War and violence and life and love
Tyler is in therapy. Katia and Goran are in love. On a summer trip to Zagreb, the couple discover an unusual museum that displays mementos of broken relationships. Inside, Goran stumbles upon an exhibit that seems to be addressed to him, from a girl he met in a Sarajevo refugee camp at age fourteen. What follows is a whirlwind summer of reconnecting with lost pasts: Goran confronts the youth he lost during the Yugoslav Wars, Katia heads to Brazil to find her roots, and Afghanistan veteran Tyler pours out his soul. Set against alternating backdrops of violent circumstances, this novel is a soulful testament to the resilience of the human heart.
- Whom did you inherit your love for books/reading from?
My father was in graduate school in social work when I was about 3 and there are pictures of me from back then holding a book (and probably not understanding much of it) while he sat next to me with a textbook open. The young me knew there was something terribly interesting to be found in those pages if my father spent so many hours looking at them. One of the first books I recall reading entirely on my own and thinking “wow, that’s what words can do” was The Phantom Tollbooth. I still remember the delicious feeling of how Norton Jester plays with words — gives them real, physical-world power. I also remember that I adored the idea or construct of the “novel” as a journey, of interesting characters encountered on a road or a trail and some meaningful secret revealed at the end of the journey.
When you need a murder victim or someone you can diagnose with a serious disease or someone who is involved in a fatal accident do you sometimes picture someone nasty you have met in real life and think ‘got you’ LOL?
I can LOL about lots of things (sometimes in good taste and plenty of times not) but my fictional scenes of disease and violence are too close to the real lives I’ve seen affected by such things. Even the really nasty people I know don’t deserve those things. Now, I can, however, imagine other things I might do to those nasty people …
How do you come up with the names for your characters?
Writing a novel means that the major characters sit, talk and walk around in my head for months and years, so first and foremost I have to like the names or feel that the names fit. Most often the names I use come from people I’ve met who have those names. which for me connote some aspect of their personality, or some tone of their voice that works for the character. And when the names are from a language I’m not fluent in, I do some internet searching and run the names by colleagues who are fluent in those languages.
Do write other things beside books (and shoppinglists )?
I’ve written lots of blogs — which I do when I can find the patience to limit myself to 800 words. And, I am a social scientist and human rights advocate in my day job, which means I write lots of research reports and journalistic articles. That style of writing of course is far different than creative writing, but it has given me a deep appreciation for the power of a story to change ideas and minds, and the power of a well-written sentence or paragraph.
If your movie or series would be made from your books, would you be happy with the ‘based on’ version or would you rather like they showed it exactly the way you created it?
Definitely “based on.” I don’t think any person reads or understands a story the same way and I think any rendering into film or TV of my work would be another story. A good one, I would hope, but I think I would be deeply frustrated if I expected the film or TV version to be the version that sits in my head.
- Who would you like/have liked to interview?
I am fascinated by people in history who encountered themselves in settings or with cultures about which they had no prior knowledge particularly in encounters between Europe and the Americas. So, I’d start with Gonzalo Guerrero, the Spanish sailor who went to Mexico under Cortes, was captured by the Mayans on the Yucatan peninsula and later joined the Mayan side against the Spanish, eventually having what are considered the first mestizo children in the Americas. That would be a fascinating interview: “How’d all that go for you, Mr. Guerrero?”
- Do you have certain people you contact while doing research to pick their brains? What are they specialized in?
In my day job, I work with people around the world who are in the field of violence prevention and gender equality in their home countries. That network of amazing advocates and colleagues are my go-to people. But even more important. I appreciate my friends, and my partner, to read a story and tell me if it works If they are moved by it, if the characters feel like real-life people who they would want to have a beer with.
- Is there someone you sometimes discuss a dilemma with?
First and foremost it’s my partner. She’s Brazilian, a psychologist, mother of our bi-national daughter; she’s fabulously opinionated and is as deep a humanist as they come. I can always count on her to see a side I missed, to make a connection I had overlooked, to provoke me to look at a different angle. Even when I don’t agree with her proposed solution to a dilemma, which happens frequently, I am always pushed to write better and think more deeply about the humanity behind the characters.
- What is more important to you : a rating in stars with no comments or a reviewer who explains what the comments they give are based on (without spoilers of course)
Comments are always more interesting. Anyone can click on 5 stars — whether for an Uber driver or a meal they liked. I want to know what the reviewer thought or felt.
Thank you, Gary Barker and Random Things Tours.
About the author
GARY BARKER is an author, researcher, and human rights activist. He is founder and director of Promundo, an international organization that works with men and boys in more than 25 countries to achieve gender equality and end violence against women. He has been awarded an Ashoka Fellowship and an Open Society Fellowship for his work in conflict zones. His previous novels include Luisa’s Last Words, Mary of Kivu, and The Afghan Vampires Book Club (co-written with Michael Kaufman). Barker lives in Washington, DC.