Barzak’s Back Again: YSU Professor’s Upcoming Book

Photo courtesy of Chris Barzak.

By Graig Graziosi

Photo courtesy of Chris Barzak.

After critical success with both his novel “One For Sorrow” and the film it inspired, Christopher Barzak, associate professor of English at Youngstown State University, will be releasing a new novel on Sept. 8.

“Jamie Marks is Dead,” the film adaptation of “One For Sorrow,” was a critical success which helped introduce a new audience to Barzak’s work, but before the glitz of his big screen debut, Barzak was hard at work writing — and completely rewriting — his upcoming novel “Wonders of the Invisible World.”

Barzak’s new novel will share both the location and themes of “One For Sorrow,” placing the story where the paranormal world meets Youngstown.

“It’s quite similar to ‘One For Sorrow.’ They share the same setting — characters will show up in Youngstown and there is a scene near the fountain at Fellows Riverside Gardens in Mill Creek Park,” Barzak said. “It’s also similar not just in setting, but also the type of book that it is — it’s a story that takes place in a contemporary, familiar, real world atmosphere, but has a kind of supernatural system that’s sort of working behind the scenes of the mundane world.”

“Wonders of the Invisible World,” while still featuring ghosts, will broaden the scope of the supernatural workings moving the world Barzak has created.

“It is a ghost story, but not in the sort of ‘Jamie Marks is Dead.’ It’s more of a mystery in some ways … this book is very much a mystery at the heart of it,” Barzak said. “I think there’s a bit more of a complex supernatural system to it — there’s more than just ghosts. There’s an entire sort of magical system that I think people will enjoy discovering.”

Penning his new tale was a laborious process, one which spanned two continents and seven years before total completion.

“This one took about seven years to make, which is not my normal style of writing a novel. … Obviously I wasn’t working on consistently through those years, so I would say if I condensed the time it probably took about three years to write,” Barzak said. “I started in the summer of 2004, right before I moved to Japan. I put it down after I moved to Japan … I just had to focus my writing towards the experience of living in a different culture.”

Even after picking the book back up following his time in Japan, Barzak found the novel difficult to construct.

“At a certain point I went back to this book, and it was a really long and arduous journey with it after I committed to finishing it,” he said. “The first few drafts were really difficult — I was having a hard time finding the right angle for the story. … After draft three, I decided I actually had to put aside all the work I had done and sort of reconceptualize the plot and start from page one. I hadn’t done that with a book before this one and had heard other authors’ horror stories about doing that … but ultimately after I finished the new draft, I knew I had the right book.”

“Wonders of the Invisible World” will be released Sept. 8 through Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group.