Friday, 4 March 2011

Author Q&A with Stephen Harper

I'm so pleased to be joined by another author this week. I recently read and reviewed the first of his King's X series and it's been very interesting to find out more about the man behind the book, Stephen Harper, who lives in California with his wife of three years.

When did you first think of becoming a writer and who or what got you interested in writing?
I don't remember a time when I didn't want to be a writer.  Even as little kid, when my older sister was taking typing classes, I used to dictate stories to her so she could practice.  They were really bad, of course.  I also had a string of good English teachers from grade school to high school who noticed and encouraged me.
Product DetailsHow would you describe your books and style? 
I like to get into the heads of all the characters.  I like to explore why heroes do why what they do. And how a person actually becomes a villain (it's never because they are simply "evil").   Beyond that, I really enjoy writing in two distinct styles.  The first is really big, mythical,epic, emotionally stirring stories about enormous subjects - things like Arthurian legend, Star Wars, The Three Musketeers, anything by John Steinbeck.  And second, I love writing comedy.King's X hopes to be like the former. There's maybe two laughs in the whole story. It has an uncompromisingly serious tone throughout.  Which, I feel, is ultimately what makes it fun and impactful. It's not fooling around, you know?  You want to go for ride?  Let's really go for a ride!  It touches on a lot of emotions, I hope, but none of them are the ones that make you laugh.

On the other hand, my next project is a detective series that (so far at least) is very funny.  For me it is the opposite of King's X, and my hope is to continue both series for a long time, writing one then the other, and thus, keep my canoe headed in a straight line.

When you write do you have a particular routine you follow, and what do you find the most difficult part of writing a book?
Most of the heavy lifting is done in the morning.  The most difficult part is outlining the story all the way through before you really start writing. Well, you're supposed to.  I try to.  The problem with outlining is that the characters come alive and start arguing with their fate.  Many times I come to a part in my outline where it becomes... "nope, only an idiot would have arrived at this spot and not realized that it was a trap."  Or something like that.  So you constantly adjust your stories in favor of your character's free will.  The good part is, when your charcaters are that real, your stories are usually that much better for it...  I've had heroes actually become really interesting villains that way, love affairs begin and end that way...

Are you self-published or traditionally published, and what has been the best and worst thing about the route you have taken?
Self-published.  And very pleased about it.  Couldn't be happier with the control over my own work and the speed at which I can move.   I've arrived with King's X at a great time to be a writer.  The publishing industry is in great flux right now, and writers suddenly have options they did not have even 2-3 years ago.  For one thing, the pace of the publishing industry is too glacially slow for today's environment. And they seem even slower for all the uncertainty.  In the arms of uncertain business folk is not a good place to be for a debuting author.  So, by the luck of timing,  I did not suffer through any of the horror stories associated with "breaking in" to publishing.  A few queries, a decent amount of interest, and a few form-letter rejections.  Once I realized that a "yes" for any of those queries meant at least 18 months to publication, a massive loss of intellectual property,  and that I would need to market the books myself anyway, I went straight to Independent publishing.  In the mean time, I am looking at the papers on my desk, right now, for an agreement to develop a feature film based on King's X.  No doubt in my mind what the right thing to do was.  Life is short.  Take fate in your own hands and have fun.

If this isn't too much like asking a parent which of their children they like best, which of your characters is your favourite?
In King's X?  I'd love to say that this isn't an easy question because I really am fond of all of them, but It's Captain Shahin.  The Moorish pirate with no thirst for blood and an addiction to the company of women.  I've always loved Han Solo, and he's the Han Solo of  this story.  Cynicism hiding a good heart.  He's a terrific foil for the heroic ass-kicking Broussard, and a strong temptation in the romantic triangle.  Plus, he's coming back really strong in the next unstallment of King's X due out later in 2011.  The historical setting moves from the Crusades to the Elizabethan era, when skills as a pirate on the high seas will come in rather handy.  It will be mostly his story this time around.

What do you like to read and do you have any other passions? Do you start a book knowing what the beginning, middle and end will be or does it take on a life of its own as you write?

I do a lot of research for everything I write, so I read a ton of non-fiction.  My favorite writers are John Steinbeck, Jame Joyce (although I'm not smart enough to read "Finnegan's Wake"), Joseph Heller and probably John Kennedy Toole.  Other passions... I'm a pretty decent amateur guitar player. 

Finally, what are you working on at the moment that you can tell us about?
Very excited about the detective series I mentioned above.  The other thing right now is that feature screenplay based King's X.  It's been a very interesting process.  Unfortunately I can't really talk very specifically about either of them right now.  But I'd love to talk a lot more about either or both with you in the near-future if you'd like.

Thanks very much for doing this, TC.  It's been a lot of fun.  Cheers,  Steve

Sounds like a very busy time for Steve, so thanks for taking the time to join me and take part in the Q&A. You can find Steve blogging here and the website for the King's X series here.


Brandileigh2003 (Blkosiner's Book Blog) said...

Great point about characters taking over. Its such an interesting process.
Brandi from Blkosiner’s Book Blog

TC said...

That seems to be a common thread with all the writers I talk to, that the characters take on a life of their own. As someone who doesn't write I find it fascinating.

Stephen T. Harper said...

It is fascinating. But it starts to get a little weird once they start using your credit cards and running up your phone bill. :)

TC said...

Hmm, maybe I should start writing, then I'd have someone to blame when my other half starts questionning my enormous e-book bills!