Julian Barr first fell in love with all things Greek and Roman in childhood, when he staged his own version of I, Claudius using sock puppets. After his PhD in Classics, he did a brief stint as a schoolteacher, hated being called ‘sir’, and dived into storytelling. Although he remains open to the possibilities of sock puppet theatre, historical fantasy is his passion. He has published scholarly research on Roman medicine and the gastronomic habits of centaurs, but prefers to think of himself as an itinerant bard.
What drew you to adapt about Virgil’s epic poem for fantasy readers?
Haha, Virgil’s epic Aeneid was a pretty big inspiration, obviously. I loved reading Valerio Massimo Manfredi and Conn Igguldenas a teen, and I wanted to adapt the story of Aeneas as a driving adventure. But the story first really came together when I made friends with a refugee of the Bosnian War. That’s when I realised The Way Home is a refugee’s tale from a world of gods and magic. That’s when it became real.
Are your characters and settings based upon your own life experiences?
More than you’d think, given that it’s set in the Bronze Age! Certainly I drew upon my experiences as a young dad.
What adventures can we expect your characters to have in future books?
Aeneas’s darkest journey awaits him in Book Two, The Ivory Gate. Book three erupts in a war of gods with heroes on both sides.
What is your biggest motivation for writing?
C.S. Lewis once said that we read to know we’re not alone. In a strange way, I think I write for the same reason.
How many books have you written?
One academic, three novels, three novellas.
What would you say is your biggest accomplishment?
Ah, probably the PhD. But it doesn’t matter to me as much as it used to. To be honest, I’m still absurdly proud that I got through my wedding day with appendicitis. I’m not even kidding, my wife and I married in hospital.
What advice would you give a young writer trying to get published?
Take every opportunity to learn. And never give up.
What inspires you when you hit writer’s block?
Research usually does it, especially reading about everyday life in the past. Museums are wonderful too. And if I’m really stuck, going for a long walk and listening to movie soundtracks is amazing.
Describe your writing style in three words.
Taut. Emotional. Pacey.
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▶️ The Way Home