Thursday, March 22, 2012

Interview with Guy Harrison

What will readers like about your book?

I think that there's a little something for everybody in Agents of Change. If you like a unique, thought-provoking premise, I believe my novel has that. If you like technology and science fiction, there's some of that. If you like suspense and action, there's definitely some of that. And, if you like an emphasis on character development and human relationships, there is that as well.

Although it's fast-paced and action-packed, relationships are at the core of the story. I think readers will find that if the relationships weren't there, the story would be less engrossing; they really drive the story and the main characters' actions. I also think people will enjoy the book because of its unique protagonist. He's a successful, well-educated African-American man who, while outwardly generous, is selfish in his closest interpersonal relationships.

Overall, it’s a bit of a fun ride for the reader, I think. The protagonist’s journey takes him to numerous locales which make for interesting set pieces (metropolises, beaches, parks, trains) and each brings with them their own unique characteristics, advantages, and pitfalls.

Why did you self publish?

I self-published because, as someone who had previously written several screenplays and tried (unsuccessfully) to get an agent and sell them, I knew that the process was a bit of a lottery; it requires more luck than skill, I think. I haven't completely dismissed someday getting an agent and being traditionally published if the opportunity presented itself but, for now, I feel like I have good stories that are waiting to be told and consumed by the public.

I'll also say that I don't think I ever committed myself to screenwriting the same way that I have as a novelist. Knowing that I am responsible for the finished product, my novel has gone through two drafts, beta readers, a third draft, a proofreader, and then a fourth draft. I didn't do all of that as a screenwriter...

What is your writing process?

...And that leads into this question. I'm not a pantser. I have to outline my story before I start or I'll never finish. Without an outline, the self-doubt that starts to creep in for all writers a third of the way through the book can be crippling. If you don't have an outline, you don't know where to go next and you give up.

After the first draft, I take a look at the story as a whole and outline a second draft, highlighting the major changes that are necessary. In the second draft (which, I believe, is the most important), I specifically try to up the ante for some of the book’s more poignant moments as well as character development. Wherever there are gaps or where you need more oomph to your story, character development is usually a good way to go. Upon polishing the second draft, I ask for help from a few peers willing to beta read for me. I make most, but not all, of their suggestions in a third draft and then send it to a proofreader for punctuation and grammar.

In that third draft, it’s tempting for the majority of writers to make EVERY change that their betas have suggested. In the end, it’s your story. If a suggestion doesn’t feel right to you, don’t make it. And a lot of suggestions are just personal preference and not necessarily something that will bother or stand out to all of your potential readers.

How long does it take you to write your first draft?

It took me a little over a month to write the first draft for Agents of Change. I was encouraged to participate in NaNoWriMo and completed the novel at that time. According to my peers, it's not normal to finish an 85,000-word first draft in that amount of time but I'm the type of writer who, when I get involved in a story, I can do nothing but write. That meant a few sleepless nights and a few all-nighters. My writing kept me awake at times as scenarios swirled around in my head. Thank God my wife was so tolerant of my wacky sleep schedule!

What inspired you to write this particular story?

Agents of Change is loosely based on a television pilot I wrote when I wanted to be a screenwriter. It came about after I asked myself two questions: one, what if there were people responsible for bestowing karma, both good and bad, upon the human race? Two, what if those same people abused their power? I then wanted a protagonist that had special abilities (because, well, I'm into that sort of thing) and Agents of Change was the story I came up with.

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