What We Talk About When We Talk About Writers: An Interview With M.F.A. Student Juliet Barney

Welcome to the first weekly installment of What We Talk About When We Talk About Writers. Over the course of the semester, we’re going to be interviewing the writers who make up the first class of the Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing. This week we corresponded with Juliet Barney over email. Juliet, 22, is a recent graduate of The College of Saint Rose, where she earned her B.A. in English. She was born in Lake Placid, NY (a really bad place to live if you’re a sleepwalker like Juliet). She mostly writes war fiction and has “an extremely weird fascination/obsession with World War II.” Juliet may also be the only person on the planet whose favorite movie is  Pearl Harbor.

What drew you to the MFA program?

I have always been an avid reader and writer. I wrote my first short story in the second grade. It was that same year that I found a typographical error in a chapter book. I haven’t stopped ever since. I completed my undergraduate degree in English at Saint Rose. I took as many writing courses as I could, but it wasn’t enough. When I heard that the MFA program was starting, I was ecstatic. I finally have the writing workshops and classes that I have been waiting for.

What or who inspires you to write?

I’m inspired by the things I overhear. I love to eavesdrop, especially when I don’t know the context of the conversation. One time, I was at a party and I overheard this guy say, “I tied a girl up once.” I made it the opening line to my novel. You can start a story with any random sentence.

Who is your favorite author?

I have a difficult time choosing one favorite author. I guess I have favorite authors in various genres. I’m a big fan of Tim O’Brien, Wilkie Collins, Jennifer Egan, Joyce Carol Oates, and F. Scott Fitzgerald. And last, but not least, for popular fiction I love Jodi Picoult.

What do you hope to accomplish by the time you graduate?

I want to have a draft of my first manuscript. I’m currently working on a novel that focuses on two Army soldiers who are beginning their first tour in Afghanistan. It’s in the very first stages, but I am fascinated by war fiction.

What are your long-term goals for writing?

Eventually I want to go into publishing, because as everyone knows, writing doesn’t pay the bills. Although I eventually want to produce a publishable manuscript or my work-in-progress novel.

What was the last good book you’ve read?

The last good book I read was definitely not the Fifty Shades of Grey series. But, really, the last good book I read was Jennifer Egan’s A Visit from the Goon Squad. It was beautifully written with great characterization.


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