Welcome to the story-themed interview, Once Upon a Time with… where we interview a fellow author. Today, we’d like to welcome Katherine Harbour, author of the fantasy novel Thorn Jack and the upcoming novel, Briar Queen, both part of her Night and Nothing series from Harper Voyager.
Like any good fairy tale, we’ll begin with Once Upon a Time. What’s your “Once Upon a Time”? Tell us about your beginning as an author. Where did you live and what sparked you to decide to write?
I lived in Albany, NY and, in high school, I loved reading. When a teacher told us that writing was like creating a game, with characters and worlds, I thought it sounded like fun. So I began.
Sometimes a fairy godmother or perhaps a fae stranger appears to make dreams come true. In this case, the dream involves becoming a published author. How did your publication dream come true?
I entered Thorn Jack in a Harper Voyager submissions open call after being rejected by publishers and agents. I wasn’t going to enter—I thought it would be just as useful as tossing my manuscript off the Empire State building and hoping an editor caught it and read it. But my manager at the bookstore where I work encouraged me, so I entered the open call, and was contacted by the editor at the time, Diana Gill, who read Thorn Jack overnight on her phone. She asked if I had an agent. I contacted Thao Le of The Sandra Dijkstra Agency, who had been encouraging before, and she made the three-book deal.
No story would be complete without an adversary. In the story of your writing career, what’s your biggest nemesis? What do you struggle against… fear, doubt, a mortgage, time, ice cream? What tactics, allies or weapons do you use to win those battles?
I think time was my biggest nemesis. I had two jobs and could only write between them, in the morning or at night. Now my nemesis is discipline. I work best with schedules and deadlines and I’m still trying to find a schedule that is the most productive. There’s much more to being a writer than just writing the books! And I get to sleep. Sleep is very important.
I completely agree. Sleep is critical to good writing.
As we all know, the hero can’t ultimately triumph without a few defeats along the way. Can you share a defeat that you suffered in your writing career and what you learned from it?
I suffered many, many defeats. If I had been a dragon slayer, I’d probably be a charred skeleton by now. I can’t even count how many short stories were rejected, with about seven out of one hundred published in small press magazines. I’ve attempted about eight books and given up after countless rejections—but most of those rejections were critical and encouraging. Thorn Jack was the only book I didn’t give up on. After many, many rewrites, it finally caught the eye of an editor. So I learned not to give up.
We’ve heard about your defeat, but what do you see as your greatest victory as a writer?
My greatest victory as a writer was not giving up.
Well said. I hope every aspiring author out there writes that down and puts it on their laptop or desk.
Where do you see yourself today? What’s happening in this chapter of your career? What are your current projects and what can we look forward to in the next year?
I think I’m still learning as a writer. I’d like to continue writing speculative fiction, which I love, and there are so many subgenres. I’m currently finishing up Nettle King, book three in my Thorn Jack trilogy, and writing short stories based in Thorn Jack’s universe. I’m also working on a steampunk trilogy set in another world.
I’m looking forward to reading all of them. Finally, every story should end with a Happily Ever After. If you could write your own “Happily Ever After”, what would it be?
I’m not sure what my Happily Ever After would be, but I’m looking forward to it. Hopefully making a living as a writer will be part of it! Paying my bills, having a roof over my head…
Here’s hoping those dreams come true. So, for everyone out there wishing on a star hoping to be an author, what advice would you give them?
I’d say take good advice. Constructive criticism only makes your writing stronger. And you’ll always know what’s constructive and what’s not. Also, DON’T GIVE UP. Just get better.
If we’d like to learn more for the About the Author section of your story, what’s the best way for everyone to keep up with you? And is there any last message that you’d like to share?
You can find info about my social media sites and updates at www.katherineharbour.com. And the second book in the Thorn Jack trilogy, Briar Queen, will be out June 2, 2015.
Thank you so much for sharing your story with us and great job. We’re looking forward to finding out where your story takes you.