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World of Words: An Interview with Allyson Barkley, author of A Vision in Smoke

Barkley

Allyson S. Barkley is the author of the Until the Stars Are Dead fantasy series, and many other never-to-be-published novels, short stories, poems, and essays. Born in Charlottesville, Virginia, Allyson grew up an avid reader, writer, and horseback rider. She finds herself particularly inspired by hikes in far-off places, strangers in coffee shops, and clever music lyrics.

Allyson earned a degree in Global Studies and Hispanic Literatures & Cultures from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. She lives in Durham, North Carolina, with her husband and their two cats.

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Who/what made you want to write? Was there a particular person, or particular writers/works/art forms that influenced you?

I have loved storytelling since I was a small child. It wasn’t until I was about 20 years old that I realized writing could take me beyond the fairytales and adventures to a great understanding of myself and the world around me. I haven’t looked back since. The writers who have influenced my work the most are J.R.R. Tolkien, Cormac McCarthy, Jane Austen, Fredrik Backman, and Sara Bareilles.

What other professions have you worked in? What’s something about you that your readers wouldn’t know?

I have spent my career in state politics and policy work (with some time in direct service as well). Currently, I am back in school getting my MPP and JD degrees. While there isn’t much opportunity for creative writing in policy or law, I like to think that my ability to shape a narrative—and my tolerance for lengthy writing projects!—has helped me succeed in graduate school.

If your book had a soundtrack, what are some songs that would be on it?

My series does have a Spotify playlist! You can find it linked in my Instagram bio (@allyson.s.barkley.books). Some of the most fitting songs are New Constellations (Ryn Weaver), Shatter (Maggie Rogers), All For Us (Labrinth), and The Few Things (JP Saxe).

What is one thing you hope readers take away from reading your book? How do you envision your perfect reader?

I hope my readers find something of themselves in the story. Until the Stars Are Dead is a slow burn—each little piece of Ari is teased out over several books and she may be difficult to understand at first. But my favorite part of hearing from readers is when they tell me how much they related to the little moments—Ari reminding herself to smile at Broun’s party, the way her chest tightens with grief as memories of Dav come back to her, her conversation with Ely in the Old Hall when she manages to open up enough to show her pain but not quite share it. I did not want to write drama—I wanted to write reality. I hope that even in a fantasy world, my readers feel seen and understood by these characters who are as real to me as we are.

What new writing projects are you currently working on? Or, other projects that are not writing?

I am currently writing the third book in Until the Stars Are Dead. It has been slow going with my busy school year, but I am starting to make great headway in this next stage of Ari’s journey. I also have four bonus chapters I plan to release this summer. These are from the perspective of different characters and take place at varying points in the history of the Kingdom.


You can buy the book here.
Are you a writer, too? Submit your manuscript to Atmosphere Press.

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