This profile originally appeared in the Left Hand Valley Courier
Late one night, Shining Mountain Waldorf senior and avid reader Will Barnett was flipping through A Wild Sheep Chase by Haruki Murakami. While this night might have started like any other, it proved to be one that triggered an epiphany – every senior at Shining Mountain must create a senior project, and Barnett had many ideas.
What if he explored the Arab-Isralei conflict or interned at a medical practice? But each idea was shot down: it wasn’t interesting enough, or it didn’t seem like it would be as personally impactful as Barnett had initially hoped. Reading Murakami’s work had reminded him of an article about the author, how it wasn’t until a 1978 baseball game that Murakami decided that he could and would write a novel.
Murakami’s novel was Barnett’s baseball game.
Ever the bibliophile, with his newfound job at Inkberry Books, Barnett had a plan for his project, and he quickly got to work. “I came up with the story through a series of vignettes,” said Barnett. “For my first novel I wanted a character that I could easily relate to. I wanted to portray solitude… I wrote probably 15 vignettes relating to being alone, and eventually the idea was born.”
Since his sophomore year, Barnett has been a lover of fiction, and as such, when he’s dabbled in writing, that’s the genre he gravitates toward most. His freshman novela, A Sea Change (ASC), largely examines solitude, but he’s also been exploring themes such as self doubt and self worth, saying that he likes to write about feelings he has experienced and can relate to.
In fact, this desire for relatability was a huge driving force, and one of Barnett’s favorite aspects of ASC. His original book idea was to follow a World War II veteran attempting to reintegrate into civilian life, but after an outline and the beginnings of a draft, Barnett abandoned the project. That’s when he turned to Arthur.
“I like that the main character has several autobiographical facets to him,” he said. “On the surface, I love classical music and books, but there are also deeper aspects of myself within Arthur.”
Arthur is the formerly popular-turned antisocial shy protagonist of ASC. But with time, and an adventure through a bookshop and gardens, he becomes less lonely, more confident and more complex. But the character arc readers observe isn’t the only one that happened, Barnett explained that during the writing process, Arthur and his story went through a few different iterations and that a number of parts of the book “required some major changes.”
Barnett explained that, for example, Arthur was also going to explore a record store and that the first few drafts didn’t have the evocative (and enlightening) chapter “The Incident~Everyone is Fake.” But under the guidance of publisher and bookstore owner Gene Hayworth, Barnett was able to bring Arthur to life and share him with readers.
“The writing process was challenging but incredibly enjoyable at the same time,” he said. “I fell in love with the writing process… I would imagine an original image in my mind and then try and put it into words.”
He expressed both joy and gratitude about the whole process, saying that it was a pleasure working with Owl Canyon Press and that it was a great way to exercise his own creativity. For Barnett, writing is important because writing allows him to process and question ideas all while making him happy. He hopes to continue this writing journey, “Being a successful author is my equivalent to being drafted in the NBA–it’s the ultimate dream.”
A Sea Change is, as Barnett describes, “a fresh perspective on adolescence,” and available for purchase at Inkberry Books. Barnett will be graduating this year and plans to create a website for those interested in following his literary journey.