Super Brain Blog – Season 4 Episode 10
That Knocking Sound with Barnaby Walter
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Listen and Subscribe:
- 02:11 – Journey to Sunday Times Best Seller
- 05:29 – pressure on first time authors
- 08:02 – Can creative writing be taught?
- 09:56 – Audio books
- 12:59 – The Woman on the Pier – the ending
- 15:37 – Barnaby’s books just arrive as a whole
- 17:53 – TV rights for The Dinner Guest
- 21:49 – Appropriating Stories
- 29:57 – Barnaby’s writing pillars
- 30:49 – Social media as a story device
- 33:37 – liking and disliking characters
- 37:09 – The idea for The Woman on the Pier
- 45:36 – Story telling
- 49:19 – Visual continuity
- 50:05 – Being organised and prolific
- 54:31 – Conflict – That knocking on the door
- 01:04 – Time management tips for writing
Books by BP Walter
. . .
B P Walter was born and raised in Essex. After spending his childhood and teenage years reading compulsively, he worked in bookshops then went to the University of Southampton to study Film and English followed by an MA in Film & Cultural Management. He is an alumni of the Faber Academy. He used to work in social media coordination for Waterstones in London but now is a full-time writer. His third book The Dinner Guest is a Sunday Times Best Seller
Over to You
Have you read any of Barnaby’s books. I’d love to know whether you enjoyed them as much as me and which one is your favourite.
This transcript has been prepared by AI. It may contain errors but I simply don’t have the resources (human or financial) to edit it. Volunteers willing to do so are more than welcome simply email me email@example.com
Dr Sabina Brennan 00:01
My name is Sabina Brennan, and you are listening to Super Brain the podcast for everyone with a brain. My guest this week is Barnaby Walter, aka BP. Walter, when I read a book called The dinner guest in April this year, I was absolutely just blown away by the book. I am an avid psychological thriller fan. I absolutely eat them up. I just came across this book, but I think it had only just been published. And I had a little listen on Audible, and I went, Oh, yeah, love this, I have to buy it. And I don’t know what the phrase for audiobook unputdownable. But it was the equivalent of that. And I gave it straight to my husband to listen to as well. And we both absolutely loved it. But I just took one of those moments, I said, I really want to talk to this author, because there’s just such a freshness, to the writing and to the setting and to the characters that I just loved it and I just reached out on Twitter, to Barnaby. And you know, guys, like all the people can do is say no, and you very kindly replied to this crazy woman. But I actually do think you also very kindly listened to a couple of episodes, I presume to check that I wasn’t utterly crazy. And this wasn’t a mad podcast. So thank you very much. My guest today is Barnaby Walter. He writes under BP Walter and I got to read a little bit because I was looking for bio, and I found this on your publishers website. And it says BB Walter was born and raised in Essex. After spending his childhood and teenage years reading compulsively. He worked in bookshops, then went to the University of Southampton to study film and English, followed by an MA in film and cultural management. He is an alumni of the Faber Academy and currently works in social media coordination for Waterstones in London. Now, you need to get onto your publisher, they need to update your bio. Because you no longer work in social media. You are a full time writer. And that very book, dinner guest is a Sunday Times best seller. Congratulations. You’ve got to tell us how you kind of got there.
Barnaby Walter 02:11
Thank you so much. Yes, no, it’s all a bit of a strange kind of slightly, I don’t know, overwhelming and bewildering experience, really. But the other buyer will change in the next book. But yeah, in terms of how I got there, well, there’s like a very long publication journey. And there’s probably a much more listener friendly, abridged one. But essentially, when I finished university, I did film in English at university. And it was purely theoretical, it wasn’t how to write a book or how to make film. It was purely the study of film in English. And then I did a film on cultural management masters, also at the University of Southampton. And that was very much focused on the business side of the film industry and how we tell stories and how they’re packaged up to audiences and that kind of thing. And I kind of knew that as I was contemplating a career in film distribution, I kind of knew I needed to something more personal and creative to me. And I thought about filmmaking. And that slightly scared me because I think filmmaking involves a lot of other people’s time and money. Whereas writing a novel is literally just you in the room, writing a book and with a laptop. And so I decided to do that. And it took me a few years to write a book that got me an agent, and I got a brilliant agent, Joanna Harmon Swenson, and that book was my debut version of the truth, which was then published a few months later, and we’re no sorry. Now we’ve got the book deal few months later, and then published the year after that. So that takes up 2019. So that’s
Dr Sabina Brennan 03:39
2019, folks. Right? Okay. And the dinner guests is 2021. But I do want to just take you back to 2019. Barnaby, because my listeners know, I stalk my guests just trying to find little snippets, because I’m interested in the person who’s written these books, and why they write certain things and why certain teams draw them in. And I came across an interview that you had done in 2019, just after your first book was published. And it was a podcast called The worried writer. And what’s really just, it was so interesting, just to read it and know where you are now, just a short two years later, and you were talking about writing and how the dream is, oh, if I can get a publisher, you know, and then you get to that and you actually say, Gosh, you get a publisher, and then the book is published. And then there’s a whole load of other new worries and insecurities that come in. And you say about being published introduces a new level of consciousness and anxiety into the process. It’s very strange. When your writing you think of it as a dream, you think something really stupid, you think once this happens, all my problems will be solved, and I’d be forever happy, right? And then in another part of it, you say it’s sort of which is related to this, because you’re talking about having worked in bookshop since you were about 15. Knowing the astonishing highs which are possible. It’s very exciting to see a book catch fire like that when you’re working In a bookshop, and I think that in part inspired me, not that I thought I could achieve that, but seeing people to be so passionate about story was amazing. I mean, who you are you actually have achieved that. It’s almost I can hear you saying, Yeah, this really is my dream. But I have to sort of say, I’m not so big enough to think that that kind of might happen. But wouldn’t it be lovely, and here it is, just for me, that was just lovely to see you articulate, shyly that dream and then to achieve it must feel amazing for you.
Barnaby Walter 05:29
Yeah, it’s very strange. And also, as you say, like with the experience of bookselling because I used to work in bookshops, I started from when I was a teenager, up until when I was about 20 to 23, I think doing that you become quite used to the idea of a lot of authors bringing out a lot of books, and none of them really doing that much in terms of high sales. And not that that’s the be all and end all. Of course, there are many authors, I think it’s important to say that never necessarily get to the charts, or the bestseller list, but still make a decent income still very much have great careers. And I think sometimes there can be perhaps too much emphasis sometimes placed upon all the stuff that kind of goes with it. But I was very aware that when I got my first published, it may take me like 1012 20 books before I even touch anywhere near the level of success that I could hope for. And I’ve been very lucky that it’s happened on Book Three. But I think there is a kind of worry that when it doesn’t happen with the debut. And I think as an industry, there’s perhaps a bit of an odd focus on debuts. And it’s always like a debut author, here we go, you know, it’s their first time, it’s an amazing, like new book that we’re going to promote and that kind of stuff. And there are several other author podcasts that I listened to that make me feel a lot better about this, this kind of strange world, but a lot of the things that spoken about is how odd it is, in an industry to put so much pressure into some extent, on the new blood on a new person coming in, when so many other careers, the first person like their first end, the first job, it wouldn’t be, well, not the most important person in the company, or you’re now the most important person in your career is that you work up you go up a ladder, yes, you know, try and sustain a level of success. But there may be highs and lows, but generally you have a great progression. Whereas weirdly, in publishing quite often, it seems like that first moment is the biggest point of the career. And it’s almost the wrong way around to some extent. So yeah, I’ve been quite lucky that it’s like grown per book.
Dr Sabina Brennan 07:24
Well, I agree with you and what you say, you know, that kind of pressure. And then also that dream, you know, because there is this Oh, first book breakouts, number one bestseller, or whatever. And I agree with you, the publishing industry wouldn’t exist without the people who write and sell regularly and not necessarily huge amounts. I want to go back to the fact that you said you’ve been very lucky, I’m always really dubious about luck. I think luck only comes into play when you’ve put in an awful lot of hard work and are there or you’re ready to capitalize on that break or that opportunity. So it’s not just all look, I think there’s more to it than that. And I think in your case, you did the Faber Academy
Barnaby Walter 08:02
writing course, yes, yeah, I did that I was working on my debut when I did that. And I had my debut as my work in progress while I was on the course, which was really good and really helpful, actually, because I’d never learned creative writing as a particular pursuit. And even though I’m not necessarily one of the people that thinks that everyone should go on creative writing courses where you don’t have to do it. But at the same time, there are others that don’t think creative writing can be taught. It’s like two extremes in this argument. Whereas I think if it’s right for you go for it. And for me, it felt like a natural thing to do. And it was just wonderful. I had a brilliant tutor, Cora and Coleman, who’s an amazing author. And she was so brilliant at guiding me and my fellow classmates and through various different parts of the industry, both the writing and the technical parts of that, and also in terms of agents and that sort of thing and looking for publications. So yeah, it was a really good step.
Dr Sabina Brennan 08:55
I think it is rather interesting what you say because actually, I noticed a tweet the other day from Sheila Flanagan, who was also a guest on season two. But she said she was listening to a podcast on I’ll share the tweet in the blog for this episode. But she said she was listening to a podcast on writing the other day, and they were talking about story arcs and something else and she says, I have no clue what they’re talking about. I just write the story. And I thought that was lovely. And I think that’s it. There’s no one way to skin a cat, you know, different strokes for different folks and dispute. Lots of little phrases, but John Boyne, I remember when I was talking to him, he said initially, and he does teach writing also and he said initially, he always had a plan and a plot and all the rest. He says Now he doesn’t need it. And he thinks what that is, is he trusts himself more. He knows it’s there and it’s probably just ingrained in his brain anyway. He say as a child you were a compulsive reader. Now as a psychologist, I think compulsive like, did you just have to read or do you just mean it in the more everyday sense that that was just,
Barnaby Walter 09:56
yeah, the more everyday sense. It’s actually odd. I was quite a slow reader as a child. And I would only get through like when I went on to, you know, older and wider books, only a handful of books a year. And I did enjoy it. But I was very slow, I was quite aware of how slow was because I was always reading there was this idea that I was just massive bookworm and must get through hundreds of books a year. Whereas I actually was very slow with it. And it was only until I got later in life, that I got quicker. And it was actually audiobooks that really upped my reading abilities or speeds and things like that. And now I go between books and audio all the time. And if I’m really loving a book, I’ll then buy the audio. So then I can go out for a run and carry on listening.
Dr Sabina Brennan 10:37
Yeah, yeah. And I’m the reverse, because if I’m interviewing a guest, I like to have either hardcopy or a PDF of the book so that I can make notes and talk and you’re reading very differently for when you’re reading for guests, because you’re thinking about things that you might be able to talk about. I know some people, there’s a certain snobbery about audio books, but you know what, they are the most amazing thing, they can transport me they become an escape for me, I can double job with them, but also my husband, you talk about being a slow reader, my husband was dyslexic, and he reads and reads newspapers. But whatever happens when he reads in his brain, he starts to fall asleep. That’s just what happens. And so he’d never really read a book, he’d read a couple of soccer biographies, because he’d be mad football fan, but might be one in a year. And I always been saying to met audio books and with lockdown, I just said, No, go on, you have to try. And actually yours was one of the early books. And he started in January this year. And I’d say he’s got 30 books, which I just think is incredible, and just loves them. And he actually even remembers more of them even than I do. So like I’m reading books, and then Dave reads them sort of after me and I’m going to where are you What better you’re at, it’s great. It’s a new relationship we have because we never had that I enjoyed books on my own. But where I’ll say, oh, IMF, the bit where she pulls out the letter or I met the bed, he’ll go, he actually do the actions. And he repeat the lines word for word. So he has the whole book in his head. And I just think that’s fabulous. I think audio books has opened up a world to a lot of people who weren’t there and who’ve kind of never read books. And if there’s any listeners there, I know my husband was under the misconception that audio books for somebody reading a book, you know, he said this, but it’s not is the book played out. And I have to say that about the dinner guest. The audio book is fabulous. always enjoyed it. Oh, fabulous, that narrators were brilliant. Because a narrator can kill an audio book by lesson and I don’t like the sound, even if I love the author, I will not take the audio book because you’ve got to listen to that person in your head for 1012 hours. So you really have to love your new book, which comes out on the 11th. I love the data actually on your your profile 1111 21. It just looks like some sorts of prophecy. But I very thankfully got an advance copy last week. And I read it and I would have read it in one sitting except that I made a promise on this show that I was going to work on my sleep or not stay up late. But it would have been one of the reasons I stayed up late. And then actually what I decided I had about 50 pages left, I think I read maybe another little bit more. But I kept the last little bit till yesterday because I wanted it really fresh in my head talking to you. And again, like your first book. So what happens in the last few pages, there’s just so much would you say this is a good description, you know that your book, certainly these two, I haven’t read your first two, I’m really looking forward to reading them that you really build up and you you let us inside your character’s heads. And there’s also some event I mean, the dinner guests start off with four people at dinner and one of them doesn’t come out to dinner alive. And then similarly at the start of the woman on the pier, which is your new book, The pivotal event, we are aware of at the beginning of the book. And so then you take people on this journey, but then it’s at the end, you know, there’s all these little hints and little I guess what I like is there’s possibilities for multiple endings. And then you tie them all together very nicely and surprising me so in the first books, surprisingly in a lovely, you know, almost finals like at the end of that books, it’s really worth turning every page for in your new book. And this is why I like to hold it at the end. I think I wanted a different ending. I understand why you gave that ending. And I suppose that’s it. You’re so invested in the characters. How does that make you feel if someone says something like that to you? Oh,
Barnaby Walter 14:36
I don’t mind I find with books. I think like beauty is in the eye of the beholder very much and a different person will have a different experience with a different book and others will want a much more rounded off ending and others will like ambiguity or others would like things to end very nicely and very sweetly and others will want to stay at the end of the tale and wanted to be a bit nastier and it’s interesting with the dinner guest it used to be A lot more. I don’t know, I don’t say nice, necessarily, but a slightly more pleasant ending. And then between me and my editor, my brilliant editor, Beth, and we came up with one that just had that slight sting at the end of it and epilogue that kind of just inserted another note of doubt and slight problems to come, which wasn’t originally there and was written like, almost over a year after the rest of the book was. And it’s amazing how that can slightly reposition one’s perception of how a book is ending. That didn’t happen with the woman on the pier, it remained the same, but I find it difficult to kind of pinpoint where it came from, or why I did it. Because for me, a book just arrived as a whole. And that is the is it really, yeah, it’s that’s the whole book, wow. And I never really change anything, as I’m doing it. The easiest way I can describe it as is like a painting, it’s like a whole thing. Okay, it just arrives all at once. And some things may take a while to develop. And some characters may become shaped as the writing goes on. But the ending is very much to be part of the thing as a whole. And it’s hard to unpick it.
Dr Sabina Brennan 16:05
And it’s a journey to get there. Yeah, yeah, that’s really interesting, you know, and I’ve talked to a good few creatives. And I said this before my son, my younger son is a musician, and he sees music, he sees the shape of music. So he looks at a score. He sees the music, he sees patterns and shapes and whatever. And like that, you see some artists talk like that. And that’s interesting that that you see sort of the book as a whole. And that makes sense to me. So then it must be this bursting to get it. Okay, here’s the story. That’s what I would imagine.
Barnaby Walter 16:36
And yes, sometimes it depends on the book, sometimes in terms of like the planning, because I plan on my books meticulously before they’re written. And I’ve got more strict with the planning, as I’ve gone to, actually, it’s interesting, you mentioned, John Barnes spoke about how he’s got slightly looser with the planning side of things. Even though of course, he’s written way more books than I have. So maybe I’ll like start up and then go down again. Now I need a very meticulous plan. And when the idea arrives, I always write it out as a two or three page synopsis, a very basic description of the entire plot and how it would all go. And then I do a character list with every single character. Well, every kind of main character that has a part in the book, and I always go online and find pictures of actors or famous people and cast them off to make sure that I, and that is actually only there to make sure I don’t get confused of characters names change, right? Because quite often, that happens, sometimes very late in the day character, things change. And if they do change, it can be a bit confusing if I’ve previously thought of them someone else. Whereas if I can go, oh, that’s Kate Winslet. That’s Nicole Kidman, that’s, you know, yeah, whoever else, I had these people don’t mind me using their names. But if I’ve just got a face in my head, I can then rearrange those characters as to where they fit in the novel and not lose track.
Dr Sabina Brennan 17:53
That just makes so much sense to me. What I have to say, folks, is I actually found out that this is public knowledge, but I actually kind of gave a little boop, that the TV film rights for the dinner guests have been purchased. exciting is that
Barnaby Walter 18:08
oh, yeah, it’s very exciting. I don’t think I’m allowed to yet say by WHO, but I’m allowed to say that they have been born.
Dr Sabina Brennan 18:15
I found it on Twitter. And I was so excited because it’s so funny. Like, I mean, your book is a Sunday Times bestseller, but I sort of felt like I discovered you. It wasn’t a book Did anyone tell me to read because it kind of had only come out and I just thought, Oh, I like the sound of that. And then you have to read this book. It’s brilliant. And it’s by this person. And so you have a sense that you kind of discovered someone new, but didn’t of course, but I was so pleased. I feel investors, we should kind of give a little synopsis about the dinner guest and then you can tell us who you imagine playing Charlie and Matthew?
Barnaby Walter 18:45
Well, firstly, I’m going to be very disappointed here. And I shouldn’t really name names in terms of Yes. Because I do have an ideal list.
Dr Sabina Brennan 18:56
Typically, I just push out the questionnaire you tell me afterwards off record. Now it’s a real thing.
Barnaby Walter 19:03
Yeah, exactly. Oh, my God, I do have my idea in my head. But the ideal could differ from what ended up and I wouldn’t want it to be as in like, oh,
Dr Sabina Brennan 19:15
yeah, yeah, of course. You can’t say who you had in your head. Now, when you wrote the book either?
Barnaby Walter 19:20
No, certainly not. I don’t have any rule against necessarily, but I’ve just avoided saying,
Dr Sabina Brennan 19:24
I know, I understand. You’ve made your own little. Yeah, yeah. No, I get that. I totally understand that.
Barnaby Walter 19:31
Yeah. And I should also say the two actors I mentioned earlier are not on the list that I you know, because even though they’re amazing actors, they wouldn’t fit necessarily in the roles of the dinner guests. So I just plucked those names out of thin air before anyone reads too much into the
Dr Sabina Brennan 19:44
anyone listening if you read the book, or if you do read the book, please do let me know who you are. Imagine playing Charlie and Matthew and Rachel and Tytos. Titus. What a pretentious name. It’s perfect for the book. But I have to say One of the reasons that I really was taken with the book is the main characters are Charlie and Matthew. And they’re a married couple. And Rachel obviously plays a key role with this, as does the son, Titus, the couple’s adopted son. But one of the real reasons why it kind of resonated with me was, first of all, actually, I think, as I was reading it, I didn’t realize I was reading about a gay couple of marriage, you know, maybe a couple of pages in or something like that. And then I did, and that’s what I loved about it was that this was just a very normal, you know, their characters in the book. Well, what I mean is, there was no trumpeting, there was a no announcing this as a gay couple. This was just ordinary, everyday stuff. And I loved that. And I really did, because, as a mother of the gay son, who’s married, obviously to a man in a heteronormative world, well, my son has always said to me, you know, it’s very difficult, you don’t see role models, you don’t read about those things. And so for me, that was fabulous to read that book. Because I think so often, I mean, I’ve read lots of books where there are gay characters in it. And in fact, John Boyd has written an amazing one, which is also going to be turned into a TV series, which will be amazing. But often those books are about being gay, or about the challenge of being gay and about how the terrible things that happen in a world where being homosexual was criminalized, and all those sorts of things. This was just in a way incidental, because the book is about betrayal and secrets. And that was incidental. And I loved it. And I just think you managed that really well. How did you feel about writing that way? Or, again, in this world of political correctness, and where people are even tackling writers about appropriating stories and characters? How did you feel about writing? Or was that just there from the beginning? The couple?
Barnaby Walter 21:55
I think, goodness me, there’s lots of things we could go into about this, actually. And I fear sometimes, potentially, my views on a perhaps controversial, but I didn’t think about it that much. Actually, when I wrote it. The thing that most kind of inspired me about the book really was that I at the time, when I wrote it, I lived in Belgravia in central London, close to where the book is set. It’s mostly set in Chelsea and I was walking along the road in Chelsea and there was Carlisle square, the house where they lived, and a house and many houses. And I just imagined all wouldn’t it be fun to set because you don’t know what’s happening behind those closed doors. And those really perfect garden squares, London thought all kinds of things could be happening. And so I thought it’d be really interesting to have America on that square, that son Titus, and there will seem to be perfect, and it’s actually isn’t. So that was what really inspired me to write it, the idea of them being a gay couple, I have actually no real idea where that came from. Really, as I said before, it just arrives kind of all at once. And they just were, I just had Titus and his parents, Charlie and Matthew, if they weren’t called that I keep on occasion referring to them as they’re like previous names. But in terms of the stories and representation of gay people and things like that, I do know exactly what you mean, in the sense that it often seems problematized in some way, in fiction. And whilst Of course, there is a space for writers to tackle themes like homophobia, or issues to do with discrimination and things like that. And those stories should be told because that’s how I remember the problems of the past, or even problems that remain the present. This was never for me one of those stories, I wanted it to be as incidental as then being left handed, really not necessarily ignored, but also not given undue focus. And I do get slightly frustrated that I fear and this is potentially controversial, I fear we’re moving towards a time where it’s now giving even more undue focused, and quite for more celebrated than necessarily like discriminated against. And whilst that’s a much better alternative, I’m always hesitant when there’s a risk of other rising and it’s made it seem that gay people are so different to heterosexual people. Therefore, hedgerows writer, therefore couldn’t possibly think the same way as a gay couple because they’re so different, which of course, is absolute nonsense. Well, shit. Exactly. And I’m gay myself, but I had the conversation actually, about this with someone how this concept of lived experience and how whether that’s important or not, and that kind of thing. And I actually saw the fact that I was gay and the characters were gay. Absolutely. kind of irrelevant, because I have no lived experience that those characters have. Yeah, I’m not a millionaire. I’m not Yeah, I wasn’t married. I didn’t have an adopted son. I didn’t live in a gorgeous townhouse in Chelsea. I didn’t you know, drive flash cars. I didn’t have a job in advertising. And all these things I didn’t have a Castle in Scotland, you know, all these things. These characters have their actual proper lived experience I did not have whatsoever. So I thought the idea of like sexual orientation being the link for lived experience was pretty tenuous, really, when it comes to that, and I am really resistant to the idea that one should therefore be the same as one’s characters to write them. cuz, I mean, my previous characters that I’ve written are largely heterosexual characters. Yeah. And that also suggests, therefore I wouldn’t be able to write them not being heterosexual. And I think it’s a pretty limiting viewpoint really, that a writer can really only write what they themselves have lived. And, of course, I’m sensitive to the idea that there are topics that of course, it would be very beneficial for writer to have some experience of because I’m sure there’ll be an insight into nuance and other areas that another writer may not pick up on, or may not realize if they hadn’t gone through certain things, and particularly, very specific or historical circumstances. Of course, I understand. There’s definitely a place for that. But I do worry, the discussion is getting way too limiting. And otherwise, all we end up with is just memoir and diaries.
Dr Sabina Brennan 25:45
Just nothing. Yeah, I had this conversation and another guest on the show Amanda Smith, when she’s an Irish Trinidadian author. And her first book was an Oprah Winfrey, summer reads, And so became bestseller and all the rest. And that’s a good few years ago now. And when we were talking, we’re talking about her new book called fortune that can make this year, all her books are set in Trinidad. And she said during the interview, that she could not write her first book. Now, because she’s a white Trinidadian. And she would have been accused of appropriation because she was writing in the first person about a black person’s experience, to kind of accept that, you know, when she said, writing your next book, her way around was writing in the third person, rather than the first person, because there’s characters of various ethnicities in her new book, I do struggle with it. I just think we’re all humans first. And then we happen to be gay, or black or white. It is the cultural experience and the societal experiences that make us different. And they’re hugely important, hugely important, because they shape us we are a makeup of our genetics of our evolutionary history of our family upbringing, and of the society and culture that we live in. And all of those shape how our brain works, which means that shaped our emotional responses, our experiences, how we perceive the world, the reality that our brain creates. So that is, of course, all different. But fundamentally, we are humans. And I do not understand how we can have a rich, literary and film content.
Barnaby Walter 27:27
Yeah, things. Yeah, yeah, yeah.
Dr Sabina Brennan 27:29
If people are not allowed use their imagination. That is what writing and filmmaking is about. It is about storytelling. And if you go back in our history, we are storytellers, it is language and the capacity to imagine various futures, that have actually allows us to become whatever you want to call as masters of the Earth, we’re going to destroy yours, which shows how silly we are, what has allowed us to get to this position, top of the animal kingdom is our ability to tell stories to imagine futures, or to actually reiterate past because we learn from past experiences. And so that oral tradition of telling stories about the past, they were all shaped those people didn’t live that past, the stories followed. And then the ability to imagine various futures allows us to make decisions. And so to me, that’s what literature and art and even not very good literature. That’s what books and films and music as well are about their storytelling, and they allow us explore and identify with our own experiences, you know, there’s certain stories will resonate, because and as I’ve said, even with your book, one of the reasons I suppose it’s an excellent book, and the being gay is incidental. But that’s why it resonated with me. It’s just incidental, fabulous, love that. But the book itself is an amazing story. And I just think some people are better at imagining and better at telling stories than others. And which do you rather? Do you rather an excellent book that tells a great story, or a mediocre? This is my true story, which has the most impact? I love the power that books can have. We want to affect change, books and film can help us to do that.
Barnaby Walter 29:17
Yeah, I kind of have two kind of pillars I keep with me when I’m writing and I don’t really write very controversial books at all, really. But the thing I kind of keep in mind is that firstly, and this more applies to if I was going to go into more direct or particular areas, but my view is just try and do it. Well, just research well just try and write well try and be sensitive to topics and they’ll get it wrong at times and readers are there to criticize if they do you only owe the reader the book and the reader can decide whether or not that’s been done whether or not so I tend to think just be as sensitive and mindful as possible and but not let that limit the creativity and the other marrow is think of is that a particular character? For me? At least not many Speaking for me and my experience of writing a particular character for me is not meant to represent all of the people that may be like that character. So my second book, hold your breath, I wrote for perspective of a 10 year old girl, who was experiencing quite sinister things in a forest evolving exorcisms quite different from the dinner guests. But I never intended that book to be an example of this is how all 10 year old girls think this is how all 10 year old girls live their lives. This is how all 10 year old girls are, of course, not because the character will kitty. And that was just purely about Kitty’s experience, and what happened to her when she was 10. And so I think sometimes we risk kind of taking one character and blowing it up into, therefore this is speaking for all 10 year old girls, or women or gay couples, or yeah, in so whichever I’m
Dr Sabina Brennan 30:49
just writing stereotypes. Okay, yeah. Now, obviously, you have a background in social media. And I recently had a guest on the show, Dr. Mary McGill. Basically, she explores the visibility trap, that his social media has increased our visibility, with visibility comes exposure, and there’s a price to pay with exposure and the vulnerability. And it’s a really fascinating, interesting read. And in the dinner guest, Charlie and Matthew are the perfect couple on Instagram. And this is a great way for you to show, you know, this exterior life they have. And we never used to know, as you said, what goes on behind that door. We never used to know what goes on behind doors. But we also didn’t even really know what was going on outside in a lot of people’s lives. Social media has changed that. And people are pushing forward an image and it’s usually sort of the perfect image in the book. And that’s critical in that the character Rachel tracks the character of Matthew Dan through this Instagram. So there’s the kind of visibility and the exposure, I suppose you want to look at that. But then towards the end of the book, we also have an I don’t think I’m giving anything away about this. But there’s a character in a called Pippa. And she is, I suppose we would call her like a socialized, you know, just a average kid. And she is now writing for you use a quote in his M graffiti with punctuation,
Barnaby Walter 32:06
actually, isn’t my attribute. Is there a film called contagion? I think it’s written by Scott burns, but I might have to
Dr Sabina Brennan 32:14
what you do in the book in the book, you attribute it to whoever. It’s brilliant, isn’t it? It’s absolutely brilliant, and essentially this person, and I really thought that was reflective around what’s happening in terms of influencers. This young woman she’s 19 is writing on social media. And the sole purpose of her writing seems to be to cause outrage and offense, I’m no longer going to engage with poor people about privilege. That kind of brings me to a kind of another thing I was looking at. I was reading some of the reviews on Goodreads, I’m just amazing reviews, but so many of them harped on the theme of privilege. And these people living privileged lives and the character Rachel hasn’t lived this privileged life and in Yes, there are some very astute observations in it without being banged over the head. The story is key, but it does highlight some of those things. But I was quite taken aback by how many people disliked your characters. They loved the book, and they disliked the characters. I was trying to think. But I don’t think I had a sense of disliking the characters, quite light, Jack. I just saw them as human. And it was nice to see people with human flaws and written that way.
Barnaby Walter 33:27
Yeah, I know exactly what you mean, there’s something in the well, of course, I mean, I have a different perspective of it, of course, not being the reader being the writer, but I do. I didn’t know I would pause when it comes to giving any character really, actually many books are kind of a blanket kind of like unlikable kind of labor. Because I mean, I suppose it’s all down to the way they’re kind of portrayed and the way they’re perceived. But I much prefer the idea of people existing on a continuum, and no one is in wholly bad. No one’s wholly good. There’s just kind of shades of grey in between. And I try my hardest to kind of articulate those shades of grey within the story. But there’s, I guess, does share a bit of a DNA with my first book, a version of the truth, where it involves kind of very high class, high moneyed circles in those areas of London. And I do try my best to make sure that not everyone is just also a villain because as a reader, I would get tired of the idea of like, oh, posh people are bad. They’re all privileged. They’re all awful. They’re therefore not as human as the rest of us. And it’s
Dr Sabina Brennan 34:28
just another when anything, where you put the Oh, the privileged or even the poor, your other ring, have been avoiding actually making any sorts of controversial comments on social media in recent years. I used to do them but I just feel it’s not safe anymore. But I did feel that that with the book, there was a sense of for some readers, it was oh, yeah, the privilege kind of getting a come up in a way which I didn’t kind of really see it that way,
Barnaby Walter 34:57
but definitely wasn’t Yeah, no money attended. Yeah, we’re kind of
Dr Sabina Brennan 35:01
there for some people in the good reads thread, which is kind of interesting. And it’s nice to get those perspectives. But I think that’s the problem. I think social media has an awful lot to blame. And as you said, it’s Shades of Grey, you know, people are all bad. And I think that’s what’s a terrible thing that’s happened is that people are being canceled because they have a singular opinion about something. And then all the goodness they’ve ever done in the world is null and void. That’s not a human thing. And actually, I’m stealing from one of my guests. I think it’s Mary Miguel, who wrote visibility trap. And she said, in dehumanizing others, you dehumanize yourself, because you’re not acting as a human.
Barnaby Walter 35:41
It’s one of the reasons I had the character Rupert in the dinner guest, who is a sideline character, and he is just an all around genuinely nice person, you know, with his own flaws. And, you know, he’s still a human being but
Dr Sabina Brennan 35:56
quite hunky if I remember. Yeah.
Barnaby Walter 36:00
He’s a character from my first novel, a version of the truth.
Dr Sabina Brennan 36:02
Ah, cuz I saw that recently that you might see. So I was wondering, actually, he is very
Barnaby Walter 36:07
much a central character of the book, I have just finished writing, which will be book six, probably. And it goes back to his childhood. But I wanted him to be there to basically, hopefully, make it clear that this isn’t just one big kind of, you know, these people are terrible aren’t their lives awful, isn’t this, you know, have this kind of own a strange sort of kind of criticism of inverted commas, the rich, or the privileged, or the moneyed classes of London, or the aristocracy, or these groups that sometimes we find ourselves kind of using. And I understand why we do sometimes because we live in a time poor society. And it’s quicker to kind of group in generalize sometimes, but I think we didn’t fiction, that’s when you’re given a playground to break down these groups. And you can have fun kind of really looking like we were talking earlier about the nuances and the shades of gray. When looking at those areas. That’s where you get the really interesting questions. And I found the absoluteness thinking and the kind of boxing and categorizing, that shuts down those interesting areas where I was more interested in opening those up.
Dr Sabina Brennan 37:09
Yeah, and you did, and you did it beautifully. And there’s just so many subtleties, and it really is fabulous. And for me, actually, the bigger themes were around, and I think they kind of carry through to your next book are really around secrets, and betrayal. And I mean, I don’t think I’m taking too much away from talking about your next book, I really want to talk about it. But it’s so hard, you know, trying to figure out to talk about it without giving away but secrets are at the core of that. Social media also plays a certain role. Again, it’s an amazing kind of, I suppose, in a way now your books are of a new time, because some of the things that happen in your books couldn’t happen without social media. Yes, I suppose there may be other forms, I suppose in your new book, a diary could be a ploy, in a way, but I’m not sure it would kind of work in quite the same way. But it’s a fabulous book. surprising journey. It sat around terrorists,
Barnaby Walter 38:10
terrorist attacks. Yeah, terrorist attacks.
Dr Sabina Brennan 38:13
Again, how did that come to you? Was that just some sort of feeling you had? You know, when those were happening?
Barnaby Walter 38:18
Yeah, it was. And I should also actually know that I wrote the next book, The woman on the pier before the dinner guest. Actually, I did. I wrote it three years ago. It’s taken a while to surface already in 2017. And when there was a large run of terrorist attacks, yeah. And maybe very much became part of our life.
Dr Sabina Brennan 38:40
Because I was kind of doing that in my head. I kind of was going okay, why did he want to write about that? I mean, obviously, you’ve been editing is now that’s what happens with books, but Oh, right. So that makes much more sense.
Barnaby Walter 38:51
Exactly. Yeah. And to me, it was I was a commuter going into London every day, during the time when the UK threat level was going between severe and critical and it was a very worrying time and very stressful time. I shouldn’t actually talk about it as if it’s in the past because of course, you know, the threat still remains. But the concept actually of the woman on the pair, I should say is that mother and father lose their daughter in a terrorist atrocity. And Jessica Yeah, and they’re they’re confused as to why she was there. Why was she on the platform when that attack happened when she shouldn’t have been there? She should
Dr Sabina Brennan 39:22
have should have been like a teen I did that myself. You know, I remember getting caught you saying you were going one place, but another place and again, the secrets that’s kind of part two where the secrets because devastation for the mother, Caroline, that my daughter actually lied to me and that says, Mother, you feel that you can’t ask them why. And this is the quest of the book. Really? This is the mother’s quest. Why she Yeah, train station and lost her life.
Barnaby Walter 39:50
Yeah, the whole concept of the book came to me when I was waiting at Stratford station, which is where the imagined terrorist trustee takes place in the book and I was waiting for someone who was running very late or hadn’t turned up at the right time. And there were lots of police. It was around the time of the height of the Paris concerns. And there was lots of Met Police with big submachine guns or big guns walking around the station area. And they had become a fairly common presence throughout the whole of the London Underground during that time. But it did occur to me if there was a terrible incident, God forbid, at that moment, who would be to blame you of course, the person committing the atrocity is to blame. But if the person I was meeting hadn’t not arrived, I would have gotten I wouldn’t be in at the station is that butterfly in a wheel kind of thing. It’s like all those little bits that if that hadn’t happened if it hadn’t happened, and I thought in the mind of someone who’s in the midst of terrible grief, it’s the mother in the book to clutch on to something like the fact of blame the boy who didn’t turn up who love her daughter on a date, I think he he is the reason why this happened. And to make that the focus of her terrible anguish,
Dr Sabina Brennan 40:56
and of course, then for the boy, he didn’t show up. Yeah, exactly. Um, so there is his dreadful pain and guilt. And I think you explore beautifully. Because, yes, this is in a novel, and this is a terrorist attack. But how many human souls say, Oh, if I just been five minutes earlier, or if I, you know, I would have caught him when he had the heart attack, or like, even I didn’t say that with my own father died suddenly. But I mean, he had told my mother the night before, he said, I shouldn’t have eaten that appetite, that terrible ingestion. And she let him sleep that night, and then didn’t go to the doctor the next morning, and my wife says, I shouldn’t own indigestion as a sign of it. Like, why don’t you just call an ambulance? We all kind of have those things, and you explore it in very scary ways. Really?
Barnaby Walter 41:42
Yeah. It’s horrible, isn’t it, because those are the moments that you wish you had the undo button that you have in like Microsoft Word that you can just undo that bit, and then it will hit reset. And I mean, I think everyone’s heard stories of friends, having relatives of light, you know, who missed the Titanic by 10 minutes and didn’t get on board, and therefore, you know, survived. And, I mean, I continued and things like that, and just the sheer circumstance or the, you know, the accidental kind of moments that have such a big knock on effect, I find that really, really fascinating. And it’s actually interesting in terms of the timing of the women appear, because during the Edit, there was a time because between me and my editor, we decided to leave it fairly ambiguous as to what year and when it was said, and this is further complicated, but the pandemic of course, I think the fiction is kind of figuring out how to portray the pandemic, or choose not to portray it within fiction. And there was a period when there was an ending of the book that was set post pandemic, in order to date it so that we had the awful random terrorist attacks back in 2017 2018. And then we had the pandemic, and now we’re just about that’s normal, then imagined there’d be a new run of terrorist attacks,
Dr Sabina Brennan 42:50
don’t you think that like, the world beneath our feet has turned to lava really, in a way and I was thinking about that actually reading the book in terms of challenges for writers, because a lot of people are saying, We’re post pandemic, but like, we don’t really know where damage is going to happen. Because, you know, this has been just everything has
Barnaby Walter 43:09
changed. Yeah. And we’re still very much in the midst of it. Yeah, yeah.
Dr Sabina Brennan 43:13
And you could date a book, you could just, Oh, my God, they wrote that book shoot, did they not know that there was a third variant? And you know, this happened? So no, I mean, definitely the kind of writing but you do it very well. I mean, there’s a timeline in the book. So it’s three months before, yeah, three months after and 19 years before. And it works
Barnaby Walter 43:31
very well, to have a key that readers could use to know where they were without having to say it’s because before it did actually date the chapters. And it’s actually interesting, because the woman on the pier does loop back round and link into my debut novel
Dr Sabina Brennan 43:45
version of the truth. Really, okay, I definitely have to read that
Barnaby Walter 43:49
also, in a very small way. Also the dinner guest, but it’s like blinking. You miss it? Yeah, yeah, I love
Dr Sabina Brennan 43:56
- Yeah. It’s also a great marketing ploy. Because I want to see if I can find,
Barnaby Walter 44:01
yeah, if one wanted to date it, one could look at the years in my debut, and realize that certain things happen at certain times. But it kind of doesn’t work out to well that way. So I’m just kind of hoping that people forget the hairs in the, in the first one and just kind of do it in this happening, kind of basically, sort of in the present sort of nearby,
Dr Sabina Brennan 44:23
it really is more about the people of what I thought was really interesting. And I am interested in themes and themes that you’re drawn to and where your ideas come from. And I mean, you know, that sense that you get sometimes say your walk across a bridge and a very busy street, and you kind of go kind of everybody has different stuff going on. And it’s easy to forget that someone bumps off you and they’re cranky with you and you just respond in the moment but if you were much nicer individually, you might say, Oh, you don’t know what’s going on in their lives, but it’s when then there are tragedies like a bomb attack or something like that, that you kind of go oh my god, the ripple out of the problem. Is 27 dead, you know, when there’s those death tolls, and we’ve seen it with the pandemic, 2000, Dead, whatever, you know, it does become. And it’s part of the human condition, hearing about one individual induces greater empathy in a way than the bigger numbers. It’s a very strange thing. And I think what you’ve achieved in a way with this book, even though this is not an intention of the book, is you have actually brought that focus down for everyone, Caroline, there’s 1000s of others whose lives have been hugely impacted by the loss of an individual to pointless terrorism attack.
Barnaby Walter 45:36
It’s a difficult subject, really. And it kind of comes back to what we’re talking about before to deal with them, who has the right to tell what stories and that kind of thing, but I’m always kind of drawn to more dark and disturbing subject matter when it comes to fiction. And that, of course, leads ones into like, distressing areas, like the subjects of terrorism and things like that. And I, again, this comes back to what I was saying earlier, trying to do it well, and trying to be sensitive and trying to portray in, you know, as well as one can, but it kind of crossed my mind when I was watching Titanic earlier in the year. I hadn’t seen Titanic for a long time. And so just put the blu ray on and sat and watched it. And it crossed my mind about is this in the best of taste, having such a big blockbuster about such a terrible event and like sustained scenes of suffering of the people in the cold water and the emphasis on the terror? It was the first time actually thought about that, as you’ve been watching the film. Is this really in the best case? Is this right to use this as big blockbuster pop? Yeah. And then actually, on the other side, I then thought, but this is just what human beings have been doing for hundreds of years. This is how we compute terror and horror and disaster. Yeah, by reducing it down into something manageable for us to view as entertainment, and face it within us the safety of a comfortable living room and for a period put oneself in that position, whilst also not having to be in that position. And I think it’s just the way that fiction has been developing over many centuries. It’s something that we can’t not do, really, I think when we’re writing in order to face the darkness, so we perhaps understand it more,
Dr Sabina Brennan 47:07
I would say millennial going back 1000s and 1000s, of years, because prior to writing, we told stories, I know, sure, there were stories of disasters that were told, and stories of and I mean, we have to compute this information, your brain is a data gathering machine. But a theme that really does interest me as a psychologist. And often I’ve thought, actually, if I was ever to write a fiction book, I would be drawn to that very dark theme of child abuse, and I would be drawn at it from an other angle would be inside the head of the abuser.
Barnaby Walter 47:39
It’s a really difficult team. And I didn’t want the book to be too focused upon it. But it was an important part of a character’s story within it. And I don’t want to go into too many details, because as you say, part of it is to do with the way the plot works out. And also part of it also links into my debut. But I think with subjects like that, you just have to try and do it as sensitivity as one can and not have it in there is just something fairly kind of a no, like plot device that’s kind of thrown in. I think it should be embedded within the characters and yeah,
Dr Sabina Brennan 48:11
yeah, it’s entirely embedded. And from my point of view, I think it’s very sensitively done. I think it’s it’s not incidental, it’s essential to the storyline. I don’t think it gives away too much. And that’s one of the reasons I was saying, Oh, how do I talk about this, but I suppose it is a difficult book to talk about, but to get people excited about, it’s a journey, you know, you really do go on a journey with the character, and there are moments where you go, you know, oh, I hope they do this or hope. So you really do become very invested. And I think it’s a very personal journey. But I think that’s kind of what happens with books, you know, you kind of go, oh, that’s kinda, you know, for me, I suppose ever the optimist, you know, you’re kind of, you know, maybe, you know, it’s a bit, maybe
Barnaby Walter 48:56
it’s funny, actually, I am getting much less dark with each book that I write, they’re getting much nicer, or maybe I should say, perhaps, like, in a more kind of less is more away. As I mentioned earlier, the woman in the pier was written three or four years ago now. And it was the second book that I wrote. So I wrote a version of the truth, and then the women on the pair, and then hold your breath, and then the dinner guest,
Dr Sabina Brennan 49:19
folks, I’ll put it up in the podcast blog, because I will put links to all your books in the blog. But again, this is me the sense of order, you now are an author who has sort of pinged covers. There’s this kind of, oh, it’s
Barnaby Walter 49:32
five visual continuity. I think there’s hardly
Dr Sabina Brennan 49:35
visual continuity is it it’s a kind of thing makes my heart sing, you know, so the dinner guest is red and white really is the theme but also then the books are positioned within something to do with the dinner guest has a knife and fork and the woman on the pier now it was originally
Barnaby Walter 49:51
the beer grounds. It and John are a bit more. Yeah, yeah, it does.
Dr Sabina Brennan 49:54
Although I wouldn’t have used that fancy word of the grounding genre, but it gives you more of a clue as to what it might be.
Barnaby Walter 50:01
I may have stolen that from the sales team at HarperCollins, or my editor or something like that.
Dr Sabina Brennan 50:05
I lovely. Isn’t it lovely? Yeah, you learned when you talk about artists and musicians, you know, the first album was easy. The second was hard. The third but you know, I guess it just depends really,
Barnaby Walter 50:16
I’m quite lucky that I’ve always been a number of books ahead from where the publishing, so I’ve never felt necessary the pressure of the next book, or meeting the deadlines, or even reader kind of expectation. And that because quite often, the next one’s very much done, and has been done for quite quite a while. Wow.
Dr Sabina Brennan 50:34
So you’re going to now launch into a whole load of media, hopefully about the woman on the pier, but your head?
Barnaby Walter 50:45
Yeah, I’m literally in the midst of writing books. Oh,
Dr Sabina Brennan 50:48
my goodness, you’re very prolific. So how many books? Are you writing a year? Are you?
Barnaby Walter 50:54
Yeah, I was gonna be three year. That’s amazing. Yeah, no, which is a lot, or at least I was supposed to be three in 2021. And then when they didn’t, I guess became a bestseller. And there was a lot of attention focused on it. We then decided, my publishers decided that would be actually to a year, because if we’d done three close, quick QA session, it could have risked perhaps taking the attention away from the delegates when it was still doing well. So at the moment, to a year, at least, to this year, and I can do that, and particularly now I’m writing full time.
Dr Sabina Brennan 51:25
So when you wrote the dinner guest, you were actually writing that part time? Yes, yeah, I
Barnaby Walter 51:30
used to, oh, that’s incredible. It was really hard for me to try and juggle the two things, I do very well with structure and routine. And when I had a full time job, alongside the writing, I had structure and routine in my full time job, but I didn’t have it with the writing, I was having to squeeze the writing into little pockets here and there. And I didn’t really have that rhythm and routine that I felt really helps sustain in the way I would like it to. So what was wonderful about when I moved to writing full time, earlier in the year, I was able to craft my own new routine and rhythm to this is my actual kind of full time job now. And that’s really helped to found and give me the freedom to not kind of constantly feel guilty that I should be writing here, or I should be doing this here and that kind of thing. And
Dr Sabina Brennan 52:19
to have a little bit of a life as well as although I’m sure pandemic has, yeah, that one thing about the woman on the pier, I thought it was really interesting. And it’s something that interests me in a way is that what I’ve written here for myself is persisting with big decisions, even when deep down, they’re wrong. And it’s interesting, I’ve only read two of your books, but marriage doesn’t come out great. In either of them, really. But there’s that sense in this book of persisting with relationships, even though they’re not right. And this series season four, I actually spoke with a neurologist, and we’re talking about psychosomatic illness and mass hysteria and fascinating stuff for Her most recent book is the sleeping beauties. And she was talking about that, that sense that there was one woman she was talking about who had been unwell and dissatisfied with her life or whatever. And in her 40s got a diagnosis that she was on the spectrum of autism. And suddenly she realized, Oh, I’m in the wrong job. I shouldn’t be doing that job. That’s why I’m unhappy. I’m going to change jobs. And she’s really happy. And she says, Why did she need the provision of a diagnosis, and that kept kind of coming to me, in a way in this book, because I don’t think it’s giving away too much to say that Alec and Caroline, the mother and father of Jessica, who has been killed in the terrorist attack, their marriages dissolving before their very eyes, and I know its most recent, but it’s also kind of clear that there are problems. Yeah, things weren’t great. There was problems all along and there is that ping, isn’t there a persisting? Is that something that you’re aware of? When you’re writing is persisting with something that’s not?
Barnaby Walter 54:00
I think it’s actually something less deep or even very interesting, actually. It’s just really, I find that a conflict makes for better plot, really. And I think it’s Stephen King, I’m maybe misquoting Stephen King, but I think he said something like, with fiction, you just put characters on a page and introduce conflict. And then the story comes about an apologist Stephen King who just put wrong words or another person’s words in his mouth, but But I put
Dr Sabina Brennan 54:26
the link to that book, actually, because I have read his book on writing. It’s a card on writing is
Barnaby Walter 54:31
writing. Yeah, yeah. It’s become almost like a Bible for creative writing. And it’s an amazing book. In many respects. It’s certainly inspirational for me when I was starting out, and it’s just full of little nuggets of wisdom. But the idea of just introducing conflict really kind of stuck with me because as soon as there’s a new ingredient of conflict introduced, it’s like there’s ripples and a pool that has all those other little bits that go with it. So even though I think stable and very happy relationships also make great fiction and when Can you name many different relationships that have very happy endings or remain really consistently well, right throughout, of course that has its own area. But within my thrillers, I find the more conflict, I can just drop in here and there, the more those ripples spread, and the more little bits there are to focus upon.
Dr Sabina Brennan 55:18
And you just said you have that conflict. And because you need a conflict, whereas I was straight away, I have a whole other story for it, it’s persisting with decisions even when they’re wrong. And for me, that then goes on to the actions that she takes and the journey that she goes on to try and find the real inverted commas. Person who caused her daughter’s death, even though really not the right thing to do in any shape, or form. This might
Barnaby Walter 55:45
seem like a bit of a strange and very oddly technical analogy, but I promise you it has it has a point. But a number of years ago, I’ve always been very interested. Of course, I have a film degree background. But I’ve always been very interested in film and also home entertainment and the best way to watch films in home. And there was a documentary on how old films and also new material was being remastered for new technologies such as 4k and high dynamic range. HDR that’s often referred to and High Dynamic Range basically increases, the blackest blacks and the whitest whites part of the screen. So you get really bright, some parts of the screen. And really, really deep blacks and the other parts of the screen. And also in terms of the color spectrum, it opens out. So you get much better colors in a high dynamic range piece of content. And there was a clip of someone who worked, I think he worked for Netflix or Marvel or something like that, where he had a movie, and he was doing an HDR grade. So he was choosing parts of the scene to heighten the whites and brightness and parts of the scene to really make those blacks deeper and nkia. And the colors which bits should shine and which bits should be more diluted. And it was a really fascinating thing to watch. Because it’s almost like painting really in filmmaking where. And in some sense, I thought, that’s how I view plot and conflict and emotion, I almost have this set story as a whole. And I’m just going through it and shading in the bits that I want to amplify, bringing out those darker bits or lessening the other ones that aren’t necessarily conducive or relevant to the plot and choosing which ones to bring to the foreground and which ones to remain less so. And all the while the whole goal is the ultimate question of the book. It’s always that thing that’s drumming behind it like who did it? Why does she do it? Why is she there? All those questions. And the novelist Deborah Levy talks about this really compellingly, she did a talk that’s on YouTube, about how kind of Freud’s idea of repression is behind a lot of fiction. And the idea of repression, that we kind of bury these things that we don’t want to confront or don’t to think about, or in parts of ourselves that we find unpalatable or distressing that we kind of put them deep down, but they’re always they’re just making this knocking sound. And in a way, particularly in thrillers, it’s about that knocking sound. It’s that constant like that thing in the background that’s drawing louder and louder as the thriller goes on. Because you want to find out what’s knocking, why are they knocking? Why are they there? And I tried to kind of keep that in mind when I’m playing with those different bits within the plot. Is this gonna make the knocking louder? Or they’re gonna forget about the knocking? Right? So basically, I want that knock on the door to be constantly all the way through to keep that question going.
Dr Sabina Brennan 58:15
Excellent analogy, it also makes more sense. Now, when you said at the start here, that your book comes to you as a whole, almost like a painting. And so that kind of does make sense. I’m not a Freud fan, I think Freud told us more about inside his head than we thought he did, indeed, as you just pointed out, is one really great achievement, I suppose, was to expose what he called the subconscious, I would just call it the unconscious. There’s just so much kind of going on that’s in there. And I think it’s interesting, too, that we all have a dark side. And I think social media in recent years has really exposed that through the anonymous anonymity that you can achieve behind a keyboard and the failure to filter your darker thoughts and push them out. And then I actually spoke to Mary about this, when we were talking about the physical energy trap, you know, those filters that we have, they have evolved because they serve a purpose, you know, they have allowed to survive. You don’t tell people exactly what you think of them, or you don’t speak out, you know, I tell him, You don’t you filter those and you keep them below and they’re bubbling under the surface. I think it’s a whole other conversation how that’s terrifying on social media. But I think it’s brilliant. The way you’ve just said that. Because for me what that is, is everybody has those dark thoughts everybody has and Caroline is having dark thoughts, really. And she has a compulsion, you know, she has this need to get her answers, and we all have our need to get an answer. And we have a need, like our entire lives, who we are. Everything that we do is a story that we create. And if we have loose ends on a story, we have to figure it out. We have to kind of complete that story. And I suppose that’s what Carolyn’s quest is, is to complete the story then they’re all So other issues of revenge and justice and those which you play on in the dinner guests as well, with that bubbling, I think what it is that you describe as that kind of knocking is that when there’s a line craft an insanity, that failure to connect with your frontal thinking low that bet that gives you your humanity, when that’s gone. This is the danger of what happens. And I suppose that’s probably and I’m thinking on the fly here. Now, what we were talking about is why we have to have storytelling. It’s almost a fable, it’s almost that moral story. This is what happens if you act on the kind of don’t constrain those things. And then some of those constraints serve a purpose. Others make us more crazy and mad, because they’re just societal norms, you know, things that society has imposed on us. And I suppose that’s why we have so many mental health issues in society, because you’re not allowed to do this. And you can’t say that and you can say the other. But then it is important not to kill everybody that you would like to kill. Those kinds of constraints are essential,
Barnaby Walter 1:01:03
I think. Yeah. And actually, the thing about the social media as well, I think the reason why a huge John Boyne touched on this, I think during your discussion, but the reason why people will be so much nastier on social media than in person, because on social media, they’re writing and they’re essentially writing a story. And it feels a lot more like a narrative. They’re crafting rather than in face to face, you have a conversation, whereas on Twitter, you’re given the chance to kind of create a mini narrative. It’s one of the reasons why I’ve actually not come off social media as such, but I’ve very much dialed down my use of social media, because I used to do it as my actual job day to day. Yeah, it was kind of like liberating to when I stopped my job in social media coordination, to just kind of almost stop social media as a whole. And I realized how much more quiet and peaceful the world was, once I close those doors, even though I will still use it in a more of a functional way to kind of promote my books,
Dr Sabina Brennan 1:01:54
will you? Do you use it for your books? Because sometimes social media is great for me, I can find it in snippets. Not in here, nothing to see here, folks, I’m really only going to get the books, which is absolutely fine, because I find it done the same. And I think that’s very sad, because I think it’s become worse than an echo chamber now, because there’s very important voices that aren’t but everybody’s voice is important, but that just aren’t engaging in the conversation at all. Yeah. And it’s very scary.
Barnaby Walter 1:02:20
Yeah, one of the reasons I started stops was that I kind of realized how much it was influencing my mood, my general thoughts during the day and that kind of thing. And I thought, if I just didn’t have the app, I wouldn’t have even come across them or know about that, or, you know, all that kind of thing. And it can even be like relatively small things. Like I still do not know why to this day. Why? If someone read a book, and they didn’t like it, why they would then tag the author on social media, when they say that they don’t like it. And of course, everyone’s free, not like any books they don’t like, and they’re free to tag me. But why tag an author, and the best thing I’ve ever heard about that was Claire McIntosh, who when I used to work at Austin, she did an event for us on Facebook Live. And she was talking about this. And she said, It’s like someone running up to someone in the streets, tapping on the shoulder, making them turn around and telling them they don’t like their coat. It’s like, no one would do that in real life. Well, imagine police. Yeah, exactly. And yet, for some reason, on Twitter, it’s apparently fine to say like, oh, this book didn’t work for me, and then type the author in the picture of it. And I just think it’s unnecessary. The filters
Dr Sabina Brennan 1:03:28
are gone. That’s the name those kind of social norms. I suppose they are. But those filters are gone. It’s been fascinating talking to you. Your books are absolutely fabulous. I can’t wait to read the other two. I’m delighted to think now you have three more in
Barnaby Walter 1:03:46
the pipeline. Yeah, book for women on the pier is this November. The next one, as of yet untitled, is next spring or summer? Probably. But that’s yet to be pinned down. And they’ll probably be another one next year as well, as far as that. But yeah, just so exciting.
Dr Sabina Brennan 1:04:02
Like when you think about that, that interview 2019 You’re kind of tentatively saying, you know, when you’re talking about managing work and writing and tentatively saying, Oh, you all know this, not thinking that that would happen to me. But here you are. I’d like full time author at 29. Gosh, by the time you’re 30, you’ll have about six books under your belt. That’s amazing and keep them coming. I like to end this podcast is about surviving and thriving in life. And I think you’re really thriving at the moment. So it’s lovely. A lot of what we talk about often is surviving terrible things. So it’s nice to talk to someone about thriving in a very difficult world being a writer, but just life in general or for whatever reason do you have any tip that you’d like to share about surviving and thriving in life
Barnaby Walter 1:04:46
is difficult because everyone of course is different and I know only what works for me really, but I always find giving oneself way much more time that one thinks one needs with things is just such a great way of de stressing a situation that can quickly become stressful? And is one of the reasons actually, of course, not saying every writer needs to do this because they absolutely do not. But it’s one of the reasons why I write a number of books ahead from where I need to be. Because it makes sure it’s always enough time really. And it can remain a pleasure rather than stress thinking I have to get this done. And I tried to do that with other things as well, just making sure times on one side rather than working against one is a good way to do that. So that’s something I’ve always tried to do. And I’m, as I said before, I’m very much a routine and plan kind of person. And so if I have a map, I can see my way through. And I really like that. And that’s kind of helped me in lots of areas, particularly in writing and, and the industry as a whole and my previous job. So yeah, I’d say those two things. But with the caveat that that’s very much me.
Dr Sabina Brennan 1:05:49
Well, actually, though, I’ll take that caveat away, because take away the writing bit. And that’s really brilliant advice for managing stress. It really is just super advice for managing stress in any aspect of your life. I often say to people, okay, instead of guesstimating, how long something will take time how long something takes, and then add a bit on you actually, then no, well, actually that too, if you have a job like that, and a lot of things in our jobs, you can kind of time like that. And it is true what you say like I think stress and deadlines, particularly if you’re doing something creative stress impairs creativity, you need to be able to get into that default mode of being creative. And stress is going to impair that. So anything you can do and actually, routine is really important for your brain. And whatever your job you need your brain, whatever your life, you need your brain. And if you feed and water and sleep your brain regularly, it will serve you well. And it’s obviously serving you super well. The books are flying out. Yeah.
Barnaby Walter 1:06:42
I think actually, we’re always quite good as a species. I mean, this is generalizing, but I think we are quite easy for us to fall into a trap of feeling guilty about the parts of our work we enjoy and feeling like we shouldn’t be doing too much them because we enjoy those parts. And therefore the bits that we don’t enjoy are the actual work. And one of the promises I made to myself when I moved to full time writing was that the bits that I really enjoy, like reading around my subject or reading in my genre, just reading books in general or watching movies, which I find hugely inspirational, to give myself permission to think no, they are part of my work, therefore they’re part of my working day. And generally I ring fenced my afternoons. Once I’ve been doing my writing in the morning, in the afternoons, I will be SAT reading a book that I want to read, because I find it inspirational or because I find interesting or it’s part of my genre, or I’ll watch a film that’s perhaps going to kick off an idea inspiring Exactly. And give myself that time and that freedom and having it as part of my day that I don’t have to feel like I’m wasting my time or I’m not idle or I mean, I should be doing something else. Something that’s so easy that if there’s a bit you particularly like you think, oh, that’s actually the part I should dismiss when I think that’s the bit you should revel in and really enjoy. And so that’s something I’ve really tried to do with my kind of plantings and timings and things like that.
Dr Sabina Brennan 1:07:59
Thank you, you’ve given me so much permission, because I have about eight books that I want to read around this topic that I want to write. And I really want to read them and be able to take notes take that time to do it. Unlike even that like I read your book in the evening time. That is one of the pleasures of podcasting is to get to read books, read them for pleasure, but also you can read them in a way I suppose that is sometimes what can happen with Audible is that you really do just listen. But then again, I don’t know about you, do you always have thoughts about?
Barnaby Walter 1:08:29
Yeah, I think it’s always going and I think the act of reading or listening itself is such an interesting because you pass through the looking glass in some way you pass through in this other world where so much is going on. And I think one responds without even sometimes really meaning to and one of the things I do, which I and this is probably where I’m going to have a really strange but when it comes to reading or listening to a book or watching a film, I like to almost make it into a set kind of event where like I get my book, I get a drink to drink. It’s usually Coke Zero. And I then always light a candle. I always have a candle burning. I’ve
Dr Sabina Brennan 1:09:03
got Oh, yes, I saw your Yankee. Yeah, yeah,
Barnaby Walter 1:09:06
awesome leaves burning there. Yeah. And put the lighting quite nice. And I can sit down, read my book and it makes to a set specific moment that I’m going to enjoy or respond to. Whereas I think if you’re snatching moments throughout the day to get this done, and like you’re sitting in an uncomfortable position, or the environment isn’t right, or is untidy, and there’s distractions and that kind of stuff, it robs, I think that more immersive part of your mind that goes into the books, you’re not quite there. Whereas if you make an environment or a situation that you feel really settled in, and for me, at least that really helps.
Dr Sabina Brennan 1:09:38
Oh, no, absolutely. I’m reading your book. Now. I did have to read it as a PDF on the laptop, but me and my laptop are joined at the hip really, and just woke up and the hours just flew by. And that’s lovely. That’s a losing yourself. Oh, please. Yeah, I frequently talk about that. It’s fabulous. And oh, yeah, that’s one thing I wanted to ask was BP why BP? Is there another Barnaby Walter er
Barnaby Walter 1:10:00
Just I was going to be binary Walter but my first publishers fell well, I’ve always been with HarperCollins but also the different imprint before so BP was who was better in terms of sales and that kind of thing and it’s become quite a tradition I think with the genre of there being initials and I suppose there’s an aspect of it making it more kind of like ambiguous in terms of gender whether you’re male or female race I don’t know if there was that much importance placed upon that I think it was just decided by powers beyond me that this was a better idea.
Dr Sabina Brennan 1:10:29
You’re my first Barnaby actually. I’ve never met him bar to be it is quite an English name. Is it?
Barnaby Walter 1:10:34
I don’t know. Actually. He might be Yeah, I’m not sure. I’ve only ever met one other Barnaby
Dr Sabina Brennan 1:10:40
my life. Yeah, and there’s a quite a posh name. I wonder is that one of the reasons
Barnaby Walter 1:10:43
I think it may be I was certainly the only bounded my school. Yeah, it could be. I think anything sometimes with three syllables can sometimes have more posh that it should really, but
Dr Sabina Brennan 1:10:54
whatever the name, I’m absolutely delighted. It’s fabulous. To say my name is Sabina Brennan, and you have been listening to super brain the podcast for everyone with a brain. Super brain is a labor of love born of a desire to empower people to use their brain to thrive in life and attain their true potential. You can now go ad free on patreon.com forward slash super brain for the price of a coffee. Please help me reach as many people as possible by sharing this episode. Imagine if we could get to a million downloads by word of mouth alone. I believe it is possible. I believe that great things happen when lots of people do little things. Visit Sabina brennan.ie for the super brain blog with full transcripts, links and the like. Follow me on Instagram at Sabina Brennan and on Twitter at Sabina underscore brand and tune in on Thursday for another booster shot from me and on Monday for another fascinating interview with an inspiring guest. Thank you for listening