Paperback Writer Chats with U.L. Harper Author of In Blackness

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In Blackness Book Tour

Join U.L. Harper author of the young adult science fiction novel, In Blackness, as he virtually tours the blogosphere during the month of September, 2010 on his second book tour with Pump Up Your Book.

About In Blackness

As children, Lenny’s and Saline’s parents brought them to Southern California to escape the nightmares. But after their parents die in a horrible car accident, their adoption by longtime family friend, Busek, proves nightmarish in its own right. Busek is abusive to his son, Dustin, and does very little to hold the young family together. The trio of kids become friends and grow up as a family. Outwardly, they are unruffled by life’s events, yet as teens the emotional aftermath of Saline and Lenny’s parents’ deaths lingers and eventually catapults Lenny and Saline on individual journeys back to their old hometown.

Saline journeys with a small church group which has regular excursions to her old hometown in Lowery, Washington. She discovers the group is protecting a powerful secret that will change her life.

Lenny, on the other hand, becomes stranded in King City. There, he meets someone who unexpectedly and unknowingly guides him to a place in Washington where something might be waiting for him. Impulsively, he makes his way there and discovers that the simple world he has been living in is vastly different from what he could have ever imagined
Meanwhile, Dustin remains in Southern California and meets a group of youth who stumble upon the city’s plan to replace the local library with a jail. In the process of this discovery they learn of one of the largest secrets society has ever kept, a secret waiting for them underground, in blackness.

About U.L. Harper

U.L. Harper is an after-school program Site Director in Long Beach, California. Over one hundred students attend his program. He previously worked as a corporate manager, and a journalist for a now defunct news agency in Los Alamitos, California. Newspapers are part of his writing background but he also dabbled in poetry. His poetry is published in The Body Politic chapbooks. He is the author of In Blackness, The Flesh Statue and the short story book Guidelines for Rejects. You can visit U.L. at http://ulharper.com/

Promotional video

Visit U.L.’s tour page at Pump Up Your Book

 

 

Interview

Will you share with us how you came up with the idea for this book?

Oh that’s an easy one. It worked like this. I wrote a novel that didn’t work; it was missing something, yet it was still too long and I had a hard time losing myself in the characters. I couldn’t arrange it right either. There was just too much and not enough of everything, so I ditched it and wound up writing The Flesh Statue instead. Literally years later, I got back to this book, which at the time was untitled. Now, although I liked it, it was still missing something. And then, I had a vision of a fifteen foot tall cannibal. At first I laughed, but then suddenly everything was clear; I needed to add a fifteen foot tall male cannibal into this novel somehow. Needless to say, the past, present and future storylines for this creature/person sunk up to the story in an interesting way, and I didn’t need to change any vital characteristics to my main characters. The cannibal has since changed to something else, something with a bit more of a persona, but it’s still fifteen feet tall and eats people. Really fun stuff. Thanks for asking.

Do you plan your stories first with an outline or does it come to you as write it?

This is a process question. My processes are something I do by default, as if it comes from my gut, so it wasn’t until pretty recently that I realized exactly what my process was or had become. Here goes the easy way to put it, without mentioning alcohol, long runs, frustration, loneliness and loss of confidence. This is what I do. First I might write a short story and examine the character a bit, check out the tone. Then might come a second story, just to see if I can develop a world around this person. After that—yep—a loose outline that I barely follow and don’t really even look at, but after I write it I have a direction. After I finish the story, I outline it again. From here I actually go back and follow the outline. So, yeah, I outline and I write it as it comes.

Do you know the end of the story at the beginning?

I’m not writing a story with no ending. To me, not having an ending is like a ball player not knowing that he’s playing for the championship. How you get to that ending is questionable. What happens at the end, well, let’s just say, after years of development, my theme at the end of In Blackness, really, it didn’t change and the setting for the last scene didn’t budge.

Do you have a process for developing your characters?

No. But the character needs to be inspired by something; he/she needs a center. I need to know when they’re going to be pissed off and what will make them happy. Simple stuff like that. I need to know what they’re going to say. For instance, my character, Dustin, if I asked him to go to the park at about two in the morning, he’d say this to me: “Man, hell, no.” He’s like a brother of mine.

It is said that authors write themselves into their characters. Is there any part of you in your characters and what they would be?

Definitely. Lenny has never really traveled. That’s all me right there. Saline is Born Again Christian. I’m not, but I have a lot of church in me to draw from, from when I was a kid. Dustin is very close to me. He’s the one someone might write about when they’re angry.

What is your most favorite part about this book?

Obviously there are many parts that I like. But there is one part when a more small time character enters the Abattoir with blood dripping from her hair, like beads of sweat. Love the imagery. There is this other moment when Dustin has gone through some serious conflict and he is tired and in some van and he is covered in alien flesh for whatever reason, and he “never felt so human”. Thought about it for a while and thought it was cool, but one of my beta readers was like, dang, that’s great. I happen to agree.

What struggles have you had on the road to being published?

Pssshh. The publishing world is busted. Anyone who says otherwise either knows something that basically nobody knows or is just plain stupid. I hope I only offended stupid people with that comment. If you’re not stupid then I in no way meant to offend. On any level, I can answer your question like this. Let’s just say that for quite a while I really tried to make In Blackness genre fiction, because nobody is selling literary fiction nowadays. I mean there are a few, but really, no, there isn’t. That’s a big challenge. Also, just having a relatively unknown name, it kind of hurts. Imagine going into a shoe store and the salesman tries to sell you a pair of Nikes, a pair of Keds, a pair of Adiddas and a pair of Stokies. I’m the pair of Stokies. I hope that makes sense.

What has been the best part about being published?

I do all my own advertising so going broke is pretty cool. Not sleeping and then going to work the next day is something I wish upon everybody. What else? Maybe I’ll sell fifty books. I look forward to being recognized for selling those fifty books. Getting the galley in the mail for the first time and seeing the cover.

What do you want readers to remember and carry with them after reading your novel?

The line between doing the right thing and doing the wrong thing is not permanent, and don’t let anybody tell you different. We have to redraw that line every day; we have to change every day or we will literally die. Sounds awful but the story is really uplifting. When Disney turns it into a movie they’ll probably retitle it Into the Light. Again, thanks for asking.

Do you have plans to write another book?

I’m already on it. It’s about this sixty year old guy and his dying wife. They don’t know what disease she has. The twist is that this guy has super powers. No, it’s not a super hero story. It’s just what I do.

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