1) Tell us a little bit about yourself. How did you get into writing?
I grew up in England – Yorkshire, Devon, London, but most of all in Suffolk, which is farming country about 80 miles from London. Also the arlocationea of rural scenes painted by John Constable – and I used to live in a very pretty small town called Hadleigh. Not that I cared so much about the prettiness then – I wanted to escape to big city excitement! But a lot of the background feel to the Home Ground of Ferren’s tribe in FERREN AND THE ANGEL comes from memories of Hadleigh and the countryside around.
Afterwards, I was 3 years in Cambridge, then migrated to Australia – an accidental migration, because I never intended to stay. But then I fell in love with the place and the lifestyle. I’ve lived always around the Sydney area – inner city, Newcastle, and now the Illawarra. Wollongong manages to combine having the biggest steelworks in the Southern Hemisphere with having a beautiful green escarpment and a whole string of picture-perfect beaches.
I can’t remember a time when I didn’t want to create stories. I was always imagining scenarios and events for my own enjoyment and for friends playing games when I was a kid. But I never particularly thought of being a writer, until I started getting top marks for creative English composition – only because I discovered how to use a Thesaurus and throw around impressive-sounding words. Bad start! And worse, when I won a big prize for a short story, which was only impressive because I’d read some literary stuff more advanced than other kids my age, so I could pretend to use symbols and stream of consciousness and … you get the idea! I was a fake and a poseur, and all the natural story-telling instinct I started off with got lost in the process!
Anyway, I paid the price with 25 years of writer’s block. Now I truly did want to become a writer – and I couldn’t write. Or, more accurately, I couldn’t finish anything I started to write. And I started plenty, short stories, poems, novels – no use, I bogged down on every single one.
It took me a long, long time to rediscover that old storytelling instinct, but I did in the end. I got back to what I did well in the first place, which wasn’t fancy words and techniques, but making up live-in worlds and intriguing characters and stories that read like a movie.
2) What inspired you to write your book?
This will sound corny, but it really began with a dream. If you look at the opening half-dozen pages of FERREN AND THE ANGEL, that’s like a transcript of the dream. I was Ferren peeking out at terrible sounds and lights in the night sky, understanding that it was a war going on between the armies of Heaven and the armies of Earth. And I was Ferren seeing the bright light of an angel come hurtling down towards me, shot out of the sky and crashing close by. I’ve always been lucky with my dreams!
3) What theme or message do you hope readers will take away from your book?
Probably the idea that the downtrodden can rise up, exploitation can be defeated. I don’t really think in terms of themes or messages – if they’re there, they come out of the characters.
4) What drew you into this particular genre?
If you call my genre Fantasy, then I guess I’ve always enjoyed imagining otherworlds. I love the challenge of creating a world far removed from the reader’s – and my own – experience, and then turning it into solid experience that makes you feel as if you’re actually living through the events right there. I think you’ll agree that the Ferren world is very way out – I hope you’ll agree that it still seems real when you read it!
But although I’ve always been drawn to Fantasy, I’ve also wanted to create fantasy worlds that aren’t like other fantasy worlds. I truly believe fantasy OUGHT to keep opening up new doorways, new imaginative possibilities, and I get disappointed when it falls into formula and stereotype. FERREN AND THE ANGEL is fantasy, OK, but when you get on to describing its sub-genre, then it becomes difficult. Easy to say it’s not traditional epic fantasy or swords and sorcery or medieval fantasy … but I wouldn’t know how to say exactly what it is!
5) If you could sit down with any character in your book, what would you ask them and why?
I guess I’d love to sit down with my second most important character, Miriael, and ask her about her life as an angel! What was she taught by the Cherubim in the schoolrooms on the Third Altitude, how does it feel to share a perfect communion of touching spirit to spirit with every other angel? And a million suchlike questions – there’d be so much to ask!
But for just sitting down with – and not particularly asking any questions – I’d go for my third character, Zonda. She may not be everyone’s cup of tea, but I’d really enjoy meeting her.
6) What social media site has been the most helpful in developing your readership?
Maybe too early to give a proper answer … I’ll have a better answer in 6 months time! But I have enjoyed working through NetGalley, which is a site for making Advance Reading Copies available to reader-reviewers. I think it’s a great system! (And I don’t say that because all of my NetGalley reviews to date have been five-star … though it helps!)
7) What advice would you give to aspiring or just starting authors out there?
I’d say, enjoy the writing and the writing process, because that’s a pleasure no one can ever take away from you. Success goes up and goes down, your next book can’t always be more popular than your last. But to have a story unfold and start telling itself and zoom towards its climax – whoo-ee! Best feeling in the world!
I guess my 25 years of writer’s block gives me more reason to enjoy it than most. I’m on a winner just being able to finish a book at all!
8) What does the future hold in store for you? Any new books/projects on the horizon?
First business is completing the Ferren trilogy. After FERREN AND THE ANGEL comes FERREN AND THE DOOMSDAY MISSION, then FERREN AND THE INVADERS OF HEAVEN. The story began big and keeps getting bigger! I’m already pre-filming those next 2 books in my mind, and I absolutely believe the whole trilogy will be the most satisfying – and mind-boggling – thing of all. INVADERS OF HEAVEN involves what the title says, an actual invasion of Heaven. Can’t reveal who the ‘Invaders’ are, but it’s no spoiler to reveal that the foot-soldiers of the invasion will be the very ugly, soulless Hypers who’ve been the backbone of the Humen (sic) army ever since Book One.
About the Author
I’m the author who nearly wasn’t – it took me 25 years to beat writer’s block. In those 25 years, I migrated from England to Australia, became a singer/songwriter, a poet and then a university lecturer. But all I truly wanted to do was write speculative fiction.
Finally I finished my first novel, the comic macabre, The Vicar of Morning Vyle. With its prequel, The Black Crusade, it grew into a cult. When mainstream Australian publisher Pan Macmillan contracted my next novel, I resigned my lectureship, and I’ve been a full-time author ever since.
I live south of Sydney between green escarpment and golden beaches, with partner Aileen and Yogi the labrador. Writing, writing, writing … I have those 25 missing years to make up for!
My big international success has been with my YA steampunk novels, Worldshaker, Liberator and Song of the Slums. The French Le Worldshaker picked up the Prix Tam-tam du Livre Jeunesse. In the US, Worldshaker and Liberator were published by Simon & Schuster.
Richard Harland website: https://www.richardharland.au
Ferren on GoodReads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/137225996-ferren-and-the-angel
Ferren on BookSirens: https://booksirens.com/book/VWV7C9U/S5PYY95