THE SUNDAY SPOTLIGHT,  with NATHANIEL BARBER: AVID CYCLIST, and AUTHOR of LUCK FAVORS THE PREPARED. 

Tell me a little about your writing? 

I am an avid cyclist. I love riding as often as I can, for as long as I can. I also hate cycling.

The problem is, I’m a lousy cyclist. I never plan routes and regularly embark on thirty mile rides with ‘East’ being the extent of my research. This is an ongoing thing with me. I rarely carry enough water or food which leads to an inevitable collapse on the side of some country road, pale and shaky, reeling from severe dehydration and a complete metabolic fallout.

Pushing your limits as a cyclist means getting comfortable with suffocation, shouldering through hours of violent exercise without a single satisfying breath.

For what?

The view is nice, yes. But finishing, especially on the longer rides, is much nicer. Sometimes my favorite part about bicycling is when I get to stop bicycling. The puny sense of accomplishment is immensely rewarding.

I write the same way I ride my bike.

When did you start writing?

I’ve been writing since 1996. I’d brought a notebook with me to Europe. It’s a good thing too because I was just about to blow through almost all the money I’d earned for a year abroad in a little over a week. I quickly found myself trapped in a foreign continent with nothing to do but sit and dumbly write in the notebook I’d brought.

It seemed like a sensible thing to bring for a very long trip. It happened to be a stroke of luck. At first I wrote to pass great swaths of time without looking like a creeper. Like all my worst decisions, this developed into an even worse habit.

At first I wrote because I thought I was important and had incredible things to say. This phase of my writing lasted longer than I care to mention and was thankfully put down when writing got hard and not very fun anymore. Back then, I subscribed to the common (and decidedly caucasian) misconception that life should be fun and easy. If what you’re doing wasn’t easy and super fun, it was perfectly okay to just abandon it for the next shiny object.

Playing music was easier, or at least it was more immediately gratifying so I stopped writing for many years to play music instead. I soon found out being crazy about music isn’t enough to do it well, much less cut a swath in the music industry. I had as much business playing music as I do playing tight-end for the Seattle Seahawks.

Why do you write?

I’m a writer at heart.

I’ve returned to writing with a much more pragmatic approach: even if nothing I have to say is important, even writing is grueling, humiliating work, every now and then my wife laughs at something I’ve written. Better yet, occasionally she thinks something I’ve written is interesting. That is what kept me coming back until, again, this blossomed into a terrible habit.

My writing is influenced by other writing and life. Reading is the formula, so to speak, while life provides the catalyst. This is probably why my primary genre is nonfiction and memoir. That or I just don’t have the imagination for fiction.

What themes are in your writing?

The common themes in my writing mirror those which loom heavily in my own life. The great spectre of a storied family and all its beautiful contradictions certainly is a big one. I am always toying with gigantic personalities: huge people with huge egos. My writing is commonly observant and rarely participatory and has been criticized for having not a lot of ‘me’ in it—a primary disconnect for those who’re expecting a gushy memoir. And that’s fair.

For many years I was molested by a friend of our family. While I’ve never been very interested in writing about the specifics of those years, my perspective is inexorably haunted by the experience. I am fascinated by real life mosters and telling their story until they’re broken down to digestible motives and ultimately stripped to their hilarious and sad place in the Universal Perspective.

 

Where do you write?

I write at my kitchen table. It is not very comfortable and a little crampy, but it’s always ready to go. I prefer to write early in the morning, before anyone is up. But in a pinch, I’ll write where I need to, long as I can cut out unfamiliar music or nearby conversations.

What is next for your writing?

Luck Favors the Prepared will be followed up by another book of short stories, a mix of more non-fiction with some fiction shorts as well. Also coming soon are two books of poetry: grown-up poems for children and childish poems for adults. There’s a couple novels kicking around in there as well, but I’ll have to tangle with those for a good couple years before we’ve found our stride.

Something about you?

I believe in hard work. There’s a saying: ‘Work smart, not hard.’ And I can get behind that in a major way. The problem is, I’ve never been terribly smart so I’ve always resigned to running myself ragged in order to make ends meet. I also believe in asking permission to do my work. Sending Luck Favors the Prepared out into the world is a lot like asking the world for permission to continue writing. I believe in this little book, but if it gets panned, there’s plenty of chores to be done around the house instead.

At least the results, so far, have been promising. Dishes be damned!

What are some other things about you?

I live in America, in the greatest wedge of America: the Pacific Northwest. I grew up here and while I’m secretly jealous of the rest of my family who has scattered far and wide I am resigned to the likelihood I will never be able to leave this beautiful place. I live here with my wife, Jaclyn (an expert graphic designer who designed LFTP from cover to cover) our daughter, Lillian. We have a cat, a needy siamese/tabby named Portabella.

EXCERPT from The Landlord

If I had to be a landlord, I would be a good landlord. My rental would shine as an example of how an entire market could be run: attentively, with generosity and fairness.

I set the rent low, covering only my own monthly mortgage plus fifty dollars to cover the time I would spend managing the property. I refused to deal with a property management company because they would only charge me a fortune to turn my beautiful tenants into a profit margin, similarly ignoring their pleas for maintenance, repairs and improvements. I, on the other hand, would personally attend to my tenants’ needs, promptly and completely. The people who rented my home would have a happy, affordable home. They would tell all their friends about their wonderful rental. Their friends, in turn, would rise up, demanding similar treatment.

My little rental was the seed that would change the world.

That is how stupid I was.

EXCERPT from Band Geek: Mr. Millson

Mr. Millson was a short, puggish man. He was skinny except for a cantaloupe gut he not only ignored but allowed to lend heft to his wagging swagger. He was short and compensated for this with a simmering, constant temper, always fired up and red-faced. Even when he was just trying to schmooze an extra scoop of Jell-O from the lunch lady. His lips were not lips, but the absence of lips. Sweaty flaps, really. Fleshy bits of face he pursed to a thin, kissy embouchure under a bulbous, alcoholic nose.

He played hot trumpet. As trumpet players go, he was a swingin’ dick. He frequently indulged in unsolicited, lengthy ramblings about the trials and glory of a decades-long career in contemporary jazz, tossing off first-name references like, “When Maynard and I were packing Jazz Alley…” or “That’s an interesting question. You know, Miles once told his drummer…”

But here he was, teaching high school band.

                                          ENTER the GIVEAWAY 

                                                  Goodreads.com 

                                              Nathaniel Barber  

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