Hello, Everyone! Today I’m sitting down with J. Anthony Harris (Author of The Earthfault) again for a short interview. I tried to ask questions that both writers and readers can learn from and I hope you take something away from the discussion! I also included my personal reactions to each question for a unique look at the reading/writing process. Enjoy!
Q: Most people can pitch their book in a sentence or a blurb. But what if you don’t have that much time? If you had to describe The Earthfault in five words or less, what would you say?
A: Hopeful, intriguing, twisted, and thought-provoking.
(Author’s note: That’s a great start! What isn’t there to love about that response?)
Q: Every story starts somewhere. What initially triggered you to write The Earthfault?
A: This may sound silly, but it came to me whilst I was running a bath. Sticking my hand in to test the temperature and generally stir it all around, I watched as one cluster of bubbles detached from the main lot. I’ve always been a geography nerd, so I thought, ‘What if that happened on a continental scale? What if two dear friends were separated by it?’ That was the core of the emotional story of it, and then I span it out into worldwide consequences such as the economic impact, which affects a number of characters in the story, alongside the political impact of that economic development.
(AN: I don’t know about you all, dear readers, but I rarely get inspiration from something as mundane as a bathtub. It just shows that muses can be anywhere if you just pay attention! How many awesome stories have we missed out on writing because we didn’t have Harris’ foresight?)
Q: What would you say the HARDEST part of being an author is?
A: Well, so far for me, it’s the promotion. How to physically get the book in more hands, more widely known. As for a more artistic answer, the editing can be a drag: rereading the same sections over and over, that I’ve had written down for perhaps years, and trying to polish them to as close to perfection as possible, it’s a real challenge.
One of the main criticisms I’ve heard about The Earthfault is the sentence structure is a little samey, with some really long sentences being hard to follow. So it’s something I’m focusing on for the next book. Problem is, with such an omnipresent aspect of the story, it can be very draining to focus so much on it, because it’s every single part, especially outside of the dialogue.
(I think we all know how hard promotion can be. It’s what’s brought so many of our writing communities together. Luckily, we all know we’re never alone.
The sentence structure is something that’s more difficult to address—because so many authors don’t have the presence of mind to recognize it. Good on Harris for figuring it out early in the game so that his writing can keep improving!)
Q: Your main character in The Earthfault is a lesbian. Did you create the character with this in mind?
A: Malina started life as a guy called Malcolm, actually. Call it a gimmick, but at one point I just thought, ‘Ooh, what if the premise were a little less orthodox – a girl chasing a girl instead of a guy chasing a girl.’ So while that began as something rather superficial, it actually feeds into the story later on to make some of the developments a lot more character-driven than they were, and through that I’ve learned how to use ‘unique’ aspects of a character to drive the story, when I want to look at them in that way, rather than simply say ‘lol, let’s make this character really clumsy for no real reason’.
As for Lola, she’s remained largely unchanged since the first draft. She’s intended to be the idealised, romanticised damsel in distress, at least from the plot’s perspective.
(I LOVE This response. Readers, you remember the issue I had with my MC? Where she just wouldn’t mesh with the man I created for her and when I finally stopped trying she ended up with another woman I’d planned to be her best friend? Characters drive our stories—not the other way around, and I think Harris did a lovely job of portraying that truth).
Q: Are most of your characters part of the LGBT community?
A :Malina and Lola are the most prominent LGBT characters in The Earthfault, and indeed what I have planned of the series so far, but they’re definitely not the only ones.
(I also love how this particular topic has grown and spread in recent literature.)
Q: Malina lost Lola to the Earthfault at age 7. Her main goal in the story is to get back to Lola after a 13-year absence. Do you think that a 7-year-old can find his/her true love at that early of an age? Do you think that soul mates are a thing?
A: I aimed to make the time the girls spent together at the sort of age when we start to discover our personalities. I certainly remember a handful of playground crushes and couples from my schooldays, when it was more about holding hands and just spending time together and having fun, rather than the emotional connections and complementary personalities that more mature relationships are built upon. Whilst childhood ‘relationships’ are obviously less complex in that manner, they’re no less built on simply sharing good times and enjoying each other. Of course, nostalgia can do a lot to enhance something in our memory, which would explain why Malina feels so strongly for Lola.
(This was a hard question for me, because I’m not sure I’m the type of person who believes in soulmates. However, I think that Harris’ storytelling could make me a believer, for what it’s worth—even though he’s quick to point out that he doesn’t believe in them, either. That’s why we write fantasy, though.)
Q: Malina and her companions speak in a very rough dialect, with very few ending consonants or enunciated vowels. Why did you choose the dialect you ultimately decided on for your characters? Was it intentional that Malina thinks things far more elegantly than she speaks?
A: I’ll be honest, it was unintentional. Initially, pretty much every character spoke in a very sophisticated way. Then my (unofficial) editor said ‘Why is everyone talking like a goddamn Puritan?’ and pointed out that, realistically, only the rich would have had the education to speak that way. Malina, and most of her friends and family, should have always had a simplistic vocabulary with a rustic accent and lots of slang and letter-dropping.
Obviously that doesn’t carry into the rest of the prose, and that is probably quite jarring, especially with Malina’s thoughts (not a monologue for the vast majority). I just enjoy writing with that flourish, though. Hopefully there’ll be less dissonance in the next book, written from a royal perspective.
(I was talking to someone else about this for a different book recently and they looked at me like I was crazy. ‘Do you think the same way you speak?’ Apparently, I might be the only one where that’s a thing, and Malina’s thought-to-voice differences aren’t uncommon. Either way, I found the entire thing intriguing because, in my opinion, it helped to illustrate that Malina wasn’t exactly made for the world/region she found herself in. Her inner-voice made it more obvious that she was an outsider.)
So there you have it, friends! Another huge shout-out to J. Anthony Harris for talking with me. To see more of his work and to order your own copy of The Earthfault make sure to CLICK HERE.
Have a question you wish I’d asked? Put it in the comments below! I’ll make sure that Harris sees it and responds. 😉
Have another author you’d like me to interview (or maybe you ARE an author who’d like to interview) e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org.