Monday, 11 November 2013

Andrew David Barker writes a letter to himself

I'm really excited to bring you a new letter-to-self guest post (remember when Vanessa Gebbie and Kerry Hudson did it?).

This time it's the turn of Andrew David Barker who's just released his novel The Electric, a coming-of-age tale about a fifteen year old boy, Sam, who 'discovers an old abandoned cinema playing movies made by ghosts, for ghosts'. I was really captured by that line in the blurb. Very intriguing. Here's more:

Sam, along with his friends, Emma and David, find themselves drawn into a world where the likes of Humphrey Bogart, Lon Chaney and Theda Bara are still making pictures; where Harold Lloyd and John Belushi team up for roustabout comedies, and Karloff and Lugosi appear in films scripted by Edgar Allan Poe. Sam comes to learn the mysteries of the Electric cinema and his part to play in its long and strange history.
With shades of Ray Bradbury, the more nostalgic work of Stephen King, and the early films of Steven Spielberg, THE ELECTRIC is about movies, ghosts, and that ephemeral moment in all of our lives, childhood. 

Win it!
You can win a copy of The Electric just by commenting at the end of this post. Anyone who writes something between now and Monday 18th Nov will go into a hat and have a chance to win either the e-book or actual real life copy of the book - you just need to state in your comment which you'd prefer.

For now though, let's pass over to Andrew. It's 1991 and curtains are the way to wear your hair.

Dear Me. The 1991 me. The just-left-school me.

First off, let me tell you - it’s going to take you a long time to get over school. You’re nostalgic at 16 and that is a problem. Straight after you leave school life – from which you receive no qualifications – you’ll find yourself working for a window fitting firm for £10 a day, not knowing what the hell has happened. (Be warned: low, low wages and struggling from week to week will become something of a theme.)

You’ll do that for a while and then go to college. There you will try and recreate your school days by hanging out with friends, drinking, making films, playing in bands, and generally doing as little actual class work as possible. And like school, you’ll leave college with absolutely no qualifications whatsoever.

You’ll barely be able to read and write. You don’t even read a book voluntarily until the autumn of ’91. It is a fantasy novel entitled Out of their Minds by Clifford D. Simak. It’s not a great book by any stretch of the imagination, but with nothing to compare it to, you’re blown away. You’ll become a voracious reader after this, and the head-full of ideas you’ve always had will begin to whirl and take some kind of shape.

Soon after reading Out of their Minds you begin to write an outline for a comedic fantasy novel of your own. It is about a school kid named Tony who is run over and dies only to discover that Heaven is run by a villainous Elvis Presley. It is not very good at all, but at 16, you’ll think it’s great. You’ll begin writing the novel with a school friend, Ben Waldram, and together you’ll spend the next five years turning it into a trilogy! You’ll never finish it.

During this time you’ll also play in local rock bands around Derby and continue to dream of making a film. The realities are, however, that you’ll simply drift from one job to another with absolutely no sense of direction or purpose. You’ll work on building sites (lots and lots of building sites: you’ll always keep coming back to this line of work as your dad is a bricklayer), as a railway worker, a carpet salesman, a factory worker (lots of factories), as a delivery driver, and as a night watchman at a hotel.

In the late 90s you’ll join a rock band as a lead guitarist and get signed by a small record label. You’ll record a single, go on photo shoots, tour up and down the country, and live quite a hedonistic lifestyle. You’ll think you’ve made it. You haven’t.

After four years for writing, recording, gigging, and drinking (and more besides), the band will implode and you’ll be left with nothing but memories. Also, you’ll be penniless. You won’t make any money from the band.

A few months after the band split you’ll find yourself back on a building site with your dad wondering, once again, what the hell happened. Befuddlement is another theme you’ll have to get used to.

It’ll take you another few years to get over the band. Then you’ll start to make short films. You’ll make a couple. They’re not bad. At least you think so. This leads to a long period of trying to fulfil a childhood dream: that of making a feature film.

You’ll network like crazy. You’ll meet a lot of people, and a lot of sharks too. You’ll begin to write screenplays with Matthew Waldram (brother of Ben, who you started out writing with) and you’ll go to Cannes in an effort to hawk them around. You’ll make a lot of contacts. You’ll talk to big players in Hollywood. Some of these big players will like your scripts. You’ll do a rewrite on one of your screenplays for a company owned by a major star, tailoring said script to suit his sensibilities. You’ll think you’ve made it. You haven’t.

You will make no money and sell not one script. In fact, the aforementioned company will completely rip off the central premise of your screenplay and make their own animated feature out of it. It will make big money and a sequel will be greenlit. You’ll go back to working on a building site.

However, in 2009 you will get the chance to direct an independent feature film.

A Reckoning will be a last-man-on-earth type story about one such man left alone in a desolate landscape. To give himself some sense of normality, he populates an entire village with straw people; he talks to them as if they are neighbours, and even teaches young straw people in school. However, before long his mind begins to crack and his make-believe world starts to take on a life of its own.

The film is shot at breakneck speed in two weeks during one of the worst snowstorms in England in a decade. Still, the film really comes together, mainly because of an incredible leading man (Leslie Simpson) and an utterly amazing crew.

You’ll spend the next year editing the film and that’s when the cracks begin to appear. Not with the film itself, but with the financiers. A series of escalating events lead to a complete breakdown in communication and a very nasty situation unfolds.

By 2010 the film is finished and getting stunning reviews. The financiers however, for reasons you will never, ever fathom, block it from ever seeing the light of day. Again, you go back to square one.

That is when you change your life. You begin a job as a care worker for young lads with learning difficulties and find it very rewarding. You get married to a wonderful woman whose support and encouragement in your creative endeavours are beyond measure, and also, you step away from everything and write a novel.
In writing it, you will dig deep into your past – into your teenage years – and feel a sense of completeness you have never felt in any of your creative pursuits before. You’ll find your voice  (for want of a better, less-clich├ęd phrase) and know that writing novels – where it is just you, no one else, pure and simple – is what you want to do for the rest of your life.

All that you will go through won’t be easy – I won’t lie to you – but that creative itch in your mind – that is small, but still very much there when you’re 16 – will grow, and sometimes it will overwhelm you. But everything you’ll go through will seep into your writing later on. For good or ill, it will make your work wholly your own and give you the strength to keep working at it, to keep writing, and to be true to who you are.

                                         Andrew David Barker, November 2013


Thanks so much, Andrew. I love that your journey has been so varied, real highs and lows. All working to get you where you are now.

Andrew David Barker was born in Derby, England in 1975. He directed an independent feature film entitled A Reckoning in 2009 and has since written or co-written several screenplays. He has also had several short stories published. The Electric is his first novel. He now lives in Warwickshire with his wife. 
He can be found at either or loitering around


So. Remember folks, to win a copy of The Electric say somethin' in the comments. And do remember to tell us if you'd like the e-book or the real book - we'll do two names-in-hats draws for this and the closing date for entries is end of Monday 18th Nov.



Elizabeth Varadan, Author said...

Oh, this sounds llike a book I would love. Ghosts. Ghosts who make movies. It's so intriguing. I loved reading Andrew's letter to himself, too. What an interesting journey he went on to find out what he loves best to do. If I win the book, I would like the print version. I can tell it's the kind of book I'll read more than once, and probably dog-ear favorite pages.

Passion for stamping said...

I was lucky enough to know Andrew at this time in his life, he used to come to school full of the most wonderful and diverse ideas. Every weekend was spent filming and or writing, I was even lucky enough to type up one of his scripts on the first computer I ever had. I still have the hand written version to this day. I'm so glad, and also a little bit proud that he has stayed true to himself and managed to fulfil his dreams...not many people can say that at all. I hope he has a long and happy life as a writer.

Teresa Stenson said...

Hi Elizabeth - the novel does sound great, doesn't it. I was totally sold on that ghost premise too. Thanks so much for stopping by - consider yourself in the hat for a chance to win the print copy.

Hello Passion for stamping (I'm sure you have a real name too...) - oh wow - how fab to have someone who knew the Andrew in the top photo! Thank you so much for saying hello - I assume you would like to be in the prize draw too - just let us know if you're a print or an e-book kind of lady. You deserve to win for your secretarial duties at least :)

Dan Purdue said...

The book sounds like a great concept. I went and had a cheeky butcher's at Amazon's 'look inside' feature and the first page or so is intriguing.

Andrew's letter make it sound as thought life's set him up with material for dozens more novels in the future. I'll wish him the very best of luck with this one.

Please put me in the draw, Teresa. Either format's fine.

Anonymous said...

A wonderful post and cracking story. If you've not bought/read The Electric yet, head over to Amazon and grab a copy. You won't regret it.

Teresa Stenson said...

Thanks, Dan - you're in the hat. Both hats, in fact.

Hello Ben - thanks for stopping by and for your endorsement!

Miss McFish said...

I'm not in the hat and now it is past its sell-by date! I love the sound of this book - I also had a cheeky butcher's x

Teresa Stenson said...

Ah, Mandy, ya missed the hat. That was a bowl. But still. Thanks for coming by though and I'm glad you had a sneak at the novel - it does sound ace, doesn't it.

Rachel Fenton said...

I may have missed the hat, but in the spirit of multiple false starts, as demonstrated by Andrew's brilliant letter, I am cheering his novel on regardless with a better-late-than-never banner!

Love these letters, Teresa!