AN: I'm welcoming author Kelly A. Harmon today on Poetry, Prose & Print! Summer is almost here, do you prefer hot weather or are you going to miss the wintry days behind us?
KH: There are things I like about all the seasons! But after all the crazy snow and rain we've had the last few months, I'm anxious to have some clear, warm weather for a while. My favorite time of year though is October. I like cool breezes, warm sunshine and the leaves crunching beneath my feet.
AN: That's my favorite season too! What genre do you write and why?
KH: I write (mostly) fantasy and science fiction. Fantasy I like for the escapism…I like being transported to a different time and world. There's something appealing to me about the possibility of magic and the likelihood of meeting some fantastic creature, like a dragon or satyr. Fantasy is like bedtime stories for adults.
Science Fiction appeals to my curiosity. It's about extremes...I enjoy playing the “what if” game, taking a situation and extrapolating it to the nth degree.
AN: When did you realize you wanted to be an author and how long did it take you to become published?
KH: I've always wanted to be a writer. I don't remember ever wanting to do anything else. In high school, I decided a journalism degree would be better than an English degree, so I gravitated toward non-fiction. I found a job as a stringer - a freelance reporter - at my local newspaper and started publishing stories when I was 14.
I enjoyed non-fiction more than I thought I would, so I stuck with it for a lot of years. But my first love is fiction, so I've been concentrating on that for the last few years.
I love escaping into fantasy worlds when I'm reading. Describe your research/world-building process for your dark fantasy stories. For me, world building happens a bit organically. I look at my story and ask myself what kinds of elements are necessary to illustrate what's going on? I lean toward dark fantasy, so the elements I examine first are always in that genre.
AN: Let's talk about Blood Soup. What's this dark fantasy about?
KH: The story opens with a heavily pregnant Queen Piacenza. Her husband, King Theodicar naturally hopes for a male heir. The Queen is from Omera, where the first born rules, no matter the sex of the child. This causes no end of friction between them. When the queen finally gives birth, the nurse and the king are equally surprised, and Theodicar is faced with a terrible choice...
Blood Soup is about the fall of a kingdom, so I knew a castle would feature prominently. I built Borgand's castle at the top of a high crag and set the opening scene in winter to convey a stark feeling. I envisioned Borgand as a Teutonic country with stiff, upright personages, pragmatic and reserved. All the Borgands have good German names. Monarchies are built on alliances, so King Theodicar's wife needed to come from some contrasting country.
I created Omera, an easy-going country with a summery, Tuscan flavor. Their nature is relaxed and informal. They believe in magic. Queen Piacenza is uncomfortable in her new home, though willing to make the best of it. The Omerans have old, Italian names. I continue to layer in elements as I write the story, building upon the last until there's a cohesive whole.
AN: What inspired your story?
KH: Inspiration didn't play any role in the story idea, it was more like desperation! I'd been asked to participate in the 3-Day Novel contest by a fellow writer and I needed a story idea fast. I normally have a ton of ideas to choose from, but I didn't want to chew up any one of those ideas with a project that I'd "only" be working on for three days. Also: my ideas tend to encourage long stories, and I needed an idea for a story I would be able to write in three days. So, I couldn't use any of the ideas I'd been toying with.
So, I wracked my brain for a story, thought of the prophecy in Blood Soup--that the kingdom would fall unless a woman ruled--and bounced it off a few people to see if it were viable. The idea of blood, and how it could be used medicinally, didn't enter my head until I'd actually started writing.
AN: The premise is fascinating! Would you consider yourself a plotter or panster?
KH: I started out as a panster, but I like to plot these days…though I admit my plotting is rather loose. I like knowing how my story is going to end and a few key scenes before I actually sit down and write. That's all. Because I usually know where my story is going, I rarely find myself blocked…unlike when I was a true panster…
AN: You've written several books. Does the process get easier each time?
KH: I think the mechanics of writing get easier, especially after you've found your own voice as a writer. But the process, at least for me, remains the same: First draft, re-write, edit, send off to the critique group, re-edit, etc. All the same steps need to be taken.
AN: Do you have favorite food or ritual that helps you get in the zone to write?
KH: No - I don't depend on rituals to get me started. I like to be able to write no matter what the circumstance or my location.
AN: Any advice you would like to share with aspiring authors?
KH: If you want to be a writer, then write. Don't make excuses which keep you from telling the story you want to tell. Join a critique group: writing is a solitary endeavor. Like minded-folk are great to hang out with, plus you get the benefit of bouncing story ideas off of them and finding out what's wrong with your prose. Even if you're the best writer you know, you'll benefit from critique.
AN: Great advice! Tell me one thing your readers would be surprised to know about you!
KH: I play tenor saxophone, and used to be in the Baltimore Ravens Marching Band. (I love a good Sousa march!)
AN: Kelly, thank you so much for stopping by Poetry, Prose & Print! Where can readers find you next on your blog tour?
KH: I'll be at Keta's Keep (http://ketaskeep.blogspot.com/) on April 27. Hope to see you there!
Visit Kelly Harmon at her website: http://kellyaharmon.com! Find more titles by Kelly on her Amazon author page, click here!
Blurb: A tale of murder, betrayal and comeuppance.
King Theodicar of Borgund needed an heir. When his wife, Queen Piacenza, became pregnant, he’d hoped for a boy. His wife, along with her nurse, Salvagia, knew it wouldn’t be so: with each cast of the runes, Salvagia’s trusted divination tools yielded the same message: “A girl child must rule or the kingdom will fall to ruin.” The women were convinced that the child would be a girl.
When the queen finally gives birth, the nurse and the king are equally surprised. The king is faced with a terrible choice, and his decision will determine the fate of his kingdom. Will he choose wisely, or will he doom Borgund to ruin?
Theodicar looked down at the mewling infant in his arms, and felt the anger rise up. Even in death his wife defied him, the nurse ensuring her success. Women did not rule. He would not allow it. They had created a male child, and that child would take the throne upon his death.
“You can save the boy,” he said to Salvagia.
She slitted her eyes at him, her stare mutinous. Her words were loud and hard in the wake of Pia’s death. “I have the power to save one at the expense of the other, Sire. The girl is stronger. And eldest. She was born to rule.”
Theodicar watched the girl curl up in his arms, her birth fluids staining a brown patch on the dyed-yellow wool of his tunic. She burrowed into the crook of his elbow, trying to achieve the comfort of the womb.
“I will not hear those words again,” he said. “That absurd idea died with my wife. My son will rule.” He reached for the boy, thrusting the girl child back into the nurse’s hands. “There’s no need for a daughter. And no need for anyone to know of her.”
“So be it,” Salvagia said, wrapping the weary girl in a square of wool, covering her face. She reached for her basket.
“Kill her now,” said Theodicar.
Salvagia looked stricken.
“Sire, if we kill her now, she will be of no use to her brother. Once dead, the blood won’t flow, and we need her blood to strengthen his.
“Then drain her now,” he snapped. “I will not have her crying out when we call the witnesses back to cut the boy’s cord.”
Blood Soup is available now with Eternal Press, Amazon Kindle & Paperback!