Friday, March 11, 2016

Interview with Patrick Barnes, author of The Avocadonine and Spring Stone

Can you tell us what your book is about?

            The Avocadonine and Spring Stone is a somewhat absurd high school classic about a boy named Rey who, in the process of finding his first girlfriend, stumbles upon a conspiracy at his school that stretches back generations to a malicious woman and a girl named Spring Stone.  There seems to be something the students are drinking that is enabling someone to control their minds.  Rey has to figure out who is behind the plot, what they want to accomplish, and how to stop them.

Why did you write your book?

            I would have written this book even if I knew hardly anyone would ever read it.  I love writing.  Nothing makes me feel more accomplished than writing something I think is really good. 

Can you tell us a little about your main and supporting characters?

            Rey Naresh is going into the ninth grade at Pemota High.  He’s thrilled by the prospect of adventure and has a crush on a girl named Christy Lane.  Christy’s sister Brianna is a straight A freshman in college who wants to get revenge on her ninth grade health teacher for giving her an A-.  Christy and Brianna hate one another but learn to understand one another as the story unfolds.  Rey has something to do with that.

Do you tend to base your characters on real people or are they totally from your imagination?

            Some are based almost entirely on people I’ve known; some of the characters are composites of people I’ve known; and some are completely from my imagination.  Brianna Lane was the main character in a short story I wrote when I was in college.  Mike Elsetta was based on a kid I knew in camp.  And Ryan O’toole was based on a kid I knew in high school who was a really good artist.  But they were all modified to work well with the plot and the interactions with Rey and other characters.

Are you consciously aware of the plot before you begin a novel or do you discover it as you write?

            With The Avocadonine and Spring Stone I knew the characters and a lot the main plot points before I began writing.  It has never worked for me to write from a blank page coming up with things as I go along.  But I didn’t outline the second half of the book until I was half-way through writing the book.

Does the setting play a major part in the development of your story?

            Because The Avocadonine and Spring Stone revolves around avocados, it was important the book take place in prime avocado growing country.  That’s why I chose California.  So I researched what types of trees, avocado and others, were common in California, how certain acorns smelled, etc.  But it was mostly for backdrop and didn’t intrude on the plot really.

Have you suffered from writer’s block and what do you do to get back on track?

            Like I said, I never start from a blank page.  For some writers, like Stephen King, that works for them.  For me, I have to decide what I’m going to write long before I start writing.  So I make a great deal of notes and some general ideas on structure.  Then I write from that.  That way I don’t ever get writers block.

What do you like the most about being an author?

            I think writing is like putting together a puzzle.  The story already exists in its complete form, it’s just matter of getting there.  I like the mental challenge of finding where the right pieces are and figuring out how the puzzle fits together.

What is the most pivotal point of a writer’s life?

            I think the most pivotal point in a writer’s life is when the writer stops thinking about what other people are going to think of their writing, and starts thinking about what they think of their writing.  The writer themselves must become the quality control specialist.  Then, the writer, can take what other people say to heart, but knows the writer’s opinion comes first.  You can only reach that point by writing a lot and gaining confidence through experience.

What kind of advice would you give other fiction authors?

            Challenge the boundaries of originality.  So many writers are writing books about books they’ve already read.  If you can find something truly original, hopefully the audience will reward it.

Inside the Book:

Title: The Avocadonine and Spring Stone
Author: Patrick Barnes
Publisher: Independent Self Publishing
Publication Date: January 26, 2015
Pages: 334
Genre: Young Adult Fiction

Book Description:

Praised by many as one of the best YA fiction books you’ll ever read.
Rey Naresh, a likeable kid worth rooting for, is going into the ninth grade at Pemota High.  He’s not sure what to expect being fresh off a visit with a gypsy who may or may not have been psychic, but he’s hoping in ninth grade he’ll get to meet his crush, the pretty green eyed, Christy Lane.  He’s wanted her to notice him since sixth grade and keeps a letter to her in his backpack.  The school bully, Huxley Core, and his friends, who call themselves Nadine’s Puppies, threaten to publish something about Rey in their libelous newsletter.  As Rey looks up at the stars one night he realizes he will have to confront Huxley and be man enough to make Christy fall for him.
One day, on the bus, fellow ninth grader, Ryan O’toole, says to Rey that there’s something wrong with something the students are drinking and that electronics are making a humming sound when he’s near them.  It sounds to Rey like looney toons, but are other students having a similar problem?  Rey and Christy unite and embark on a quest that seems to have to do with mind control by an evil administration and provides a quandary for philosophical thought.  A mystery seems to have taken hold of Pemota High, one that may stretch back generations to a malicious woman and a story of her relationship with a student named Spring Stone.

Book Excerpt:

“Der,” Huxley straddled the bench and sat down next to Joe, “It’s your newsletter.”  Huxley was tired of talking about the newsletter.  He didn’t write the articles, didn’t come up with the ideas, and didn’t care whether or not people came up to him in the hall and said, “Funny article Huxley.”  The newsletter was getting old.
Above them the branches of Douglas Fir Trees blew in the wind which was strong today.  Acorns like big caterpillar cocoons fell on the grass.  The Smokers Corner was inhabited by three others on this after school smoking session.  Sarah Wein was sucking on a Marlboro.  Her boyfriend Jonas Wilson was with her.  And their friend Jared McCurry had joined the smoking session.  The three of them were seniors and had no interest in the affairs of the ninth graders.
“Huxley, I read about this,” Der said.  “You got your switchblade?”
Switchblades were legal in Pemota, but carrying them concealed was not.  Huxley had sent away for his.  He slipped through the school’s doors each day switchblade in pocket, unbeknownst to the authorities, because Pemota High never had or would need metal detectors.
“Is this the PTSD thing?”  Joe asked, as he stomped on a cigarette.
Der had learned about Post Traumatic Stress Disorder from The Deer Hunter.  He found it on the internet and learned it was caused by intense fear and anger under helpless conditions.  Der thought it was possible to institute the disorder without a combat circumstance.  Huxley and Joe strongly disagreed.
“Der,” Huxley chided, “That’s for people in Vietnam.”
“This will be like Vietnam,” Der said, “Just do what I say.”
Huxley and Joe looked at each other.  Joe gave a shrug and that was enough for them both to know they would go along with what Der had in mind.  Der pointed to the wide arcing sidewalk corner, “Stand there, pop it out, and show it to them.”
Joe said under his breath, “That’s what she said.”
Huxley laughed at Joe’s favorite thing to say.  It never seemed to get old.  Christy and Rey were approaching cautiously.  Then Christy stopped.  Huxley was standing there with a switchblade in his hand.  He held his hand knuckles up.  Then he dropped the switchblade to his side and started doing Karate like movements with it.
Rey looked at Christy noticing she had turned bright red.  “Huxley, if you hurt us you’re going to jail,” she screamed.
“Tell them if they ignore the insults they can gain entrance to Harper Way,” Der said.
“If you ignore the insults you can gain entrance to Harper Way,” Huxley said adding a few Karate chops.
Normally, Huxley didn’t intimidate Rey.  But normally, Huxley didn’t have a switchblade in his hand.  A thick powerful wind shook Rey and Christy’s T-shirts around as they pushed forward but going nowhere.  The Douglas Fir Trees shielded the Smokers Corner.  Rey thought the smartest decision was to go back to the school.  He could sit with Christy and wait for a ride, but then Christy would have to meet his Mom, and that would surely be embarrassing.  He also didn’t want to look like a “pussy” as Huxley had called him in front of both Christy and Huxley.
“What do you want to do?”  Rey asked.
“They won’t do anything,” Christy said.  She put her hand on Rey’s back and pushed him forward with her.  She walked forward determined.
On the Smokers Corner, Der had taken Huxley’s place on the bench.  “Verbal assault,” he said quietly.  “It’s what PTSD was made for.”
“You sure, Der?”  Joe asked.
Der nodded then called out: “Hey Christy.  Did you hear David Benson has a horse named Christy?  We all sit around wondering if you like to hang out in his stable.”
“That ponytail is like a mane,” Joe joined in, “You can just hold on to it and go for a ride.”  Joe found this comment extremely depressing as he did think Christy was pretty, and would barely acknowledge it to himself.
“Christy, let us take turns.  Let us ride you like you’re a pony.”  Der stood up at that point, and threw his arm forward like he was punching them.  “Rey, is that your bitch, because I’ve seen better looking horses at the Kentucky Derby.”
As they approached, Huxley rounded the arcing corner doing karate moves, keeping them aware of the switchblade.  Christy had tears in her eyes Rey noticed.  He put his hand on her back briefly.  His heart was doing jumping jacks, his face was blushed, and he felt sweat seeping out of every pore in his body.
“Aw, the stable masters come to give the horse a pat on the back.  To be a beastiality loving stable master from Mexico.”  Der looked at Joe who seemed to be speechless.  “Rey when you ask her for her number make sure it’s not her racing ID.  I’m sure she’s stamped somewhere.  They’ve got her on file at the racing bureau.  You can probably get her number there.”
Christy and Rey were feet away from Harper Way and in twenty more yards would be free as flying sparrows.  Rey was dying to stand up for her.  Sarah stood up for them instead.  “Jesus Christ guys, leave them alone.  They didn’t do anything to you.”
Der paid Sarah no mind.  “Does your sister ride you at home?  Is that why you hate her so much?  Does she pull on the reins and dig her spurs into your sides.”
Christy was growing more and more infuriated.  She began to feel like she was going to explode and that her whole life would be ruined if she didn’t say something.
“Hey Christy,” Huxley said, sounding very uncharacteristically serious.  “What’s it like to always be second?  What’s it like when everywhere you go you’re just a reminder of Brianna? She’s cooler, smarter, prettier.  You’re just the little sister that’s always about to cry.”
Christy turned to Huxley, her hands balled into fists.  “What’s it like to always be first Huxley?  What’s it like to have a sister that’s dead?  What’s it like to have no one to stop you from messing up your life because no one cares about you?  What’s it like ...”  She stopped when she saw Huxley’s facial expression.
For Rey everything seemed to stop in that moment.  Then time got reinstated.  Huxley’s smile was gone, and he started to walk towards them.  Christy and Rey saw his cold vicious eyes and they ran.  They were at the end of Harper Way, when Huxley started to give chase.

For More Information:
The Avocadonine and Spring Stone is available at AmazonBarnes & Noble, and Goodreads

Discuss this book at PUYB Virtual Book Club at Goodreads

Meet the Author

Patrick Barnes lives in Charleston, South Carolina.  The Avocadonine and Spring Stone is his second book.  It has been awarded a five star review from Readers Favorite, and a four and a half star average among critics on  He has a Bachelors Degree in Film and Writing from the University of Massachusetts and a Masters in Library Science from the University of South Carolina.  He has won first place in Arts and Entertainment Writing at the Yankee Penn Journalism Conference, and has worked as a Librarian at the Folly Beach Public Library.  When he’s not writing, he likes to walk on the beach with his dog, and watch movies.

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