Interview with Barry Jonsberg

April 30, 2014 Bookish 0

Hello! Today Barry Jonsberg, author of Pandora Jones: Admission, stops by to answer a few questions about the first book in the thrilling Pandora Jones series. Here’s a little about the book:

Pandora Jones: Admission by Barry JonsbergPandora Jones: Admission by Barry Jonsberg
Published: May 2014 by Allen & Unwin
Format: Paperback, 312 pages
Series: Pandora Jones #1
Genres: Fantasy, Post Apocalyptic, Science Fiction
Reading Challenges: Australian Authors – Male

Pandora Jones wakes in an infirmary – her body weak, her memory providing only flashes of horrific scenes of death. She soon discovers that her family has succumbed to a plague pandemic which almost wiped out humanity. Pan is one of the survivors who have been admitted to The School – a quarantined, heavily guarded survival-skills facility – to recover their strength, hone their skills and prepare for whatever comes next. Pandora’s skill is intuition, but how useful will it be outside the secure walls of The School? And what if it leads her to question where the truth lies…

Plague. Pandemic. Intuition. Secrets. Truth. Courage. Action. Survival.

Hi Barry, welcome to Speculating on SpecFic. Thank you. Nice to be here!

1. You were inspired to write Pandora Jones: Admission after you started thinking “What if a girl woke up in a strange place called The School and she had no idea how she got there? What happened in the past?” How did the story grow from there?

Ah, nice question. All I really had at that stage was a basic scenario and the name of the character – Pandora Jones. Obviously the name Pandora has all sorts of connotations regarding bringing mischief into the world [though I wanted to avoid the obvious “Pandora’s Box” allusions]. It got me thinking about how Pandora would cope with the idea that the world had died and that all hope for the future was invested in The School – the remote place where survivors are brought to learn survival skills. Perhaps the story was going to be about just that – survival after a pandemic, but Pandora had other notions. It’s great when that happens. A character suddenly starts having her own ideas and you simply become the medium by which she explores them. So Pan suddenly starts to have suspicions about The School’s real motives and is convinced those in power are hiding secrets. What are those secrets and is Pan right? Well, I had to write it to find out. Turns out, there are all sorts of twists and turns that I wasn’t expecting – so many, in fact, that what was going to be a stand alone novel turned into a trilogy.

I had so much fun living with Pandora. Actually, I’m still living with her.

2. You’ve written both male and female protagonists before. What’s one piece of advice you’d give to writers about writing protagonists of the opposite sex?

I’m not sure if there is one piece of advice about writing from the perspective of the opposite sex. With any character, you have to live and breathe them, know them as fully as possible. I find that after a time, the character comes to life. It’s a little like giving resuscitation to something apparently lifeless. You work and work and then suddenly [hopefully] they start breathing by themselves. I love that stage of characterisation because then you are simply channeling.

So, I guess my advice would be: immerse yourself totally in your character and wait to see if they come alive. If they do, problems over!

3. I love that your book mixes elements of fantasy, science fiction and survival stories into its plot. Was it difficult to pitch the series when you were selling it because it blends a few genres together?

Not at all. My publishers are very supportive of everything I do, whether it be realistic fiction or the kind of dystopian fiction apparent in the Pandora trilogy. “Write what you want to write,” they said, “and we’ll see what happens.” It turns out they loved Pandora from the beginning and are very enthusiastic about her imminent arrival on the bookshelves of Australia.

I asked Barry to write a one line pitch for prospective readers as a bonus question, and he answered!

Everyone Pandora Jones knew is dead – she remembers it vividly – but sometimes you cannot trust your own memories.

4. Some authors describe their characters talking in their heads, almost having an agency outside of what the author gives them. Do you feel this way about your characters?

Oops, I think I’ve already answered this [I should read all the questions first, shouldn’t I?]. Yes, absolutely. I do believe that if you force a character to do what you want them to do, they will never function as efficiently as they might. It’s a little bit like having a kid – you guide and nurture the process of development, but the whole point of that is so that the child eventually thinks for himself/herself and becomes autonomous. And, yes, characters speak to me all the time. I’m just now re-writing parts of Book 2 and Book 3 and Pandora natters away at me from morning to night. I like having her in my head. She’s good company. And a bit scary at times.

Rapid Fire Round

1. Your thoughts on Vegemite? Not fond. I’m a marmalade kind of guy.

2. Please describe Pandora in three words. Kind, tough, resourceful.

3. If you were in the School with Pandora, what would your special skill or talent be? Writing the history of The School without understanding its true purpose.

About Barry Jonsberg

Barry Jonsberg was born in Liverpool in England – home of the world’s greatest soccer team [NOT Everton].

He moved to Australia in 1999 and became an Australian citizen in 2007, though this does not prevent him from supporting the England cricket team.

Someone has to. Barry has a B.A. Hons in English Literature and a Master of Philosophy degree in the same subject.

He was a lecturer in English in the UK and a high school teacher in Darwin, where he now lives with his wife, Anita, two children, Lauren and Brendan, and a couple of eccentric dogs.

Barry still teaches occasionally, but looks upon writing as his full-time occupation.


Pandora Jones: Admission is published in Australia by Allen and Unwin, and is available now at all good bookstores and online

A huge thanks to Barry, who got his interview responses back in less than a day!! Thank you so much for taking the time to answer my questions 🙂

And to the wonderful folk at Allen and Unwin for organising this opportunity 🙂

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