess something: I spent several months working on the first few chapters of 'The Follower' -- not writing them, but going back and trying to fix every little thing that could possibly be a problem. But as soon as my mom made the book a mandatory project, I was forced to stop nitpicking and get to work on writing the rest of the book. This resulted in my word count sky-rocketing, and in about as much time as it took me to write 4,700 words in the first few scenes, I finished the first draft, which came out to about 107,000 words, not counting the many scenes that I wrote on the side or immediately decided wouldn't work for the story. So setting goals is important. Editing is important, too, but remember, you'll have plenty of time for that when the draft is done. And if you spend too much time editing before you've even finished writing, you'll take far longer to finish, and may not even finish unless you get your priorities straight.
    However, I do realize that sometimes help is needed for a work-in-progress, when you've tried to move forward, but something seems truly off about what you've written, to the extent that it will affect the story as a whole. In these cases, action may be necessary. Just be careful about who you ask for help, and how much time you spend on the scene. Sometimes reader feedback on a partial work can be helpful and encouraging, but in the wrong hands, it can be detrimental to one's motivation to write to the end, and not get hung up on one scene that doesn't sound quite right. Also, focusing too much on editing, at least for me, encourages thoughts of inadequacy and doubts about whether my work is even worth reading. For this, I pray, asking God to lead me in my writing, and to help me trust that He'll work through my mistakes, as well as my successes.
    So, in a nutshell...
    My problem is: Perfectionism.
    My solution is: Don't be afraid to make mistakes, as editing will do you no good unless you actually finish the work you started, try to think positively, and trust God to work everything out in the end.

  5. This isn't normally a genre that I read a lot, but I think it sounds interesting. :D.

  6. Great interview! I look forward to reading "The Follower"!

  7. Your book sounds intriguing! I'll have to look it up. Thank you for hosting a giveaway! :)

    Hmm, a question. Okay. Do you prefer tea or coffee while you're writing, or is there some other inspiring beverage you enjoy? (My personal favorite would be Dr Pepper.) :)

  8. Gillian, Dr. Pepper is my favorite as well.

  9. @Gillian: Oh, it's my pleasure -- I hope to do more giveaways in the future! :)

    An inspiring beverage... Hm. Well, I do very much love Dr. Pepper, but I'm afraid it doesn't love me. lol I don't really drink caffeine these days, but I suppose my beverage of choice for a late night of writing would be a cup of sugar-free, dairy-free hot chocolate or homemade egg nog. (My sweet tooth always kicks in when I settle in for a writing session.) I've never really been much for tea or coffee, though a few of my late-night writing bugs have made me wish for a cup of highly-caffeinated cup of coffee. ;)

  10. Hey C.F.! It's Bethany from the NaNo cabin. How long did it take you to write your novel, when it became serious for you?

    It looks like such a good book. Definitely adding it to my list!

  11. Hi CF! Emily from Camp NaNo here :) My question is kind-of prompted by the recent writing spaces contest at Go Teen Writers - where do you write? I write mostly at my desk, but my friends at GTW write everywhere from desks and beds to cafes and trees.

  12. @Bethany: Thanks! :) I really hope you like it.

    Well, technically I didn't "get serious" about the book until it was assigned to me as a school project, so I pretty much had from the beginning of the school year (the end of August 2011) until the end of the same school year (May 2012). I finished the book a month early, on April 1st (which made me feel a little strange posting on Facebook about it, considering the traditions of the day, lol), so overall it took me about seven months to finish the first draft.
    Of course, the full span of time between conception and publication was a lot longer (about two years, I think), but a lot of the first year was spent with my ignoring or just plain not working on it. So as for *serious* writing time -- yeah, about seven months.

  13. @Emily: Oh, that's an interesting question... :) Well, mostly, I write wherever it's quiet, free of distractions (or at least contains a minimum number of them), and where I have a pair of headphones on hand. I'm rarely able to concentrate with other people in the room, but if I'm in a comfortable position and the sound on my headphones is turned way up, sometimes I can get away with it.

    I do have a few favorite places and positions for writing:

    1. On my bed, with my laptop as close to me as I can manage,
    2. At a table or desk,
    3. On a porch bench, as long as it's not in the direct sunlight, and
    4. If I'm using a notebook, then no matter where I'm sitting, I usually have to have the page as close to my face as possible, or else I get distracted. (I have no clue why, and I suppose it makes me look very funny sometimes, but that's how I always end up.)

  14. I too don't normally read in this genre but the characters and plot intrigue me and I think my brothers would enjoy this a lot too. :D Excellent was a pleasure to meet you!

    My question: What is your favorite part about writing a new story...the characters, creating the plot, taking your characters to new places, the heart or message of your story...? :)


  15. @Rachel: Great! :) I sincerely hope you (and they) like it, should you end up reading it.

    Oh, my favorite part... I suppose that would be creating the characters and telling their stories, which ends up involving pretty much everything else. But I love fleshing them out and making the reader care about them.(Consequently, I feel a great sense of triumph when my readers call me a horrible person for putting a character in distress, or express joy in their successes.) But then, I also seem to derive a sadistic pleasure from putting them through hardships (all in the name of advancing the story, of course). ;) It sounds cruel, but it's what gets many readers emotionally involved, and apparently I'm not the only author with this (slightly disturbing) quality, so I'm not afraid to admit it.

    My second-favorite part, almost tied with the first, is probably discovering new things about the story or the characters along the way. Beyond coming up with a premise and some defining points (especially the ones that affect my characters the most), I really hate plotting, and prefer the sense of adventure that comes with not knowing exactly where I'm going past the next few scenes. (Generally when I try to plot out every detail, I get bored and frustrated very quickly.)

    All of the elements you listed are important, of course, but these are the parts I tend to enjoy the most. :)

  16. Looks like an interesting story. I would love to read it.

    What is your favorite way to get to know your characters?

  17. Wow, such great questions! :) Y'alls are really making me think here.

    @Leah: I think my favorite method -- though I tend to use it mostly for my more complex and/or villainous characters -- is to write a short piece, such as a free-verse poem or a firsthand account of a scene that defines the character, in first-person from my character's point of view. This helps me think about him/her as a real person, and think through how they might see themselves and others, and also how they would express those views. That, in turn, makes me think about why they see things that way, or act the way they do, etc. One example would be a piece I wrote defining the person of the ChessMaster, a villain who now drives one of my more serious side-projects:

    "I am the Chess Master.

    You are cordially invited to occupy a place on my board.
    You can be anything you want to be…
    Even the king.
    That’s the best place to be.
    Pawns are expendable.
    Rooks and bishops are limited.
    Without the queen, the game goes on.
    But as the king…
    It’s your game – you are in command.
    If you fall, all others fall with you.
    The world is your chessboard.
    All the other pieces are under your authority.
    I have only one condition.
    You may be the king…
    But even the king has a commander.
    Even the king is a pawn.

    All the world’s a stage.

    All the world’s a chessboard.

    The game has begun.

    Your move."

    (c) 2011 C.F. Barrows

    That's my usual format for villains -- pieces regarding a protagonist or a neutral character tend to be more conversational, like the character's sitting across from the reader and telling his/her story. But you get the idea. :)

  18. @Brian: Well, I think what inspired the core message was a combination of my favorite verse (Jeremiah 29:11) and my own experiences with learning to embrace its message of trusting that God has a purpose for my life and my sufferings beyond what I can see. From a literary standpoint, there can be found traces of many of my favorite authors (mostly Christian suspense, I think), but I've been told by several people that they could tell I was a fan of C.S. Lewis by reading this book. And I can certainly think of a few instances where my love of 'The Screwtape Letters' in particular showed.

    The world of Sehret, most of the nations and their cultures, and even some of the main characters were inspired by 'The Game Without a Name,' the rather mixed-up and over-thought version of Make-Believe that I played with my little brother when we were kids. In particular, one story referenced (referred to as 'Rhedan's Revolt' by the characters) is drawn directly from a storyline I'd fashioned years ago for use in our game, and many of the original relationships between the nations still exist, even if some of the circumstances have changed. I even tried making up a language for one of the nations once, and who knows -- maybe I'll reference that attempt in the future, as well. :)

  19. Thanks for participating, everyone, and thanks to Sarah for hosting this interview and giveaway -- it was a lot of fun! :) Congratulations, Emily!
    I just wanted y'alls to know that the ebook version of 'The Follower' is free on Smashwords until Thursday night ET, so if you still want to read it, but are hesitant to spend any money, this is your chance to get it risk-free! :) It's available here: