How Long is a Piece of Rope: Jake Barton


Jake Barton is something of an indie legend. His book Burn Baby Burn (£0.71 on Amazon UK, $0.99 on has come out of nowhere to take the charts by storm, spending goodness knows how long in the Amazon UK top 100 overall, spending most of its time in the teens. So it is an honour to put some questions to him.

First, though, the blurb:

A dark and disturbing glimpse into the mind of a sociopath and the apparently impossible attempt by a young woman to expose his crimes.

Marcus was special. He’d always known it. Even at the age of six when he’d decided to kill his father. His privileged background should have produced a doctor, an academic, perhaps a diplomat. Instead, he killed people for fun.

Donna O’Prey is the most junior member of a small private security firm. A routine search for a missing teenage girl escalates into something much more serious when a ransom demand is received. Donna becomes convinced that Marcus is responsible for the abduction. Eleven years previously, while still a child, Marcus had been convicted of the brutal murder of two young children, but a Home Office review board has now sanctioned his release.

Donna needs all her battling qualities as she attempts to rescue the missing girl, but how will she cope when her own safety is threatened?

And those questions. Are you ready, Mr Barton?

1. BBB is way better than Fyodor Dostoyevsky’s ‘The Brothers Karamazov’ but one day I’d really like to be as good as ‘Biggles Flies Undone’, that little-known masterpiece by Capt W. E . Johns.

2. You will just love my book if you enjoyed Silence of the Lambs but if you’re a fan of Sophie Kinsella steer well clear

3. Change/Revolution/Political Power/Ethics ________comes from the barrel of a gun. I’ve seen all these attributed to the use of weapons as a means to an end. All are terrifying prospects. Sadly most of the regret comes from the likelihood of the accuracy of the proposition.

4. How do you see the role of food in the contemporary thriller and where does BBB fit into the spectrum?

I’m a foodie, albeit mainly as an end consumer, aka ‘eater,’ but I wrote a 300 page recipe book during my time in France. Burn, Baby, Burn has very little time for food. With hindsight, this was a massive error. I love the details in a novel; food has such possibilities for description, evoking a scene perfectly. A book I read recently, Peter Brook’s ‘The Alchemy of Chance’ uses descriptions of meals to great advantage.

5. How would it affect the direction BBB takes if the action were moved wholesale to the set of Glee in chapter 7?

This may be the most inappropriate and ludicrous question ever posed. Certainly, the most difficult to answer. Suffice it to say, the story of the hunt for a serial killer would pose new challenges for the cast. I’d imagine they’d all want to play the part of the ‘baddie.’ There’d be far less menace involved, a greater emphasis on costume design and any amount of ensemble singalongs around the corpses as they pile up. A sea change in emphasis, and as such inclined to be confusing.

6. When you’re writing, would you rather look out at the sea, or in at your thoughts?
I’ve done both, sea every time. I started serious writing in Spain, sitting in a lounger on my terrace, perched high on a mountain ridge overlooking the Mediterranean. As a view, perfection. As a distraction from writing, without parallel. I wrote despite the view, not because of it, but if faced with the choice of a windowless garret without any excuse for loss of concentration or a seat in the sunshine with views across a sparkling sea to the Rif Mountains of Morocco – come on, that’s a no-brainer, isn’t it? It’s not all about efficiency.

7. When writing, do you start at the beginning and keep going, or start at the end and work back?

Either method suggests a degree of organization. That doesn’t come into the equation with my ‘system.’ I write random ‘bits’ – some of which will make it as far as the final novel, most won’t. I have a vague idea of structure, but again this rarely survives to the final version. I looked back at my first draft of Burn, Baby, Burn a while ago, written eight years back, and it bears no relation to what the novel became.

8. A great villain or a great hero?

In a word, villain. Who bothers with Tom Brown when Flashman is in the scene? I love my villains, as do most of my readers. They’re the interesting ones. My wife, a fierce yet benevolent critic of my writing and much else, refused to allow me to kill off my villain. Back from the dead he came to terrorise yet another cast of innocent bystanders.

9. BBB will change the way a reader looks at the future of mankind.

No, of course it won’t but there may be somebody out there who sees great philosophical insight in my book and I’ve no wish to disillusion them.
It may also affect sleep patterns – not the ideal book to read late at night, alone in a house, filled with shadows, and still expect a good night’s sleep.

10. How long is a piece of rope?

In my experience, usually about two feet shorter than the purpose for which it is intended. My struggles with inadequate materials over the years can be summed up in the form of lengths of rope. The joy of discovery, a problem solved, followed by crushing despair as the rope proves woefully inadequate. A metaphor for my life.


~ by danholloway on April 11, 2011.

7 Responses to “How Long is a Piece of Rope: Jake Barton”

  1. Dan,

    Great site! Great feature! Some tough questions handled well by Jake, I would say. BBB really has been a great success,

    Yes, I’d love to be your next victim.

    Best wishes


  2. That’s great, Seb, I’ll e-mail you the questions!

    Very best

  3. You always give good interview Dan – and Jake gives as good as he gets. So not surprising this is one of the best ones yet. 🙂

  4. Dan

    The questions don’t seem to have have got through to Can you please send again?

    Best wishes


  5. I sent them to that addy on the 13th. Have sent again – may well have gone to your spam box – I sent from eightcutsgallery at googlemail dot com

  6. Great interview. I love what you’re doing here.

  7. Thanks, Sara. I like the look of your site. Do get in touch if you fancy being “rope”d!

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