The Innovators #3 with…….

Julia DeBarrioz, author

I’m excited to kick off the indie author interviews with the multi-talented Julia DeBarrioz, author of the fantastic Dakota del Toro series, artist and super supporter of other indies!

Introduce yourself.  When did you start writing and inspired you to keep writing?  Tell me about your books.

 Hi, I’m Julia! ::waves::

 I’ve been writing since I was a kid. I was an only child who lived in a rural area with no other children around, so I entertained myself by telling stories and re-telling stories I knew. I cut my teeth writing fanfiction, and finished my first novel when I was 12-13. (It was horrible, LOL). I have to write. Writing is how I process emotions and understand the world, and if I have a story kicking around my head that I don’t have time to sit down and work on I get twitchy and cranky. At the moment I’m writing the Dakota del Toro series. It’s urban fantasy set in New Mexico featuring a woman who is a bounty hunter for supernatural creatures. She finds missing women who have been taken by the monsters on the side, and she gets mixed up in a vampire revolution, as well as romantically entangled with the comandante. Oops!

Where did Dakota Del Toro come from (who or what inspired you to create her) and why is she the central character of your books? Dakota has been with me since I was a teenager, and maybe I can blame a goth cowgirl stage I haven’t really ever outgrown, LOL. I loved vampire stories with a strong female lead, but I wanted to read a story about a character who could both kick ass and embrace her femininity. Maybe that sounds stupid now, but back then those things were presented as mutually exclusive, and it was frustrating. I set the books in New Mexico because, well, I love it there, and I guess it’s a bit of vicarious living on my part. I’ve always been fascinated by Spanish/Latinx culture. I’ve travelled in Spain and Latin America, and I have a tiny bit of Spanish heritage on both my mother’s and father’s sides. Writing Dakota and her supporting characters has been a fun way of connecting with that.

You deal with some big social issues in the books (marginalization and abuse of women).  Tell me why that theme plays such a big role in the series.  There are two things that really scare me: bears, and the patriarchy. We’ve come a long way as far as women’s rights, but you still don’t have to look far to find stories in the news about abuse that happens in this country, and women with brown skin get the worst of it. Google ICE assault allegations, the results are horrifying, and Native American women face violence at staggeringly disproportionate rates compared to other demographics.  America seems like a safe, happy place to live on its shiny surface, but there is a dark underbelly that frankly, should not exist. It makes me angry, and I guess I don’t know what else to do about it except write my stories, try to raise awareness, and vote for people who I hope will actually give a shit.

Why vampires and werewolves?  Who is your favourite literary vampire?  Favourite actor to play a vampire?  Would they make a good Diego de Gama?  If no, then who would play him best on the big screen?  And Dakota? I think I have to blame my dad, who raised me on campy vampire movies. I’ve just always liked that medium. My favourite literary vampire would have to be Lestat, the Brat Prince. Alexander Skarsgård played a pretty excellent vampire in True Blood. I don’t think he’d really work for Diego, LOL. Even though they’re actually musicians, I think Maluma and Rosalía would make for awesome casting for Diego and Dakota.

How do you use social media as an indie author?  Best advice you can give to new indie?  Best money ever spent on or for your writing (an app, a subscription, a workshop, etc)?

 Like anyone else, I guess, I try to use social media to keep people updated and find new readers. I’m not a huge fan of Facebook and I’m terrible at updating on Twitter, but I do enjoy the community on Instagram.

 My best advice to a new indie author might be to watch your wordcount. When you’re starting out and trying to convince people to give you a chance, don’t hit them over the head with a 700 page tome. No one will wade through that. I feel qualified to say this because I made this mistake years and years ago, and it took a lot of work to remedy. The best money I’ve spent for my writing would have to be on book review services. Getting honest reviews might be the hardest part of being an indie, and having access to a pool of reviewers who are willing to go that extra mile after reading are worth their weight in gold.

Tell me about the process/decision to create your own covers?  What is the inspiration behind the designs/colours / theme?  Do you create or sell other artwork not related to the book covers? 

 I guess I’m double cursed, being a writer and an artist, ha. I’m a printmaker at heart, and I think that’s probably reflected in my covers. I have a degree in fine art, and I guess I always wanted to design my own. I know my covers are very different from other books in my genre, but I wanted to evoke a mix of the Spanish and Indigenous folk art of the Southwest, as well as 1960s revolution art. I do make other art besides book covers. I draw, I paint, and recently I’ve gotten into pyrography (wood burning). I’m not very good at collecting money for my work though, LOL, I seem to always be giving it away. I like to make people happy.

You find yourself stuck in a bomb shelter for an indeterminate time.  What one fictional character do you hope to be there with you?  What two movies will you watch and which three books do you want to have?

 Oh dear. What a 2020 question. I would have Jack Sparrow in the room, because I think he’d be pretty entertaining. We would watch Pirates of the Caribbean and The Mask of Zorro, and I would want to have Lonesome Dove by Larry McMurtry, Still Life With Woodpecker by Tom Robbins, and He Shall Thunder by Elizabeth Peters. I never get tired of reading those books.

What’s next for Dakota and Diego?  Any other new projects in the works?

 I have several more books planned for Dakota and Diego, though I do intend to make it a closed series. I am trying to release the next book this winter, and there will probably be 7-8 books when all is said and done. I also have some spin-offs planned. I want to tell Eduardo the bandit’s story in 1860s California, and I’m branching out into contemporary western romance with a new release coming this November. It’s called Evangeline Goes West. Look for it on Amazon. 😀

Julia DeBarrioz
Indie Author

The Innovators {episode 2} with…

Preston Bell


Outside the Shadows

I’m excited to be doing the second installment of The Innovators with my Instagram friend Preston from Outside the Shadows! I’m a fan of his music (and his voice! seriously, one of my top five favourite vocalists to listen to) and he’s a fan of my Insta stories, lol.

Walking in the Dark, The Part of Me and Passing Me By are some of my favourite OTS tunes on my Spotify playlist (you can check them with the Spotify player at the end of this post)……

Introduce yourself.  Tell me about the band and your new single “So Much More” coming out soon – new album to follow??

I’m Preston & I am the singer, songwriter & guitarist for Outside the Shadows. The band currently consists of Tyler Medley on bass & background vocals & Steven Jones on drums. I started this band in 2013 with our original drummer Marty. Marty & I wrote the first two albums together lyrically & I handled the musical parts. Our upcoming single So Much More is one of our heavier songs we’ve written as a band. Tyler actually came up with the main riff for this song & I worked in all of the lyrics & other music for it. It is one of my favorite songs we’ve ever written. This song is about someone who has been verbally abused & bullied throughout life but in this song we get to express how much greater this world is with them in it & how to destroy their words with the pain & move on from it.

There is an album in the works. Is this album a deluxe edition of an album or a whole new album? We shall share soon 😉

What or who influenced you to pursue a career in music? 

I was influenced at a young age watching the musicians at my church play. At that age all I knew was contemporary Christian music. From there I learned drums & began filling in sometimes at church. I went to a Christian music store where I found a band that was covered in tats & had dreadlocks & I was like ‘who are these dudes & what kinda music is this going to be?’ lol. This band I speak is the legendary P.O.D & it was their album Satellite. It was the first hard rock / metal album I ever owned. I was blown away by the guitars & the heavier style vocals & so began my path as a vocalist & my path to learning guitars. All together I play guitar, bass, & drums & occasionally I’ll use a keyboard for effects when recording new music.

What is your creative process for writing songs? Who / what inspires your music?

My creative process is simple. I write a lot of lyrics and the songs that have come to me lyrically have been around for 10+ years & just now made it to music. I always have riffs running through my head that I built upon & usually will have lyrics already written that will work with it or some songs are written lyrics & music together at the same time. So many things inspire my music, mostly my love for heavy music. Heavy music in general just does something for me in a way that most things can’t. Heavy music can bring for me something, that while being heavy, also soothes the soul. There is so much passion in a lot of heavy music. Bands like Demon Hunter & Killswitch Engage just know how to make music heavy & beautiful at the same time. These bands inspire me in so many ways along with hard rockers like Skillet, Red, & P.O.D. If you’ve noticed in a lot of my heavier songs, such as Division, I try to blend those two musical elements along with punk rock & make it kinda my own sound. I know I fit in with certain bands & genres but I try my best to stand out.

You identify your music as Christian Rock.  How does your faith impact / influence your music?

My faith impacts my writing in so many ways. No matter what I’m writing about, whether it be good or bad, always comes down to how my faith in God always gets me through everything. He is always there any time I ever need him so all of my songs end up being about how God always pulls me through. Unless it’s songs like Surrender. Surrender is a simple praise to God above for all that He does in my life. He is an amazing God. The greatest gift of all is son Jesus & the gift of salvation He gave us if we just believe. It’s truly the most beautiful gift ever.

You find yourself on a deserted island with a fictional character – what three songs or albums are you listening to?  And who / what is listening with you?

If I was on a deserted island I would wanna spend it with Shawn Spencer from the show Psych. He reminds me a ton of myself as far as his character, comedy, & just his overall personality. The three albums I would take are Where do we go from here by Pillar, Hearts of the Innocent by Kutless, & Collide by Skillet. I believe those three albums are perfectly made. No bad songs at all & I could listen to them everyday, all day & never lose interest.

What are your thoughts about the state of the music industry today?  What would you change about the music industry if you could?

My thoughts on the music industry now: I think the industry is crap, I think record labels in general have sunk some of the most incredibly talented bands we’ve ever come to know such as Sent by Ravens & many others. I’m blessed enough to be on a label that worked with me on a contract that lets me govern myself musically but helps me get my music to places I can’t. The music industry also tries to tell you how to look & how to sound. That doesn’t work for me. If I can’t sound like Outside the Shadows then I’m out. I will sell out to no one except for Christ, of course. I think now with digital & social being as available to artists & bands as it is, bands should definitely govern themselves for sure or find a manager or label that will agree to help you like mine does but let you run the show like my label does.

How do you use social media to promote your band?  How much do you think it will influence the future of music, especially now with COVID?

I use social media a lot for promoting my band. I believe nowadays it is the best outlet for promotion of music. I think with this pandemic social media is great because you can do lives and shows and still reach your audience. It’s an amazing thing to have, I think, a fantastic tool 😉

What do you most want listeners to take away from your music?

I want listeners to take away positivity from my music. I hope when someone hears my music it can in some way make their life better and they can relate to what I’ve experienced in my own life and how I’ve dealt with certain dark times I’ve been through. Not only do I want to bring people a great sounding product always, but I want it to be a life changing situation. I want God to use the music He gives me to be an outlet for people who struggle with things in life.