About Mark R. Harris:
My name is Mark R. Harris, and I was born in Kentucky, moved to New Jersey as a small boy, and met my wife in college in Pennsylvania. I currently live in Virginia with my wife and three sons, and I teach literature and write as much as I can. I also make hopefully-humorous videos that I post on Youtube. Fire in the Bones is my first novel, and I’m almost done drafting a sequel. I have written articles on literature for journals like Studies in Short Fiction, Cithara, and Contra Mundum, and my poems have appeared in Moore Street Review, Nantahala Review, and Euphony.
What inspires you to write?
What inspired me to write Fire in the Bones—that’s pretty cool, actually. My son had been doing NaNoWriMo—National Novel Writing Month—for a year or two, where you try to draft a novel of 50,000 words in a month. One November I decided to do it too. We went to a little café in a bookstore for the first “write-in,” and I had a song in my mind—I’ve always loved popular music, and I’m an auditory person, so music is often floating around in my head—anyway, I had in my mind this song about fire and how it can actually clean or purify things, make them better. And I started to picture a scene I vaguely remembered about a little boy sitting in a little country church, fanning himself with one of those rectangular picture-fans on a stick that little country churches in the South used to have (maybe they still do). And the words started to come. That turned into the first scene/chapter in the book. The next three or four chapters of the book I based on other early memories or early stories I had heard. Then as the plot and the characters started to take shape and develop, it became clearer and clearer where to go with the story.
Tell us about your writing process.
I don’t outline, but I did eventually need to figure out what final point the book was heading towards so I could make sure things led up to that conclusion. The first few chapters were probably more seat-of-the-pants—I just started writing scenes after that first one, and the more I wrote, the more the characters started to take shape, and then I could see more clearly what directions they were going in.
A typical writing day for me is not necessarily the average person’s. I’m not a morning person, and often I’m at work during the day. So I tend to write in the evenings. I also definitely write better in short blocks—say, an hour at most, at a time. I don’t do much of anything for longer than that, except for watching an occasional movie—that’s just the way I am. So I might write a bit, and then go back and revise a bit of something I wrote yesterday, and then write a little more new material. That may or may not work for others, but it works for me.
A really good piece of advice I’ve heard and I try to apply is to stop writing each day before you finish whatever you’re working on. Leave yourself something to pick up with tomorrow. That way you never have to start from scratch the next day, just sitting there starting at a blank screen.
For Fiction Writers: Do you listen (or talk to) to your characters?
I definitely “listen” to my characters once they start to get fleshed out. In other words, I think about what sort of situations this person would likely get into, and how they would react / what they would say in that situation. I don’t talk to the characters per se, though. I do talk to myself once in a while, though not a lot. Overall, I’m more of a listen than a talker. You learn a lot by listening. So I guess that works for me with my characters.
What advice would you give other writers?
Go with whatever idea you really care about and are interested in—not what sells the most or what is most popular. That way, no matter what the final outcome for your book, you can still feel good about it, knowing it is honest and true to you and genuine. And that genuineness should also come across to readers, reflecting in the quality of the writing. If you don’t deeply care about what you’re writing, it’s never going to be your best.
How did you decide how to publish your books?
It’s funny, I was very reluctant to put my book out there. I took a long time writing it, then a long time revising it, and then I just dragged my feet. I was afraid of something. Rejection was at least part of that fear—how would the book be received, what if it’s a miserable failure, etc. Sort of a George McFly fear took me over. But at some point the thought occurred to me that I was feeling bad because I wasn’t putting the novel out there. Which is worse, possible rejection, or definite depression? I felt like God was telling me “You’ll feel much better once you take the chance and go for it.” So I did. I submitted it to a publisher. And I felt better immediately. Then I sent it to several more publishers, and over the next three months I got several rejections. Towards the end of that period I remember asking God to show me why He had me submit this novel. What was the purpose? And then like three days before the end of my summer vacation, a publisher wrote back to me and said they really liked my work and were interested in publishing it. Yes! So my advice—if you believe in God, listen to Him. Don’t be ruled by fear. And don’t give up after a few rejections. Do your homework, do your research (I used the current Writer’s Market), follow each publisher’s submission instructions, and hopefully await the result.
What do you think about the future of book publishing?
I think it may keep changing, but in some form it will always be around as long as people are writing books and people are reading them.
What do you use?: Professional Editor, Professional Cover Designer
What genres do you write?: Novel, poetry, articles, short story
What formats are your books in?: eBook, Print, Both eBook and Print
All information in this post is presented “as is” supplied by the author. We don’t edit, to allow you, the reader, to hear the author in their own voice.