Chuck Barrett, Author of “The Toymaker”

I met Chuck Barrett at a writer’s conference in St. Simons, GA. I got to do a fun talk about characters, and he had the drier topic of POV. I still have his wonderful notes, this photo of a group of us authors, and memories of a wonderful visit with him and his delightful wife Debi.

Chuck Barrett, a Florida native, grew up in Panama City. A graduate of Auburn University, Barrett is a retired air traffic controller of over 26 years experience and veteran commercial pilot and flight instructor spanning over three decades of flight experience. In his flying career, he flew mostly air ambulance with the occasional charter and business flights thrown in the mix.

Barrett’s first writing experience was drafting labor agreements. He started writing fiction in 1998 in his spare time. His first novel, The Savannah Project, was released in March 2010. This thriller interweaves his aviation expertise, a long-held passion for writing and a keen sense of suspense. In 2011, The Savannah Project became an award-winning novel, winning awards in ForeWord Reviews Book of the Year Award, International Book Awards, and Reader View’s Reviewer’s Choice Awards.

He resides in Northeast Florida with his wife, Debi.

Today, I am thrilled to be able to talk to Chuck Barrett once more.

Welcome, Chuck. You have a new book out. What is it about?  The Toymaker is, simply put, a thriller about a man who makes toys for spies. The release date for the trade paperback is February 14, 2012—Valentines Day! Hopefully, the ebook will available before Christmas 2011.

What inspired you to write this particular story?  In 2009, while on vacation in Utah, my wife and I met another couple, an older couple. After we got to know each other, I surmised from the evasive response to some of my questions that he was somehow involved in the undercover world of espionage. His answers started with how he was in the radio frequency and microwave technology business. The truth is, this interesting man makes specialized equipment that is used in the espionage business and has for over 50 years. Therefore, The Toymaker was born.

How long did it take you to write your book?  Unlike The Savannah Project, which took many years to write, The Toymaker was researched, started and finished within a matter of about 8 months.

How much of a story do you have in mind before you start writing?  The Savannah Project was outlined in detail from the beginning to the end before I started writing. Conversely, The Toymaker began with an idea…I knew the beginning, the ending, and the major twist…I just started writing and was as surprised as the reader will be as the story progressed.

How do you do research for your books?  I do most of the research up front, settings, character backgrounds, etc. as much as I can before I start writing. Then I research as I write if I realize I need more information. Some setting I visit, most settings I use the spendthrift approach called Google Earth…as fabulous tool for any writer…especially the street views.

What is the goal for your book, ie: what do you want people to take with them after they finish?  First and foremost the goal is to entertain the reader. My books are thrillers, I want the reader to be exhausted by the time they finish. A twist and turn at every corner. I want the reader to say, “Holy crap, I didn’t see that coming?”

What is your writing schedule like?  Hectic and piecemeal, at best. I write when I can. My day usually starts with answering emails, marketing, and social networking. Editing always gets priority over writing. If I’m editing another project, I’ll do that first then get back to writing my work in progress. If there is no editing to be done, then I go straight to writing. I have no set amount of words each day, just a deadline date. Some days I’ll write several thousand words, some days none at all.

What is your work in progress?  I’m currently working on my third thriller. Unlike The Toymaker, which wasn’t set in any one locale, my current work takes place in the U.S., mostly Nashville, Tennessee. The prologue kicks off at the end of World War II in Germany, then we jump to present day as I immerse the reader in a secret tale that eventually ties back in to war-torn Germany.

Are you writing to reach a particular kind of reader? Absolutely. I like to write what I like to read—thrillers, with a touch of mystery thrown in just to keep the reader off balance…but enthralled. I like when a writer throws me a curve ball, so in like fashion, I throw a few myself.

Who gave you the best writing advice you ever received and what was it?   Steve Berry once told me, “the only rule is that there aren’t any rules.” He was specifically addressing thrillers and I took the advice to heart. You can get away with being a little unconventional with thriller readers provided you leave them with a good quality read and they don’t feel cheated.

Where can people learn more about your books?  That’s easy, my website will have all the up to date information as it becomes available. I include a short synopsis of each book—more like a teaser and links to buy the book, and a way to preorder The Toymaker. My Kill Zone blog as well as a way to sign up for my Kill Zone newsletter that is only sent out to announce something major—like a new book—is also on my website.


Pat Bertram is the author of the suspense novels Light Bringer, More Deaths Than One, A Spark of Heavenly Fire, and Daughter Am I. Bertram is also the author of Grief: The Great Yearning, “an exquisite book, wrenching to read, and at the same time full of profound truths.” Connect with Pat on Google+. Like Pat on Facebook.

14 Responses to “Chuck Barrett, Author of “The Toymaker””

  1. xelene Says:

    Great interview, Intriguing story, fantastic cover!!

  2. jalex Says:

    This interview made me feel as if I were sitting down to dinner with you and your fellow authors. So much more personal than most author interviews!

  3. Pat S. Says:

    What a terrific interview! And the books sound fascinating. I’ve added them to my wish list. And I really like the idea of “no rules” when it comes to writing!

  4. Beth Says:

    Chuck, The Toymaker sounds like a good read. Yes, someone has to make spy gadgets. And make them work well. How fun to have gotten a story idea from guy who does this.

    Thanks for the interview, Pat. I love hearing how writers do their thing.

    • Pat Bertram Says:

      Thank you for stopping by, Beth. I too love hearing how other writers write — it’s why I keep up with these interviews.

    • Chuck Barrett (@Chuck_Barrett) Says:

      I have to admit that learning the things that most of the world DOESN’T KNOW about the spy business and what goes on that is never made public has been a real eye opener. It has made me reevaluate many of these seemingly unimportant news clips that come down the wire. This accident happened here or this tragedy struck there…sometimes there is more to it than appears on the surface. I know it sounds very “conspiracy theory” but…

  5. Wanda Says:

    This interview left me wanting more. It was just as jalex said, as if we were all sitting around just talking about writing stuff.

    Chuck, your book is on my TBR list, right at the top.

    Thanks for letting us in for a little while and sharing your methods.

  6. Sheila Deeth Says:

    What a fun way to find inspiration. Sounds a really interesting book.

  7. Chuck Barrett (@Chuck_Barrett) Says:

    Pat did a great job, didn’t she? I am so grateful for the opportunity to be part of her interviews. As you can probably tell, I am very psyched about THE TOYMAKER’s upcoming release. The final copy edit will be finished within a couple of days and with any luck at all the Kindle and NOOK version will be online by the end of next week. THE TOYMAKER IS COMING FOR CHRISTMAS!

    I would love to have you connect with me on my website and follow my blog and sign up for my newsletters. Just so you’ll know, I don’t post many blogs…probably one every other month. Sometimes I’ll do several in a few weeks then go a long time without one…I’m consistently inconsistent! The newsletter only comes out when there is something very important to get out to my readers. I’ve sent out 3 in 2 years, so I won’t spam your inbox. But one is coming out soon, so don’t miss it. It will have all the pertinent information about the release of THE TOYMAKER. I’d also love to have you join my fan page on FaceBook and Twitter if you tweet. All those links are on the first page of my website.

    Thanks again for all your input and Pat, thanks you so much for having me as an interviewee. (I guess that’s a word)

  8. Book Bits #96 – Selling writing for Tweets, Writer Envy, Glimmer Train Contest, Patricia Cornwell | Malcolm's Book Bits and Notions Says:

    […] Chuck Barrett, Author of ‘The Toymaker’ – “The Toymaker is, simply put, a thriller about a man who makes toys for spies. The release […]

  9. Lisa Says:

    Great concept for a thriller and a wonderful interview!

    the cover art looks fantastic too!

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