Please introduce yourself and your book(s)!
My name is Scott Harper. I grew up in central Ohio, lived in Florida for 14 years, and now live in northern California. My wife, and I met when we both lived in Florida, but didn’t get together until she had moved back to northern California to be with her family. We didn’t want to try a long-distance relationship, so I moved out here to be with her. Now, we’ve been married for six years, and have a wonderful 5-year-old daughter, and seven spoiled cats.
Writing is all I’ve ever wanted to do. I kept being told that it was very hard to get published. People told me—over, and over—that getting that first piece of work published would be the hardest thing I ever did as a writer. Thus far, I’d have to agree with that. I had over 200 rejection letters before receiving my first acceptance letter. Now, I’ve had over 30 short stories published, and have published nine books.
My first three books—”Winter’s Rite”, “Well Wishes”, and “Gauntlet—were self-published. After that I found a publisher; someone I’m no longer with. My last three books were published by Umbral Press (www.UmbralPress.com). Those books are:
“Quintana Roo, Yucatan”: https://www.amazon.com/Quintana-Roo-Yucatan-Scott-Harper/dp/193937801X
“Quagmire Fen”: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B00B0GHQL4
“Hidden Tribe”: https://www.amazon.com/Hidden-Tribe-Scott-Harper/dp/1939378060
“Quintana Roo, Yucatan” is, by far, the longest thing I’ve ever written. The paperback edition is oversized, and still clocks in at 564-pages-long. It’s an award-winning bestseller. “Quagmire Fen” is a critically-acclaimed novella. “Hidden Tribe”, which was co-authored with my wife, bestselling, award-winning author Desirée Lee, is also a bestseller.
What is/are the story(ies) behind your book(s)?
Normally ideas for my work come from all over. There’s no telling what might spark an idea—something I read, something I see on TV, or in a movie. A random thought. Even song lyrics. You never know. The major exception to that is “Hidden Tribe”. The book deals with sasquatch. It’s actually written from the point of view of a pair of sasquatch. “Hidden Tribe” was, in part, inspired by sightings, and other encounters, with at least one sasquatch I had while growing up in Ohio. Anyone interested in those accounts can read about them on Lon Strickler’s “Phantoms and Monsters” blog here: https://www.phantomsandmonsters.com/2010/07/growing-up-with-sasquatch-marysville.html.
What inspires/inspired your creativity?
As I said in answer to the previous question, inspiration can come from anywhere. There’s no telling where that spark will come from. It can happen anywhere, at anytime.
How do you deal with creative block?
For me, it’s best to get away from the project for a while. This is one reason why I’m usually juggling several projects at one time. It seems like if I get stuck on one project, things fall into place for another one, and I make progress on it. Simply getting away from something I’m stuck on, and trying not to think about it, usually leads to the answer I’m looking for. If I try to force it, things never work right, and the block stays in place.
What are the biggest mistakes you can make in a book?
Really, for me, I’d have to say that the biggest mistake I can make is not having a clear ending idea in mind before starting the book. This way everything in the book can move toward that ending. If I don’t have an ending in mind, the story wanders all over the place with no real plan. The story then turns into a mess. I have to have the end in mind before I ever worry about the beginning.
Do you have tips on choosing titles and covers?
Titles are difficult for me. It usually takes me a while to name a project. But, like having an ending in mind, I want to have a title in mind before I start work on a project. I don’t like thinking of a book as “the whatever project”. I want to have a title in place before I start writing.
As for covers, I think they should be a mix of attention-grabbing, yet simple. they should also fit the story. That can be a hard balancing act sometimes. The publisher I mentioned earlier that I’m no longer with had trouble with that. I was never happy with any of the covers put on my work by them. It was just “Here’s the book’s cover. Like it? We hope so, because that’s it; we’re not changing it.” That was one of the reasons I left that publisher.
How do bad reviews and negative feedback affect you and how do you deal with them?
Honestly, they hurt. As an author, you put a huge amount of time, and effort into a book. Then, to have someone trash it hurts. Every time I read a bad review of one of my books it sets off my depression. I really need to learn how to cope with bad reviews better. I’ve always said that, but, so far, have never learned that trick.
How has your creation process improved over time?
I used to stress, trying to write as much as I could in a day. I’d get frustrated over any interruption. I tried to do as much each day as I could, even if what I was writing on a given day was awkward, and going to be changed, or flat out deleted. Now, I’m much more relaxed about it. Some days I don’t write at all. If it’s not working, it’s not working; why spend the time writing something I’m not happy with, and am going to just delete, anyway? Being more relaxed about it, and taking some days off here, and there, actually make me, I think, a better writer. When I do write, I’m turning out better quality material. And I want to do my best for my fans, and readers.
What were the best, worst and most surprising things you encountered during the entire process of completing your book(s)?
To answer this one, I have to bring up the first book of mine that was published by the publisher I’m no longer with. The book was “Predators or Prey?”. It was the first book of my Wendy Markland series. They published the first three, by the way. I want for Umbral Press to re-edit, and rerelease those so I can continue the series. Thus far, that hasn’t happened.
Anyway, “Predators or Prey?” originally focused on Wendy’s boyfriend, Jacob Iverson. The entire book was from his point of view. It stayed that way through the first few drafts. Then I realized something one day. Even though the book was from Jacob’s perspective, it wasn’t his story. It was Wendy’s. That hadn’t been my plan. It happened somewhere along the way when I wasn’t looking. At the same time, Jacob was a pain to work with. He never wanted to do what I needed him to do. He kept trying to go off, and do his own thing.
It sounds odd to anyone who isn’t a writer. People say, “But you’re the author. You write every single thing that character says, and does. How can they fight you? How can they not do what you want?” Trust me. It happens. Jacob was like that. The worst time I ever had working with a fictional character was dealing with him. Even after I ripped the book apart, and put it back together from Wendy’s point of view, Jacob never did settle down, and work well with me.
Do you tend towards personal satisfaction or aim to serve your readers? Do you balance the two and how?
I do try to balance them, yes. I have to be happy with what I’m writing, though. I have to be interested in it. So, if for some reason I’m not, I can’t expect my readers, and fans to be, either. That tends to be my gauge for that—is it interesting to me? Am I happy with it? Even if it’s something readers have said they want to see, if I’m not happy with the result, I wouldn’t expect them to be, either.
Several of my readers have said they’d like to see me write a comedy. Comedy is, for me, very difficult to write. There’s a very fine line between humor, and stupidity. Over the years I have actually tossed around the idea for a Western comedy. But, I’m not a big Western fan, and comedy is not something I’m comfortable writing. I have no idea why I keep thinking of doing a Western comedy. One project my wife and I are working on—that’s setting on the back burner at the moment—is a steampunk Western. Maybe we could work a few laughs into that to satisfy some fans.
What role do emotions play in creativity?
If I can’t get worked up, and excited about a project, how can I expect my fans to? That’s one of my tests to see if an idea is good enough to put the time into developing, and writing. If I can get excited about it, and stay that way about it for a few weeks, or months, then I feel that it’s worth looking at more closely. If not, then that idea gets tossed. I need to remain emotionally invested in whatever I’m writing. If I lose that while writing, I need to make some changes to the book, and get those feelings back. Again, if I’m not excited about it, how can my fans be?
Do you have any creativity tricks?
One thing that works for me is to look at artwork. Most of what I write is fantasy, paranormal, or horror. Say I’m trying to work on a fantasy, but get stuck. Sometimes I can get an idea to get unstuck simply by looking at fantasy artwork. Some small detail might catch my attention, and spark an idea.
What are your plans for future books?
Right now I’m bouncing between several projects. One is titled “Mojito Cove”. It’s a mermaid story—the first of those I’ve ever written. Our 5-year-old daughter loves mermaids, so she thinks it’s really cool that Daddy is writing about a mermaid. Another is an action/adventure. It’s a vigilante crime fighter story. It’s basically a comic book without illustrations. It’s meant as Book 1 of a series. I’m also working on another fantasy that’s slowly taking shape. When it’s done, it’ll be a lot like “The Smurfs” for adults.
I have other irons in the fire, too; projects slowly taking shape. I’m jotting down ideas as they come to me, keeping notes. Hopefully one day those will start evolving into actual projects.
On the non-fiction front, I’m also working on a series of historical blog posts for a sasquatch blog called Bigtruth: https://bigtruthblog.blogspot.com/ A lot of people seem to think that sasquatch just popped up out of nowhere with the Patterson/Gimlin footage in 1967. Nothing could be further from the truth. This article series deals with that. I’m doing one article per US state. When I’m finished with the USA, I’ll be doing one article per Canadian Provence. The current plan is to publish these articles together as a book when I’m finished.
Tell us some quirky facts about yourself
Well, you already know that I’ve seen a sasquatch. Is that quirky enough for you?
I have fibromyalgia, and trigeminal neuralgia both. Not a good combination to have. Despite those, I still keep writing. I hope someone reading this finds that to be inspiring.
I’m also a comic book fan/collector. I’m a HUGE DC Comics fan. Batman, Aquaman, and Wonder Woman are my main characters. I’ve been reading/collecting DC Comics since the mid-1990s, and never missed an issue of the books I buy. The nearest comic shop to us is 100 miles away, but they’re kind enough to ship our comics to us each month.
I used to be part of a paranormal investigations team when I lived in Florida. I was on a few investigations with them. Only one time did something inexplicable turn up. To this day, we have no idea what was really in that particular photo. It looked like the image of an arm, from the elbow up, floating in the air, holding a sphere of blue energy. The arm itself was a different shade of blue energy.
The house we live in is haunted. I’ve seen the ghost four times in the six years we’ve lived here. My wife, and daughter have each seen her, too.