Monday, 3 September 2012

Author Interview with R.B. Harkess

I'd like to welcome author R.B. Harkess to the Making Connections blog today!

R.B. is the author of
Aphrodite's Dawn, a YA sci-fi adventure:

A gripping science fiction epic of a young man fighting to save a world he has only just found he lives within as he deals with obstacles, betrayals of trust, and changing relationships.
Aphrodite's Dawn is currently available in the Making Connections - YA Edition group on Goodreads in exchange for an honest review.  Follow this link to sign up for your copy!
When did you first consider yourself an author?
I guess I must have first thought I was an author when I was about 7. At least, I remember blagging my teacher (Mrs Ball) that I couldn’t do writing class because I had writers block. After that I toyed with writing every five or ten years, but nothing ever came of it. I guess things were waiting until I was ready, or maybe until I had grown up enough.
Then I got my first acceptance, February 2011. ‘Jack in the Box’ got placed in ‘Escape Velocity: The Anthology’. Funnily enough, it wasn’t the offer or the contract, it was the editor dropping me an email and asking me if the piece was still available that made me feel like a real writer.

Tell us about your main character(s).
Ooh. Main characters is difficult. I’ve got so many of them. I think the one I am most proud of is Claire Stone. Nobody knows her yet; I’m still looking for a publisher for her. She’s a Warrior, and normal kid who finds her way through to Underland – a place almost like our world, just a little bit different. She’s not like the other Warriors. She started late and has a lot of work to do to catch up, and the locals don’t like her. I only have one story for her so far, but I’ve plans for more in a series.
Main characters are tricky, though. I really like to directness of seeing everything through the main characters eyes, even having him or her tell you the story. My first novel ‘Aphrodite’s Dawn’ is told like that. Then again, if you have more ‘main characters’ an author can make the story richer and more complex. I feel you have to let the story explain to you how it wants to be told.

What is your work schedule like when you're writing?
 I have a ‘day’ job, like most writers. Even when I’m in the frenzy of a first draft, everything has to fit around the day job and the commute. I get about two hours a day if I’m prepared to do without a social life. The first draft of ‘Amunet’, the story I’m building at the moment, took about 10 weeks. It will take at least that long to edit it into something I can start showing people, but I need to let it rest a while. In the meantime I’m helping another writing friend by doing an edit on her novel.

Are there any authors (living or dead) that you would name as influences?
I don’t think I can point at an author and say he or she influences my writing, at least not directly. I want to write like me, not like somebody else. I don’t really get people who want to write in the style of someone like Lovecraft, unless they put something of their own into the piece.
There are many authors I respect as a reader, probably too many to list, and it’s often just one book that draws me rather than a writer’s whole output. John Brunner is an example of that. He wrote a book called ‘Shockwave Rider’ many years ago that predicted a lot of what we see in the internet now, but that was the only work of his I ever got on with. When I was in my preteens everything was space opera: Heinlein, EE ‘Doc’ Smth, Brian Ernshaw’s ‘Dragonfall 5’ series. As I got older I drifted around fantasy and SF, not really being loyal to either, flirting with David Eddings, F Paul Wilson and Spider Robinson.
So given I like to write the sort of thing I would like to read, I guess these folks had and indirect influence on my writing, but I wouldn’t say I try to emulate anyone.

What do you do to unwind and relax?
Unwind? Relax? I’m a writer. I don’t have time to relax.
Books and music, mainly. I like internet radio services where you tell them what you like and the make suggestions for stuff you may not know. Seems my favourites at the moment are trip-hop and downbeat electronica. Neither term means a thing to me, but I like music without voices. They distract me when I’m reading or writing.
I should get off my backside and get out more, but I’m in a place in my life where writing is more important just about than anything else. OK, Wife, cats and paying the mortgage don’t apply, but otherwise it’s pretty true. Still, not good for me.

Where do you hope to see yourself in the next five years?
In five years? – hopefully finding time to relax and get some exercise.
OK, I’d be lying if I didn’t admit to hoping to be making a living from writing, but the chances of that happening are lottery-sized. I’ll be happy if I’m still writing seriously. I know there are people who write because they have to, tearing each word from their soul and inscribing on the paper with their own blood. Me, I write because I enjoy it, but most of all because I want others to enjoy it. I think writing is like fire.
To get a fire burning you need fuel, air, and heat to ignite it. To me, to keep writing you need time and creativity, but what keeps you going is success, or recognition. Just something to let you know somebody else values what you do. So I hope in five years I’ve entertained enough people to keep me writing.

In your opinion, what are the most important elements of good writing?
Good writing is about characters. Everything else is a framework you build to allow characters to interact with your world and with each other. Dialog ultimately comes from your characters. If you don’t know them well enough to let that out, your story is going to be flat and lifeless.
Readers need to be able to emotionally identify with characters. Its how a writer gets the buy in. That deal with the reader that says ‘suspend your disbelief and trust me’, by giving the reader characters real enough that they’ll invest the time in finding out what happens to them

What are you reading now?
What am I reading? I normally have two books on the go at the same time; an ‘ordinary’ book and an audio book. My commute is between two and three hours each day, so I get through audiobooks fairly quick. So, my dead tree book I’m just about to start is ‘Uglies’ by Scott Westerfield, and I’m about 75% of the way through ‘The Windup Girl’ by Paolo Bacigalupi.
I like reading YA as much as I enjoy writing it. Its fresh and focused in a way mainstream writing can often miss out on. Uncluttered. Probably going to be ‘Insurgent’ by Veronica Roth for the next audiobook.
You can find out more about R.B. Harkess and his Aphrodite's Dawn on Goodreads or his Blog.

Find Aphrodite's Dawn on Amazon


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