A.M. Harte is a London-based, chocolate-addicted, passion-fuelled webfiction enthusiast and indie author. My first encounter with her work was a postapocalyptic biopunk story in the webfiction anthology Other Sides, and I recently relished and reviewed her collection of zombie love tales in Hungry For You. You can (and should) check out most of her fiction online, as she publishes it on her blog where you can read it for free.
Anna graciously subjected herself to my curiosity about her writing, the world of indie publishing, and the grossness of zombies. She’s also giving away one of the brand new print editions of her book, so without further ado, I give you the talented Anna Harte.
Zombies and love are a rather… strange combination. What
possessed inspired you to write on that theme? Especially since you don’t actually like zombies?.
Funnily enough, I’ve actually included an afterword in the print edition of Hungry For You musing on the inspiration behind the collection. To cut a long story short, it’s all thanks to fellow author Lori Titus for introducing me to the Zombie Luv Flash Fiction Contest last summer. I thought it would be a fun challenge to take part in and it would push my limits as a writer since zombies terrify me; I never realised I would end up possessed by the idea.
I don’t particularly like zombies because of the gore factor (I have a weak stomach). But writing Hungry For You pushed me into thinking about zombies differently, as metaphors for loneliness, obsession, lust and desire. They stopped being mindless, terrifying machines to me, and I think that really shows throughout the collection.
Hmm, I actually found the intimacy just as gross as gore! Decaying people kissing, the zombie boner in the title story… shudder.
I thought the zombie boner was hilarious when I wrote it. 🙂 The bit that grossed me out the most was Michael’s nail ripping in “The Perfect Song”. Yuck!
The stories in Hungry For You and on your website are all on the shorter side of short story. What is it that you like about this writing style/format? What are the challenges?
I’m a commitment-phobe. If you compare writing to a relationship, short stories are the hot summer flings and novels are the long-haul relationships.
Writing a novel can be pretty lonely and frustrating; at some points you’re certain you’ll never finish writing and you begin to wonder why you’re bothering. On the other hand, writing a short story is very intense, exciting and inspiring, because it’s all crammed into a very small space. And, of course, in today’s world of instant gratification, it’s addictive to get that satisfied sense of completion so quickly.
Not to say that writing a short story is easy. It’s tough to cut down, to tighten your prose and make sure only the essential elements are included. In fact, writing short stories has improved my writing far more than any other format.
I’ll confess that “Arkady, Kain and Zombies” was my least favourite story. I was intrigued, but I also thought it was the one story that really did need a bit more development, as I didn’t understand the connection between the two main characters. However, I noticed that a book entitled Arkady and Kain is listed among the upcoming releases for 1889 Labs – are you planning to turn the story into a novel?
Argh! I was worried about that. As a matter of fact, my fellow 1889 Labs author MCM wrote Arkady & Kain (a full length novel) last year – the story follows longtime CIA agent Kain as he is assigned to protect and control air-headed celebrity Arkady, who is affiliated with a terrorist organisation. The novel was available to read online for several months, and was then taken down for revision/editing and eventual re-release. It was actually supposed to come out February, at the same time as Hungry For You, but the plan flopped somewhat!
I assisted MCM on the editing process, so his characters took over a small part of my mind. I began to wonder how Arkady and Kain would be affected by a zombie apocalypse, and that was that. So what you have left is… Err, well basically a piece of fanfiction with added zombies, for a novel no one can read yet. Oops?
I feel the story stands well enough alone to be enjoyed by those unfamiliar with MCM’s novel, but in either case the revised edition of Arkady & Kain will be coming out this year and I highly recommend it!
You have several other writing projects going on at the moment – the Above Ground postapocalyptic fantasy series, the Darksight horror serial novel, and various short stories, all of which are published on your blog. Can you tell us something about those?
I’m embarrassed to admit I’ve been neglecting my other writing! Eep.
The Above Ground series is set in a world where humans live underground and monsters live on the surface. The story follows Lilith Gray, a human girl who is trapped above ground and must learn to adapt… or die trying! DarkSight is a horror serial set in London about a small-town Irish girl, Maeve, who discovers that she can see demons, and they can see her. It’s a haunting, gory tale about possession, loneliness, and fighting against evil.
I’m an active member of the online fiction (or webfiction) community, a great group of writers who post their work online, often in instalments. Both Above Ground and DarkSight are serial stories in that way, posted chapter-by-chapter over on Qazyfiction
. It’s a wonderful way to connect with readers — and many times the comments readers leave on each chapter influence the storyline! Of course, what is posted is very much raw and unpolished; I will eventually re-release the serials as edited ebooks.
I’m also a member of the #fridayflash community on twitter. On Fridays, authors post short stories (under 1000 words) on their blog and tweet about them using the hashtag. I don’t take part every week, but I do love the creativity of the community as well as the chance to test plot ideas in a small format. It’s also a great way to meet new authors and procrastinate at work on lazy Friday afternoons!
You’re an indie author, which basically means you do everything yourself, not just the creative stuff, but the business side of it too – selling, marketing, etc. According to your guest post on The Inner Bean, it’s a labour of love. I find that amazing – it shows such incredible commitment to your craft! But how do you manage it? And do you ever feel that “being a business” as you’ve said, can disrupt the creative process?
Oh, most definitely! Every now and then I realise that I’ve neglected my writing in favour of doing marketing work or admin jobs like formatting. Then I start feeling frustrated and become cranky, until eventually I realise what the problem is. It’s a constant juggling act, really — I write and write until I realise I’ve neglected my marketing, then I focus on that until I realise something else is slipping, and so on. I rather enjoy the challenge and variety, to be honest — I work best under pressure.
You’ve obviously found some kind of cure for sleep – are you willing to give up the formula/spell/recipe? Please tell me it’s all in the chocolate…
My cure is just oversleeping ridiculous amounts on weekends! And having no social life, ha. I always notice that the more I go out, the more my writing suffers, so I tend to write less during the summer when the weather is good. Oh, chocolate definitely helps too!
Most of your fiction is available for free online, and Hungry For You costs only $0.99. Clearly you’re not in this for the money, but that’s not a decision most writers would be willing to take; they’d want some kind of financial compensation for their efforts. So how is that you (and other webfiction writers) have had the determination to do it?
As you mentioned, writing is a labour of love. Whether or not I make money, I want to write — and for me the more important thing is to be read. I’d rather have thousands reading my books for free than ten people paying me to read it. Webfiction also has its own rewards: direct communication with readers, instant feedback, flexibility, a strong online community….
From a business point of view, however, offering free samples of my work is a great way to hook in readers and create an audience willing to eventually pay for something – Hungry For You is my way of testing the waters. 🙂
Hungry For You was published by 1889 Labs a publisher with some unusual initiatives, like Livewriting and allowing people to read all their publications for free online. Can you tell us more about them?
1889 Labs is an independent publisher dedicated to producing the best strange fiction conceivable by the human brain. Catering to a specific demographic of men and women between the ages of 3 and 97, they print everything from kids books to serious stories for adults.
I believe 1889 Labs is one of the most cutting-edge indie publishers around, willing to try new business models and experiment with the online format (livewriting being a prime example). I highly recommend checking out Dustrunners: Typhoon!
Hungry For You is being released in print this month – are there some extra stories exclusive to this edition?
Yep! As I mentioned earlier, there is an additional afterword which includes a little more insight into the stories, plus three extra stories which are all broadly more on the humorous side. We’ve also included a non-zombie story by 1889 Labs author MCM, which is drawn from his short story collection Kidney Disease Gave Me Brain Damage. So oodles of extra content!
It’s lovely to see my work in print. As much as I am a big fan of efiction, there are some things that only work in print, such as having cool stylized chapter headers and other formatting flourishes. I am actually holding the proof copy in my hands right now – it’s very surreal to have tactile evidence that I’m an author!
Congrats Anna, you certainly deserve the pleasure of seeing your work in print! And thank you so much for taking the time out for a chat 🙂
If you’re keen to see the book Anna’s so excited about and with which I was suitably impressed, then don’t miss your chance to win a copy of her unique zombie story collection. To enter, subscribe to Violin in a Void using either the email subscription or the WordPress one and leave a comment on this post. This giveaway is international, and entries will close on 28 March. Good luck!