A huge Thank You and a Loud Shout out to the Author E.K. Barnes – for agreeing to participate and kind enough to send prompt response to all my questions.
E.K Barnes – When the Divine are Dead (Available on Amazon for purchase.)
–> A Brief Bio (As is written by the Author)
I grew up in the Kansas City area, the oldest of three children. I loved to read as a child. I remember getting a box set of the Junie B. Jones series when I was either in kindergarten or first grade. I ended up reading those books really quickly and fell in love with Junie B. Jones, always anticipating the next release. I would save my money so I could buy more of those books. As I grew older, I got into fantasy a little bit, enjoying books about mermaids and magic. I loved the Twilight series and the Percy Jackson series when I was in middle school. In high school and college, I mainly stuck to contemporary or realistic fiction, reading works by Ellen Hopkins and Rainbow Rowell. Recently, I’ve come to realize that it is the contemporary fantasy genre where my heart truly lies.
I started writing when I was a kid. I would write all sorts of short stories. In fact, it would bother me a lot that I’d get to the climax so quickly in my writing, because I wanted to be able to stretch out a story long enough to be a novel. In the fifth grade, I started outlining a book called Everyone’s Different that was originally contemporary realistic fiction, but I couldn’t keep my love for fantasy out of it and ended up giving those characters powers. It dealt with some heavy real world issues and kind of evolved from there into a series. That book came out this past October with an updated storyline. It ended up being called When the Divine Are Dead.
Question 1: Can you share a snippet that isn’t in the blurb or excerpt? What was the inspiration for the story?
Author’s Response: “Where have you been?” Serena screamed in my face.
I hadn’t crossed the threshold yet. I was pretty sure her constant frustration with everyone and everything stunted her growth. I pushed past her without answering.
She slammed the door shut and spun around. I was mildly surprised that she was the only one in the entryway. My mom must have known I would be returning safely. It bugged me that her ridiculously reliable knowledge hadn’t reassured Serena in the slightest.
“Why are you so pigheaded?” I asked, stalking off to the kitchen in search of a snack. All the adults were in the living room telling stories. Mom was the only one who turned her head at the sound of my voice. She winked smugly before rejoining the conversation. Serena’s face was tinged with red. “Are you okay?” I asked, not really interested in the answer. “You look like you’re about to have an aneurysm.”
She tried to slam her hand on the counter, and we were both shocked by the lack of noise her action made. Serena’s hand had gone straight through the island and was lost somewhere inside the inner workings. For a second, she struggled to pull it out, and when she did, a can of peas was in her hand. She gingerly positioned the can on the countertop and took a deep breath. The color from her face was starting to turn back to its normal tone.
I laughed as I watched her slowly gain control. “You could benefit from some anger management classes.”
I’m not really sure what the original inspiration for this story was. When I first came up with the characters as well as the original storyline, I was only ten years old. That age seems to be when some of the darker realities of life make themselves known. For some, it’s earlier, but for me, it was a point when I really became fascinated with hard topics. I wanted to be able to tackle those issues—issues that other kids were maybe facing—and be able to write a redemption story out of them. When I dug out all my old notes last year to rewrite this story with a new spin, it was at a strange time in my life. I found myself thinking about the opening scene in the first chapter for the first time in a long time. In fact, out of the blue, I was so inspired to write it that I stopped what I was doing at my day job and wrote out the first couple paragraphs. That’s when I decided I was back in the writing game. I had been struggling with heavy writer’s block for years before that day. I’m so glad that I decided to pick this book back up. It’s been a real adventure.
Question 2: What is the key theme and/or message in the book? Tell us about the process for coming up with the cover.
Author’s Response: The key theme of When the Divine Are Dead ended up being about racism and racial prejudice, specifically toward Romani. It was not a theme that I intended on using. I usually shied away from those topics. The original story had ties to World War II, but those ties were hardly discussed. In fact, my characters were not originally of Romani or Jewish descent, although they had been targeted during the war. This time around, I got about a third of the way through writing the first draft when I realized that the story wouldn’t be complete without that tie-in, especially if I was to continue referencing the Second World War. It made a lot more sense for my characters to be Romani, which ended up fueling the main issue in the storyline. The second I decided to include that, the entire story fell together perfectly.
The book cover was designed by my sister, KT Barnes, who had recently graduated with a bachelor’s degree in graphic design. We actually went through several different designs before landing on the current one. She insisted on reading the book first before she tried to come up with any design ideas so that she could get an accurate feel for what the book was about. She read the first draft since it was still in its editing stages when she came up with the design. At first, she wanted to include the chandelier from chapter thirteen on the cover. The chandelier scene is an important part of the book. It occurs when the characters first realize that they’re being targeted. One of the characters ends up magically recreating this room, the chandelier doubling in size, it’s crystals reaching the floor. It’s actually a pretty fun scene. However, the design that she came up with was something I didn’t really like for the front cover. Eventually, we landed on the idea of the crystal ball. The narrator’s mother is a fortune teller, so it was an ode to her career. Not only that, but there are several psychics in the story who fear trouble is coming. My narrator, Bradley, ended up on the cover inside the crystal ball, running from an unknown danger. This is kind of a shout-out to his fear that he is the trouble that everyone’s been warning about. Bradley is very insecure about himself. He’s constantly feeling like he is running from his problems.
Question 3: What would you say is your most interesting writing quirk? Describe your perfect book hero or heroine.
Author’s Response: I would say one of my most interesting writing quirks would be that I write the old-fashioned way. The ideas flow way better when I have a pencil in my hand than when I’m staring at a screen. That doesn’t seem to be very common anymore. I know so many authors and writers who cringe at the idea. I wrote most of When the Divine Are Dead on paper. Since I work full time outside of my writing career, I’m always carrying paper wherever I go in case I am struck with inspiration while I’m away from my personal computer. I can often be seen carrying a notebook or binder around or jotting a few sentences down on sticky notes.
My perfect book hero is the classic “normal girl” trope who happens upon something magical. She’s a quick study, but might underestimate her strength until it comes down to the climax when she learns she’s stronger than she thinks she is. I love that version of a book’s hero as it’s deeply relatable.
Question 4: Describe your writing space. What are you reading now?
Author’s Response: I don’t really have a specific writing space. I wish I did. I’ve been thinking about setting one up, but I know I won’t use it. I’m very much the type of person who writes whenever inspiration strikes her, which means I am everywhere when I am writing. It can be hard to pin down a specific place that would be good for me. My mind is always wandering off, which means I sometimes have to physically chase my imagination.
I am currently reading The Authenticity Project by Clare Pooley. I’m about halfway through it. I’m finding the connections between the characters very interesting. I’m excited to see how it ends!
Question 5: Recommend three of your favorite books to the readers.
Author’s Response: I’ve read so many great books, so I’m just gonna pick my favorite three that I read in 2020.
- Legendborn by Tracy Deonn—this book literally just won the Coretta Scott King/John Steptoe Award. It was my absolute favorite book to read last year. I was not expecting to love it as much as I did. Tying historical elements into a contemporary fantasy while also tackling issues of racism is what really drew me to the story. It gave a new spin on the King Arthur legends that I wasn’t expecting.
- The Best Kind of Magic by Crystal Cystari—This is actually the first book in a contemporary fantasy trilogy. It’s what reminded me of my love for reading fantasy. I love that it was nice clean fun. It can be so difficult sometimes to find lighter reads where I don’t have to worry about potentially heavy triggers. I was worried it was going to be too sappy for me with the main character being a matchmaker, but it actually turned out really fun!
- The Fascinators by Andrew Eliopulos—When I finished reading this book in May, I thought it was going to be my favorite read for the entire year. Obviously, that changed after I read the above books, but this contemporary fantasy was the first of that genre that I had read in a long time. The main character actually reminded me of my brother with them both being redheads. I like that it included LGBTQ+ main characters, especially ones with supportive parents. I’ve seen an uptick in representation lately and this book did not disappoint. I liked how open magic was in this story, instead of it being a secret. It was still frowned upon, especially in religious circles, but I felt like that was a clever real-world tie-in considering the story is set in Georgia.
Author’s Favorite Quote: One of my favorite bookish quotes would have to be from The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky. It’s a little typical, but I find it to hold true. “We accept the love we think we deserve.”
Lots of love,