Author Interview: Philip Barker

Hello, internet land! This week I bring you something I don’t do very often: a guest post! Today’s guest is Philip Barker, who recently released Climb, a coming-of-age story about tragedy, grief, and resilience. Hope you guys enjoy!

Blaxland teacher Philip Barker climbs new heights with release of debut  novel | Blue Mountains Gazette | Katoomba, NSW

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Jessica: Tell us a little bit about yourself!

Philip: My name is Philip Barker, I am a 29 year old high school teacher (specializing in special needs and English) and first time author. I am a passionate rock climber and my hobbies are gardening, taking care of my dogs (two sausage dogs named Alfie and George) and writing.

J: How did you get into writing? Which authors/books inspired you to write, if any?

P: I love charming stories that feel like they are set in a world that is similar to our own, but that little bit kooky. I love Neil Gaiman’s novels, especially Coraline (I LOVE that book). Others that I loved are Paper Planes, Holes and the How To Train Your Dragon Series. But I also really enjoy socially satirical novels by authors like Chuck Palahniuk, Sylvia Plath and Ray Bradbury.

I was blessed to have two authors as teachers in High School, Melina Marchetta, who wrote the Australian phenomenon ‘Looking For Alibrandi’ , and Maria Boyd, who wrote a surprisingly interesting and well developed novel with an unremarkable title called ‘Will’.

J: What is your writing process like?

P: I need an idea, and I won’t start until I have an idea that I like. I tried to do the whole free-writing and journalling strategies but they weren’t for me. I just end up with a lot of rubbish that I would have filed away in the back of my brain a long time ago. I like to go exploring both physically – in the national parks near my house – and in as many literary worlds as possible. When I find an idea that I like I tend to turn it around in my head for a while and take some brief notes, then when I feel that it is worthy of putting onto paper I find that the Stephen King method of writing 2000 to 3000 words a day for a month really works for me.

I don’t like writing unless I feel that it is a story worth telling, and I really love turning over ideas in my head while going walking, climbing or generally keeping active. I can’t sit still for very long or I start to get jittery and need to do something else.

J: What inspired you to write your upcoming book?

P: I noticed that every rock climbing book is super scary. It makes my hobby look like this ridiculous, daredevil-esque thing that it really isn’t. So I thought that if anyone was going to write a story that makes climbing seem like a totally normal and accessible thing I might as well be that person.

I hate books that forget that the characters are the story, not the events, and I had all these characters in this adorable little make-believe town in Australia but no real reason for them to be story-worthy. When I finally realized that mixing the characters with the climbing would lead to a story worth telling I was totally psyched.

Then I met the characters and I really liked ‘hanging out’ with them and watching them overcome obstacles, so I was pretty hooked from there. By the end of the novel I was enjoying spending time with the characters so much that i immediately stared on the sequel, which is something I never do. I normally look at a goal and stop as soon as a reach it, so actually wanting to keep going with this made me think it was something special.

J: Here’s a challenge for you! Describe your book in five words or less.

P: Self-discovery in heartbreaking circumstances.

J: What is the weirdest thing you looked up / learned / discovered while researching for your book?

P: Ummm…. I don’t really research on the internet. Sorry if that’s a bad answer. I prefer to bug people in real life and explore new areas and ask questions to people in gyms and crags (climbing areas) and bookstores and libraries. Whenever I used to research a lot on the internet (when I went to uni) I just ended up getting distracted and making a million pointless files. Other than that… I had to visit a school I wanted to use as a setting so that I could get the ‘feel’ for it. It felt totally weird, like I was casing the joint for a robbery and everyone kept looking at me like I was insane and more than a little bit out of place.

J: What is one underrated author/book/series that everyone needs to read and why?

P: I really love The Perks Of Being A Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky and think that everyone should definitely read it, but I don’t think it could really be described as “underrated”. The book is incredible.

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Climb blurb!

Climb by Philip Barker

A small-town family’s tragedy kept secret has a teenage girl turning to competitive rock climbing to find answers…and herself.

Deserted by her father and kept in the dark about her brother’s accident that she was too young to recall, high schooler Ashley Davies has her own secrets. When she enters a forbidden rock-climbing contest to teach her bully a lesson, she ends up uncovering old wounds about her family’s connection to another’s heartache.

Climb is a masterfully written coming of age story of resilience, grit, and self-discovery in the most heartbreaking of circumstances.

Where can I find out more about the author / the book?

***The sequel, Climb 2: Climb Harder will be released in 2022. The novel is available in paperback and ebook at a huge variety of bookstores.***

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Stay awkward and amazing!

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