This interview originally ran January 21, 2011 and is no longer available anywhere. With his recent passing I felt it only fitting to show it to you all here.
Neal Barrett Jr. is likely one of the best, least known authors out there. His works have dealt with science fiction, fantasy,mystery/suspense, and historical fiction. With his first work appearing in 1974 he has written several novels, series, and short story collections. Barrett gained recognition recently when the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America named him Author Emeritus in 2010. In recent years he has been working on screenplays as well.
What was it like for you growing up in Oklahoma City? What was your very first favorite story? Do you feel your early experience have had a lasting impact on your as a writer?
Growing up in OC was, I guess, like growing up anywhere. I was born in San Antonio, but lived in OC from age 5 until I went to college at OU. I can’t recall a favorite first story, but I imagine it was the Mars stories of Edgar Rice Burroughs. Regarding early experiences having lasting impact on me as a writer, a great deal happens to every writer. If you read my works, such as The Hereafter Gang, you can see where I’m coming from.
Since there isn’t much about you out there, can you tell our readers a little bit about your background and interests?
I’d disagree. I think there’s a lot on sites and in reviews about me. Look at my bio, and you’ll find my career pretty well covered, I think. My interests, besides writing, are my family, my cat Mickey, my aquarium, my yard, and getting together with writer friends around here: Joe Lansdale, Bill Spencer, Brad Denton, and Don Webb.
What first led you to the world of writing? Why do you think you chose to pursue a career in it?
I’ve been asked before what led me to the world of writing. first, all writers started out as readers. I really have no idea how I became a writer. I didn’t choose it. It was just always there. I never said “I’ll be a writer.” I just was. That’s truly the way it happened.
Which genre do you most prefer to write in most?
No question on this one. the short story. I think it brings together the character’s story in such a way that one can’t do in a novel. I’ve done novels, and enjoyed doing them. but a short story is, if you’ll pardon the excessive language: a gem, a small, encased perfection. No writing, in my opinion, comes close to the really good short story.
Some of your works though not Westerns themselves have a distinct Western flair.Why do you think the whole Western slant has always had such appeal?
I’ve done westerns, but I see where you’re going with this. I’d say many of us in the Southwest have regional qualities to our work. Sometimes people complain about regionalism,but if you look around, you’ll find New York, Michigan, California,Maine, etc. writers. Why not? It’s the natural thing to do.
I heard that you have a story about your cat and dog teaming up to raid your pantry. Is that true?
Yes, that’s true. My wife and I kept seeing the dog peek around the corner, check us out now and then. Finally, I got up and went to the kitchen and found the cat on a high pantry shelf dropping bags of dog treats down to the dog. My question, knowing cats: What was in it for the cat?
Do you enjoy working on screenplays? How is it different from your other works?
I love working on screenplays. I also love writing comics. It’s about the same thing. In movies you have storyboards, a picture showing a scene, then another. Same thing with screenplays. I have written over a thousand pages of comics. I love to do it, love screenplays.
What is your favorite movie of all time?
My favorite movie of all time? I have to put a few in there: Battle of Brtitain, Dam Busters, Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow, and Blade Runner. Many more, of course.
What one subject have you yet to cover would you most like to bring to the public next?
Hard to answer that one. There are a lot of things I have going, and I’m NOT going to talk about them here! I’ll say I’ve got several sf stories in the works, as usual, a couple of political projects, and a real scary horror movie.
Where you surprised to be named Author Emeritus by the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America?
Yes, surprised. And greatly pleased.
Who are some of your favorite authors?
Cordwainer Smith, Terry Bisson, Lawrence Block, China Mieville, John R. Maxim, Alan Furst, Bartle Bull, Patrick O’Brian, and a lot more.