Samuel Barrantes publishes Chapel Hill-based novel, ‘Slim and the Beast’

North Carolina-raised Samuél Barrantes has lived in Paris since 2010, but the 26-year-old author’s debut novel, Slim and the Beast,” smacks of home. The dark, heavily philosophical and occasionally violent tale revolves around the friendship of a haunted Iraq War veteran (Slim) and a towering, equally tortured UNC basketball player (The Beast), and the action takes place along familiar Chapel Hill streets and landmarks.

Yet Barrantes won’t be coming back any time soon; he loves his hand-to-mouth European existence.

“This is my apartment – literally you can see the entirety of it,” he says during a Skype chat, turning the computer so its camera captures the 500-square-foot space. “You live in these holes. Bohemian, right?” He teaches English when there’s work, plays basketball with his friends, and writes.

Slim and the Beast isn’t Barrantes’ first novel, but it’s the first one to see publication, thanks to San Francisco crowdsourced publisher Inkshares. Barrantes spoke with us about crowdfunding, writing and North Carolina.

Q: Was the campaign similar to Kickstarter, with incentives and such?

A: The incentives were pretty basic. In some ways, I think that was better. The difference with Kickstarter, from what I understand, it would be me saying “I need 10 grand for myself to finance it.” I wouldn’t necessarily have gotten an editor from FSG or a San Francisco company helping design. Inkshares really had a system set up for it.

Q: What can you tell me about the book you didn’t publish?

A: It was essentially a near-future dystopian critique of American society. The basic premise was a democracy ruled by fear. I liked the story, but the characters weren’t developed at all.

Q: How did you decide to write “Slim and the Beast?”

A: This first one took me three years. “Slim and the Beast” took me three months to the first draft. It started on a train in France. I had this voice in my head from Samuel L. Jackson’s character in “Pulp Fiction” his voice popped into my head, and I wanted to write a scene where this loud guy is ordering a burger. It kind of blew up out of that.

The boys’ night is a big theme in the novel. In Paris at the time I was close to a couple of guys where every Wednesday night we would get together. I wanted to honor those nights, so that fueled the relationship with “Slim and the Beast.”

Q: In the boys’ night out, there’s a solid core of philosophy. Why did you want to dedicate that amount of space to basically a philosophical discussion?

A: Because I am so interested in philosophy, essentially. I wanted to write serious fiction in the sense that I wanted to confront themes that I’m confronting in my life, philosophically, and I wanted to do it in a way that would attempt to be more accessible.

As the cliché goes, I hang out in Paris with writer friends and talk philosophy. So I write what I know.

Q: From reading your book, you evidently love basketball. Do you miss it?

A: I miss it in the sense that I have to stay up very late to watch Duke. It was my first real love. It was my first real passion to play that sport.

Q: Was it easier to write about North Carolina from the outside?

A: Hemingway was never able to write about Paris in Paris; he wrote “A Moveable Feast” in, I think, Cuba. Same for me. When I go back there I love it, and I really love the area and people are really cool and progressive – just as interesting as they are in Paris. It’s too close to home to write about it at home.