Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Getting to know Caroline Barnard-Smith

Today I am lucky enough to have a visit from English author, Caroline Barnard-Smith, author of Jinn Nation, an intense trip into the dark world of vampires, fae and the frighteningly violent jinn. With an imagination rivaling Stephen King, Caroline has come to visit to talk more about her work.

Collette: Hello Caroline, thank you so much for taking the time to answer my questions. I’m so glad to have you appear on my blog. Can we start off with an easy question? Who is Caroline Barnard-Smith?

Caroline: Well, in a schizophrenic sort of way, I'm lots of people. I'm a mum and wife first and then a writer, although I must admit I'm guilty of dreaming up plot ideas while changing nappies or washing out bottles. ;)

I understand you began writing at a young age. Tell me a little bit about how you got started?

It was something that felt normal, something I thought everybody did I suppose, because my mum was and still is a writer. She wrote children's stories and tried them out on my sister and me, the perfect test audience. My mum inspired my love of stories and the written word and I'll always be grateful for that.

Were you inspired to write by a person, place or thing, or did it just happen?

Aside from my mum who started this whole thing, when I got seriously into reading I was inspired by epic fantasy stories. If it had a dragon or a wizard in it, I wanted to read it. My own writing has found its home in dark fantasy and at the moment specifically, the realm of the vampire, but I'd love to write my own epic fantasy series one day. When I finally come up with an idea that doesn't rip off Tolkien, I'll give it a go.

You've also made writing your lifestyle. Tell me about your other publications and activities.

I suppose since deciding to indie publish, it has become my lifestyle. You have to be your own publisher and marketer, and in many cases your own cover designer, type setter and web designer too, but I have to say I've enjoyed every minute. Maybe that's because I'm a control freak ;) I have one other novel out called Dunraven Road which was published by a small press in 2009. I learnt a lot from that experience and without it I probably wouldn't have had the guts to go it alone with Jinn Nation, but it also made me realise there was nothing involved in the publishing process that I couldn't do for myself while retaining 100% artistic and financial control. I've just regained the rights to Dunraven Road, another vampire story which introduces Dylan, my lead character in Jinn Nation, so you can expect to see that published as an e-book and repackaged paperback very soon. I'll also be releasing some small collections of short stories before the end of the year.

Let's talk a little about Jinn Nation. If you could sum it up in 30 words or less, what would you say?

The last surviving vampire of a once ruthless kin finds salvation in the desert, in the form of a woman with awesome powers she doesn't yet understand.

How much research did you complete for the story?

I did quite a bit actually, because Dylan and Christa were visiting many places where I had never been. I've never travelled to the United States for instance. Yahoo Answers is a lot of fun to use for that sort of thing, my favourite question being “What would someone eat from a gas station in the Southern United States?” to which a very kind poster replied with some good information before adding, “Weird question.”

That’s great, Caroline!

I noticed that you included not just vampirism, but also 'fairies'. The characters also travelled a bit. Can you tell me a little about your research into their locations and legends?

I've always been interested in Celtic faery lore and faeries will often pop up in my ideas and stories. These faeries aren't little Tinkerbell type flower fairies, though. They're very old and very powerful and you certainly wouldn't want to get on the wrong side of them! I didn't do any specific research when developing my fae characters, I just let my imagination have free reign although I suppose the things I've read in the past would have fed into my interpretation.

Tell me a little about Dylan.

Dylan is a vampire with serious issues about being alone in the world. After watching his kin burn at the end of Dunraven Road he turns to the jinn, a race of nasty creatures who eat human organs in order to glean their power, and has jinn stones sewn into his stomach, making him one of them. Dylan also has a weakness for powerful women, a fact that piques his interest in the mysterious Christa and later in Bredia, a maniacal jinn goddess.

Tell me a little about Christa.

Christa starts out as a seemingly timid, curious character who has the unique ability to read minds and control people's actions; powers she doesn't really understand and later on finds hard to control. The reader is slowly told more of Christa's back story as the novel progresses and by the end of the book she is a changed person.

Who was your favorite character to develop? Why?

I had the most fun with Dylan :) There's something very freeing about playing with a character who can walk through life without fear (as long as there are no jinn around, of course!), who doesn't fear consequences or reprisals. I think that's a secret wish most of us have had at one time or another.

Very true!.. It helps that he was pretty sexy too.

Who was your least favorite character to develop? Why?

I don't think I had a least favourite character, but I found Christa the most challenging. I've been criticised in the past for creating female characters who are too weak and needy, so I tried really hard to make Christa harder and more self-reliant. I suppose having super powers helps!

I enjoyed Christa the most. I think I actually liked her even more than Dylan.

Jinn Nation is broken into three parts. Each section focuses on a different aspect of the story. Without giving away any spoilers (unless you want to, of course), can you tell us a little about the process you had when you were laying out the book?

The story grew in very interesting and quite diverse ways. I started out with the clear idea that I wanted to take my characters on a road trip, so the planning of the first part of the novel was very structured and heavily researched. I would have taken Dylan and Christa to more places but as usually happens, the story began to outrun my careful planning and I very quickly realised my anti-heroes were building to a showdown in New York, which is where they spend Part Two. That section grew fairly organically and characters like Thad Gorski and Ramon popped up at will, often refusing to tell me why they were there at first. Part Three, of course, is where I had to tie it all together so more planning was required, although not rigidly so. I prefer to let a story go where it wants, but within a vague framework so I don't go completely off the rails and get lost in writer's block Hell.

I know exactly what you mean about letting it flow. I’ve tried to plan out novels, but I always end up in a totally different place as the story takes over. J

You have a very whimsical yet dark cover, fitting with the story itself. Who designed it for you?

I'm a very lucky girl because my sister's partner is pretty awesome at graphic design and he put it together for me. I'm rubbish with any sort of graphic design software so he saved Jinn Nation from a truly horrific cover. The idea was mine, I'd had quite a clear idea of how I wanted the cover to look while I was still writing the novel, and I sourced all the stock photography myself. The backdrop is an amazing night time shot of New York, which is where I feel the novel really gains its purpose and momentum.

Yes, it sure does. Part II is where I started getting tensed up waiting for what was going to happen.

Will you be doing a sequel?

I definitely left it open for a sequel, but I'm not planning one for the immediate future. Dylan is a character who refuses to stay quiet for long though, so who knows?

Do you have much time to read?

I have a new baby so not as much time as I'd like! I do read whenever I can, particularly since I've had my Kindle because I can read one-handed - very handy when holding a little one.

What are your favorite genres?

I still love fantasy and horror. I've actually just decided to try reading the epic fantasy series I've missed out on over the years while I was reading Anne Rice and Stephen King, which is quite a feat when you consider how many books some of them run to. We'll see how it goes.

What is a day in the life of Caroline like?

Sadly, it's usually quite boring! I get up when my daughter wakes up and give her some breakfast, then I check my emails and mooch around on the internet while I have my coffee (my brain doesn't really function before it's been injected with caffeine). It's hard with a baby but I'm trying to get into some sort of routine now where I do admin type things in the morning and then write new material in the afternoon. It's a balancing act because I also like to get the Sprogling out for as much fresh air as possible, something many writers don't see a lot of!

Haha! I know the feeling.

Where can we find you online?







Where is Jinn Nation available for purchase?

Kindle UK:

Kindle USA:



What formats are your book available in?

Jinn Nation is available as an e-book for the Amazon Kindle, or for every other e-reading device via Smashwords. A paperback version is available from or CreateSpace.

Anything else you would like to add?

Thank you for having me!

It was my pleasure, Caroline. I wish you all the best of success, and thank you for taking the time to answer my questions!

About Caroline

Twenty-something year-old Caroline Barnard-Smith has been writing stories since she was five years old. Having graduated from the University of Portsmouth with a bachelor's degree in English Literature, she now lives in Devon, England with her husband and baby daughter where she writes about ruthless vampires, lovelorn zombies and heinous blood cults.

Her short stories have been published in numerous small press magazines, including Ballista, Hungur and Night to Dawn, and on the web at Dark Fire Fiction.

Caroline's debut dark fantasy novel, Dunraven Road, was published by Immanion Press in June 2009. For various exciting reasons she's since turned her hand to indie publishing and has recently published a novella for the Amazon Kindle called The Undead Alliance. Jinn Nation is her first full length, independently published novel.

When she's not writing, Caroline is busy running her handmade craft business, CazzCraft, selling both online and at craft fairs.

Jinn Nation

Once, the vampire Dylan had feared nothing and no one. He'd rampaged throughout the world on a seemingly never ending quest to fill his eternal years with the finest, most outrageous extravagances; with exquisite, soft-limbed young women and copious amounts of rich, vibrating blood. But life, however full of joy, inevitably changes.

Finding himself alone for the first time in his long unlife, Dylan turns to the preternatural race of savage creatures called the jinn - a path that inevitably leads him to Christa, a strangely childlike woman with the power to control minds and read thoughts. Mutually intrigued by each other, they set out on a blood-soaked road trip that crosses the United States and the Atlantic Ocean, finally leading them beyond the world itself to the mysterious fae kingdoms of the Inbetween.

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