The short bio:
Colin F. Barnes writes science fiction that’s more pew-pew than deep-dive physics and fantasy that’s more Dresden Files than Lord of the Rings. The first novel he read as a child was Dune. Sadly, his name is not a killing word. He also wanted to be Han Solo growing up and kinda still does. He’s sold over half-a-million books, and his mum says he’s the bestest boy—or maybe that’s her dog. Whatever.
He’s published by Amazon’s 47North imprint, Podium, and Audible. He honed his craft with the Open University and the London School of Journalism. When not writing, he captains an intergalactic starship. He’s also a high-ranking wizard, and would totally become a vampire if offered.
He’s the author of the Code Breakers, The Last Flotilla, and and has written a number of books under the pseudonym of A.C. Hadfield.
Connect With Me
If you have any questions, would like to chat, willing to birth a space baby, or just want to send me a picture of your dog, cat, chameleon, or giant eagle, you can do so via the socials and my contact form.
I’m always happy to hear from my readers:
The excessively long bio:
Bios written in third-person are weird, right? I’m going to stick with first-person for the rest of this because I’m not a fan of sticking to convention. Also, this is going to be quite long, with various sub-sections. You want to know all my dirty secrets, right? Strap in, protect your sex organs at all times, and let’s go!
Childhood Interests and Hobbies
Growing up, I was an avid computer game nerd, starting with the Sega Master System, then the Megadrive—best name for a console ever. I was also fortunate enough to have access to a range of computers throughout my childhood. The first was the venerable Commodore 64—also a great name—and then a string of Amigas from the 500 through to the 1200. Sadly, I failed to hack the Pentagon and kickstart a nuclear war.
Outside of gaming, I spent countless hours playing football, skateboarding, or reading. I also enjoyed a spot of fishing, tennis, and Warhammer. The over-riding hobby, however, was Dungeons & Dragons, and I still play regularly to this day. I dare say I’ll be playing it when I’m a decrepit old man. Well, more decrepit than I am now.
These days I’m not much of a video gamer, preferring to spend my leisure time reading, hunting long pig, and base jumping into live volcanoes.
I’m a Gen-Xer—aka, the best generation—born in the 70s to working-class parents in the south of England. Essex, to be precise. The home to many terrible stereotypes that are all kind of true to some extent.
I did not, however, sell double-glazing or cocaine, drive a pimped out Ford Escort—though my first car was a bright orange Fiesta—or date women who wore white stilettos.
I started my creative life after leaving a rough comprehensive school. By rough, I mean it had a feature called the ‘gob-pit’.
My first ambition was to be an artist. I studied graphic design at college and hated it—mostly because my tutor was a psycho with a fetish for shellac.
I shifted my focus to becoming a musician, having discovered 80s thrash metal. Specifically Metallica and Megadeth. It turns out that despite my best efforts, I just wasn’t good enough at guitar wrangling and I didn’t want to try my hand at bass or drums.
And the kazoo apparently isn’t an acceptable instrument for metal. Philistines!
With two creative endeavors swimming in the toilet bowl of ambition, I joined the working world, skipping university because there was no way I could afford it. By then, my parents had split up, and things were tight.
I spent the next 15+ years earning money—drinking much of it—and going nowhere in a hurry. I did, however, collect many fun drunken stories and saw things a human should never see. Sometimes twice.
Despite this, I was writing short stories throughout as a way of bolstering myself against the crushing monotony of working life. I had written a few stories in school and many weird scribblings as a pre-teen. I wrote Grumbleweed fanfiction of all things. Grumbleweeds!
And yes, the Grumbleweeds were a real thing and not some outlandish fever dream: See here for proof.
Realising I wasn’t very good at writing but determined to improve, I enrolled in a short story course run by the London School of Journalism.
Some readers have seen this and thought I was an actual journalist. Not so—this was strictly creative writing. Why the LSJ run such courses I can’t tell you for certain. I mean, it’s probably money, right?
Either way, my tutor was excellent. She taught me a great deal—mostly how far I had to go before I could write anything resembling a good story. Still, it was a step in the right direction.
For the following five years, I paid my dues in various writing groups, workshops, and crit forums—Litopia is still stained with my blood and brain juice. I then took it further, joining the Open University to study for an English degree with a focus on creative writing. And of course, the obligatory modules on Shakespeare. Forsooth!
With that under my belt, I got on with the business of writing and improving my craft.
Around 2010 I discovered authors recording their own books and delivering them in podcast form when the medium was still embryonic. I experimented with creating my own but was appalled at how bad I was at accents. I quickly concluded it was a stupid idea. I was no voice actor. Despite this setback, I finished the book. I then sent it to an ice moon prison for life with no parole.
Disregarding the book’s lack of quality, I had completed my first novel. Win!
For the next couple of years, I continued to write and practice. Around mid-2011 I discovered the Kindle and the publishing platform Amazon provided. This started a whole new career for me.
The Kindle Years
In my previous working life, I had built a web-development company working for the NHS and Renault among other clients. This gave me valuable entrepreneurial experience that I carried through to my writing, setting up a small press and publishing a range of anthologies, collections, and books from various writers, many of whom have gone on to have successful careers. I’m totally taking all credit for this, of course.
After a few years of publishing other people, I knew my heart wasn’t really in it. I wanted to spend more time on my own books.
Up until then, I had only published a couple of novels in what was to become my Code Breakers series—a mashup of post-apocalyptic and cyberpunk genres. When I focussed on my own work, things started to turn around. And quite well, if I do say so.
Salt was picked up by the editor of Amazon’s own publishing imprint, 47North. She signed me to a 2 book deal (Salt & Soil). Quickly on the heels of those, I started co-authoring and publishing regularly, writing in a variety of sci-fi sub-genres. Things were going well, the money was coming in, and readers were enjoying my books.
I moved to Stafford, a town in the midlands where some guy called J RR Tolkein once inhabited. However, things started to turn sour. I mean, the fact he based Mordor on a local ‘beauty spot’ should have been a warning. For a variety of reasons, my work suffered, and my publishing slowed down. But that’s another story, as told here. Spoiler alert: It was totally Orcs and Nazgûl.
Today, however, work is back on the agenda and the words are flowing—if a little more sluggish than I would like. But hey ho, isn’t that always the case?
What I Write
This is kind of a big subject for me. I’ve struggled with it forever. Marketing-wise, it’s far easier and more effective to be known for—and write in—a single genre. Especially so with the traditional publishing industry. I’m a hybrid-author—one who works with traditional publishers and publishes independently—so I have a little more freedom. However, even with that freedom, market forces lean toward a singular genre, simply because it’s easier to benefit from algorithms and marketing principles if one has a clear brand identity.
The problem for me is that I don’t identify with—or want to stick to—any single genre.
Some days I truly wish I was one of these authors who write in just one genre. It would make things so much easier. I’m often paralysed with indecision. Should I write a space opera adventure or a post-apocalyptic epic? What will my readers think if I try to sell them something they’re not used to? How will that mess up my standing with the all-mighty Amazon algorithm?
I have a wide range of tastes. I can’t just write any old thing that’s popular. For some reason—pure shitty luck—all the very popular, high-selling genres are ones I have little to no interest in. Even if I could get over that, my lack of interest would make it incredibly difficult to write and result in a dull story for the reader. I’m constantly stuck between these conflicting aspects.
To rub salt in the wounds, the stories that I truly want to tell often don’t fit neatly into a popular or viable genre, making marketing them an uphill struggle.
I could be happy writing those stories, but as I’m not financially independent or the plaything of a sexy sugar momma (though I’m totally down for that role if there are any wealthy ladies out there who wants to hook up with, and financially support, a writer—my contact details are at the end of this overly long bio), I’d quickly go broke, starve, and have to live under a bridge.
That said, I try to stick within the speculative field of science fiction and fantasy as I feel there’s at least enough crossover between the sub-genres that my wandering interest won’t completely sabotage my career. Recently, I’ve tried to look beyond genre and see what other common elements appear in my work.
It mostly boils down to stories about working-class heroes (no shocker there, given my upbringing), themes of rebellion and/or independence, snarky gallows-humour, and an edginess that I think speaks of growing up in the 80s and 90s. And yes, I’m a total sucker for Stranger Things, damn it.
I prefer to write about everyday people rather than overly privileged upper classes or the elite of society. I like to write about tight-knit groups fighting against the odds. I like to write about mysteries, conspiracies, dark cabals, and general weirdness. This makes it difficult for me to give in to market forces and ‘sell-out’ by writing mass-market fiction of thrillers/romance or whatever.
I’m not saying those are bad genres, by the way. They’re just too normal to hold my interest for long.
I like to escape into my fiction, see and experience things that I don’t in my normal life. I mean, there’s murder all over the place, every day. There’s a ton of shows and films and books all about detectives and those working in and around crime, but at some point, I get fed up with the real and normal and want to experience something different, fun, and weird. I guess this is where my love for Dungeons & Dragons comes from—the ability to role play as a different kind of person, experiencing different conflicts and scenarios.
I’m currently single. I’ve never married, despite a few long-term relationships. I’m not religious and don’t believe in marriage as an institution. I mean, have you seen the divorce rates these days? Although I love animals, I don’t currently have any pets. I really enjoy other peoples’ pets, though. And I’m not liable for their vet bills or upkeep, so win-win!
I don’t have any children or plan on having any—unless I get to father the space baby in 2001: A Space Odyssey, because that’d be pretty cool. I’m sure it would come with some great benefits, like, I don’t know, flying through space in a cosmic womb or something.
- My preferred colours are black and orange.
- I once killed a man. Note to website guy: remove this. I wasn’t even sure if it was a man.
- In the mornings I stand 5, 10″ tall.
- I once fell asleep half-naked in the long grass of Wimbledon Common. I got bitten so many times, it looked like I had leprosy.
- 80% of the time I’m nocturnal.
- During a boozy New Year’s Eve party, I got into a fight-to-the-death with a goose on the Isle of Sheppey.
- I’m allergic to people who play polo.
Films: These are usually sci-fi featuring mysteries and/or cool monsters. Alien, The Thing, and Event Horizon are in my top 5 for sure. The other two are probably Emmanuelle films. That’s a lie. It’s Blade Runner and Lost Boys. Notable mentions: Weird Science, The Matrix, Underworld, Predator, and almost anything by John Carpenter.
Authors: I’m a big fan of 80s/90s horror with notable authors being Stephen King, Brian Lumley—especially his Necroscope series, James Herbert, Shirley Jackson, and Anne Rice. In sci-fi and fantasy, I enjoy Harlan Ellison, Ray Bradbury, Phillip K. Dick, William Gibson, Margaret Atwood, and Robert Jordan. I’m also a big fan of H.P Lovecraft, Tolkien, Michael Moorcock, the Buddha, and Peter Straub among many many others.
TV Shows: Buffy, Dexter, Quantum Leap, Star Trek: TNG, Stranger Things, Firefly, Game of Thrones Seasons 1-5, The Mighty Boosh, and The Chuckle Brothers.
Sharks: Dwarf Gulper, Splendid Lanternshark, Goblin, Megamouth, and the Tasselled Wobbegong.
Bands: All those previously mentioned plus: Black Sabbath, Ghost, Dynatron, Talking Heads, Fat Freddy’s Drop, Truckfighters, Mastodon, In This Moment, Rammstein, Carpenter Brut, JJ Cale, Morcheeba, Tony Joe White, Uncle Acid & The Deadbeats, Ningen Isu, Pink Floyd, Katatonia, Opeth, SOAD, and about a hundred more.
Food & Drink: Bacon, beer, bourbon, cheese & onion crisp sandwiches, potatoes, Pepsi Max Cherry, Yorkshire Tea, gravy. And pizza.
Sports: Football (I’m a Spurs fan), elite disc golf, billiards, downhill cheese rolling.
Cosmic Horrors: Dagon, Nyarlathotep, Cthulhu (obvs!), Shub-Niggurath, Hziulquoigmnzhah, Sharon, and Geoff.
Positions: The reverse goat, the tradesman’s flambé, and the Chattanooga trombone.
Connect With Me
Come and talk with me! I’m always happy to hear from my readers: