for Cynthia Leitich Smith's Cynsations
T.A. Barron grew up in Colorado ranch country and traveled widely as a Rhodes Scholar. He is the winner of the 2011 de Grummond Medallion for “lifetime contribution to the field of children’s and young adult literature” and many other awards.
T. A. Barron is the author of more than 25 highly acclaimed books, many of which are international bestsellers.
They include The Lost Years of Merlin (now being developed into a feature film), The Great Tree of Avalon (a New York Times bestselling series), The Ancient One (the tale of a brave girl and a magical tree), and The Hero’s Trail (nonfiction stories of courageous kids).
Though he’d dreamed as a young man of becoming a writer, he couldn’t find anyone to publish his first novel. He joined a business, eventually became president, then decided to try again.
So in 1990, he surprised his business partners by moving back to Colorado to become a writer and conservationist.
His novel Atlantis Rising (Philomel, 2014) was released in paperback last week.
What is your writing process like? Do you outline or just dive in?
The creative process isn’t limited to the hours I spend in my writing chair in the attic of our house in Colorado. It happens on many levels when I’m immersed in a project.
I always write the first draft with a blue felt pen and a pad of paper, because that is a good creative chemistry for me. And I do lots of rewrites - as many as it takes to get it right!
Like a good stew, novels get better when you boil them down and integrate all the ingredients. Most of my novels take six or seven full rewrites and two years to finish.
What inspired the Atlantis series?
The tale of Atlantis is such a beautiful story, and for the 2000 years since Plato first wrote about it, people have wondered and dreamed about it.
But one thing that has never changed is that the island of Atlantis was utterly destroyed.
I started to wonder, though, about something else—how Atlantis began.
How did a place that rose to such a level of near perfection get destroyed by the flaws and weaknesses of its people?
Ultimately, how did that happen?
This big unknown question is what got me to write Atlantis Rising. I wanted to add a new thread to the tapestry of myth about Atlantis—how it all began, the secrets of its origins.
How did research for Atlantis compare with research for Merlin?
Good fantasy must be true.
I know that sounds contradictory, but I’m talking about truth on the deeper emotional and spiritual levels, not just on the factual level. Part of that authenticity is doing research.
For my Merlin Saga, I spent a whole year reading everything I could possibly find about the wizard Merlin – just to get a hint of his true character and voice.
Then came the fun of imagining that character as a young man – and even more basic, as a half-drowned boy who washed ashore with no memory at all.
For Atlantis, I did the same thing to understand the various interpretations of the Atlantean myth (and there are lots of them).
Then I began to re-imagine that myth, especially how it all began – what was at stake, who were the heroes and sources of evil, and what sacrifices and struggles happened to give birth to Atlantis.
What advice would you give aspiring writers?
Here are the essentials: Notice the world around you. Live your life and follow your dreams. Practice writing as often as you can. And importantly, don’t take rejection letters to heart!
Everyone gets them, even established writers. (My first novel got a great reception – 32 rejection letters and no interest whatsoever from any publishers.)
Rejections hurt, but they are just part of life.
The most important thing to remember is this: If you have something to say, and refuse to give up, you absolutely will find a way to say it and share it with others.
T.A. Barron's Writing Room -- Inside & Outside
Cynsational Notes & Screening Room
In 2000, T.A. Barron founded a national award to honor outstanding young people who help their communities or the environment: the Gloria Barron Prize for Young Heroes, which honors 25 highly diverse, public-spirited kids each year. He recently produced a documentary film, "Dream Big," profiling seven winners of the Barron Prize.
When not writing or speaking, T. A. Barron serves on many boards including Princeton University, where he helped to create the Princeton Environmental Institute, and The Wilderness Society, which recently honored him with its highest award for conservation work. His favorite pastime is hiking, camping, or skiing in Colorado with his family.
A native of Chicago, interviewer Greg Leitich Smith now lives in Austin, Texas. His middle grade/tween novels include: the Parents’ Choice Gold Award-winning and Junior Library Guild Selection, Ninjas, Piranhas and Galileo (Little Brown/IntoPrint); its companion Tofu and T.rex (Little Brown/IntoPrint); the Junior Library Guild Selection Chronal Engine (Clarion); and Little Green Men at the Mercury Inn (Roaring Brook). He holds degrees in electrical engineering from the University of Illinois and the University of Texas, and a degree in law from the University of Michigan. Find him @GLeitichSmith and GregLSBlog.
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