Interview with Stephen Barr
By Theresa Rizzo
Date: Feb 2011
Bio: Stephen Barr is an agent with Writers House
Answer: Anything longer than a (single spaced) page tends to make me antsy, truth be told…if the basic premise of the book (the sort of thing that can fit into a paragraph or two) intrigues me, I much prefer to find out the rest by reading the thing itself, and not a summary or greatest hits collection of scenes!
Answer: I’m trying not to be sick to death of anything just yet (it sounds like an awful condition!), but I will say that I’m much more interested in personal demons than ACTUAL demons, who seem to be littering the pages of young adult literature (and a fair amount of adult suspense) like confetti. Personally, I find paranormal touches to be more effective when the reader’s not exactly sure that whatever’s going on is, in fact, paranormal…when there’s an ambiguity that touches upon our everyday fears, as opposed to the much rarer fears of, let’s say, fire-breathing angels, or who knows what. I like being scared, but I prefer to be scared of what’s real.
If there’s an engaging voice, sharp writing, an interesting plot, and at least one character I give two shakes about, then I’m willing to work hours on end to fix just about any other problem, whether it be a fuzzy ending, a wonky structure, or even a parade of iffy scenes.
Answer: Ultimately, I’d say the difference between my sending a form letter and something more substantial lies in my connection to the manuscript—if there was a glimmer somewhere, an idea that seemed to be worthy of exploration, and I felt that I had something truly constructive to say, and that I wouldn’t be averse to seeing a revision, then I’ll break from the form letter, absolutely. If my brain fails to click with anything particular in a submission, though, then I’m probably not even the right person to be giving advice, anyhow. That being said, forming even the briefest of personal connections face to face with an author inevitably increases the odds that I’ll push myself to look harder for that glimmer if it doesn’t make itself immediately apparent.
Answer: After the quality of the submission itself (which is, of course, 99.9% of the dance), I’d say I’m just looking to see if the author is someone I have a chemistry with, which is usually hinted at outside of their manuscript, in their OTHER forms of communication…does their regular ol’ everyday voice (the one they use in a simple e-mail or a simple phone call) put me at ease or put me on edge? Formality is less important to me than personality.
Answer: I don’t deal well with moodiness (though maybe that counts as a form of moodiness?)
Answer: It used to be rice pudding (no fooling). I’m still figuring out what my next obsession should be, or if I should just relapse back into rice pudding (have you tried it!?)
Answer: Be a dad!
Answer: There’s no king of the hill for me, but I like this one a great deal:
“It is difficult to be confused.” – Zheng Xie