ENGLE: Thank you very much for stopping by for an interview. Tell me about your most recent book. What’s it about? Where did the story idea come from?
HARRIS: The book is about a boy, Luke, trying to find happiness in middle America, and it’s not so easy. He faces fears and often feels alone. He’s looking for security, love—something to take the pain away—wherever he can find it, be it God, girls—and eventually, one girl, Lonnie; and popular music—especially The Beatles.
Where the story came from—that’s kind of cool. My son had been doing NaNoWriMo—National Novel Writing Month—for a year or two, where you try to draft a novel of 50,000 words in a month. One November I decided to do it too. We went to a little café in a bookstore for the first “write-in,” and I had a song in my mind—I’ve always loved popular music, and I’m an auditory person, so music is often floating around in my head—anyway, I had in my mind this song about fire and how it can actually clean or purify things, make them better. And I started to picture a scene I vaguely remembered about a little boy sitting in a little country church, fanning himself with one of those rectangular picture-fans on a stick that little country churches in the South used to have (maybe they still do). And the words started to come. That turned into the first scene/chapter in the book. The next three or four chapters of the book I based on other early memories or early stories I had heard. Then as the plot and the characters started to take shape and develop, it became clearer and clearer where to go with the story.
ENGLE: One of the challenges faced by authors is visibility in the market. What have you done to bring your book in front of the consumer? How has your publisher helped
HARRIS: The publisher, Black Rose Writing, has been great! First and foremost, they took a chance with me; this is my first novel. They’ve done a great job with the book, everything from the cover, to connecting me with just the right editor (on down, and I’m very happy with everything.) As far as what I’ve done to get the book “out there,” you can find it on my Facebook page and on my Facebook author page. I also have a Mark R. Harris channel on YouTube where I’ve started posting videos (well, one so far—“Irony”), and people who like those may also want to check out my book. And I’m working on other stuff, like books signings, a launch party, book fairs, local media interviews, stuff like that. I want to do a book trailer too.
ENGLE: What is an interesting or bizarre fact we don’t know about you?
HARRIS: How much time do you have? (: I don’t want to make this interview extra-long….) Let’s see. I’m pretty sure I’m left-handed but was taught to write right. Who knows what that did to my brain…. (: I hate lima beans. No, hate isn’t a strong enough word. I detest, I loathe lima beans. Lima beans are an abomination to me. If I was faced with the dilemma of eat lima beans or die, it would really be a dilemma. I’d have to think long and hard about that one.
ENGLE: How do you come up with your ideas and what’s a typical writing day like for you?
HARRIS: A typical writing day for me is not necessarily the average person’s. I’m not a morning person, and often I’m at work during the day. So I tend to write in the evenings. I also definitely write better in short blocks—say, an hour at most, at a time. I don’t do much of anything for longer than that, except for watching an occasional movie—that’s just the way I am. So I might write a bit, and then go back and revise a bit of something I wrote yesterday, and then write a little more new material. That may or may not work for others, but it works for me. One formula definitely doesn’t fit everyone. A really good piece of advice I’ve heard and I try to apply is to stop writing each day before you finish whatever you’re working on. Leave yourself something to pick up with tomorrow. That way you never have to start from scratch the next day, just sitting there starting at a blank screen.
ENGLE: If you were trapped on a deserted island with one book, one drink, one friend from literature, and one song what would that look like?
HARRIS: First place for a book would go to the Bible. I can’t imagine life without it. Well, actually I can, but I wouldn’t want to. Second place would probably be a three-way tie between Shakespeare—great writing, period, William Faulkner—I like his style, Eudora Welty—she writes about the quirkiest characters, even absurd—entertaining and real at the same time. One drink would have to be coffee. Especially if I had to get up before noon, in order to hunt food for the day. One friend from literature: maybe V.K. Ratliff, a recurring Faulkner character. I see some of myself in him. Although I’d already have myself there on the island, so maybe somebody more different would be better—maybe Tom Buchanan (The Great Gatsby). He’s about as different from me as anyone I can imagine. One song: wow. Sorry, but I can’t pick one song from the thousands and thousands I love. But they’re all in my head anyway, so I wouldn’t really need a physical recording of a song. I could just sing to myself all day. And I do.
ENGLE: Your book incorporates a lot of music and events from the era in which it’s written. Why did you choose this route and how do you feel it layers and improves the story experience as a whole?
HARRIS: I wanted to portray a character many of us can relate to—someone looking for love, looking for answers, but not necessarily knowing where to go for that, even though he grew up with God. Pop culture in our society is so pervasive that it’s virtually impossible to ignore, so it seemed realistic to me that the character would also turn to it for answers since he’s growing up with it too. And I know so much about pop music that it seemed the best aspect of pop culture to focus on—though the book also weaves in TV and movies.
ENGLE: Now that you’ve wet our whistles, where can we find your book? Do you have a website/facebook/twitter you’d like to share, and a publisher site or discount code for pre-orders?
HARRIS: Yes! The book comes out Dec. 17. People can pre-order the book directly from www.blackrosewriting.com/books, and shortly after the release date they can also find it on Amazon and on BarnesAndNoble.com and other online bookstores. It will also be available as an eBook for Kindle, Nook, anything like that. Fire in the Bones is now available for pre-order at BRW! The promo code is PREORDER2015. Orders before the release date (Dec. 17) will get a 10% discount. I have an author page on Facebook and a YouTube channel.
My publisher’s web site is www.blackrosewriting.com.
ENGLE: If you could be a Muppet who would you be and why?
HARRIS: Wow. Well, I do a fairly decent impression of Grover—“Hello, everybody; Grover here, yeah!”. I’ve always liked him. He’s kind of a goofball, but he’s endearing too, and the way he drives that other guy (the one with the big round blue head, the older guy) is hilarious. My book focuses on some pretty serious issues, so the tone overall is more dramatic than comedic, but I love humor too. I’m actually 95% through the first draft of a novel sequel (it will pick up where Fire in the Bones leaves off, same characters, etc.), and in it, the main character Luke turns more to sort of an absurdist/comedic look at life as yet another way to deal with it and to try to find answers [unabashed plug].
ENGLE: Thanks, Mark, and Congratulations again!