Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Interview with Poet and Author John Harrison

                                                                                                                          John Harrison
Modesto, California

Good morning, John. It's a pleasure to have you here with us this morning. Can you tell us a little about what you've written?
My first published piece, aside from a few poems in selected Online Poetry Anthologies, was a short story titled Unholy Trinity.  It’s a small three chapter short published in Michael Moorcock’s Otherworld e-zine in England.  It’s about an amnesiac Vampire trying to find out who she is.

My first novel Shadow Dance is a fantasy novel.  The sword and sorcery kind of Fantasy.  From what I’ve been told it would be considered Epic High Fantasy, mainly because there is both magic and elves.  It is the first in the Shadow Saga and I plan on at least five more books to follow it.  The book was published through a couple places as an eBook initially and then finally in print in both hard and soft cover variants.  The next out will be Shadow Play and is scheduled to be released in May 2016.  The third should be out before the end of this year.  Before I get on to the next, I think I should mention that Shadow Dance is going to be available in audio format before the year is out.  I’m working with a talented voice actor, Robert Rossmann and I am in love with what he has put together so far.

I also have a series of three poetry books Titled Whispers Through the Veil.  These are poems arranged according in a dichotic order.  The first one is about Love and Loss, the second is Thoughts and Inspiration, while the third is lyrics and poetic short stories.  All of which are available in both print and eBook.

What about upcoming projects?  What are you working on?
 Well, to be truthful, my literary plate is a little full.

I am finishing up Shadow Flight, the third installment to the Shadow Saga.  As I mentioned earlier, I plan on having this one released before the end of the year.  Not to mention the other three books in the series.

Then there is another, more modern, fictional tale that is halfway done called Sebanik.  It’s about a boy that can bring dreams into reality and how he can live with the gift.  As you can imagine, while it sounds like a great thing, it isn’t as perfect as it seems.  This is going to be one of my charitable campaigns with the majority of the proceeds being donated to the fight against illiteracy.

Another novel is the adaption of Unholy Trinity into a full length novel.  The working name I’m using for it is Bella Rouge.  Like the short story it is still going to focus on Arabella Smith’s life and it will be mostly set in a modern setting.

There are always quite a few other stories tickling around in my brain and fighting for their change to get put on a page, but those are the main ones I am focusing on for now.

What is your favorite genre to write?
Type I’d say fiction...as far as genre, that’s hard.  I feel compelled to write in the story’s genre.  By that I mean as I write, the genre isn’t as important as the elements of the story itself.  Sometimes in a fantasy story, I’ll add a hint of sci-fi or some criminal aspects that you might find in a thriller.

Quite frankly, from the books that I’ve read, that seems to be the way most authors are starting to shift.  The invisible walls of genre are more and more a marketing tool and less of a restraint to confine the author’s expression.

Favorite food.
Nikuman – it’s a Japanese dish.  A fluffy, mildly sweet, bun with a savory meat and vegetable filling that is big enough for a whole meal.

Tea or coffee?
Both?  I mean not at the same time of course…but possibly alternating

Pizza or ice cream?
  Ice Cream.  Don’t get me wrong. Pizza is great, especially if it’s a good New York Style Pie, but Ice Cream.  Wow, just the sound of it makes my mouth water and the little kid deep inside start squirming.

Wine or beer?
For me this one depends on the occasion.  If I’m at a signing or an upscale place, wine without a doubt.  Now if I’ve been asked to do a reading at a pub, in some guy’s man cave, anywhere with a roaring fire after a long day, then it is beer first.  And when it’s beer, the darker the better.

Where would you like to visit?
 Everywhere.  Seriously.  Just like everyone, I have my top 5 that I want to go to though.
1.    Ireland
2.    Australia
3.    Japan
4.    Tanzania on a Safari (This one is new thanks to a recent posting from a friend)
5.    England

Favorite musical artist.  Do you listen to music when you write?  What?
  I have quite a bit of favorites…and they all depend on my mood or my project.  Which sort of answers both of the next questions. 

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Yes I do listen to music as I write.  That is unless I’m in public.  Then I listen to everyone around me for inspiring dialogue flow.  I like to make sure my characters speak like people and not as if they are reading from a script.
As for what I listen to, I let my characters determine that.  If they are a jazzy type person, then I have Miles Davis, Nat King Cole and BB King ready.  If they are more street, then the rap and hip hop abound.  On fast paced and theatrical pieces, 80s Glam Rock fills my ears.  I’ve even had a dueling banjos piece that I wrote into a story because I felt it added the right ambiance to the piece.

What makes you laugh?
 Little things really.  Not the over the top super in the face stuff.  Sometimes it is some of the snarky comments, but mostly the irony in daily life.

Favorite work of art or sculpture.
 My favorite artist is Claude Monet.  As far as my favorite piece…it would have to be La Promenade.  The magical way the woman seems to appear out of nothing in the painting is amazing.

As far as sculptures go.  I don’t have any one favorite.  Pretty much anything in marble or brass and I am in awe.

How old were you when you started writing?
 This is a trick question.  I purposefully started writing when I was 23.  That being said, I was writing stories when I was 9. 

My parents kept them in a little box in garage.  The box was hidden and secret.  They didn’t even tell me about them until I showed them Shadow Dance.  Even though it was a pale comparison to the story it is now. 

My Dad said, “I think you need to know something.”  Then he got up and told me to follow him.

We went into the garage, it was spring in Idaho and the garage was cold.  He told me to climb up to the top shelf and get him a box from the back.  So I did.  I brought it to him and we went back upstairs.

Once we were in front of my mother, he told me to sit down on the floor and I did.  Then he dumped the box’s contents on me.  I was amazed at how many stories fluttered around me.

Evidently they had a bet and he won.  My mom didn’t think I would actually start writing, other than as a hobby, but my dad knew otherwise.

Describe your perfect evening.
Well. Spending time with my boys until they are exhausted and sleeping.  They are young, so that happens around 9-ish.  Then pouring myself a glass of whiskey on the rocks.  Opening up my laptop and writing whatever hits me.  Those are the perfect nights that I strive for.

Where do you get your inspiration?
 Life.  Death.  Memories of better days and the not so good ones.  I was blessed with an overactive and vivid imagination that was coupled in an overly logical and analytical mind.  The better question is, “How can I get all of the ideas out?”

What do you do when you get a writer's block?
 I love this question because I don’t.  I mean not in the usual sense.  My version of writer’s block starts as an argument with my characters.  Much like a director on a film with an unruly actor, I’d assume. 

You see.  I have the book planned out.  Where I want it to start and where it is going to end.  Many times I write the ending first. That’s where the problem is.

The characters decide that they will get to the end, but not the way I want.  So when I get blocked it’s because I have to see it from their point of view and let them do it their way.

To do that, I draw, sing, grab another project.  Whatever it takes to let the story sink back into my subconscious to work itself out.

Who is your favorite author?
  Neil Gaiman

Best book you ever read.
American Gods, but Neverwhere is a close second

Last book you read.
  Amuse by Karma Marie.  It’s not the normal type of book that I read, but it was very well written.  She is a new author and still finding her way, but her story does not disappoint.

What would you do for a living if you weren’t a writer?
 Either an editor or a director, although I have been told that I have a Voice for Radio and Voice Acting.

Who is the one person who has influenced your personal life the most and why?
This might sound corny….but it’s my dad.  Especially now that he has passed.  I am constantly going back over my interactions with him, both when I was younger and after I had grown, and found a wealth of knowledge I can draw from.

If you could sit down and have a conversation with ONE person, living or dead, real or fictional, who would it be and why?
  At the risk of sounding fanatical, I would pick Jesus.  There is only so much that is really known about Him.  I know some of you may think, “Well, just pray and he will talk to you.”  But I mean in a literal sense.  I want to actually talk about the big things with Him and learn about the man behind the legends.

What advice would you give someone who aspired to be a writer?
Write.  It really is that simple and that hard.  Take some time.  Map it out.  When are you going to write?  Is the place going to allow too many distractions? 

You know yourself better than I do.  Go somewhere you aren’t overly familiar with.  But no matter what, put the words on paper. 

It will feel silly, but that’s ok.

If you have dialogue, speak it.  If you have actions, move through them yourself (if you can safely).  If not, watch them being performed.
The final bit, and I think the most important.


You cannot hope to put thoughts on a page expertly unless you have studied those that have come before.  Like every other profession, you need to learn the good habits along with the bad.  Then you can find your voice and style.

Thank you, John, for spending time with us. Your answers to our questions are insightful and dynamic. You are delightful. We at Vision and Verse wish you continued success in all your writing endeavors. Come back to see us any time!

Links to follow John:
-John Harrison
Professional Website        Blog                                @John_A_Harrison    

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