BookTalks: With J.D. Barker

By: Graeme, June 19th, 2024 2:06 pm.

Writers Ink

J.D. Barker is a New York Times bestselling author. A winner of the New Apple Medalist Award, various books by J.D. have been nominated for awards, such as “Forsaken”, which was nominated for ‘Superior Achievement in a First Novel’ at the 2014 Bram Stoker Awards.

A heavily accomplished author, we are sitting down with J.D. today to discuss his other success in the world of writing. J.D. Barker is the host and founder of the excellent Writer’s, Ink podcast. This is a great podcast for both readers and writers.

This podcast has been running since December 2019, and is just about to hit the 250 episode mark, an incredible achievement

During that time, J.D. and team have interviewed practically every author you can think of, such as James Patterson, Lee Child, Blake Crouch and Karin Slaughter. In this edition of BookTalks, we chat with J.D. about this great podcast.

Yourself and J. Thorn came up with the idea for the Writers, Ink podcast after meeting at the Horror Writers convention. How did the conversation lead to starting the podcast together?

I’d never met him before and when he cornered me in that hallway I had no idea he’d have such a huge impact on my life. I’m autistic, I’ve talked about that a lot on the show and in interviews. As someone on the spectrum, I’m terrible when it comes to social situations and public speaking in general; two things that happen quite frequently in an author’s life. Prior to meeting J. I’d been searching for a way to get more comfortable in front of an audience—classes, books, videos—I was exploring a number of options. The idea of a podcast never crossed my mind. As an Aspie, I immediately said no. I’m not good with change either. But over time, I warmed to the idea. The podcast has been a game-changer for me and I owe J. tremendously for helping me get out of my shell, even if it’s only for thirty minutes or so each week.

You’re almost at the 250 episode mark as I write this, which is an incredible achievement so first off, congratulations on that. This question is two fold:

– For readers looking to listen to your podcast for the first time, which podcast episodes would you recommend they listen to, outside of just podcasts featuring their favourite authors?

Oh, wow. We’ve had so many wonderful guests. And a wide range of authors, too. Rather than rattle off my personal favorites, I’d suggest they visit and view the names listed under Previous Guests. We’ve had the best of the best on the show, I’m sure they’ll find their favorite. After they listen to one or more of the bigger names, take a chance on a name you don’t recognize. Maybe you’ll discover someone new.

For authors looking to listen to your podcast for the first time, which podcast episodes would you recommend they listen to?

That’s tricky too. If you’re looking for marketing advice, you can’t go wrong listening to James Patterson. Many people don’t know he started his professional career in advertising at one of the most successful firms in New York. When he started publishing his books, he carried that knowledge with him. To this day he tries new marketing ideas with every title. The guy is a wealth of information. Another favorite on the craft side is Dean Koontz. He’s been successfully publishing for nearly sixty years. If you’re looking for screenwriting advice, you can’t go wrong with the Gillian Flynn episode.

What are some of the most surprising or unexpected insights you’ve gained from your podcast interviews?

Personally, I love a good origin story. While it’s fun to hear about the latest release from a big-name author, we also hop in the Way-Back machine and get them to reveal how they got their start. For aspiring authors, it can be humbling to hear how those we consider to be household names broke into publishing. Their stories aren’t that different from our own. Many balanced day jobs between rejection letters. When you read between those lines there is a common thread—perseverance. We can all learn from that.

What are some of the biggest challenges you’ve faced in producing and hosting the podcast, and how have you overcome them? And what have you learned in almost 250 episodes, that you wish you could go back and tell yourself prior to the first episode?

We record every Thursday at 1 pm and to date we’ve never missed an episode. One way or another, we’ve aired every week. I suppose that’s been the biggest challenge because life happens. Kids get sick. We get sick. Deadlines come and go. There’s travel, book tours, interviews. The business of writing can easily get in the way of talking about writing on a weekly show. The show has been on longer than the length of some writer’s careers. If I could go back in time, I’d tell myself it’s a huge time commitment. That said, I’d also tell myself to do it. It’s worth every second.

Your podcast has evolved significantly over the years, starting with just the two of you hosting and focusing primarily on author interviews. Now, it features multiple hosts and offers a broader look at what’s happening in the book world. Can you talk about how and why the podcast evolved in this way? What drove these changes, and how do you feel they have enhanced the overall experience for your listeners?

J. leaving the show was honestly the catalyst behind most of the change. Reading a book and interviewing the author every week is no easy task and eventually, he understandably burned out. At the time, that portion of the show fell 100% on him. Zach Bohannon had joined us by that point but he decided to leave around the same time so he could focus more on his writing. That put me at a crossroads—continue the show or let it end. Ultimately, I decided to keep it going but rather than bring in a single co-host, I brought in four. That allowed us to split the workload more effectively. It also makes it a little easier to replace someone should they decide to leave. We also added a news segment which I personally like. It gives us a chance to talk about the latest events in the publishing industry in an informal manner. It’s a lot like sitting around with a group of friends at a coffee shop. Of course, having a large cast has challenges too. Luckily we found a solid producer who is fantastic at weaving it all together and editing out the bits where we talk over each other

Personally, I listen to the show every week not as a host, but as a listener. I love going through the audience’s feedback and implementing their suggestions. Writing can be a lonely sport, the podcast gives me a chance to open my office door and touch base with the author community. I like to think we’re helping aspiring authors too. I know I’ve learned a ton. And I think the day we all stop learning might be the day it’s time to consider retirement.

What are some of the most surprising or unexpected insights you’ve gained from your podcast interviews?

I’m constantly surprised by our guests, I think that’s half the fun. Just when you think you’ve got a solid handle on the industry, they throw out something from left field. One of my personal favorite guests is Anthony Horowitz. He’s a staple in the thriller world and I think that’s larger due to his ability to continue to challenge himself. With his latest novel, he wrote himself in as a character. Hearing that process is fascinating. I won’t spoil it – you need to check out one of his episodes!

How has hosting the Writers, Ink Podcast influenced your own writing or creative process?

In the show’s opening we advise listeners to “get their notepad out, school’s in session…” That applies to us hosts too. I’m constantly learning new tips, tricks, and processes. Writing is such a solitary experience and the show has allowed us to pick the brains of countless guests—some of the biggest names in the industry. It’s been compared to Inside the Actor’s Studio but for authors, I think that’s fair. Because our hosts are all authors, our guests tend to open up. We don’t hear the typical pitch they might cover in a regular press interview, we pull back the curtain and get to the heart of their process.

Can you share a favorite behind-the-scenes moment or anecdote from recording the podcast?

In all honesty, some of my favorite moments take place before we hit the record button. Just me and the other hosts chatting and catching up on the week, completely unfiltered. It’s like grabbing a quick cup of coffee with a group of friends. I’ve often said I may just start recording the moment we all log in so we can capture that. Maybe it’s time to start doing that. Maybe without telling them. The real gold is captured when nobody knows the mics are live.

Thank you so much to J.D. for taking the time to answer these questions, and for his excellent insights. He has a new novel releasing July 9th titled Confessions of the Dead and you can follow him on Book Notification to keep updated on that. I also highly recommend listening to the Writers, Ink Podcast as they broach that 250 episode mark.

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