Interview with Barbara Stonaker

Author of Between Athens and God

Between Athens and God

Where are you from originally and where do you reside now?

Born in Albuquerque, NM but grew up Sulphur Springs, TX, a small town and county seat of Hopkins County In Northeast Texas. After several moves through the years I am now living back in East Texas outside of Longview.

If you currently reside somewhere besides where you were born, what’s the story that lead from there to here?

My father was from Texas, my mother, from Maine. They decided to move to Sulphur Springs after my father’s heart attack when I was 11. He passed away when I was 16, at the start of my senior year in high school. I moved to Dallas after graduation seeking independence and education then to Tucson, AZ where I attended college at the University of Arizona to major in English. I moved back to Dallas for a few short years before moving to Austin. While there, life took a sharp turn that led me to living in rural central Illinois for about 7 years before moving back to Texas, around Longview. I am glad I was able to experience living in different places but it is true, there is no place like home. For me, home is Texas, but more specifically, East Texas. I spent many day trips In the back seat of my parents car admiring the open fields surrounded by forests of pine trees between Sulphur Springs and Athens, TX.

What made you decide to write and publish your first book?

I was going through a difficult time in my life, struggling with anxiety and depression. It was suggested by a counselor that I try journaling as a way to collect my thoughts, isolate triggers and gain new perspectives. My journaling morphed into poetic verse. I sent some pieces to a few writers for pier review and it all grew from there.

How would you describe your books to first time readers?

I would start by explaining the title. Between Athen and God is not only the title of one of the pieces included in the book. It is the geographical location from which my poetry began. Many of the pieces were first written by a teenager going through the grieving process of losing a parent. There we’re years of sorrow, guilt and anger mixed with a clinging to faith and hope.

Who do you feel is most likely to connect with the topics you write about?

Anyone dealing with a loss, not necessarily death, any loss really. I want them to know their feelings are a normal part of the process to recovery and to know they are not alone.

What unexpected or surprising thing did you learn during the process of writing and publishing?

It takes a lot of time to write enough pieces of poetry to make a publication. Between Athens and God is only 100 pieces. Poetry is a story but it’s like writing a story out of order without a set plot. A tremendous amount of creative energy pours into each piece, regardless of length and that is before editing.

If you could, what advice would you give to your past self before embarking on this journey?

Keep all of them, even the ones you don’t think are good enough because there are parts you would like to use but won’t remember. Keep the ones that are too personal, the ones you don’t want anyone to read. Those are the ones you need to share the most.

How many people would you ideally like to reach with your books?

As many who would benefit reading it. It’s hard to pin a number on that.

What has been the biggest challenge and frustration during the process to date?

Most people don’t realize how few books they have access to. If the author is famous or has been on the NYT best sellers before you will see these in your local book store. But there are thousands of writers that don’t have the personal funds to promote their art. There is so much more out there we don’t see.

What’s your biggest strengths when it comes to book a) writing, b) publishing and c) marketing?

I have a decent social media following. Knowing I’m helping someone is more rewarding than book sales for profit. I’m a real person and my fans get the opportunity to interact with me and have meaningful conversations, sometimes about poetry and writing, sometimes about ideas, philosophy.

What’s your biggest weakness when it comes to book a) writing, b) publishing and c) marketing?

Marketing. It takes money and that isn’t always an option.

When do you think you will write your next book?

Working on it already. The next will have many more pieces so it’s been a journey.

Are you self published or did you use a hybrid publisher, or a traditional publisher?

I self published through a well respected publishing house. It wasn’t cheep but it was affordable to get my work out there via means other than digital for my fan base. I would love for a traditional publisher to consider lesser known authors willing to publish for little or no profit if that were an option.

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