I'd like to welcome L.C. Barlow, author of the Jack Harper Trilogy today! Her first novel, Pivot, has a very interesting origin! Read on...

Author Spotlight || L.C. Barlow

I'd like to welcome L.C. Barlow, author of the Jack Harper Trilogy today! Her first novel, Pivot, has a very interesting origin! Read on to find out more. 

What's your latest release?

PIVOT was released in October of 2019, PERISH will be released this October 2020, and PEAK will be released October of 2021. All three of these novels make up the Jack Harper Trilogy.

Can you start out by telling us a little about your latest work?

PIVOT is the first book of a trilogy I have been working on for about six years. It was released in October of 2019. The second and third books, PERISH and PEAK will be released October 2020 and October 2021. 

PIVOT is about a young girl named Jack Harper who is adopted by the leader of a cult, Cyrus Harper, and turned into an assassin against all who oppose him or blaspheme. As it turns out, Cyrus, the charismatic and maniacal mentor (think Charles Manson meets Lucifer from Supernatural), does indeed have extraordinary powers, as he claims. Half of them come from a creature he has locked in his basement, and the other half… well, you will have to read to find out. 

Jack’s well-being is precarious in such an environment where ruthlessness is relentlessly required of her, and so she both curiously and desperately pursues the creature in the basement. When they finally meet, her world is turned upside down, as he offers her more than she could have ever expected―the possibility of escape and her own secret, magical power. 

In terms of PERISH, the book continues Jack’s story beyond the cult. She travels to a different state to attempt to start her life anew, but she immediately begins receiving letters from children who are still trapped in Infinitum – Cyrus’s old following – the tendrils of which she realizes still exist all across the world. One tendril leads her to Patrick, a man who speaks of a contraption that “bleaches anything white.” Yet another tendril stretches beyond death. Potential aid arrives from an unusual source when Jack encounters Jonathon Roth and his kill-for-hire outfit. Together, they hope to become an unstoppable force, but the truth is that Jack may be falling into her old acolyte ways, and Roth may have found in Jack the very thing that made Cyrus so powerful—his own magical being.

Where did you get the inspiration to write this story?

During high school, a friend of mine was a Lutheran at that time, and she invited me to come to a special event her church was having, where an “ex-Satanist” came and spoke about her experiences to the youth group. I attended, and the experience was so strange. It was just such an eerie speech, an unsettling account of events, and it got me thinking and thinking and playing out scenarios again and again. It was an idea that didn’t leave me, even though the woman’s story was likely a fabrication. This is what inspired the Jack Harper Trilogy.

When you developed the characters, did you already know who they were before you began writing or did they develop organically?

Since the above experience at my friend’s church, Jack Harper has been with me – about sixteen years total. She has manifested in different ways, with slightly different desires and personality traits, but she has always been there. She started blond, as though that matters, and then transitioned to having black hair so dark it’s almost blue. She is the survivor of a traumatic situation, and she is cunning. My favorite thing about her is her genuineness in all things. Although she commits terrible acts, she is also fully genuine in doing them, and though she fits into a psychological horror type of villain at times, she is not necessarily a psychopath, as every psychopathic trait she has is a learned attribute, a second nature, rather than a choice. Each time she is given a choice, she chooses to step beyond this and become something else. 

Roland and Cyrus have been with me for at least seven years. They became fully fleshed out when I was writing the first draft. Cyrus is the “primal father.” What I mean by that is that he is the unstoppable adoptive father who heads the cult, has unearthly tools at his disposal, and is able to discover those who blaspheme before they can stop him. To Jack, he is a charismatic and maniacal mentor (think Charles Manson meets Lucifer from Supernatural). Roland is like a second father to Jack. He starts as Cyrus’s assistant, but his heart shifts throughout the novel. It is difficult for me to say exactly what inspired these characters. I suspect part of it was that there are many cults in this world, and they all have a leader of some sort who convinces his followers he is capable of terrific and terrible things. I actually wanted a character who could back up his claims. Thus, Cyrus was born. I always associated him with silver – silver eyes and silver hair – because he’s cold and calculating. Roland, perhaps, is the other side of the coin. 

Lutin has been with me since 2014, and his arrival in my novel was quite surprising to me, though he quickly became one of my favorite characters. When I realized that Cyrus needed access to tools and beings in order to gain otherworldly powers, and that I needed more grit in the novel (that is, I needed to explain things in the Pivotverse more), that’s how Lutin arrived. He is like angel and demon combined. His intent is pure and good, but he is dangerous. Cyrus manages to capture him and uses his blood and soul to accomplish fantastic things in the cult. Even so, Jack is able to find Lutin in the basement of Cyrus’s mansion, and when she does, her world is turned upside down. Lutin helps redefine good for Jack, helps provide Jack with agency, as he gives her otherworldly powers. His body has cracks in it, similar to branches or vines, but these lines fluoresce with fire. I think seeing Kintsukuroi helped inspire him. The sense of an otherworld, too, greatly inspired him. He is beyond.

What was one of the most surprising things you learned (about your story, about yourself, etc.) while writing?

As PIVOT was my first book, I learned so many things from the creation of it – character development, plotting, and the fact that you “can’t cheat the grind.” To make progress, to do well, you have to work hard. It’s not romantic, though there are romantic elements. But you can’t cheat it. People will notice when your heart isn’t in it or you have skipped days of work. As I’ve gotten older, I’ve come to understand that the things worth having are usually difficult. It has helped me to accept difficulty – it’s a sign of something good, something worthy.

While creating this book, I also came to learn that, “It’s not the size of the dog in the fight; it’s the size of the fight in the dog.” If you really want something, I mean really really want it, then you won’t stop working until you have achieved/produced it, and no one can get in your way – even if they’re bigger than you. There are so many people out there who will try to convince you not to write, that it’s a waste of time, that the book won’t get published. To pursue your own path in the face of that is difficult, but it is also essential, if you want to write… and if you are to become your own person. 

Lastly, I also learned that plotting isn’t everything. After figuring out how to plot, I realized that there’s just something about letting the novel develop organically that is so important. Really, if you sit down and say exactly what you wanted to say when writing, you’ve kind of failed. It’s only by writing something beyond which you knew to write that you have succeeded – when you write more than you thought you knew.

If you could tell your younger writing self anything, what would it be?

It would be to “follow your heart.” That is, write what you want to write, pursue creative writing if that’s what you want to pursue. When you force yourself to pursue something you don’t want, then your entire life becomes an act, and that is difficult/impossible to sustain. Listen to yourself, listen to what you want. Your intuition will not lead you astray. Aside from the above, I would also likely tell myself everything in the question below about advice for aspiring writers.What would you say is your most interesting writing quirk?It took me a while to come up with an answer for this. I suppose one interesting writing quirk of mine is that if I am having trouble concentrating, then making hot tea and lighting a candle – usually something along the lines of either Cinnamon Stick or Vanilla Cupcake – will help settle me. In addition, like many others, I often think about writing while doing the dishes, vacuuming, or something else that puts down “physical order” before I put down “mental order.” 

In terms of the writing itself, one thing that I think I am far more open to than many others is heavy revision of my stories. I tend to accept a draft of a story as one potential version of that story, and I am open to altering vast swathes of the novel. For instance, the new, traditionally-published version of PIVOT is about 95% different than the original self-published version, based on the revisions asked of me before I gained an agent and then with my agent.

What advice would you like to pass on to aspiring writers that is unconventional but true?

Remember that the first draft doesn’t have to be perfect. It just has to be written. You can’t revise something that isn’t there. 

Once you have a draft, and someone suggests trying something, feel open to trying it. You can have several versions of the same story, and just because you take it a new direction doesn’t mean your old draft disappears if you need to go back to it. Be brave and take your story to foreign places. It’s not foreign, anymore, after you write it. 

Do not expect professionals to be mean. Many are some of the kindest people you can meet.

You can only enter a room for the first time once. That’s why it’s important that you get your work to as optimum of a level as possible before submitting it to an agent or editor. Because once they “enter the room” (read your work) for the first time, they can’t see it nearly as objectively after. Your own objectiveness is compromised because you’ve been with the work for so long. That’s why you need workshoppers you can trust (and who know how to get you to emphasize things and back off things without being cruel or mean). 

In every story there are “crunchy” and “floaty” items, also known as literal and figurative. The crunchy is the bare facts that ground the story. The floaty is the unnatural, metaphorical things. Often times, writers throw in figurative things to feel better or redeem the story. The reality, though, is that you don’t need to do this. You don’t need to “redeem” the story. The more you add trying to “redeem” the story, the more work you make for yourself when revising. Trust the reader to follow you. 

Keep in mind the Hemingway Theory – that 10% of the story is what the author lets the audience see, and 90% is hidden. It’s very much like a glacier – the top 10% is visible, and the bottom 90% is below water. The amount of work you put into a novel is the 90%. When I wrote PIVOT, I wrote about five times the amount that the book ended up being. The book is around 280 pages. I definitely wrote over 1,000 pages while constructing it. 

Read SAVE THE CAT! by Blake Snyder and THE HERO’S JOURNEY by Christopher Vogler. These were books that Nancy Holder (a prolific author and one of my professors) recommended to all of her students in my MFA program. Both books have beat sheets in terms of how a story should move. When I read them, I was so incredibly impressed. Before my MFA, I had written my first novel without any plot guidance. I retroactively compared it with Snyder’s 15-point beat sheet. To my surprise, I found that 13/15 elements in my manuscript aligned. That was the Aha! moment of, “Oh, this is why it worked. I know what I did, so now I know what to do.” I regularly return to these books and always learn something new.

Are you on social media and can your readers interact with you? What are your links?

Yes, and of course! 

Author Website: 


Coming October 2020

  She has an MA in English from the University of Texas at Arlington and an MFA in Creative Writing from the University of Southern Maine’s Stonecoast program.  She has studied with popular writers, including Nancy Holder, Elizabeth Hand, Ted Deppe, James Patrick Kelly, Elizabeth Searle, David Anthony Durham, and Theodora Goss.  Her work has been published in Oak Bend Review, Flash Fiction World, Linguistic Erosion, Flashes in the Dark, Separate Worlds, Every Day Fiction, and Popular Culture Review.  Her fiction has reached over sixty-five thousand readers and garnered praise, including a finalist for the Next Generation Indie Awards, a winner of the Indie Reader Discovery Awards, a winner of the eLit Awards, and IndieReader’s Best Books of 2014.  On Quora, her posts have received over 1.4 million content views. Barlow’s horror trilogy – PivotPerish, and Peak – was picked up in 2018 by California Coldblood Books, an imprint of Rare Bird Books.  The first of the trilogy, Pivot, was released in October of 2019.  Barlow lives in Dallas, TX with her two cats, Smaug and Dusty.

L.C., Thank you so much for being the author spotlight today! Pick up your copy of Pivot today!