Benjamin R. Barnes

Tell us who you are, a little about your work and what you enjoy other than writing.

Hey there, everyone. I’m Benjamin R. Barnes, and I’m a writer, a tinkerer, and a fixer of broken things. My day job sees me traveling the gorgeous state of Colorado from frigid mountain climes, to the metropolitan heart of Denver, as well as the eastern half of the state that most closely resembles a modern Steinbeckian nightmare, often visiting all three in the same day.

I’ve always had a fascination with the written word. There’s a certain permanence to committing an idea to print. Outside of writing and my day job, I enjoy spending time outside with my family in the summer, and, of course, reading.

What is your story about in On loss (don’t give us any spoilers)!

The Silent Neighborhood is an exploration of loneliness and the resultant madness, in a few short pages. It’s a study in rapidly evolving characters that (hopefully) inspire the reader to curiosity.

Where did you learn of the On Loss anthology. Did you have a story in mind or write your story specifically for the anthology? 

This story, as brief as it is, just sort-of appeared. That’s pretty much my process. There’s a germ of an idea that rolls around in my mind like a pebble in my boot. Eventually, I take the time to shake it out. The Silent Neighborhood was just a little one that came out easily, almost fully formed, for all of its weirdness.

I was attracted to this anthology because of the open criteria they presented. They didn’t want just weepy, sad stories about loss, they wanted to create something unique. I figured that my story might still be a bit of a long shot, but here we are!

What else have you written or are you most proud of?

I think that this anthology is a perfect example of what makes me proud. After reading the first few poems and stories written by my peers, I felt a comradery with them. They were just like me! They could write, they had something to say, and a voice with which to say it. I feel proud to have my few pages included with so many other authors whose voices are so poignant. Thanks for letting me hang out with you guys!

What is your current work in progress?

The first draft of Nell, by the Ocean, is nearly completed. It is a much longer piece, reaching into the novella range. While living in a vastly different world than The Silent Neighborhood, Nell thrives on similar themes of isolation and futility in a character-driven narrative. It is shaping up to be a weird one!

What’s your specialty: short stories, novels, poetry?

I like to let my stories have legs to carry themselves. I feel like I guide them more than write them, and as such, I don’t like to set target page counts or things of that nature. Sometimes they run their course in a few pages; sometimes they need much more space. I strongly prefer prose to poetry. I’m better at writing characters and letting them play than I am at condensing my thoughts into feelings. I’ve taken classes on poetry, hoping to cultivate an interest, but I guess I lack the required sophistry. I am currently focusing on shorter pieces before I settle down into something longer format.  

Do you self-publish, traditionally publish or both?

“On Loss” is my first publication. While I love self-representation, “I’m great! Just ask me, I’ll tell you!” I want to spend my time writing. I enjoy engaging in the business aspect of the industry, but I am the happiest when I have the time to pour out my ideas out onto the page. I think that this is going to lead me down the traditional route more so than self-publishing. The publishing industry is changing, and the lines between traditional and self-publishing are starting to blur.  

What’s your favorite genre of books to read

I’m a gigantic nerd, unapologetically so. I have loved fantasy ever since picking up The Hobbit as a kid. Tolkien and the writers he inspired have opened doors of exploration that have enriched my life immeasurably. Crichton’s Jurassic Park and Sphere took me to worlds just a whisper out of reach, while Stephen King taught me not to apologize for crossing boundaries. Clive Barker, my absolute favorite writer, taught me that there are no boundaries; they are a construct.

I like to read books that make me think but also engage me on a human level. Thinking about concepts in the abstract is a decent exercise but isn’t that fulfilling. I love a story that transports me to another reality without me realizing what is happening. It’s like watching TV, but without all the censorship and advertising.

I like a book that challenges my perceptions and values. If you know exactly what you believe and are inflexible, you probably won’t like most of what I write.

What advice would you offer new writers

We are all new writers. Every one of us can improve our work. The number one thing that I think new writers need to know, and more importantly do is get the down-draft done. Once the story is down, as broken as it may be, you can fix it and mold it into your vision. It’s much easier to fix a whole than a half. Finish it, then make it sing.

Leave us with a favorite quote! 

“Those who can make you believe absurdities can make you commit atrocities” –Voltaire.

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