Interview with Jonathan E. Barnett, Author of Shadow Tracker

03 May 2021

What can you tell us about your new release, Shadow Tracker?

This is the first book in a series I call The Steel Breaker Saga.  The book focuses on a young woman who lives in the Kingdom of Rhentsia.  She lives in a small village where she helps keep her family’s bills paid by hunting large and dangerous creatures known as brontars.  When the taxes are raised she has to dare to go deeper and deeper into the Great Forest where the brontars live.  It is deep on one of these hunts that she comes across a great army.  In a world where iron and steel are among the rarest of commodities, this army is clad entirely in steel armor.  The path of this great new monster will change her life and the fortunes of the kingdom forever.

What or who inspired you to become an author?

I have always enjoyed writing, but the main force that drove me to write this book (and the coming series) was my daughter Ainsley.  She sometimes can find verbal cues and such to be difficult, but she is a very gifted writer with a strong imagination.  I made a deal with her that I would write a novel if she would do it too.  So far, I have kept my end of the deal and she has a small start going.  I continue to be excited to see the worlds she will create.  I also wanted to write a hero she could love.  I have three daughters and I made sure that I never gave a description of Alcasia, our young hero, so that they could each imagine it was them.

What’s on your top 5 list for the best books you’ve ever read?

I have a B.S. in History so many of my favorite reads have been history related.  To America by Stephen Ambrose might be my favorite book ever.  Gives a great insight into the work behind putting together something like Band of Brothers or Pegasus BridgeLies My Teacher Told Me by James W. Loewen was a wonderfully sourced book that I thoroughly enjoyed reading.  Team of Rivals by Doris Kearns Goodwin felt like a book that spoke to the idea of America.  Flawed people seeking to find a better dream and putting ego behind love of country.  That really resonated with me.  The last two would be Dune by Frank Herbert and The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss.  Read Dune in Middle School and then read the trilogy and several other books from that world.  The few books of Rothfuss’ Kingkiller Chronicles have all been good and I look forward to his next book. He’s another Central Wisconsin writer.

Say you’re the host of a literary talk show. Who would be your first guest? What would you want to ask?

I would start with Patrick Rothfuss.  First, I love the fact that he lives in the same area I do, but I have also been happily reading his Kingkiller Chronicles.  I would want to talk with him about world building.  The single most interesting part of writing has been the creation of new worlds.  Worlds need histories, terrain, religions, languages, bias and stereotypes.  There is just so much that goes into it I find the creation interesting.  I have been in love with the world he has been creating and I would want to pick his brain on the process of deciding what gets added and how to you create culture without taking away from narrative.

What’s your favorite thing about writing?

I think I answered much of that in the last question.  I love the worlds.  Writing your own world can be a little easier because we all move about our worlds with some assumptions and even stereotypes or bias.  We can even predict bias in some others.  Creating a new world allows us a chance to set new standards.  I really enjoyed creating the mythology of Rhentsia.  Once I did that, it made sense to abandon the seven-day week as part of a religious construct that meant nothing to these people.  I have also enjoyed setting new areas of bias and removing others.

What is a typical day like for you?

Well, I am a prosecuting attorney in Central Wisconsin.  My typical day relies heavily on what my court schedule is.  I have five children, two boys and three girls, so that fills up much of my afternoons and weekends.  Getting kids to and from practice or events.  Most days I try to end with a little time with my wife where we can catch up on a show or just read.  I get most of my writing done after 9:00 on weekdays.

What scene from Shadow Tracker was your favorite to write?

Probably any of the places where Alcasia argues with Robyr or Trepuk.  The arguments really allow me to delve deeper into who they are and what pulls them together and keeps them unique in their worldviews.  Beyond the character development that comes from these moments, the struggles in idealisms points out that none of them are able to have things entirely the way they would like.  Each has to give in, surrender and compromise; yet, each gets to assert themselves and change the course of the narrative.

Do you have a motto, quote, or philosophy you live by?

I do try to let my faith be a touchstone to my daily life.  I cannot say that I am entirely successful in that, but I try.  I try to see from other points of view.  I really like to debate and discuss things even if there will be no clear finale.  I guess I mostly just like to test my beliefs and test myself.  I have never felt I have ever grown by staying comfortable.  I can only get better if I challenge myself and keep putting myself in situations where I will feel uncomfortable.

Jonathan E. Barnett is the author of the new book Shadow Tracker

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