The Fourth Law
by Clayton Barnett
ROOM WITH BOOKS encourages our readers to follow the tour and leave comments.
GENRE: Science Fiction
In 2026, 23 year-old apprentice nurse Lily Barrett lives in a shattered time. Following its economic collapse, the US has devolved into a group of a few barely-functional smaller states, and vast swathes of barbarian badlands. Her sister has been missing for years, and her father, after earning the opprobrium of most of the world for running a state terror organization, presumed dead.
Two things keep her going: her live-in job at a small, Catholic orphanage in the city of Waxahachie, Republic of Texas, and Ai, her odd, but dear friend, whom she met online: a young woman who only shows herself to Lily as a rendered CG image.
Troubled by her past, haunted by her name, and facing an uncertain future, Lily seeks only a quiet, normal life. But, that past and her present conspire against her. A new Morning has come, and with it, delights and terrors, happiness and adversity.
Where do we come from?
What are we?
Where are we going?
A young woman, or older girl. Call her twenty, Lily thought. A burnt-orange, silk, Chinese-style dress. Her face that indeterminate Eurasian that could have her from Hungary to western China. Her hair, though. Long, and artificially dyed; in this awful light it was hard to tell exactly, but somewhere between a blue and a green… aquamarine?
Lily very slowly put her left hand out, stopping just shy of the girl’s face.
“Is…is it…you, Ai?” The girl smiled and nodded.
“Welcome to my home, friend Lily!”
Happy that she finally saw Ai in person, Lily was completely perplexed.
With a look of surprise and her hands to her cheeks, Ai exclaimed, “Oh! But where are my manners? I’ve never had a guest before! Let’s sit over here!” She stepped past Lily’s left. Turning, Lily saw a small wrought-iron table with two chairs of similar make. Those were not there a second ago. Ai sat primly and waved at the other chair for Lily. After a moment’s hesitation, she joined her.
Ai continued to beam at her. “This is so nice! That’s right, you’re a coffee drinker, here! I’m going to try some tea, though.” Ai raised a delicate china cup to her lips, then paused.
Lily looked down to find a stout white mug in front of her. Her nose told her that the liquid inside was coffee, but why was the coffee as clear as water?
Today I’m very lucky to be interviewing Clayton Barnett, author of “The Fourth Law.”
Hi Clayton, thank you for agreeing to this interview. Please tell us a little about yourself and your background.
Surely! I’m a man in my late forties currently consigned to live in central Ohio. I’m blessed with my dear wife and two wonderful daughters. I was born in Houston, but raised by and large in the Mountain West. I’ve a degree in Systems Engineering from the University of Arizona, and worked about fifteen years as a design engineer. Then, by the grace of God, I was able to be a full-time father to my young children. Eventually, my wife ordered me back to the “real world,” where I’ve reinvented myself as a pharmacy technician. About three years ago I started writing visual novels and just a year ago, traditional novels.
What were you like at school?
In primary and secondary school, very quiet and studious. I read voraciously, hundreds of books each year. Much the same in college. In both places I’d a small circle of friends to whom I was very loyal.
Were you good at English?
Extremely! In fact, I was one of those very odd guys that scored higher on the SAT’s ‘verbal’ section than on the ‘math’ section! I don’t know all the nitpicky rules of my native language, but I know very well how to use it.
What are your ambitions for your writing career?
I want people to be able to see what I’ve seen; I want them to be happy. Simple, really.
Which writers inspire you?
Niven and Pournelle for science fiction, certainly. Colleen McCullough and Edward Rutherford for historical fiction. CS Lewis’s fiction and non-fiction…a wonderfully terse writer.
Give us an insight into your main character. What does Lily do that makes her so special?
Lily Barrett always had it easy. Like many kids today, she came from an upper-middle class background: nice big house and yard in central Ohio, Catholic primary and secondary schools, swim teams, karate teams, piano and violin lessons… a child of privilege, but not luxury.
Then, because of the economic then political chaos of the Breakup, all that ends. She’s forced to finish her schooling in Japan, living with her mother and father in a tiny apartment; later, when she returns to North America – the newly formed Republic of Texas – it slowly dawns on her that her father is the head of an organization similar to the Checka or Gestapo, that is killing thousands for the ‘preservation’ of the new Republic.
She walks away from all that. First working for nothing more than room and board at a small orphanage in the town of Waxahachie, later convincing the local hospital to take her on as a nurse apprentice. Lily is certainly frightened and uncertain about many things, but I wanted to show that she has a solid core of iron, so to speak: she wants to help others, not claw her way back to her life of comfort. This is put to the test a number of times, most especially when she loses her boyfriend a year ago, then when her new friend, Ai, pushes just a little too hard about Lily’s family, but each time she steadies herself around her core beliefs, and moves forward.
What are you working on at [this] minute?
I’m writing answers to your questionnaire!
Oh. That’s not what you meant…sorry! 🙂
I’m trying to see all the myriad ways that both the humans and the others in my Machine Civilization world might be going! I’ve a good handle on Lily’s and Ai’s love for one another. Henge just got baptized. I’m wondering what Fausta will do with that combat-android body she owns. Some of the things that Dorina is working on are positively frightening! Little Susie spends so much time in ‘their home,’ I wonder if it’s affecting her mind? Are Gary and Henge really getting married? What will the Hartmann’s be doing when the get back to Knoxville?
I guess I’m working on several things.
Which actresses would you like to see playing the lead characters from The Fourth Law?
This will be an interesting juxtaposition…
Lily: Anna May Wong.
Ai: Hatsune Miku.
What made you decide to sit down and actually start writing?
In the case of “The Fourth Law,” it was National Novel Writing Month: a personal challenge to write a 50k word novel during the month of November. I did it in twenty days. It was just…awful! But three weeks of editing later, it wasn’t too bad. A few days later, I uploaded it and I became a self-published author. I reinvented myself…again!
Do you have a special time to write or how is your day structured?
I try to write for about forty-five minutes right when I get home from work. Sometimes it’s actual story, sometimes just notes and ideas, but I make the time to do it, regardless!
Where do your ideas come from?
Honestly, I’ve no idea… it scares the hell out of me, sometimes. I think about these characters – sometimes I even talk to them – and let ideas dance in my mind. Eventually I “see” a scene and later write that scene down.
That is also one of the reasons that I chose to let Lily’s Catholic faith be rediscovered by her: if I, the so-called author, leave my mind and soul so open, I want to make sure that the wrong people are not feeding me material. And yes, I mean that.
Do you work to an outline or plot or do you prefer just to see where an idea takes you?
I learned a term at another Tour stop: pantser. As in, seat-of-the-pants… making it up as you go along, which I most certainly do! Then again, I’m in good company. There was once a professor of Language that jotted a note in the margin of one of his student’s papers: “In a hole in the ground, there lived a Hobbit.” He was curious as to what a Hobbit was, and why it lived in a hole. That marginal note ended up taking the professor into some amazing places! I can but hope Lily and Ai do the same for me.
What is the hardest thing about writing?
Time. Making thereof.
Do you read much and if so who are your favorite authors.
Hmmm. I’ve covered this a couple of times on other Tour stops, and I don’t want to be boring, so let me tell you my favorite non-fiction authors! That’s something new!
Plutarch, Tacitus, Dante, John Casti, PJ O’Rourke, GK Chesterton, Raymond Brown, Thomas Cahill, John Meier, Robert Leckie, David McCullough.
For your own reading, do you prefer eBooks or traditional paper/hard back books?
I’m an old man in a dark place. I don’t mind reading blog posts on my smartphone, but if it’s a book, give me old fashioned wood-pulp, please.
What books are you reading at present?
I’ve been re-reading several sections of Colleen McCullough’s Masters of Rome series of novels; best historical fiction ever. I also just finished re-reading “The Age of Napoleon” by Herold; I wanted some insight into the political environment of the Revolution to help me with some of what I’m thinking about.
Tell us about the cover and how it came about. Who designed your book cover?
The cover of T4L was illustrated by my friend and colleague, Will Deonne. We’d worked together before on our visual novels. As this was my first release of a traditional novel, I did not want to throw a bunch of money at something that might turn out to be a huge disappointment. I think he did a fine job at giving us a glimpse at Lily’s seriousness and Ai’s playfulness on the cover. In wonderful contrast to that is Lily’s little smile on the back cover, as she taps a note to her beloved friend. God, I wish I could draw!
Do you have a trailer or do you intend to create one for “T4L”?
Funny you should ask…the illustrator for the cover of “T4L” and our visual novels wanted to play around with some simple animation. So, he made what is essentially a teaser-trailer based upon the first two pages of my story. It’s still lacking sound f/x and music, but if you’re curious, the link is here:
Do you think that giving books away free works and why?
Depends. I’ve given away four copies of “T4L” and two of “EFL” to my girls primary school library. I’m thinking about doing the same for our town’s public library.
Having said that, these are works of my mind. To not pay another for their work is theft. Often times “giving” books away for free is just an irrational emotional indulgence of a writer. Look, I want my stories out there, I want people to read them! I set the Kindle price at US $0.99; the physical copy was the lowest I could as allowed by CreateSpace, but you must pay others for their work, or we’re all back in the caves fretting about bears.
How do you relax?
I like to think of myself as a ‘semi-professional alcoholic.’ That is, I don’t go to the meetings. 😉
What is your favorite quote?
“What family doesn’t have its ups and downs?” I’ve managed to work it into both books, so far.
What is your favorite movie?
“The Lion in Winter;” it’s where that quote just above comes from!
How can readers discover more about you and you work?
Several places! Here are some links!
Any final words?
Thank you so much for putting up with me on this book tour! Let’s do it again soon for “Echoes of Family Lost” and “Henge’s Big Day!”.
It would be a pleasure to host you for again for both books. I’ll work on new interview questions and hang my head in *shame* that you are able to correct me when I make grammatical mistakes! Thank you very much for taking the time out of your busy schedule to join Room With Book for this interview.
One time engineer, some time pharmacy technician, full time husband and father, Clayton Barnett stumbled into writing a traditional novel last November during National Novel Writing Month. Liking the results, he edited what would become “The Fourth Law” and set about teaching himself self-publishing. In July of 2015, he released a sequel entitled “Echoes of Family Lost,” in what is now called his Machine Civilization series. He is working on a third book – for children – and is making notes for a fourth. Clayton Barnett lives in central Ohio with his wife, two daughter, and two dogs.
Clayton Barnett will be awarding a $30 Amazon or Barnes and Noble gift card to a randomly drawn winner via Rafflecopter during the tour.