Harvey Click earned an M.A. in English from Ohio State University, using his first novel as a Master’s thesis. He has written four novels, three of them in the horror genre, and numerous short stories. He has taught both English and creative writing for Ohio University, Ohio State University, the James Thurber House, and OSU’s Creative Arts Program.
What inspires you to write?
I actually started writing before I learned to print the letters of the alphabet. My father read a lot, and I was so intrigued by the way he could convert those tiny, seemingly meaningless ciphers on a page into stories that I could scarcely wait to learn how to read and write myself. So when I was still too young for kindergarten, I would lull myself to sleep by pretending to write on my pillow with an imaginary pencil, and while I did this I would whisper to myself the stories I was “writing.”
By fifth grade I had gotten bored with reading children’s books (with the exception of Robert Heinlein’s juveniles, which I still reread) and was beginning to explore the vast wonderland of adult stories and novels, many of them from the pulp science fiction magazines that I was already subscribing to. I remember a particularly evil fifth-grade teacher who would snatch my copy of F&SF from my hands and leaf through it until she found an especially big word. She would read the word to me, and if I couldn’t define it she would toss my lovely pulp treasure into the trash. So much for the charms of our education system.
I started writing my own horror and science fiction stories in fifth grade, and in junior-high a friend and I put out a magazine of our own creepy stories called Way Out. We sold it to our schoolmates, so I earned my first royalties at a pretty young age. It’s probably fortunate that I didn’t realize at the time how long I would have to wait to earn royalties in the real publishing world.
At the age of 12 or 13 I announced to my family and relatives that I intended to be a writer when I grew up, and this ambition has always guided me, though there have been many detours, delays, and distractions along the way. Unfortunately it hasn’t guided me to fame and riches.
Tell us about your writing process.
I don’t outline, but I scribble down (rather desperate) notes as I go along. I start with two or three strong characters, a good premise, and a notion of where the premise will go.
Some of the seeds of my horror stories and novels come from actual nightmares; the challenge is to give them some sort of logical grounding in the narrative. Other ideas come from half-conscious daydreams, which seem to be especially fruitful when I’m walking. I’ll be walking my dogs or mowing my yard, and my mind is far away roaming an imaginary landscape.
The best ideas really do come from an unconscious or semi-conscious part of the mind. When I get stuck partway through a novel, I scratch down the problem or problems in a notebook before I go to bed but I don’t think about solutions in any conscious way. In the morning when I awake, I head straight to the keyboard and usually find that the solutions are right there in my fingertips. I sometimes think of myself as a fisherman throwing a line with some bait into the bottomless lake of the unconscious mind and waiting for an interesting fish or sea monster to bite.
For Fiction Writers: Do you listen (or talk to) to your characters?
They talk to me, but they don’t listen to me. Many of my ideas come from the characters themselves. My fiction is very character-driven. I believe that an event, no matter how interesting, isn’t a story unless it happens to a living, breathing character. A tree falling in the forest with no one to hear it may make a sound, but who cares? And the cleverest plot idea is equally dull if there’s no believable character in the novel to experience it.
But believable characters have a way of taking on lives of their own, independent of the author. So there always comes a time when I’m about halfway through writing a first draft when the characters rebel and refuse to do what I want them to. Jill refuses to fall in love with Jack, the way she’s supposed to, and Jack refuses to go into that dark basement by himself because he has better sense. This is always a panic moment for me, when I see my plot ideas collapsing because my characters refuse to follow the script. Of course there’s nothing to do but set the characters free and allow them to make a royal mess of my best-laid plans. It usually turns out that the characters have a much better plot in mind than I could ever have thought up by myself.
What advice would you give other writers?
Write as much as you can, but keep your day job.
How did you decide how to publish your books?
I self-publish in both paperback and ebook editions. I do this because I got sick of sending out query letters to agents and publishers begging them to read 30 pages (just 30 pages!) of my novels, and then waiting long weeks to receive that little form note wishing me the best of luck. Finally I decided to make my own luck.
What do you think about the future of book publishing?
The big publishers keep putting bigger locks on their doors, and it seems the only new writers they’ll take a chance on these days are ones who were referred by their creative writing teachers. On the other hand, the door to indie publishing is wide open, but many folks who know nothing about writing rush in along with the talented writers, and many readers are getting turned off by some of the barely readable scribblings that appear in e-books with a lot of fake, glowing reviews. I have no idea where all of this will lead.
What genres do you write?
What formats are your books in?
Both eBook and Print
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