Thursday, August 19, 2010

TAKE TEN: Author Nigel Barto

Though he has been writing for some time, Silver Spring, MD native Nigel Barto is enjoying incredible success and recognition with his second novel Nick, Dontae, Gus and Jack.The book deals with the lives of friends who are still discovering things about themselves and each other as they pursue success and happiness---yet there are also personal demons they have to overcome along the way. The author can relate to the plight of his characters as he strives to live authentically in his own life from day to day.
In this interview with Cyrus Webb of Conversations Magazine, Nigel talks about all of this and even gives some advice for aspiring writers as well.

Nigel, thanks for taking out time to talk with us. Before we get into the new book, I want to give our readers a little background. When did you realize that writing was something you were interested in?
I think writing was always my thing but I didn't realize it until much later. In the second grade, I began writing "Rose are Red, Violets are Blue" poems to my mom. As time went on, I wrote little stories and poems, and jotted notes and ideas down in books and journals. After college, I took a trip to Paris to study for a few months. I was a "starving student" (laughs) living on little, and did some travelling outside of Paris, but was naive about getting in and around countries. When it was time to leave France to return to the US, I decided to visit family in London before attempting to fly from Belgium back to Washington, DC. With visa issues, no money, heavy luggage, and no return ticket in hand, it was to be picked up in Belgium, my journey turned into quite an ordeal. When I made it back and saw my mom, a flood of words spilled out about my experiences. I recounted the whole trip and she said, you know Nigel, you should write a story about it. And so I began. I wrote a piece called "Returning Home", and fell in love with creating stories. I eventually wanted to write novels, but also at times it was a good enough release to write anything whether it was an email to a friend, a note to myself, or just writing about what I saw and heard on the bus or in the streets.

Was there a thought in the beginning that you would take that love of words and actually translate that into books that people would buy?
Books that people would buy...calling myself a writer and an know, I'm still stepping up to that plate. Sure, folks have bought my books and I am an author. But did I imagine when and how I would be here? Not exactly. I'm a dreamer and I hoped I would still be writing, but where that would take me I wasn't sure. Firstly, I write for me, and I try to embrace what comes. You know, I have a few plays sitting in a trunk still to be produced, and a bunch of ideas and no stories yet. So I experience the world around me until words come and take over.

Alot of people talk about writing a book. You have actually done it twice. What do you think separates you from people who just talk about doing something instead of actually doing it?
Well you have to want to see it through to the end. It's creative and rewarding and cathartic, but it's work nonetheless. You have to give time and discipline to it. It's you by yourself with your characters. That's not always a fun night (laughs). You also need to balance that with social interaction and living outside of your home or the place where you write. And of course life can get in the way, right?

I have read your second book Nick, Dontae, Gus and Jack, and there are quite a few social issues that you address in it. What was your first book called, and what led you to write it?
My first book is called, "Private Sessions". I was living in Los Angeles when I began writing it. I used moody, lonely, out of control, not in control, and striving to succeed feelings I had bottled up, and channeled those energies into writing and this story took over. I used to listen to other authors being interviewed on like Oprah or some other show. They would talk about their characters as though they were real people outside of themselves and say how a character wanted to do this and a character decided to do that, etc, and I used to think how crazy. Didn't they write the story? How do they not know the whole story? The characters are talking to them? But, I have to say I had that experience time and time again with "Private Sessions". I would wake up in the middle of the night and think, omg, Jordy is about to do this or this thing is about to happen to him. Jordy Blackwell is the main character in the book. He experiences death, loss, pines for the girl he loves, and finds himself in between careers. Besides my mom, I had a couple motivators along the way. A small publisher in Florida wrote me a two page letter giving me positive feedback on the story and that was inspiring. And an editor in Atlanta made me dig deeper. She said to me, Who gives a f*ck about Jordy?, why do we want to know him?"

Recording artists talk alot about the sophomore jinx, especially when their first product seemed to do well. Did you worry about that yourself?
No I didn't worry about the sophomore jinx with my second novel. It's just a different story I wanted to share.

Tell our readers about Nick, Dontae, Gus and Jack.
My second novel is about friendships, relationships, and choices we make in life. Nick, Dontae, Gus and Jack are friends who met years ago in school. They've graduated, and they're working and living on their own. It's summertime, and while folks want to get away to the beach, the friends are grappling with live, love, career, and being true to who they are. Nick dreams of having his first love Manny again like the first time. Dontae tries to hold on to his current love Drew while working in the entertainment industry. Gus wants to find love and his mother, and in the meantime writes songs and pursues a career in music. And Jack strives to balance work and home life by doing things that hopefully makes her partner Piere happy. The friends live, hope, dream, and try to be true to themselves.
Nigel, one of the biggest points I got from the new book is the importance of knowing who you are inspite of what you might achieve or happens around you. How do you apply that principle in your own life, and why is that something readers should consider as well?
I'm definitely a work in progress. That sounds cliche but it's true. I change my mind and sometimes I'm unpredictable or I'd like to think so. But that being said, my journey is still to live authentically, to be me, and live as me: the best me I can. I think we should strive for that. We need to figure out what we want and need, what our likes and dislikes are, and love ourselves first.

What else do you hope people take away from the new book?
Love isn't easy but it's worth it. You have to work at life and relationships. And also, I hope for more acceptance and openness as LGBT and straight lives evolve. It's different and the same, it's everything and anything, and for some, nothing at all. It just is. It's a part of everyday life, often times smoothly and seemlessly showing up among the living and the dare to live.

Any advice you want to share with aspiring writers who might be reading this conversation?
Write! Start writing! Keep writing! It's a message I heard years ago and I believe it. Practice your craft and do what you love to do.

Thanks again for taking out this time, Nigel. If our readers want to find out more about you or keep up with you online, how can they do so?
I welcome readers to find me on Facebook or send me a tweet on Twitter.
(NOTE: Listen to Nigel Barto discuss his career as an author and his new book on Conversations Magazine here:

No comments: