Sometimes dreams really do come true and that’s exactly what happened for debut novelist Dave Barrett. An avid participant in Nanowrimo, he got the opportunity to publish his very first book this year thanks to The Nerdist and Inkshares.
After entering a writing contest last year on Inkshares his book was not only one of the finalists slated for publication but he was the first author ever to have their book selected for inclusion in the Nerdist Collection.
How cool is that?
We had a chance to sit down with Dave Barrett at San Diego Comic-Con this year to discuss his debut novel, It’s All Fun and Games. We talked a bit about what it was like working with Inkshares, how he developed his story, and where he hopes to see the series go in the future, among other things. You can read the full transcript below!
Sam: Thanks so much for taking the time to speak with us! So It’s All Fun and Games is your first novel, right?
Dave: Yes, [it’s] my first published novel.
Have you written any others prior to this?
I started doing Nanowrimo back in 2007. I teach accounting at college so I don’t have a whole lot of creative outlets. Nanowrimo is really the only opportunity I have to write. My household stands still – my wife and the kids know that November is writing time. I have written a novel every year since 2007. [Except] this past year because I was editing for It’s All Fun and Games.
Was It’s All Fun and Games one of the novels you wrote for Nanowrimo?
Yeah, this was the one from 2010. When I finished It’s All Fun and Games it felt like the best of the ones I had done so far. And I received reasonably positive feedback from my initial group of beta readers. They thought the story was good… and so in 2011 and 2012 I wrote the sequel and then I wrote the conclusion of the series.
So you’ve written the whole series all ready?
I have! I’m not entirely sure I like how I plotted out the conclusion but at least the big ideas and the basic plot structure is all done.
What inspired you to write It’s All Fun and Games?
I wanted to write a story where kids are all of a sudden made into the heroes because that’s the kind of thing I like to read. Every book I read [growing up] I wanted to be the hero and every girl I had a crush on at the time was the female lead. It’s pure escapist fluff. It’s fantasy. It’s exactly what when I was that age I’d want to read.
LARP is a huge part of It’s All Fun and Games. Are you a LARPer yourself?
I’m not a LARPer per se. LARP was sort of a thing I used to get the characters into the book. I’m mostly a table top gamer.
Did you do any research on LARP before writing the book?
Most of the stuff I did for the LARPing was not entirely whole cloth. When I [was growing] up in Houston there was no LARPing. There was the SCA but that was it. But I did hear about this thing called NERO. I sent them $3 and asked them to send me a copy of the rulebook. And I’m reading the rulebook like, “Gosh I really wish I could do something like this!” The rules of the LARP game that’s in It’s All Fun and Games is basically a stylized version of what I remembered the NERO system to be.
What made you interested in using LARP in It’s All Fun and Games?
The LARP angle I thought was the most interesting and most organic. I’d like kids to read It’s All Fun and Games and find it interesting. And to think more about gaming. LARP is a huge jump but even if they’re just thinking about playing D&D once [I want them to know] that these things exist and that it can be cool. There’s like 100 thousand something people here [at San Diego Comic-Con]. This kind of stuff – geek stuff – is cool now or certainly it can be cool if you are willing to let it be cool.
I thought it was very cool that you chose Allison, a newbie and a girl to be the main character of your story.
You know, Allison is the main character for a very specific reason. My oldest child is a girl and when I go to gaming conventions it’s mostly a bunch of white guys in a room. There are very few women and very few people of color. It would be nice to expand the hobby to these other people because everyone has imagination like that. It was a very deliberate thought. “I’m going to have the new person be a girl and be the sort of platonic best friend who starts getting involved in things.” Because I want the hobby to grow and I want my daughter to feel like she’s not the only [female gamer] out there.
It’s All Fun and Games was published as part of a Nerdist contest. How did you find out about the contest?
A friend of mine who (she was one of the people who read my book early on and thought “This is great!”) is a big Nerdist fan saw this contest thing. So she said, “There’s this contest you should submit your book.”And I was kinda like “Ehhhhhh….” and then finally a week into the contest I said, “Sure, why not!”
How did it feel when you found out you had ‘won’ the contest?
The publishing deal with Inkshares – that was the golden ticket. And then the Nerdist – who was like Willy Wonka – picked me and another author to be their Nerdist branded books and that was basically winning the chocolate factory.
What was the process of working with Inkshares to develop the book like?
I think Inkshares is awesome. They set me up with a developmental editor – Kiele Raymond – and she’s fantastic. She read the book and within a month or so sent it back with the line edits and a memo breaking down the things she thought worked and the things she thought could be fixed – that kind of stuff. I wasn’t just fixing the writing but I was improving the quality of the manuscript. And it improved immensely from when I submitted it to when I finished the developmental process.
Then it went into the copy phase and at that point I think “Oh, I’m home free! We’re all done!” And no [the copy editor] took it seriously. It wasn’t nearly as intensive as the first round of edits, though. The book is roughly 54,000 words and there were probably 1000 words cut, 1000 words edited in the copyediting phase. Then there was proofreading. After that it went to final review edit after the manuscript had been fixed. It got poured into the galley format and that got reviewed and then off to the printers.
I submitted my manuscript October 3rd and backers got their books the first week in July. It’s a long, long process. I told people “Oh, yeah it’ll make a great Christmas present for you!” Like, how long of a process could it be? A really, really long one it turns out.
Where do you hope to see It’s All Fun and Games go from here?
In a perfect world It’s All Fun and Games would get turned it into a larger series and I’d be the next JK Rowling! That’s almost certainly not going to happen but it would be cool for it to be a book kids in middle school are reading.
That would be awesome! We’d love to see more kids getting involved in LARP, D&D, and just gaming in general. We really enjoyed the book and we’re sure they will, too. (And you never know – you could be the next JK Rowling!)
Thanks again for taking the time to talk with us. Enjoy the rest of the convention!
Combining the classic idea of characters being transported into strange fantasy worlds with LARPing, It’s All Fun and Games is the product of a lot of love and dedication – and it’s the start to a fun, new young adult fantasy series. If you’re a fan of fast-paced stories that are full of adventure then you’re missing out if you haven’t already checked out Dave Barrett’s It’s All Fun and Games.
Check out our full review!