WF Author Interview - Harper J. Cole

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    WF Author Interview - Harper J. Cole

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    This month, we interview English science fiction writer and WF staff member Harper J. Cole.

    Your author biography states that you suffer from O.C.D. and Asperger's - and that you take aspects from these conditions into your writing. Can you expand on this concept?

    I like to turn a negative into a positive. As difficult as having those conditions has made life for me at times, it's also given me an experience that most people haven't had. I can write a character with OCD with an authenticity that stronger authors than I might struggle to achieve, because living a condition tells you so much more than just studying it. In Subcutis, I've done that with the character of Gypsy.

    Of course, there are dangers inherent in putting too much of yourself into a character, because that character begins to represent you. There's then a natural urge to make them the conquering hero - the dreaded "Mary Sue" that all authors must avoid. I try to hobble my characters with negative traits if they're getting too heroic!

    Can you tell us how you got published and the process involved?

    I'd sent off my manuscript to some publishers and agents. They declined, but were positive enough in their responses that I felt I could eventually make a breakthrough.

    Ultimately, though, I decided to go with Amazon Publishing. It's a case of knowing your strengths and weaknesses. I've got the drive to write a book, but not the drive to send if off unsolicited to dozens and dozens of publishers until I get a yes. While Amazon Publishing is very much an automated machine with no friendly human contact to guide you through the process, the tools for putting a book together and promoting it are all there. It's worked out quite well.

    What is your ideal environment for writing?

    Comfortable chair, quiet room ... maybe a little gentle music in the background. Something by Gordon Lightfoot often works.

    Do you have any hobbies outside of writing?

    I'm something of an amateur chess player - I'm captain of a couple of local teams, as well as being club secretary, treasurer, competitions officer, web officer, league treasurer ...

    Too many jobs! I really must learn to say no when I'm offered them. Just playing the game is fun mental exercise, though.

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    In your new book 'Subcutis', an expeditionary voyage to Centaurus is entirely crewed by women. Are you deliberately challenging gender stereotypes?

    It's more about trying to reflect the modern world. Right now, there are organisations such as Emily's List specifically for promoting women in male-dominated areas. This process of positive discrimination (or affirmative action, in America) is sometimes controversial and most people have an opinion on it. I asked myself, if we ever develop the technology to colonise other worlds, might the same story not play out in space? It's interesting to explore.

    It also puts my crew in the position of being underdogs, bucking the status quo, which is always a good starting point for a story.

    If Subcutis were made into a film, which actors, past or present, would you cast to play the leads?

    I'm not sure ... to be honest, I'm not an author who tends to have a clear picture of my characters in mind (I know that some writers have already "cast" the movie even as they're writing the book).

    I'd probably want Maggie Gyllenhaal to play a role. Not sure which one though!

    And what soundtrack would you choose?

    I'm not musically gifted, so I can't apply much expertise here. Something orchestral, something with heart to it ...

    As a sci-fi writer, which authors have inspired you to follow this genre?

    Isaac Asimov stands out. I grew up with his Foundation Trilogy, as we'd often get the audio version out from the library. I can see his influence in some of my ideas.

    But, while it makes me sound like a bit of a heathen, I've probably been most influenced by the television - specifically, Star Trek: The Next Generation. It first aired in England during my formative teenage years, so it was perfectly timed for me.

    Do you have any favourite sections of WF, and are there any particular benefits in being a member?

    You can often find me talking nonsense in the game threads! Of course, writing is our main purpose here - the various competitions are a great way to do that. I've actually stuck some of the poems I've written on the WF into my books, to add a little extra colour to my characters.

    Have you travelled, if so, whe
    re are your favourite destinations?

    Aspies like me don't travel very well - it's a big departure from our comfort zone. Between 2009 and 2017, I didn't leave England at all.

    Sometimes we all have to stretch our boundaries, though. Last Summer, I went on holiday without my family for the very first time - to the Greek Island of Kos, where I played in a Chess tournament. The travelling was stressful, but I'm glad I did it.

    Favourite destination would probably be Japan, though. That was quite an adventure ...

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    When did you first realise that you are a writer?

    I'd wanted to write a book since I was a child, but I wouldn't say I felt like a writer until I read through my first draft of Subcutis and thought, "This actually looks like a novel." I was genuinely surprised, as I'd had failed attempts to write stories since my early twenties, and feared I'd never get there. We can peak as writers quite late though - I guess something clicked for me at around about the age of thirty-six.

    How long did it take to write Subcutis, and did you have any sort of writing routine?

    The first draft took about half a year, I think, mostly writing a few hundred words in the evenings. I'm a slow worker, and hardly ever manage more than two thousand words in a day. It's rather like mountaineering - set small intermediate goals so that the size of the overall task doesn't get too daunting.

    As a sci-fi writer, do you have any interest in the sciences?

    Truth be told, I've a limited flair for them, but I have looked at a few books on quantum physics, to see if I can understand them (I can't!)

    Of course, I do a bit of research to try and add a touch of realism to my books. Concepts like space warps and artificial gravity, though, are so far beyond our current technology that you're more or less on your own if you want to use them in fiction.

    Having written a novel, do you have any tips for the planning stage?

    Don't try to write the best book ever. I remember once deciding to craft a ten thousand page fantasy novel that would surpass Tolkien, and the result was five drab chapters weighed down by their futile striving to be EPIC.

    Just take an idea that interests you and work from that. Be aware that new ideas will come to you as you write, so don't be worried if it seems like your story will be too short. When you've finished, there's every chance that you'll have something unique and interesting.

    Ideally, if you could take one character from any sci-fi book/film and put them in another, who and what would you choose?

    The character of David from Prometheus / Alien:Covenant is intriguing. I think he'd work in any setting.

    Writing wise, are you working on anything at the moment?

    Yes: Subcutis is the first in a four book series. I'm currently finishing off the first draft of the sequel, Amygdala.

    Where can the readers find out more about you and your work?

    I'm on twitter as @HarperJCole. Mostly, though, you can find me right here at ...

    Is there anything else you wish to say to the readers?

    Thanks for reading, and don't give up on your dreams. If I can do it, anyone can!

    Harper's book is available via and

    UPDATE: Harper J. Cole's second book in the series is now available!
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    Check it out on and

    Last edited by PiP; January 14th, 2019 at 09:50 PM.

  2. #2
    Thanks, some interesting questions there. You got me thinking about the creative process, which is always good.


  3. #3
    Great interview, Ned. Thank you!

    Two further questions for Harper.

    1. How will you market your book?
    2. I love the cover, who designed it?
    Check out our showcase
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  4. #4
    Love the interviews you do, Ned, and Harper, good to read more about you

  5. #5
    Enjoyed reading about you, Harper, though I haven't quite met you on any platform. The OCD caught my attention. No, I don't have it but have close relatives who do. To be able to turn that into a positive is an incredible achievement and very commendable. Good luck with all future writing endeavours!
    When there's nothing left to say, say nothing at all.

  6. #6
    Good interview. I think I liked what I read when you workshopped your work here. Hopefully, when I do pick this up I can write a review. I remember how the opening hooked me. It might be a reader's particular taste. I'll post a comment that it was glass. Hopefully not too long from now. I'll try to be optimistic.
    I would follow as in believe in the words of good moral leaders. Rather than the beliefs of oneself.
    The most difficult thing for a writer to comprehend is to experience silence, so speak up. (quoted from a member)

  7. #7

  8. #8
    Nice interview. Oh, and HJC don't take this the wrong way but I always thought you were a man!

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    It's the Mantasy!
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  9. #9
    Quote Originally Posted by bdcharles View Post
    Nice interview. Oh, and HJC don't take this the wrong way but I always thought you were a man!
    Same here...
    Check out our showcase
    Hidden Content
    Hidden Content
    or check our my personal blog Hidden Content

  10. #10
    Quote Originally Posted by PiP View Post
    Great interview, Ned. Thank you!

    Two further questions for Harper.

    1. How will you market your book?
    2. I love the cover, who designed it?
    1. I use Amazons advertising service. Basically, customers searching for particular keywords will see my book as a recommendation. I only have to pay for the ad if they actually click on it.

    I've found "science fiction" and "space opera" have been getting me the clicks and sales.

    2. The website is I picked two elements from another site called Shutterstock (in this case, the robot woman was one element and the red star background was another), and he combined them and added the words.

    I'm planning to keep using the same process for future books, as I'm pleased with the outcome. It does cost a bit, though.

    Quote Originally Posted by PiP View Post
    Same here...
    Same here.

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