Today I’d like to welcome Matthew Harrill, international award-winning horror author of The ARC Chronicles.
Can you give us your quickest description of your books?
Ooh, that’s a favorite genre of mine. Can you tell me a little more about the world your book is set in?
It’s set in the world as it is. Present day, or slightly (at the time of writing) in the future, but not more than a couple of years. I have in the past written epic fantasy, and got so caught up in the world building, I just wanted something a bit more relatable to people this time. I very much like to use real places, be it the top of a mountain, a historic furnace in Alabama, or an Irish Bar in Worcester, Massachusetts. On earth, every place used is real, or has a solid basis in fact. What I might do with the scene may stretch the imagination somewhat, but you can go to pretty much any place in my series and imagine what might have been.
What is your favorite scene you’ve written? Can you give us a peek?
Eva ran her finger along the balcony rail of the apartment she shared with Madden. The mortar underneath the whitewash was dimpled and the feeling not unpleasant. It was sunrise, the sky was clear and the magmatic luminosity of the sun was erupting over the horizon. The air was still warm. It never seemed to get cold in Cairo.
She smiled as the bells began to toll, calling the Muslim population of the city to morning worship. The azan echoed out from loudspeakers all over the city. Cairo was a noisy place, full of character, full of soul. Eva loved it.
Nice imagery and tone. What is this scene from? It’s interesting, because this is much “prettier” writing than you often see in anything apocalyptic.
It is a midpoint in Hellbounce. Some pretty scary things have happened to the main character Eva up to this point, and it is a time to catch breath before it all plunges back into darkness. Cairo was a good place to set part of the book because I needed somewhere in the region of Nag Hamaddi, where artifacts of historical and biblical significance were once found. Of course I exploit that for the story.
My writing is more of a psychological horror than a nuts and bolts ‘slash, hack and scare’ type affair. It was described best by one reviewer as if ‘Clive Barker had worked on The Da Vinci Code’. It is a horror, there is a heavy supernatural element, but it is also an adventure.
That sounds really cool. Who inspires you to write?
My mentor, David Farland (www.davidfarland.net). He has always been there for me, and gives so much of himself to others.
That’s great. Constant support is certainly something all authors need. Does he help you creatively? Or where would you say your ideas come from?
My ideas, my story, my entire world is all in my head. I am merely the scribe, transposing to text the vision I see. David has helped me with the structure of my writing, and the occasional brainstorm. He is an excellent teacher. I wouldn’t say he is constantly there for me – I like to think I am beyond that level of need now. He is a NY times bestseller, and head judge of L Ron Hubbards ‘Writers of the Future competition’, as well as teaching many many others in formal settings as well as offering advice.
In other areas, I can pick up ideas from seeing people walking down the street. There are two gentlemen I walk by on a daily basis who will never know they are the inspiration for two of the main characters in ‘The Shikari’, my elite armed force in Hellbeast. The news, snippets, I get information from everywhere. The key to good writing is to make the important seem trivial. Throwaway quips and incidental information make characters believable.
That is a really good point – “The key to good writing is to make the important seem trivial.” But it can be difficult. When you get stuck in your writing, how do you make yourself keep going?
I am a plotter. I don’t get stuck. A is always going to B, in a roundabout way. I have chapter notes all prepared. I normally spend up to six months of the time that I have to sort out the notes. For example, I am currently writing a chapter in the Lucky Dog Music Hall in Worcester, Massachusetts. I know exactly who will be in there, and exactly who is going to wow the crowd. There are no surprises for me.
So you have pretty extensive notes, I’m guessing. Do you HAVE to have a whole story plotted out chronologically, or do you write here and there and flesh things out later?
I have the entire story plotted out chronologically. I couldn’t do otherwise. The story I am working on now takes place during the first week of Hellbounce, with elements tied in from that story, so I need to ensure that everything ties up perfectly. The actual putting to script of the story is still open to interpretation. A lot of the time I find myself struggling to contain the story within the boundaries of the chapters, and have to add in extra chapters. That’s when I know the story is flowing well.
Do you use your personal experiences in your writing?
Absolutely! I am a writer. Anything you say or do may be used in a story! I find personal experiences are immensely useful to write into stories (where relevant) and often very cathartic. But I would hasten to add a word of caution. Don’t sacrifice the tale you are writing in order to get revenge in text on anybody that wronged you in life. Revenge writing can be all-consuming. That being said, I have based nasty characters on people I am very fond of (none less than my own wife). The personal connection makes it so much more colourful.
That’s a good approach and also good advice. I completely agree with you about the cathartic aspect. Out of curiosity, do you tell people when you’ve used some part of them for your characters – your wife, for example?
Most certainly. My wife knows that the antagonist in book 2 is based on her… or rather her reactions to when I piss her off!
Thank you, Matthew, for sharing!