Last Word of the Week: Julian Barr
At one stage, I taught the subject Backgrounds to English Literature at the University of Melbourne, so both the Iliad and the Odyssey loom large in my internal world. I’m excited to see them take on a new lease of life in Julian’s YA The Ashes of Olympus series!
LWOTW: Salve, Julian! Tell us, when did you write your first story?
I have the vaguest memory of writing a piece of Thomas the Tank Engine fanfic when I was really little, but I wrote my first original story when I was about seven. It was a thrilling tale of a boy who woke up to find himself transformed into a koala. In retrospect, it was a little bit Franz Kafka, only less surreal and creepifying.
LWOTW: And with not so much buzz, perhaps. What do you think of dreams, imagination, and planning?
For most writers, the first two come easy. The last part is harder. Planning is an acquired skill which ideally gets better with time and practice. We’re very lucky to live in an age when there are so many resources out there to assist.
LWOTW: I’ll have to find out what those are! What’s the highlight of your writing career so far?
When the email arrived from Odyssey Books with an offer of a contract for my debut novel. I was shaking as I read it, but so thrilled. The title is The Way Home, the first book of the Ashes of Olympus Trilogy. It’s a YA historical fantasy based on Greek mythology, in which a band of exiles must brave the wrath of the gods to find a place to call home. That said, seeing the talented Aussie artist (and old mate) Matt Wolf bring the illustrations to life was a definite highlight. See the header for an example of his extraordinary work.
LWOTW: I can’t wait to get my hands on it. What are you most busy with at the moment?
Edits on the second Ashes of Olympus book. I’m also working with the amazing archaeologist Dr Amelia Brown on an academic book. We are translating the early medieval sources regarding St. Nicholas. Yep, as in Santa. That started when I was researching an historical novel about St. Nick, but I was shocked to learn the sources hadn’t been translated into English. I was lucky enough to study Greek at uni, but I am a big believer in making research as accessible as possible. Since we started, a couple of collaborative translations have cropped up online, which is awesome, but this will be the first peer-reviewed translation with commentary. I also have a couple of other fiction projects in early stages, but they are a bit hush-hush at the moment.
LWOTW: How intriguing! If you could say one thing to aspiring writers, what would it be?
Remember the value of kindness. Take every learning opportunity. Be in it for the long haul. And you don’t have to be afraid.
And the Last Word of The Week: What’s your favourite colour?
Blue! No doubt due to the continuing influence of Thomas, haha.
Where to buy: The Way Home is available through all the major online booksellers by the time this interview is released. Or, even better, see if your local indie bookstore or library can get it for you!