Interview with Jo Sparkes, author of 'The Birr Elixir'

A well-known Century City Producer once said Jo Sparkes “writes some of the best dialogue I’ve read.”

Jo graduated from Washington College, a small liberal arts college famous for its creative writing program, forgot about writing totally, until she had a chance to study with Robert Powell, a student of renowned teachers Lew Hunter and Richard Walter, head of UCLA’s Screenwriting Program.

She has written feature film scripts, scripts for Children’s live-action and animated television programs, a direct to video Children’s DVD, and commercial work for corporate clients. A featured writer on several websites, she was a member of the Pro Football Writers Association and (very unofficially) the first to interview Emmitt Smith when he came to the Arizona Cardinals.

Jo served as an adjunct teacher at the Film School at Scottsdale Community College, and even made a video of her most beloved lecture.

Her book for writers and artists, “Feedback How to Give It How to Get It” has received glowing reviews.

When not diligently perfecting her craft, Jo can be found exploring her new home of Portland, Oregon, with her husband Ian, and their dog Oscar.

Her latest book is the fantasy, The Birr Elixir.

You can visit her website at or connect with her at twitter at 

Q: How hard was it to write a book like this and do you have any tips that you could pass on which would make the journey easier for other writers?

I had a burning desire to create a fantasy – and foolishly thought there’d be less work with less research.

There is research in fantasy. Because there are elements of real world, such as how herbs really work, or how one must unstring a bow to preserve it. You can’t escape research.

And on top of that, add the need to create an entire universe and keep it consistent and clear in your mind and on the page. The layout of towns, the jobs people have, the things valued and despised. I have a three page treatise on the religions of the land. Then the history – what all has passed to bring the society to the point it is today?

Many fantasies have traveling as part of the adventure – and many have hand drawn maps printed in the book. Believe me, it’s because the author needed them to keep it all straight in the tale.

For anyone about to write a fantasy, I suggest a second page of sheer notes for yourself, on anything you create that you might need to remember later. And frequently organize those.

Q: Who is your publisher and how did you find them or did you self-publish?

I’m using Oscar Press – Oscar is my dog. He’s very critical and tends to have strong opinions, like all good editors.

The changes in the entertainment world today, be it music, film, episodic ‘television’, and books, is nothing short of revolutionary to me. Not so long ago all these areas had gatekeepers – with deadbolts on the gates. This was due to the cost of the technology to go it alone, and the need for distribution to get your creation out to the world.

Today that infrastructure is crumbling. A filmmaker can shoot, edit, and add professional quality sound without ever visiting a Hollywood studio. And a writer can hire a cover designer, an editor, and marketing wizards.

Q: Is there anything that surprised you about getting your first book published?

Just – holding it in your hand. It’s an accumulation of many things, more than the actual work. I suppose it’s a dream manifested.

Q: Can you describe the feeling when you saw your published book for the first time?

A sense of un-realness. Joy. Gratitude.

And the tiniest little fear – of what the heck happens now?

Q: What other books (if any) are you working on and when will they be published?

There are several in my head vying for attention. Sort of like unruly children.

Marra, Tryst, and Drail are about to find their world seriously complicated. That book is slated for release in November.

Beyond that, there is a summer beach book that’s bursting to be told. It’s sort of a supernatural horror in a tropical setting. I’m trying to ignore it for the moment – but I don’t know how long I can hold out.

Q: Fun question: How does your book contribute to making this world a better place?

The world can be a very serious place, with startling events in the news and personal challenges just down the street. If a book can give just a little respite, a tiny bit of well-earned entertainment, it’s done its job.

And a very noble job at that.

Q: Finally, what message (if any) are you trying to get across with your book?

Characters speak to different people, of course. And those messages can be very different for each individual. I try not to interfere with that.

After all, it’s a private conversation.
Q: Thank you again for this interview!  Do you have any final words?

For all you artists out there – go ahead and create.

Art doesn’t succeed or fail by the amount of cash it earns. It succeeds in speaking to the soul -- of touching one or a thousand people. And the most important soul you must reach is your own.

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