Thea Harrison: The Terribleminds Interview

Thea Harrison is one of those authors who kind of floated in and out of my periphery over social media — I didn’t know her specifically, but I know folks who did and they were very excited by who she was and what she was doing. They were spot on — and I think you’ll get it, too. Thea’s got a new novella out, TRUE COLORS, and you’ll see my image right there on the cover. No really. NO, REALLY. Check out this interview with Thea, and then scout out her website and find her on the Twitters (@theaharrison)!

This is a blog about writing and storytelling. So, tell us a story. As short or long as you care to make it. As true or false as you see it.

A woman went from unemployment to hitting the USA Today Bestselling List and the New York Times extended bestseller list in two and a half years.

The facts are true, but the story isn’t quite what it seems.  This journey was an amazing group effort, including a huge commitment of support by family members, an intense amount of work from a talented young literary agent, editor championship and publisher support.  Also, the woman had previous publication experience, and she had collected many rejections over the years.

Just yesterday I posted a “25 Things” list about writers and rejection. What’s your take on how a writer best handles rejection?

Whew, tough question.  I have an emotional reaction to rejection.  At best it’s a disappointment.  It can often sting quite badly, and sometimes I get upset.  But I keep that private.

In my opinion the very best thing a writer can do with rejection is maintain a professional demeanor in public (that means YOU, internet), keep the emotional stuff private, analyze why the rejection happened and learn from it.

Maybe the lesson is, well, you should keep your emotional reaction private.  Maybe it is something else.  If you send out three hundred and fifty queries (I made that number up) and you receive universal rejection, then it’s probably a really good idea to look at the quality and content of both your query and your project.  Maybe your query needs to be torn down and rewritten.  Maybe your project does.  Maybe your project needs to go in a drawer somewhere until you can calm down and actually come up with some useful strategies for moving forward.  Maybe, oh the horrors, you need to pitch the idea entirely, and yes, I’ve had my share of those.

Why do you tell stories?

I have a “rich inner life,” or so an acquaintance who has a PhD in psychology has told me.  Or perhaps I’m just neurotic.

Give the audience one piece of writing or storytelling advice:

Be too stupid to quit but too smart to keep making the same mistakes over and over again.

Or in other words, study the craft, stop doing something if it doesn’t work, implement good advice, keep writing and stay professional.

Man, that’s some of the best condensed writing advice — a short sharp shock of good sense. Okay, so, let’s talk mistakes. Every writer has them. What mistakes have you made as a writer that you can share?

I’ve made many, many mistakes.  I’ve held onto project ideas when I should have let them go, and I’m pretty sure I’ve thrown away things that had promise.  I have worked too much in solitude, and probably every piece of advice I have offered in this blog is because I did something wrong.

What’s great about being a writer, and conversely, what sucks about it?

The great thing about being a writer, for me, is that I have an agent who loves the weird stuff in my head and editors who have, thus far, pretty much given me free rein in the creativity department.  That’s immensely satisfying, and I’m running with it as far and as fast as I can go.  Also, writers can work wherever they have a laptop, PC, tablet, typewriter or even a pen and notepad, so there’s a certain amount of flexibility that other jobs don’t have.

Conversely the sucky parts of writing are things that lots of people have written about before (including you in your blogs).  Every writer is going to suffer some kind of rejection.  It’s the nature of the beast, and you just gotta suck it up, baby, and learn from it (re: back to the too stupid/too smart thing).  And like any self-employment venture a writer needs to be prepared to work odd, long hours to meet a deadline, and the payment schedule can be irregular.  Also, while many people might have a hand in a project—from writer, to agent, to editor, copyeditor, cover artiest, line editor, typesetter, publishing sales team, and booksellers—the writing itself is a solitary job and it’s important to figure out how to balance that with social needs.

Favorite word? And then, the follow up: Favorite curse word?

Payday.  Frequently.

To find out my favorite curse word, I just conducted some word searches in my WIP.  “Damn” is apparently my number one favorite.

Damn = 27

Fuck = 24

Hell = 15

Bitch = 8

Goddamn = 7

Favorite alcoholic beverage? (If cocktail: provide recipe. If you don’t drink alcohol, fine, fine, a non-alcoholic beverage will do.)

My current favorite is 667 Pinot Noir, a California wine.  It’s been on sale locally for around $12.

Recommend a book, comic book, film, or game: something with great story. Go!

I’m not particularly into westerns, but despite that I’ve been watching and enjoying AMC’s new series Hell On Wheels.  For me, the show has an interesting mix of action and historical detail, such as one character who survived Andersonville, one of the most horrendous prison camps from the American Civil War.

What skills do you bring to help the humans win the inevitable zombie war?

None whatsoever, unless you count telling fun stories to other humans for stress relief.  If that doesn’t count I’m dead meat.

You’ve committed crimes against humanity. They caught you. You get one last meal.

I figure indigestion and a possible hangover won’t be an issue, and for the execution I’ll wear the diamond and gold bracelet that comes with the dessert.

What’s next for you as a storyteller? What does the future hold?

The future holds lots of good stuff!  TRUE COLORS is a novella in my Elder Races series out on Tuesday December 13th, released by Samhain Publishing.

Then book four in the series, ORACLE’S MOON, will be released March 6, 2012.  I’m writing book five (untitled), which should have an autumn release in 2012, and I’m currently contracted through book six.

I also have been contracted for two dark romantic fantasies, as of yet unnamed, that are outside of the Elder Races series.  The first one is slated for release in 2013.

So, you just released a novella — do you prefer writing novels over novellas? Why the choice here to go with the shorter form?

In general I prefer writing novels, but I really like what I’m learning from working in a novella form.  I’ve currently got a second novella in submission with an editor.

One of the reasons why I’m exploring novella-writing is to develop a second revenue stream.  Another reason is to take the opportunity to tell stories about the alternative Earth I’m developing that don’t really warrant a full length novel.  It’s a bit experimental, so we’ll see what happens!

How do you approach writing fantasy? What would be your advice to anybody trying to write fantasy?

My first advice is to read read read.  Read every book on fantasy you can, then read science fiction, and then read horror, thrillers, mystery, literature, and throw in a lot of nonfiction too about religion, sociology, geography, history, politics, science and probably popular culture, and anything else you can get your hands on.  Maybe take some classes too.

The reason why I write this?  All of that will make you a better writer, no matter what you write.

Author Patricia C. Wrede has developed an excellent set of questions that can help writers consider the many different elements to creating a fantasy world.  You can find the list here.

Now that I’ve written that I’ll confess, for the first book in my Elder Races series, DRAGON BOUND, I was a “pantser,” or I wrote by the seat of my pants.  I sketched in details of an alternative Earth as I wrote the book then got very lucky and was offered a three-book contract for a series.  Since the series is open-ended, the world-building for me feels a lot like one very long jazz session, and I’m building the world as I go.  It’s both fun and challenging, as I’m working to stay consistent with previous stories.

Thanks so much for inviting me to be on your blog, Chuck, and thank you especially for posting during the release week for TRUE COLORS.  It’s been a pleasure!

11 comments

  • “Be too stupid to quit but too smart to keep making the same mistakes over and over again.” Well, at least I have the first part down pat.

    This quote alone is worth the price of admission here. Great interview, thank you both!

  • I’m definitely too stupid to quit, and I’m trying to be too smart to make the same mistakes. Love this theory! That and the taking classes, taking a break from your manuscript, and read, read, read. Thank you Thea and Chuck!

  • Love the Elder Series books, Thea. Storm’s Heart is my favorite because, well, I like faeries. I’m looking forward to Oracle’s Moon this March. I have a soft spot for djinns as well.

    Great advice: “Be too stupid to quit but too smart to keep making the same mistakes over and over again.” Brilliantly succinct!

  • Great interview. I appreciate the appearance of someone from the romance genre in the Terrible Minds interviews as well. I’ve heard amazing things about her series, but I haven’t read it myself yet.

  • Loved this interview… Thea, LOL with the last meal–the bracelet to the execution is the best :) Thank you for sharing your experience and hard-earned wisdom, Thea, and I wish you the best of luck with your books–all of them. Chuck, thanks for sharing this!

  • I really struggled with how to review this book. It’s rare I encounter a problem like this one, but it’s happened nonetheless: I like the author, loved the first book in this series, I even thought the writing in *this* story was good…I just couldn’t stand the characters, Tricks in particular. Maybe I should commend the author for making the heroine’s annoying qualities so pervasive and realistic that I actually struggled to keep reading. That must be a sign of great skill, right? Here’s the thing: there is this old Meg Ryan movie called French Kiss where Meg’s character is talking about women who annoy her, little girls who “smile when they’re sad, pout when they’re happy, say yes when they mean no, and no when they mean yes.” This is Tricks exactly. She wears pigtails. She babytalks frequently, saying things like “Sowwy” instead of “Sorry”. At one point Tiago accuses her of sex-kitten manipulations, and he’s right. I didn’t mind Tiago one way or another: he seemed kind of cardboard-ey to me, like one of those Fathead wall decals; his role really could have been filled by any ancient alpha male type guy. I really loved Dragon Bound and I especially liked the fish out of water presented by Pia. In this genre it’s not unusual to have larger than life heroines who never make a mistake and who never need help in kicking butt and taking names. It was refreshing to see a normal woman who panics, cries sometimes, acts bossy other times, but who ultimately gets the job done. Tricks, unlike Pia, was just an idiot. And it’s not even like I have a major bias against “too stupid to live heroines” because I adore old Julie Garwood historicals and she’s famous for idiot women characters. At the end of the day, I will think of this book as a pit stop on the way to Rune’s story. I’ve got it pre-ordered and can’t wait, despite Tricks attempting to waylay me with her psycho Playmate of the Month personality.

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