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Indie Interview: Harper Jayne

1. What book inspired you most before you became a writer yourself?
That's too difficult to answer with a single volume. I've read a lot, and much of what I have read has influenced me. I draw a great deal of inspiration from other writers, but mainly in the taste of their words as opposed to their ideas or styles.

Some of the books I can point to as having been major influences on me include Tad William's Memory, Sorrow and Thorn trilogy and Otherworld series; Weis and Hickman's first two Dragonlance trilogies; David Weber's Honor Harrington books; Neil Gaiman's Sandman comics and American Gods; and George R. R. Martin's A Song of Ice and Fire series.

Each of the novels above have inspired me in some respect. You'll notice they're pretty different. Epic (YA-ish) fantasy, near future (Ya-ish) sci-fi, game tie-in fantasy, serial space opera/military sci-fi, grungy-gothy YA-ish urban fantasyish graphic novel, urban fantasyish mythology, and epic swords and sorcery.

I have diverse tastes in books, and since writing my own YA project I have busied myself with reading some of the "hot new releases" to see what's what in the world of YA right now. I have to admit that I enjoy YA, but I am naturally more at home in adult genres. Writing YA is all about stretching muscles for me, and it's a good feeling.

2. First book you ever remember reading?
Seriously? I've been reading since I was something like 2! I cannot honestly remember. I do know I used to read in a book of faerie tales as a child. I suspect that my love of fantasy began with things like that, as well as with The Black Cauldron (and the rest of the Prydain books) by Lloyd Alexander and Madeline L'Engle's A Wrinkle in Time and subsequent novels, as well as C.S. Lewis' classic Narnia series.

Big influences an a younger me were also Anne McCaffery and Piers Anthony. (In particularly the first Dragonriders and Crystal Singer books and the Adept and Incarnations novels respectively.)

3. How do you pick your character's names?
Completely at random. Actually, that's not entirely true. I think about some basic rules for names, and then I apply them to the characters. I have one whose name is originally quite a bit different than the name she currently uses. Think America's Ellis Island name changes for immigrants from places like Poland. (Only she has other reasons for calling herself by a new name . . .)

4. Name an excellent indie book that you think needs more recognition.
Pff. One? That's honestly impossible. There's plenty of indies doing "ok" right now (and a few that stick out as doing better than that), but a whole lot more are struggling. Also, I haven't read nearly enough indie work to be able to give you a good answer. I'm really just getting my feet wet still.

My suggestion? Buy at least one new indie book for every new traditionally published book you pick up. Read things that appeal to you, and pay attention to the reviews a title has gotten to see if it might be of interest to you. (In particular any non-customer reviews you can find!)

You are bound to find a gem in there, and when you do: tell everyone you know. Indies need word of mouth even more than tradpub authors do. (They still need it, so make sure to spread the love for those authors as well.)

5. Share some quotes you love! Either from your book or someone else's!
I don't want to quote myself. First because I think there's a taboo against doing it outside of marketing. Second because I'd have a hard time selecting something others might enjoy. Not because I have no confidence in my writing, but because books are highly personal. What appeals to me in my writing is not what appeals to everyone else.

I will give you a couple of quotes from other people though.

Grabbing some random books off my Fire . . . ah, here we go.

"Catalina Flores de la Peña's tongue got her in more trouble than any other part of her body, even though there were far more likely candidates." The opening line from A Storm Hits Valparaìso by David Gaughran is great. I'm actually jealous when I read it. Seriously. My opener doesn't gain strength until the second paragraph because of the stylistic choice to let things build. I'm not afraid I will lose readers, but David has done a bang-up job of delivering immediately.

Joe Abercrombie is hyper violent. I'm making sure to tone my writing down a bit because of the YA aspect, but he runs in the direction I naturally head: extreme, brutal, visceral combat. He's also hilarious. Unfortunately he's also crude, so I won't share his best laughs. Instead I'll give you a piece from his novel The Heroes, which sums up the kinds of characters he populates his novels with. "Apparently the engagement was over, and he was still alive. How strangely disappointing."

I think everyone who is an indie needs to read Be The Monkey which is an extended conversation between Barry Eisler and Joe Konrath. In addition to the very simple quote which forms the title of the work, they have some other good ones which are really relevant to the life of an author, and particularly an indie author. Barry wrote: "Yes. Apparently, bestselling indie authors aren't 'real' bestsellers. Some sales are more equal than others." And a favorite from Joe: "Dude, they're like two pumpkins in a sack. Your balls are massive. Other men fear your balls." (Which should give you a hint of just how raunchy Abercrombie is that I'm willing to quote Konrath on Eisler's balls. Maybe it's a Joe thing?)

Posted on Tuesday, February 28, 2012

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