Saturday, May 11, 2013

Liza Interviews Barton Paul Levenson-Year of the Human

Hello Peeps. Today, I have Barton Paul Levenson on my blog to talk about is book Year of the Human.

Peep Rep: We only get a year? What happens after that? No one told me this gig was just for a year.

Liza: First, of all, you aren't a human. You are an imaginary human, so calm down.

Peep Rep: But you're human aren't you?

Liza: While some may disagree, I believe I am.

Peep Rep: Then as your imaginary Peep Rep, I remain concerned. What happens to humans after a year?

Liza: I have no idea whatsoever. So let's bring in Barton and ask him. Barton, welcome. We've lots of questions. May I call you Bart?

Barton: I prefer Barton, thanks.

Liza: Make me type more letters, then. But if I misspell your name, you've only yourself to blame.

Peep Rep: She's a terrible typist too, so you've been warned.

Liza: Hush Peep Rep. So let's first get to this worrisome idea that all humans only have a year. Most of my friends are human, so this is disturbs me. Jessica Subject will be okay, she's an alien, but she'll be lonely if we all go missing. So here's your book:

Liza: What's it about?

Barton:      Year of the Human is a 40,000-word novel for the young adult market which will appeal to readers facing the difficult adjustments of early adolescence.
      Throsu Ka-Hohsh, an alien adolescent, is planning a future in space.  She hopes to compete with the humans who fought a brief, inconclusive war with her people a generation earlier.  But her attitudes are challenged when her family hosts a human mother and daughter for a year.  Her life is further disrupted when she develops an illness that threatens to prevent her becoming an astronaut.  Finally, when anti-human terrorists take over a space ferry on which she and the humans are traveling, Throsu must choose between her nationalist beliefs and the lives of her human guests.

Liza: Okay, we're safe. This happens somewhere in the far future. And it sounds interesting, so let's have an excerpt

He shook his head. "Gods. I'm trying to reason with an advanced-school girl who has human friends. Let the gods smile." He let go of Jocelyn and gestured with the gun to move her back. 

"When my associate gets back, and I hear what really happened back there, you will be appropriately punished. For now I'm through talking."

"I thought you'd never be through."

He huffed, reached forward, and slapped me.

"Next time I'll have my claws out. Show respect, Throsu Ka-Hohsh, or you'll be one sorry little girl."

I snarled, showing my teeth. "I have put you under the ancient curse of Earth," I said. "Joanna was afraid ever to use it, but I'm Menkti'an. The hand of the gods will touch this ship, and right will triumph."

His eyes widened. "You little—!" He backed away to the microphone. "Naram. Quick. The kid sabotaged the ship. Check—"

The clock read point four six one, and the ship lurched!

I was the only one ready. I raised my hand, claws out, the patented Throsu Feint. The gun wasn't pointing at anyone and I kicked as hard as I could for the leader's gun hand.

And missed.

Liza: I hate good excerpts that end in a cliff hanger. Now I have to buy the book.

Peep Rep: Okay peeps, I'll give you the Buy Links now. Go buy the book and then return for the interview. That's what I'm doing.



Peep Rep: I'm back from buying the book.

Liza: Where'd you get the money to buy a book? I don't pay you anything.

Peep Rep: I know and I take issue with that. Fortunately, I found one of your credit cards.

Liza: You what?

Peep Rep: This book is really good. I'm off to read it in one setting now.

Liza: *growls* Never take on imaginary helpers. They don't help in the least.

Barton. Okay...are we going to do my interview?

Liza: Sit in the chair and I'll wire you up.

Barton: What? I didn't sign up for wires.

Liza; It's a lie detector test. I'm tired of authors dodging my questions.

Barton: I've done a great many interviews and NO ONE has tried to give me a lie detector. 

Liza: Well, I work out of the box. Right arm please.

*30 minutes and an intolerable amount of whining later*
Liza: What's is your favorite part of writing?

Barton: Finishing.  Not because I dislike writing, but because I feel good when I've finished a draft--even though I know it will have to be revised repeatedly.

Liza: Same with me. Creating life is invigorating. And that's what we do. Bring our characters to life with an intriguing plot. Is there anything you don’t like about being a writer?

Barton: I can't seem to make a living at it.

Liza: That's because there are 200 million authors out there with you. We have over-populated. Only those with marketing skills, luck, and connections can break out of the masses.

Barton: Thanks, that's really inspiring.

Liza: It's reality, what can I say. Tell me the best piece of advice anyone has ever offered you about writing?

Barton: Hard to say, there have been so many.  Don't hop from point of view to point of view in one scene.  Use details from at least three senses to set a scene.  Use distinct voices for different characters, to minimize the use of speech tags.  Oh, and defer like crazy to editors and publishers.

Liza: In my experience, if you have a valid reason why your words are better, I've found them generally to be a reasonable lot. So don't defer all the time. However, if they still object, cave. 

Barton: Thanks for that *cough* advice.

Liza: No problem. What part of your book took you most out of your comfort zone?

Barton: For "Year of the Human," probably the scene where the protagonist (a teen girl, though an alien teen girl) had to kill a terrorist.  She is rather a feisty sort, but this was way beyond anything she ever had to do, and not something that came easily.  I really had to put myself in her place to make the scene come out at all believable.

Liza: So you've emotionally killed a terrorist. 

Peep Rep: Liza, you should be worried.

Liza: Go back to reading, Peep Rep. Your comments aren't wanted. Back to the interview:

How'd you/your muse come up with this story?

Barton: "Year of the Human" was heavily influenced by the works of C.J. Cherryh, especially "Cuckoo's Egg" and the Chanur series.  The protagonist being a teenage girl probably comes from my own fixation with the high school period of my life; junior high or high school kids keep popping up as main characters for me.  Psychiatrists will have fun with that some day.

Liza: I'm sure after this interview, they'll have fun with it now. So let's give them more fodder, to ensure they buy your book. Has a secondary character ever threatened to take over your book? 

Barton: I'm currently writing an epic fantasy ("The Key to the World," 119,000 words so far) where the protagonist is a penitent wizard -- one who doesn't want to practice magic any more, for religious reasons.  But the liveliest scenes in the book involve one of his traveling companions, a vampire sorceress turned at age 12, but actually more than 600 years old.  With an evil character you can kind of just let her say whatever she wants, and Magissa's lines can be pretty hilarious, if you like catty.

Liza: Crafty. Now they'll buy your next book as well.

Describe the heroine in five words.

Barton: Young.  Idealistic.  Bright.  Sarcastic.  Vulnerable.

Liza: Who's your favorite character in the book & why?

Barton: Throsu, because she overcomes enormous odds (a chronic disease, prejudice from her society, a terrorist takeover of a spaceship).

Liza: What event occurred in your life that has influenced your novels?

Branton: The terrible times I had in the Pittsburgh public schools.

Liza: I'm with you there. It's like Lord of the Flies except you get to go home and sleep in a bed at night.

How does the reality of being a writer compare to the one TV writers live? Say for example Castle.

Barton: TV writer characters are usually making a living by writing.  I've never figured out how to do that. Of course, it couldn't be that my stuff just isn't that good...  must be that my genius is going unrecognized for reasons unknown.

Liza: could be they don't make a cent either. Their 'real' job is acting. However, that is another over-populated career choice. And with that trick question I'll disconnect the lie detector and end the interview.

Barton: How'd I do on the lie detector test?

Liza: I don't know. The squiggly lines look like sonograms of whale courtship to me.

Barton: The why did you insist I take it?

Liza: So you'd never forget this interview. Did I succeed?

Barton. Oh yeah.

Liza: Then my job is done. Now Peeps, I know many of you are dedicated stalkers, so here's Barton's stalking link:

And before you think this is a low stalking zone, check out his website. Barton shares a great deal about himself and his opinions, far more than most writers.

He seems really interesting. Investigator Peep, go find out about Barton Paul Levenson.

Investigative Peep: I'm on it boss....Here's what I found:

Barton Paul Levenson Investigative Report:

IP: Barton Paul Levenson has a degree in physics.
Liza: Wow.

IP: He's happily married to poet Elizabeth Penrose.
Liza: A physicist and a poet...that actually makes sense.

IP: He takes pleasure in confusing everyone by being both a born-again Christian and a liberal Democrat.
Liza: Yeah, that freaks me out.

IP: His work has appeared in Marion Zimmer Bradley's Fantasy Magazine, ChiZine, Cricket, Cicada, the New York Review of Science Fiction and many small press markets.  His novel "Max and Me" can be downloaded now from Lyrical Press or  

IP: And here's an interesting item: Barton was banned from entering the Confluence Short Story Contest again after winning first prize two years in a row.
Liza: You're making that up. 
IP: Nope.
Liza: That's just silly! You don't ban someone for writing too well. I think the name of that contest is misspelled. It should be Confused Short Story Contest. Excellent Writers Will be Banned to honor mediocrity.

Liza: So Barton. Is any of what IP reported true?
Barton: All his statements were accurate.

Liza: Well done Investigative Peep. I want to reward you for getting away from the FoxLike News reporting practices. Go find Peep Rep, retrieve my credit card, and buy yourself a copy of Barton's book.  

Let's all write a comment to Barton for letting me try out my lie detector on him, having such a good book, and being so darn interesting.

Barton: Bye folks. Thanks for reading this far.

Liza: What Barton is really saying is "I can believe the length of this blog, no one will ever read this."
Tell him you read all the way to the end.
And follow me if you are a very brave person. Subscribe if you are plum crazy.


  1. Sooo funny. Liza and Barton. Great interview. I tweeted.

    1. Thank you Ella. I was so excited I could finally use my lie detector machine.

  2. Another fun interview, Liza! Thanks for sharing, Barton! Enjoyed the interview and excerpt!

  3. Another Western PA writer! That means we cornered the whole week, Liza. :) Awesome. Go Stillers!

    1. I like my Western PA writers. They have a sense of humor.

  4. Great interview as usual, Liza.
    Intriguing excerpt, Barton.

  5. Thanks, guys! Appreciate the support.

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