Barb Lien-Cooper & Park Cooper
Barb is originally from Minnesota. She was a radio DJ for a while in college, and then she grew up to become a guitarist/singer-songwriter and got an album put out on the Imp label. However, she also had health issues: Chronic Fatigue Syndrome and fibromyalgia and extreme environmental sensitivities and allergies. (She also has Complex Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder due to issues involving her family of origin.)
For a while, brain fog from the CFS and the fibro made it harder for her to read long and involved works of fiction… So (since she’d always loved them in her childhood) she got into reading comics and graphic novels, particularly the comparatively avant-garde work coming out at that time from DC Comics.
Now we pop over to Park, in central Texas. Like Barb, Park also read comics (and a LOT of books) in his youth as well (a lot more sci-fi and fantasy books than Barb, and a lot more Marvel comics than Barb). Then he started college and said “I need an extra hobby or something. Maybe I’ll get back into comics again.” He started doing so, including reading the comparatively avant-garde work coming out at that time from DC Comics…
Then someone in the letter columns of the comic Sandman announced that they were doing a fanzine for readers of that comic. Barb and Park both wrote in.
Barb and Park became aware of one another… Park liked the writing Barb submitted to the fanzine, and he wrote to Barb, and they began writing to each other. Then they started talking on the phone… they fell in love… they started visiting one another…
Reader, they got married (to each other).
Barb co-founded and wrote for the award-winning website Sequential Tart, made by women about comics and other popular culture things, and Barb wrote a lot of reviews and articles (especially articles).
Park and Barb had a column online for a now-defunct website entitled The Park and Barb show (about the same sorts of things) for 12 years…
A little after they started those things, Barb started writing her comic Gun Street Girl…
A little after that, they started adapting and editing manga for major American publishers importing manga (and sometimes their South Korean and Chinese counterparts) from the far side of the Pacific. Honestly, there were too many to keep track of… lots and lots of titles. Near the end of this, Barb and Park wrote the manga pitch The Hidden for TokyoPop, perfectly timed to appear the week that that company fell apart.
Then Barb and Park wrote the sci-fi vampire graphic novel Half Dead.
Somewhere around this time, Park successfully completed his Ph.D. in literature, and then Barb and Park wrote the vampire prose novel Something More Than Blood.
Eventually Park started writing his cyberpunk comic Swipe for Angry Viking Press.
(You can read more about all of the above projects elsewhere on this website!)
There were also other various short stories (and a novel, in one case) and non-manga-related editing jobs, too many to bother counting here…
These days, Barb and Park live happily together in Austin, Texas.
A Message From Us
We love good stories (especially Relatoinship Dramas in Spooky Worlds!).
Like you, we understand the joy of reading a well-crafted story– but we also know the “ripped-off” feeling you get when you’ve spent money on a story that’s cliched or otherwise doesn’t meet your discriminating tastes in storytelling.
We know how offensive it is to read something that insults your intelligence, too. We believe that readers are smart– and deserving of works that treat you as an intelligent person.
We write stories like we want to read: stories that are exciting and smart and character-driven.
We’re like you– we hate characters who are dumber than we are, doing things that anyone in the real world would know are stupid. We hate stories where you know from page one exactly how it’ll end.
We’ll try to give you plots that don’t make you groan when you read the plot summaries.
We’re crafting the kind of works that stay with you after you finish reading them.
We’re crafting the kind of books that you’ll want to read again when you’re done.
Some Questions and Answers:
–What sort of research goes into you writing your books?
Barb: It depends on the book/story. If it’s historical, I take a deep dive into the history of an era, like I did with our historical vampire novel, Something More than Blood.
If it’s a book about magic, I start looking into schools of magical thought, as well as mythology concerning various monsters. If one of my characters might have a psychological malady, like in Song to The Siren, I do a deep dive into human psychology. If my character has a profession I don’t really know a lot about, like my psychiatrist character, Cynthia Mann (The Talking Cure), I take a deep dive into what a psychiatrist’s job is like.
–What comes first for you — the plot or the characters — and why?
Barb: A little of both. I get an idea and I get a little bit about the characters the idea happens to. Then, as the characters show me who they are, the plot starts veering toward the characters’ strengths and weaknesses. Then I throw more ideas at the characters and see how they relate to the idea, then I keep doing that. We learn about others through watching them deal with life, so I do the same thing with my characters.
–Words to live by?
“If you’re not doing something different, you’re not doing anything.”
Sam Phillips (owner of Sun Records, Godfather of Rockabilly)
Punch up, not down. Never attack those in need. Attack those with too much.
–What one author from the past (that is, no longer living) would you most want to be able to go back in time and get to meet and talk to?
SC: There’s a saying that you should never meet your heroes, as you’ll only end up disappointed, so I guess, no one.
If I had to do so anyway, I’d like to meet Shirley Jackson, as I have a ton of questions about The Haunting of Hill House and her story, “The Demon Lover.”
–In all your work that’s set in a contemporary setting, you often mention movies and books. Why is that?
Barb: My characters seem very real to me, and I want the audience to think that the characters are real (at least while the reader is reading the book/story) so my characters have to have hobbies, likes, dislikes, and favorite movies, TV shows, music, and so on, in order to ground the characters in our reality.
Also, being a geek gal, I keep hoping that audience members will someday say to me, “Hey, I love that book/movie/album you talked about,” as it would be a good ice breaker. I’m terrible with small talk, but I can talk all day about pop culture.
–What are some of your favorite movies and books?
Barb: I’m crazy about old movies, mostly films noir, screwball comedies, and horror films.
I love quiet horror, such as The Changeling with George C. Scott, subtle works like Curse of the Cat People, and Asian Horror films like Silk and R Point. My favorite horror film is Crying Blue Sky (the director’s cut of Eyes of Fire), because it is a deep, imaginative work.
I love old cult TV shows like The Night Stalker and Dark Shadows.
Park: I’m a huge geek. I cut my teeth on fantasy and science fiction. Roger Zelazny, Larry Niven, Steven Brust, Tolkien, Lieber, lots more. For movies, I like films from the 20th century mostly. For a while my favorite was Kung Fu Hustle, though. I’ll also mention that I watched Tron more than a dozen times when I was a kid (we had a video copy).
–What books have you read more than once in your life?
Barb: There are four stories that are the foundation of everything I write:
The Turn of the Screw
The Haunting of Hill House
These are my desert island books, so I’ve read them several times.
Park: Nine Princes in Amber and its next two sequels. A Princess of Mars. Ringworld. Ray Bradbury’s Death is a Lonely Business.
–Do you see writing as a kind of spiritual or therapeutic practice?
Barb: An acquaintance of mine said that I didn’t need to meditate because writing was my “meditative practice.” She had a point. When I write, I have no ego, no intrusive thoughts, and I am in a place of total joy and peace. So, yes, it is spiritual for me.
–What’s the best time you’ve ever had listening to an audiobook?
Barb: My husband is a huge fan of the John Carter of Mars novels, so I got the first three novels as audiobooks. Man, those things are nailbiters! My husband is also a fan of Robert E. Howard’s work, so I listened to Howard’s work and fell in love with his stories, too.
Park: Besides Roger Zelazny reading his own books, I’ll say A Princess of Mars, Stir of Echoes, some Harry Harrison stuff, and, ah… some long stories by Murray Leinster, including some of his “Med-Ship Man” work.
— How long on average does it take you to write a book?
Barb: It takes three months to write a rough draft, but rewriting can take a long time. Something that modern novelists sometimes forget is that the art of writing is really the art of rewriting.
–What was the most difficult thing you dealt with when writing your most recent book?
Barb: My only problem in writing a book is my initial “stage fright.” Getting started on a new story is nerve-wracking. My solution is to be very gentle with myself whenever I start a new work. I say to myself, “Can you just maybe get to the bottom of the page?” After I do, I feel a great sense of relief, and the rest isn’t so intimidating.
— They say hindsight is 20/20. If you could give advice to the writer you were the first time you sat down to write, what would it be?
Barb: I’d say– “Kid, not everyone’s going to get what you’re doing. You’re going to get rejected sometimes, not because of the quality of your work, but because your ideas are so different. Stop getting depressed about the gatekeepers rejecting your work and just move forward. You’ve got this.”
Park: I’d say– “Don’t try to write a story without making an outline first, or you’ll never achieve good pacing– let alone make it easy to actually finish something.” However, Barb told me I needed to start making an outline, like she does (except she does it in her head), and that got me over the era when I had organizational issues.
–Most writers were readers as children. What was your favorite book in grade school?
Barb: Funny story about that: when I was in school, the school district was financially strapped, so the books were mostly old. We had to read The Yearling (published in 1938), which to this day traumatizes me to think about because I thought the ending was such a betrayal. I actually said to my teacher that the ending stunk. She said something about “the circle of life.”
Well, we also had these kiddie reader books. The teacher said not to read the last tale in the collection. So, naturally, being a contrary little kid, I disobeyed and read the tale. It was a novel for kids/tweens called Dorp Dead. (That’s not a typo—the main character likes to spell things differently sometimes). It was so suspenseful. I was delighted! Man, I loved that book! In fact, I went to the teacher and said (because I was so mouthy sometimes), “You should be teaching this book, not The Yearling!”
She looked at me and said: “—Oh my God, that novel is much too traumatizing for children! Are you all right?!”
I just laughed at the absurdity of it all. The Yearling, with its crappy ending, was okay for kids, but the scary story with the good ending would fracture children’s fragile psyches? How crazy was that?