Hi, lovelies! Today I’m featuring local, to me, author Justin Harrison, who self-published his debut novel SKUL last year – which is full of werewolves, soldiers, and lots of action! Check out the interview and let Justin tell you a little more about himself, his book, and his experiences self-publishing a novel. After you read the interview, be sure to enter the GIVEAWAY (yay giveaway!) to win a signed copy of SKUL. Also, don’t forget to check out SKUL on Goodreads and see what it’s all about!
Describe yourself in three words. First off, Stefani, THANK YOU for the opportunity to talk a little about myself and my book, SKUL. I’ve been a fan of this blog for quite some time and have found several “next reads” while perusing your articles. Secondly, ahhh, describing myself in three words is incredibly difficult, and I’ll not be throwing out any quirky words here that will force your readers to google their meanings. I’m also assuming you don’t want something as mundane as short, fat, and bald? Considering, how about 1) loyal, 2) unfiltered, and 3) dedicated. And, of course, that’s not in any particularly order.
Describe your book in three words. Again, all but impossible, but I’ll try: 1) thriller, 2) spec-ops (I know, I’m taking a liberty with the word count here by using my friend, the hyphen), 3) werewolves.
Obviously, I could spend ALL DAY talking about SKUL as it excites me, and I believe in it. But, you wanted three, so there they are.
Tell us how you got into writing. To be honest with you, there was not any one thing. It was a gradual process that started way, way back when I was in junior high, really. I’m 39 now, so I’ve got some miles on me…not as many as some but definitely more than others. You and some of your readers may remember the old gaming system, Nintendo? I’m not talking about the stuff they have today, but the original system. Not long after it hit the market, they produced a game called The Legend of Zelda. By today’s standards, it is an archaic game, but the story that came with it sucked me in and never let go. I can still remember sitting in class and trying to “write” a fantasy-type story to match Zelda. They were horrible. I mean, really, really bad, but I just enjoyed it in a strange way. My writing that I do today is still influenced in some way, shape, and form by that first “game” story.
What was it like to self-publish a novel? What? No word count? I kid, I kid. Self-publishing was both an awesome experience and one of the most nerve-shattering ventures I’ve ever undertaken. Because it’s yours from cover to cover, you can either look like a champ or a chump when you release it to the public. That bit of knowledge sat in my gut like a sliver of molten lead and forced me to do everything I could to do the best job possible. Two very important things I did was get a group of beta readers to help with the editing and storyline along with finding an artist to put together my cover and blog art. My friends James Madaris and Leighton Tate played an incredible hand in making SKUL as readable as it is. Additionally, my friend and cover artist Marc Lee (look him up on Facebook as Coffee and Perspective) absolutely KILLED the cover.
To be good at your craft – whatever that may be – you have to study it, which I did in spades. I read as many self-published works as I could. There are a TON of great writers out there going the self-publishing route nowadays, so this wasn’t that hard. The thing I found, however, was that many otherwise awesome works were hard to read for various reasons. Most of these would have required simple fixes to greatly improve readability. I worked hard to mitigate those mistakes. SKUL ain’t perfect, no doubt, but I’m proud of what one man and a group of willing friends were able to accomplish. My beta readers who I lovingly refer to as the Red Ink Army kick mucho booty. Lastly, self-publishing and writing anything for anyone is a very humbling if not terrifying experience. You’re basically splaying yourself open and showing the world your soul in a lot of ways. I had to learn to accept the bad reviews for what they were – a chance for my craft to mature into a better product.
What were the best and worst things of the writing process? Best – without a doubt, developing the characters. The core group of five SKUL operators – Dane, Jed, Twitch, Tweeker, and Toad – I have come to know like old friends. Creating their lives, dealing with their faults and short-comings, and intertwining their interactions as friends and teammates in a hierarchal, militaristic setting is, without question, the most rewarding part of the whole process. Worst? If I may take yet another liberty, can I use the term Hardest? There’s really not a “worst” part of writing, in my opinion; but, there is a hardest part. The hardest part for me is keeping the storyline both colorful yet crisp and fluid. You may have noticed, but I don’t write anything short. I can literally turn an old beer can in the woods into society’s microcosm of bilious wretch, eating away at its shell from within. That’s pretty extreme, and I don’t really write like that, but you get the point.
Tell us about your day job. By day, I’m a Bone Marrow Transplant pharmacist at the University of Mississippi Medical Center. What that basically means is that I make a LOT of chemotherapy for patients throughout the hospital ranging from both solid tumor disease states to those with hematological/blood disorders such as ALL. Not to be flippant but some of the stuff we have to mix/make kinda feels like you’re in Post-O.W.L.s Potion’s class. How’s that for a tip o’ the hat to my main man, Harry Potter? To be sure, it’s a great job albeit one filled with both sadness and elation in equal measure. Honestly, there are a lot of days that I’d like to be out of that job; because if I am, that means we’ve finally kicked cancer’s ass.
Which writers inspire you? All of them. Seriously though, it’s really a smattering of the usual suspects – Stephen King, J.K. Rowling, and J.R.R Tolkein – plus some lesser known but equally righteous authors like Jim Butcher, Will Scott, Larry Correia, and Stephen Michael Fuchs. But, really, ALL OF THEM inspire me to some extent.
What’s been your best experience as an author so far? The first time (and, the countless times since) I was asked to autograph a book that I wrote was pretty damned cool. Stuff like that along with having folks from all walks of life come up and engage you in a conversation regarding your book, what you were after at ____ point in the book, or to simply ask when the second one will be published make the late nights, early mornings, and mere minutes of free time taken up with writing absolutely worthwhile.
What’s your favorite book? C’mon, Stefani…that’s like asking what’s better Miller Lite or Bud Light, New York or Chicago style pizza, Chevy or Ford when we all know the answer is a craft beer IPA served with a whooooole lotta “yes, please” to either style pizza. But, I do have a Ford with nearly 300,000 miles currently having its transmission rebuilt, so take all that with a grain of salt. Really though, I can’t answer the question with any sincerity. There’s just too many good-to-completely-awesome books out there to pick just one. What I will say is I’m a certified Star Wars NERD and think of the Harry Potter series as ground zero for completely imaginative writing. I know, I know, but here me out. I grew up with the original Star Wars saga (don’t talk to me about how bad they missed the mark on the latest bunch). When my friends were wanting to be Superman, Spiderman, or something equally ridiculous, I wanted to be a Jedi Knight. Still do, as a matter of fact; so much so, I’ve read nearly all the Star Wars stuff out there and think the Darth Bane trilogy is an unknown gem with regards to the Old Republic ; particularly in reference to the dark path Sith Lords go down. Ok, I admit revealing that might have cost me some cool points. Likewise, what Rowling did time and time again – that being capture an entire world audience with her writing – simply amazes me. And, I think she’s about to do it again. Sooner rather than later, and I Can. Not. Wait!
Any advice to other self-published authors? Yeah…just write the damned book. What I mean is, don’t get bogged down and intimidated by sales or being told “no” by books stores. They have a bottom line to meet, and with all the virtual media outlets these days, they aren’t prone to give a newbie a cut until the book is vetted by the public. This is tough to do, and I’ve fallen prey to it, myself. I’m not sure what I really expected with all this. I mean, I know what I wished for – books flying off Amazon’s virtual shelf so fast they couldn’t keep up – but, that’s not realistic. Not for a first-time author with no publishing house machine. So, just write the damned book.
Write YOUR book, and take satisfaction in the fact you’ve done something a huge portion of the public would never – could never – do.
Oh…and, don’t skimp on the cover.
SKUL is available to buy on Amazon!
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Justin Harrison is the author of the new militaristic thriller/paranormal fantasy series, SKUL. Long considered a jack-of-all-trades and master of none, he’s desperately hoping to change the trend with his writing.
He lives in Brandon, MS, with his beautiful wife, two awesome children, and two hard-headed Labrador retrievers; all who manage to tolerate his mindless ramblings and incoherent gibberish well enough to be labeled saints.
Click on the photo below to enter the giveaway. It will run from July 30 – August 20 at midnight. Open to US residents only! I’m sorry but this book is HUGE and would cost like a million dollars to ship internationally!