Interview with Lauren Harris

Where did you grow up, and how did this influence your writing?
My dad works in TV news, so I moved around a lot as a kid. I don't think I've ever lived in one place, be it state, city, or house, for more than three years. I was born in Texas, but between ages 0-9 also lived in North Carolina, South Carolina, and Florida. Finally, when I was 9, we came back to North Carolina--which is my parents' home state--and I grew up, for the most part, in Raleigh.

Moving around as a kid did have an influence on my writing. My concept of "home" is not really tied to a place, so much, and I find that many of my stories either have characters who are searching for their own meaning of the word "home" or who have a defined connection to it.

Deracination, or the feeling of being uprooted, is another theme that I notice across much of my work. Characters who have been geographically or culturally removed from their places of safety. Moving is tough, and I had to "start over" enough times I started to wonder if we were actually in witness protection and no one was telling me... Haha. Not really. But I'm able to draw on those feelings when writing, and tend to focus on the situations and feelings of my characters being in a new place.
When did you first start writing?
Well, here goes my dignity. I wrote my first story when I was three years old, dictating to a babysitter. It involved a white pegacorn rescuing a cart-load of orphans from the Care Bears villain. Pretty sure I drew a coal-cart. Needless to say, I got better at concealing my sources.
What's the story behind your latest book?
EXORCISING AARON NGUYEN is my latest release. I first got the idea for EXORCISING AARON NGUYEN one morning after spilling coffee all over my arm while getting into my car. It was a single line that popped into my head, and though I don’t have a copy of the original draft, it went something like this: Hiroki Satou had the rare talent of figuring out anything he put his hands on; today it was an exorcism manual.

As a first-class fraidy-cat, I have never been a fan of ghost stories, but by the time I got to work, the coffee had dried on my arm and the plot had expanded to include the murder of a classmate, a violin, and a steamy (literally) shower scene. The first draft attempted to hold on to Hiroki as the story’s focus—the extraordinary boy with his extraordinary skills—but like seeds burst from their shells and grow into wild, splotchy, genetically-mutated pea plants that are nothing like the crop you started with (thanks, Mendel), the story outgrew the idea.

The inspiration for Georgia came after one of my friends, the cover-model Sarah, said she was irritated by the fact that full-figured heroines tended only to be in stories where their weight was the obstacle. She wished there were more heroines who got to do the same cool, kick-butt things as all the others, and just happened to be plus-sized. I’d already come up with the idea for EAN, but I hadn’t come up with Georgia yet. When Sarah said that, I thought: there’s my MC.
How has Smashwords contributed to your success?
Smashwords has given me a venue to distribute work, and has provided me with lots of great tools in its free guide that I would never have known about. There's a great aggregation of information given out for free. I think the site does wonderful things for indie authors.
What is the greatest joy of writing for you?
You know that moment when you’re writing and a new element of worldbuilding or characterization just comes to you? And it’s like you’re connected to some greater source of understanding that sends along the perfect detail to tie everything together and make seemingly disparate parts of your story work? And then you feel like a genius? But also kind of like you’ve cheated because you didn’t really plan it that way all along? But no one will ever know? Yeah, that.
What do your fans mean to you?
The idea of having "fans" makes me feel like an impostor pretending to be more famous than I am.

But I am endlessly grateful to the people who read and enjoy my work, however they choose to label themselves. I write to give life to the worlds inside my head, and being able to share those worlds with other people is probably the best gift I can think of.
What are you working on next?
I'm currently working on the rough draft of a fantasy novel called SONG OF THE HERETIC, which is set in a world where nobles live in a city above the streets and touching one means death. The story follows Procne, a street girl with a forbidden magical gift, who vows to bring down the society that killed her twin brother and made her an outcast.
Who are your favorite authors?
J.K. Rowling is pretty much my entire youth. I love Tad Williams, Jacqueline Carey, Leigh Bardugo, Maureen Johnson, Elizabeth Moon, Kevin Hearne, Patrick Rothfuss...you get the idea.
What inspires you to get out of bed each day?
Very little. I love sleeping.
When you're not writing, how do you spend your time?
I narrate audiobooks, read, cosplay, leatherwork, do yoga, kayak...recently I've discovered geocaching and I love it.
How do you discover the ebooks you read?
I usually start by purchasing things from authors I know, then see recommendations for other items. Sometimes I find out about them on Goodreads, other times on blogs or twitter.
Do you remember the first story you ever wrote?
Don't make me say it again... it was embarrassing enough the first time. Pegacorns forever.
What is your writing process?
Story idea. Brainstorm. Research. Outline. Words on page. More research. More words. Cry. More words. Cry more. More words. Finish. Drawer. Write something else. Excavate from drawer. Read. Cry. Outline revision. Dr. Frankenstein-mode. Rewrite. Beta readers. More revision. More beta readers. More revision. Editor. Cry. More revision. Copy editor. Cry. More revision. Finish. Congratulate self. Excavate "something else" from drawer...
Do you remember the first story you ever read, and the impact it had on you?
The first story I read to myself or the first story I remember hearing? Because the first story I read to myself was Black Beauty and I think it fueled my love of horses, which in turn helped me down the path to fantasy. The first one I remember hearing was Peter Rabbit, which I guess maybe contributed to my love of the endearing rascal?
How do you approach cover design?
A good cover is absolutely crucial, in my opinion. The one for EXORCISING AARON NGUYEN was a group effort from several of my friends. Sarah, who inspired Georgia, is the cover model (that was a natural choice), my friend Brittany is a photographer, so she did a great photoshoot with us. My friend Elyse is a photoshop wizard and went back and forth over several drafts and revisions with me until I was happy.
What do you read for pleasure?
Fantasy, Young Adult, a shameful amount of 00Q fanfiction, and non-fiction about personality-types, linguistics, productivity, and creativity.
What are your five favorite books, and why?
Seriously, you want me to choose five? I'll give you my five MOST RECENT favorites

1. The Madness Underneath by Maureen Johnson - best and worst cliffhanger ever
2. The Deed of Paksenarrion by Elizabeth Moon - asexual main character that worked, and wonderful tactics descriptions
3. Shadow and Bone by Leigh Bardugo - she read and loved everything I read and loved and then wrote something that was better than most of them.
4. Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Liani Taylor - gorgeously-written, concept was something I hadn't seen before. Two different stories that twined around each other and worked beautifully.
5. The War of Art - non-fiction book that is basically The Art of War mashed up with The Artist's Way. Tough love for artists on becoming pro.
Describe your desk
No.
Published 2013-08-29.
Smashwords Interviews are created by the profiled author, publisher or reader.