As many across the world are gearing up to spend the next few weeks glued to their TV sets, yelling and screaming as if they know best, we felt that we too should get into the World Cup spirit with this weeks Author of the Week. Stephen R A’Barrow’s book Brazil: The Good, the Bad and the Megafugly is based on first-hand knowledge of a country he adopted as his own and is both a frank and entertaining notebook come travelogue of his experiences.
Tell us a bit about yourself.
I’m married with a wonderful wife and two lovely children who are growing up in a very diverse environment. They’ve got British and Brazilian passports and English, Brazilian, Basque, German and Spanish ancestry. That and my working at an international school will hopefully best prepare them for what is going to be an ever more globalised world.
I’ve spent over 20 years travelling the world on business and however globalised the world’s economies become I’m ever more fascinated by the still very stark cultural differences that set people apart and help make the world such a vibrant, colourful, exotic but often also dysfunctional and dangerous place.
Why should someone pick up a copy of Brazil?
If you are interested in travelling to or finding out what Brazil is really like then this is the book to read. Most people think Brazil is simply an exotic version of Spain or Portugal on the other side of the pond and that it’s all beaches, samba and football. Brazil is so much more than that with its own very diverse, distinctive and colourful culture. It’s a wild country in every sense of the word, exhilarating and frustrating in equal measure. To know more you’ll need to buy my book…
When and why did you begin writing?
I began writing in 2005 when I quit my day job and moved to Brazil to be a work at home dad. However, I soon started climbing the walls for a lack of creative things to do and as an alternative to nappy changing and baby burping I took up writing in the breaks between the two.
What do you enjoy most about your work?
Writing is cathartic. It helps me makes sense of what’s actually going on in my life, to put things into perspective and help poke fun at myself and the world around me.
What is the hardest thing about being a writer?
Time management, not least when you are on a roll and there other pressing family or business matters that need your attention.
What inspires you to write?
It helps me find a means of expression for my natural curiosity for the world around me.
When working on a new book, what is the first thing you do?
Start scribbling notes and compiling ideas for chapters long before I actually put pen to paper, which then helps give me the outline thread of where the book is going to go.
Which Writers do you admire and can you name a favourite book?
In terms of travel writers then Bill Bryson and Jeremy Clarkson because they’ve got a good eye for the interesting and absurd. In terms of literature then Friedrich Durrenmatt for his very black humour and often dark storylines; Glen Meade for his fantastic plots and characterisations; and Wilbur Smith for the wonderful way in which he blends great story telling with fascinating historical backdrops. Choosing a favourite book is all but impossible so one from each of the last three would be ‘The Physicists,’ ‘Brandenburg’ and ‘The River God.’
What advice would you give to an aspiring writer?
You’ll need endless patience and a good deal of sheer determination to see your work in print. It will often take you longer to get your work published than it will to write it. Finding a good book `midwife` to help guide you through the process, would be a good place to start. Before you write your whole book do some research and get as much professional input as you can to see if what you are actually writing about is appealing to a wider audience and in particular to a publisher. They will at the very least help guide your writing in a direction that will help make it more commercially viable.
What are your plans for the future?
I’ve just signed the agreement for my second book on Germany, which comes out in May 2015 and I’ve started work on a third which my publisher likes the look of. How many books I’ve got in me after that I don’t know yet.
If you are interested in finding out more about Stephen please follow the links below:
Website – http://www.stephenrabarrow.com/
Twitter – http://twitter.com/StephenRABarrow
Amazon – Latest Book – Brazil: The Good, the Bad and the Megafuglyby Stephen A’Barrow is out now in paperback and e-book, £10.99
As an added extra we also asked Stephen if he would share his top five tips for surviving the World Cup in Brazil (which of course are great tips for travelling in Brazil at any time not just for the football crazed amongst us!!!!!!)
My 5 Top Tips for Travelling to Brazil are:
1.) Number 1 is look after your personal security and don`t take any unnecessary risks.
Most reasonably off Brazilians themselves take taxis they`ve ordered door to door, so no point being less safety conscious than the locals.
2.) Take cash as your credit and debit cards won`t work in many places and certainly not at most Brazilian banks’ ATM machines. Also don`t take US$ in cash and expect people to accept this as payment. In most cases they won`t.
3.) Get proper medical insurance and check where you can use it, as state run healthcare in Brazil isn`t good and that`s putting it politely.
4.) Especially up north, in more tropical climes, avoid eating seafood and salad or having ice in your drinks, plus bring plenty of Imodium! AND plenty of insect repellent; the best local variety is called `OFF!`
5.) If you are planning to hire a car get your driving licence translated and notarised into Portuguese; sounds nuts I know but without it you won`t be able to pick up your hire car!
Beyond that I`d also say practice the art of yoga and any skills that help enhance your patience as everything runs on Equatorial `time.`
We would like to take this opportunity to say thank you to Stephen for taking the time to answer our questions and participating in our Author of the Week Series.
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