Thursday, September 21, 2006

Author Interview: Colin Harvey

Colin Harvey

Colin Harvey is the author of Lightning Days (Swimming Kangaroo Books, 2006) and Vengeance (The Winterborn Press, 2005). He is a member of the Horror Writers Assosciation, and reviews for Strange Horizons on a regular basis. Colin is a member of the Management Committee of the Speculative Literature Foundation, and for the last two years has been one of the judges for their Travel Grant. He is currently working on his newest novel, The Silk Palace, for 2007 publication.

What made you become a writer?

When I was nine, my teacher set us an exercise to each write a one-page story. I loved the act of creation, and from then on, I wrote longer and longer stories, until I began to think that I ought to let someone else see them!

Tell us about Lightning Days and how you came to write it.

It's the present day, in South-Eastern Afghanistan. The world is hit by a string of tsunamis, earthquakes and other unexplained phenomena. A satellite picks up a heat signature, implying the presence of an army, where no such force should be. The British Government, who are administering the sector, dispatch a patrol, accompanied by a 'civil servant', Josh Cassidy. The heat signatures belong to an army of refugees, fleeing from their enemies, the malevolent, but mysterious Sauroids.

I don't really want to give too much of the details of the plot away, but the story concerns parallel universes, Neanderthals, and the end of the all life.

Tell me about your journey from unpublished writer to published novelist.

I started writing with intent to sell almost nine years ago. I started with short stories, worked up to novelettes (including an early version of a part of Lightning Days), a novella, and then to my novel Vengeance. That first novel was published in e-format, but the company went down the tubes without selling a copy. Lightning Days was rejected by seventy-one publishers and agents before Swimming Kangaroo Books picked it up.

Are you a plotter or a pantser?

Pantser - that's a horrible term! I started out writing by the seat of my pants, but as time has passed I've learnt the value of plotting, especially for longer works. I had to learn to do that because I was writing myself into dead-ends, and other structural flaws. Formal plotting helped me identify the flaws and fix them.

How do you develop your characters?

I usually have a mental image of them at the start, but not much else. I start to think about what they want, particularly in relation to the central protagonist. For the next book, I've started using some new methods, like personality profiles, sibling relationships, etc. Often I find the characters altering slightly as I go along.

How often/when do you write?

I try to write for an hour a day at least. At the week-end, I write after walking our two spaniels in the country for a couple of hours, which gives my thoughts time to percolate. In the week, I write on the bus to and from work, which takes about an hour, and may finish it off in the evening.

How do you maintain your discipline for writing?

I don't have a problem because I get depressed if I don't have my writing fix. But having a routine helps as well. Try to develop rituals. Typing random letters for two or five minutes is supposed to be good. Type in short stretches, if you find you're struggling.

What's the best writing advice you've ever heard/read?

An editor suggested that I join a critique group. For those who are unfamiliar with the concept, writers swap stories or chapters with other writers, and they point out where they think the pieces could be improved upon. One has to be strong-minded to be able to pick out the appropriate input, but Lightning Days benefited enormously from others' input.

Can you tell me a bit about The Silk Palace

Okay, here goes...


... that your name is given you by the dying breath of a semi-sentient jewel... air balloons and gliders co-existing with magic...

...that the gods walk among men...

...a tiny city-state perched atop a rocky plateau separating two rival empires, between which tension grows almost by the day...

...a plot to free a trapped demi-god...

...and a young woman, for whom a moment of folly may lead to a slow and agonizing death...

What advice do you have for aspiring novelists?

Keep writing; keep submitting; keep persevering.

For more information about Colin Harvey or his books, visit the following websites:


Karen said...

Interesting. I always wonder about writers and how they form their craft. Thanks for that behind-the-scenes look.

Michele sent me today. Hope you have a great day!

Jean-Luc Picard said...

Grteat interbiew, Nienke. Most informative.

Joyce Ellen Davis said...

Good stuff. Thank you.

Joyce Ellen Davis said...

PS I was particularly impressed by the fact that the book was submitted 71 times before it was published. That tells me a great deal about hanging in there when you know you have something good! Perseverance. And patience.