Sci-fi series author Barry Fellinger shares tips for securing media spotlights and in-person events
Blast off into the inspiring true adventures of one of Tellwell’s sci-fi/children’s authors
Start putting words to paper or screen, even if they are only ideas, maybe just a few sentences. It’s quite possible the more you write, the more the story will start writing itself, or at least help you write it.Barry Fellinger
Today we have the pleasure of interviewing an incredibly hard-working author and comic book enthusiast, Barry M. Fellinger. Residing in St. Thomas, Ontario, Barry not only works as a director in health care but also teaches leadership courses and seminars. His latest book, The Not so True Adventures of Brandon, Josh, and Adam, reached #1 on Amazon’s Children’s Time Travel Books chart. He is currently on the promotional trail with interviews and appearances in southwestern Ontario. We’re excited to learn more about his journey as an author and his tips for finding inspiration.
Your newest book, The Not so True Adventures of Brandon, Josh, and Adam, is part of a series. What prompted you to create a series instead of standalone stories?
I can’t honestly say it started out that way, but when I ended the first book on a cliffhanger, it kind of demanded a sequel some day. During an email conversation with my Tellwell project manager, Sem, about the possibility of at least the two books possibly being part of a series, we (actually he) came up with the suggestion “True Adventure Series,” which totally resonated with me. The new book also ends on a cliffhanger, so that lends itself to another book in the series too.
If you were to read my author’s note at the end of the sequel, you would see that I actually have encouraged other younger members of the family who may be burgeoning authors to pick up the story and run with it if they develop a passion for writing. Our eldest grandchild, Charlie, who received credit for his base concept drawing of the Scrievers of the Lost Farewells character in the new book, is already showing signs of that!
I also have an idea for another book in the series, a tale about one of the other characters who appears in the sequel, so it would be a story totally unrelated to the three cousins. I even have a working title for it, but we’ll keep that quiet for now!
What ingredients do you think a great book series need?
I would say fun and relatable characters, especially relatable to the target age group. Imagination, for sure. Consistency, especially with world-building and the characters. Although if it is a series over time, it would be important to demonstrate how characters have grown and evolved as they age in both attitude and actions. Humour, danger, risk, unexpected adventure, twists and turns, mystery, a-ha moments, and some life lessons where they fit in naturally and are not forced are ingredients that come to mind. I am sure there are many more!
In terms of the importance of consistency, that can be a challenge when writing a series. For example, since I had written the first book almost 19 years ago, I had to keep going back to it as I wrote the sequel to make sure I wasn’t forgetting anything that was important or that would be contradictory to things in the first book.
Although, because I was playing around with the effects of time travel, it did allow me some latitude at changing a few things so they were not always identical to the first book, and that was on purpose. Also, a convenient way of correcting or adjusting things in the first book that in retrospect I might have written differently if I were writing the book now. I mean, just think how much technology has advanced in nineteen years! You will have to read both books to see what I mean.
You wrote your first book, The Almost True Adventures of Brandon and Josh, several years ago and went on hiatus. What prompted you to continue writing?
I finished the first book with the two cousins Brandon and Josh having escaped from the Intergalactic Council on Obedience to Parents, now safely back home with some help from a species called the Strataderks. However, they are barely home when they realize their other cousin Adam has been kidnapped by the same aliens they just got away from. With the final sentence of the first book, “Adam had been kidnapped by aliens,” I knew I couldn’t leave him out in space forever!
Seriously though, I puttered with the story off and on over the years, writing down various ideas, including some draft chapters. In fact, I even had one version of an ending written. However, as life got busy, especially with raising two very active children, work demands, and other activities, it became more difficult to dedicate time to writing the way I would have liked.
I was really inspired to continue writing seriously after taking a Story Sorcery online course a few years ago, and as you get older you start to realize how fast time goes by. Even the real same-aged cousins, whose 11-year-old personalities the characters are based on, turn 39 this year!
While I have four or five other books in various stages of completion which I continue to work on, I decided it was time to really focus on finalizing the cousins’ story. It was time to save Adam! So for the last two and half years, I did everything possible to make time to write the sequel. Once I had finished the manuscript and connected with Tellwell, everything started moving forward. Tellwell assigned Kim as my editor, and her help was invaluable. She really helped me to significantly improve the story.
Why did you choose a youth audience for your adventure books?
That’s easy! Since the story was based on my son, Brandon and my nephews, Brandon’s cousins, Josh and Adam, when they were 11 and 12 years old, a youth audience of 8–12-year-olds is a natural fit as the readers who will relate most to the characters.
As in the books, in real life all three cousins were born within six to eight weeks of each other. Whether at times they were a terrific trio or a terrible trio, over the years they gave me lots of material to work with (with their permission, of course). While I say the books are ideal for that age group, I think parents will enjoy them too.
Aside from obeying your parents and eating your broccoli, there are also some life lessons in the new story that may be helpful for kids, and even facilitate some discussion with the adults in their lives. Ultimately, the books, especially the new one, are about family. Family sticking together and loving each other through all the challenges, obstacles (or aliens), trials, curves, and unexpected twists and turns life may bring.
Currently you have a busy promotional schedule and numerous appearances at events and venues in southwestern Ontario. Do you have any tips for authors who hope to be more active with live events?
That is a humbling question. I am still new to marketing and am by no means an expert. I can share what I have done that seems to have worked, though. Connect with local people in your area whom you know who also may be connected to various media. Let them know you want to promote your book. Don’t be shy! It never hurts to ask. You may get some no’s, but you will also get some places saying yes!
One of the advantages of living in the St. Thomas area is that the community is very supportive of things local, including local authors. I found that, using my existing connections and reaching out to places where I am a regular customer to see if they would offer a venue or even allow my books to be on display, I usually received a welcome, “Of course we would love to help.”
That has included everything from restaurants to coffee shops to comic book stores to libraries to dry cleaners. So I would encourage authors to go to businesses and establishments you frequent, where staff are familiar with you, describe what you are thinking, and how you might like them to help promote your book. You never know what great ideas they may come up with to help you out!
What is your favorite experience so far promoting your new book?
I would have to say it was the first official launch of the new book at Destination Church in St. Thomas, where the launch was tied to a breakfast fundraiser for the school lunch program the church runs. They provide 103 lunches for children in six schools across St. Thomas. We had a huge turn out of about 50 people. I read excerpts from the new book and we did some swag giveaways of T-shirts, caps and sketchbooks that had one of the characters from the book on them, showed a couple promo videos, and also committed to donating a portion of book sales to the lunch program. Between the fundraiser breakfast and the book sales, we raised close to $500 for the school lunch program and sold and signed almost 40 books that day.
What are your favourite science fiction books or movies?
That is a long list! I grew up on the original Star Trek, so all things Trek, books, movies or TV series (Picard is amazing right now!) all Stargate series, Bablyon 5, Quantum Leap, old and new. Star Wars, The Flash—let’s see how they do with the movie this June! Most definitely all things Marvel; movies, comics, TV shows. Honestly, the list could go on for multiple pages! I will just add Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy and Firefly and leave it at that.
What is your best piece of advice for would-be authors who haven’t taken the leap yet? What should they do to get started?
I would suggest you force yourself to dedicate some time to writing. An hour on a regular basis, daily, weekly on a weekend, or whatever timeframe works, and commit to it. Sit down with pen and paper, or computer and keyboard and just start writing some words related to whatever story is brewing in your mind and heart. Start putting words to paper or screen, even if they are only ideas, maybe just a few sentences. It’s quite possible the more you write, the more the story will start writing itself, or at least help you write it. You may even find as you write the story goes in unexpected directions, which I think is awesome! Let your imagination run with it and see where it takes you. After all, you are most likely going to end up doing rewrites anyway. Or, in fewer words, “Just start.”