Featured Interview With James and Bit Barringer
Tell us a little about yourself. Where were you raised? Where do you live now?
Howdy! My name is James (Bit doesn't like photos or interviews), and I'm co-writer of the Dragons of Introvertia series of young adult novels. I'm the director of fine arts at a private school outside Orlando, Florida and Bit is a digital artist. We're both massive introverts, and the Dragons of Introvertia series was our effort to make a book where introverts are deliberately presented as the heroes – and they don't become heroes by becoming extroverts or learning to "break out of their shell;" they become heroes while introverts. Since a lot of readers prefer a good book to a crowded club, I figured lots of people would want to read that story!
At what age did you realize your fascination with books? When did you start writing?
I've loved reading for as long as I can remember. By age eight, I had a subscription to Popular Mechanics magazine, which I dutifully read cover to cover every month. Around that same time my family got its first computer, and I started writing a novel set in an original world. I made up all the locations, technology, and characters myself. I'm sure it was awful (it's long since been lost to the ether), but the more I wrote, the more I wanted to write. I've drifted between genres a few times, but optimistic young adult fantasy is where I landed and I think that's where I'm going to stay. Bit was on the Harry Potter books by age six, and has done a lot of collaborative roleplay writing.
Who are your favorite authors to read? What is your favorite genre to read. Who Inspires you in your writings?
Would you believe I almost never read fiction? I've discovered that my favorite genre to read is "true stories of smart people figuring out tough problems," which is extremely specific, but that's what I love. We're talking stuff like "Apollo 13," AJ Baime's "Go Like Hell" (which became the movie "Ford Versus Ferrari"), Steven Ujifusa's "A Man and His Ship" about the fastest cruise liner in history, that vein. As far as fantasy, I read Tolkien at age twelve and was hooked by the methodical immersiveness of his Middle-Earth. Tone-wise, Dragons of Introvertia is closer to C.S. Lewis' Narnia series, both in the sense of being more lighthearted and in the sense of having a deeper meaning underneath; whereas Narnia was a religious allegory, Dragons is really about how great it is to be an introvert and how happy people can be when they accept their personality. I'm also proud to say that my series has more dragons in it than Narnia and Lord of the Rings combined, so take that!
In my opinion, the closest analogue to Dragons of Introvertia is actually the cartoon "Avatar: The Last Airbender," in which a group of teenagers can goof around and laugh and have fun while facing down real danger and saving the world. That's a pretty good summary of Dragons.
Tell us a little about your latest book?
Dragons of Introvertia is like nothing else in the young adult fantasy market right now. It's unapologetically optimistic, whereas there's an awful lot of bleak and dystopian fiction with dark book covers out there. (Some readers have mistaken that optimism for naivete or immaturity and suggested that the books are actually for middle-grade readers, which I think says a lot about how badly hope and optimism are needed in our society today!) The romance, when it comes, is clean and wholesome. This is definitely a book you could give to a boy or girl of any age and not have to worry about what they're reading.
There are currently nine books in the Dragons of Introvertia series, and number ten is halfway done and minimized on my taskbar right now. The first six follow the main characters, Eza and Cammie, during the events of the Dragon War. There's lots of action, adventure, and magic, and also a close-up look at how Eza deals with anxiety disorder after coming down with it during the war. (That part is based on my real experiences with anxiety and includes actual Cognitive Behavior Therapy techniques I learned in counseling.) The next three books still feature Eza and Cammie but also introduce two new characters in Iriza and Caylen, who are the main characters for the upcoming arc that will occupy books 10 through 15. That means the Dragons series is great for people who love to binge-read!