If you like your book characters likable but flawed, and a little irreverent, you’re going to enjoy Joe Barrett’s new novel Unplugged. Fed up with the trajectory of his life, Dan Johnson gives up his cell phone, computer, and all digital technology. His extensive business earnings haven’t made him happy nor has his on-again, off-again relationship with his scantily clad fiancé. Ironically, it’s a case of mistaken identity that allows Dan to uncover a new passion and direction for his life.
This is Barrett’s third published novel since 2018 and it has the same rich characters and fluid dialogue as his first two, Managed Care and Daisy in the Doghouse. Barrett is an award-winning author. Unplugged just won the 2020 Maxy for Literary-Humor and Managed Care won the 2019 Maxy Book of the Year and Pencraft’s Best Fiction of the Year, also in 2019. Prior to writing, Barrett worked as a chief executive in various companies and served on several boards for-profit and non-profit companies. In those 25 years, he traveled extensively internationally and spent eight years living in Hong Kong.
“When I am writing, the characters become like new family members. My family and I discuss them all the time, Barrett continues, “I always have dialogue running in my head.”
Aimee Frank of New York has read all three books and says, “I have really enjoyed reading all of author Joe Barrett’s books. He has a creative way with words and keeps the readers engaged and entertained throughout…storylines are so inventive that you have no idea how it will end, and that’s what keeps me reading. I especially enjoy Barrett’s writing style as his main characters always seem to say what we are all thinking. The only difference is that we are afraid of the social implications, and his main characters are not. I find that so refreshing!”
Barrett, originally from New Jersey, has used his home state as the backdrop of his novels. He writes in first person because he says “it’s easier to write dialogue”, but he admits there is a little bit of himself in each of his main characters.
Ideas for his characters have come from all sorts of places, Barrett says, “Frank showed up when I was picking up my kids from school and passed a nursing home. Originally, I thought of him living there just to be taken care of and then I worked that into a story of him living there because he couldn’t get a refund on the prepayment he had made for his grandfather who died before he moved in.”
One big surprise to Barrett in his new career as a writer has been the feeling of being so vulnerable in the creative process. It’s a lot different than the corporate boards and he’s been involved with he says, although he thinks writing demands are similar, “It was only when I left the business world, and starting writing novels that I realized I’m using the same instincts writing as I am to grow a business. It’s like juggling balls while you’re running a marathon. You need creativity, discipline and bravery.”
Reagan Rothe of Black Rose Writing says, “One of my favorite aspects of Managed Care was how Joe Barrett portrayed the kids (early teens). They weren't blind to society or 'trapped' in a room their whole lives, they know how to swear and then some. It reminded me of how Stephen King writes kids in his novels, they are unfiltered but authentic. They are layered characters not blessed with some Angelic euphoria that hides them from the dregs of the real world”.
Dark Humor & Witty Dialogue
Unplugged is filled with dark humor and witty dialogue. It’s a coming of middle-age story about making genuine human connections in a world full of distractions. You’ll laugh out loud and get attached to the characters, wondering what they’ll do next. There is always something unpredictable about how the story unfolds.
In the end, Barrett says, “I just want to make people laugh, cry or just distract them for a little while.”
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