Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Interviews With Authors: Richard Harland

A Talk With Richard Harland

Author of Worldshaker

By T.B.

1) How did you get the idea for your latest book Worldshaker?

Worldshaker started with two dreams. In one, I was in a strangely constructed library of many floors, and I just happened to discover a massive volume that turned out to be the sequel to Mervyn Peake’s Gormenghast. Not the real Titus Alone, but more of the dark, gothic world of Gormenghast castle, the novel I wanted Titus Alone to be. When I started reading, the story was wonderful, I had it all in my head—until I woke up. Then the excitement disappeared, and so did my memory of the story. Every last skerrick of it! All I had left was the feeling it had given me, a sense of brooding atmosphere and weird dark characters. I wanted to write that novel! – or at least, a novel to give me the same feeling.

A Drawing of What a Juggernaut Might Look Like
That was when I developed the general idea of juggernauts, but the story only crystallized after another dream. I was on my hands and knees in a circular metal room, and I was looking down into a slot in the floor that seemed to go down forever. I couldn’t believe what someone must’ve just told me, that there were human beings living down there.

Then somehow I tumbled into the slot, going down and down. I fell past floor after floor, wire floors that were only a few handbreadths high. And yes, there were human being crawling around on the floors, dirty wretched creatures in rags.

They turned to look at me and I felt their hatred. They meant to tear me limb from limb, probably devour me too. Hands reached out, grabbing at empty air, and still I fell, down and down. I woke up before I hit bottom.

That dream was fifteen years ago, and it goes straight into Chapter 26 of Worldshaker, where Lumbridge drops Col down the manhole into the terrifying world of Below.

2) I know that Worldshaker took you fifteen years to write, as there were many other books in the way. However, how do you think this affected the story of Worldshaker?

I guess the effect was all beneficial, though I’d still have preferred the chance to write and publish sooner – and be one of the first of the new wave of steampunkers! But because I had so long just mulling over the world and characters and story, I think all the elements became very solid in my mind. The characters in particular kept developing until I almost expected to meet them in the street (even though they’re often so mad and bizarre!) And the story grew tighter and tighter and tighter … I learned a lot in the process of writing Worldshaker.

3) What advice would you give to other young writers who seem to have writer’s block, and can just never finish a story they are working on?

Maybe there are very different forms of writer’s block, but I know two things that I’d be telling myself if I could go back in time.

First: don’t wait for inspiration to come but set up an absolutely regular writing routine – ideally a few hours a day, but even one hour a day is good. The main thing is to have a fixed starting time – and also a fixed finishing time. (If you stop before you’ve exhausted your inspiration, you’ve got something to make you want to go back the next day.)

Second: show your work to friends and acquaintances you can rely on to be honest and not just complimentary, and listen to their feedback. It’s important to know what you’re doing well, along with what’s not working – and it’ll keep everything in proportion. A scene that won’t work out isn’t the end of the world.

Which reminds me of a third piece of advice: be patient with yourself! Be dogged and be patient!

4) I’ve read that you considered titles such as Leviathan and Juggernaut before deciding on Worldshaker. What was the deciding factor for the choice of the title?
Early Notes- When the Title was Leviathan
I changed from Leviathan when I read Michael Moorcock’s The Land Leviathan – I didn’t want a similar title, especially when my huge rolling metal vehicles aren’t a million miles from the Land Leviathan that Moorcock created.

I was happy with Juggernaut until my agent pointed out that it’s the name of the movie, part of the name of a couple of novels – and she thought I could come up with something better. I could and I did!

So the title kept changing for purely practical reasons, yet in the end I think I arrived at the very best title – and the one I should have discovered for myself from the very beginning!

5) I’ve heard that you have a fascination with maps, and usually include them in your stories? Can you explain why?

I reckon I’d have to call in a psychoanalyst to find the causes of that fascination! A strong case of cartophilia! All I can say is, I’m in good company – so many fantasy writers share the same fascination.

6) What prompted you to start your 145 pages of writing tips for aspiring writers?

I put a few off-the-cuff tips on my author website – as authors do - and a class of students at a big literary lunch were dying to talk to me about them. The tips had been so helpful to their creative writing work, they said. That’s when I thought of how much more I could do to help people.

I never realized I was going to commit 4 months of my writing life to producing all the tips at http://www.writingtips.com.au/. It just grew and grew – I couldn’t stop until I’d said everything I could say. It was definitely the most un-selfish thing I’ve ever done in my life – and maybe good karma comes around, because I’d just finished putting up the website as a free resource when I got the news that Simon & Schuster had bought the US rights to Worldshaker for a bigger advance than all my other 14 novels put together.

I’ve put some extra writing tips about writing steampunk up on my US website, at http://www.worldshaker.info/ (in the pages on steampunk).

7) Worldshaker has made a big hit in the U.S. What do you think of this?
U.S. Edition

I think it’s wonderful! America is where things happen! Australia is a great place to live, but when it comes to starting trends and creating excitement, the US is the hub!

8) Can we expect to see anymore of your newest titles coming out in the United States? If so, what?

Right now, I’m working on the structural revisions to Liberator, which is the sequel to Worldshaker. For the first time ever, I think I’ve produced a sequel that outdoes book one – at least, it’s bigger in action and setting (all the other juggernauts come into play), and even more of a page-turner. I promise! It’ll come out in the first half of next year.

9) You’ve loved to write ever since you were a child. Did any childhood experiences shape you into the writer you are today?

I’m always going back to childhood experiences – my richest source of material. You can’t beat the intensity of the first time you ever saw or felt or lived through something!

I had a knack of telling stories when I was growing up – but somehow I lost it when I tried to write seriously. It’s taken me a long, long, long time to re-learn what I lost!

10) Lastly, what advice would you give to any young readers who someday wish to become recognized authors?

Always write the very best book that’s in you to write – don’t try to follow current fashions, but dig down into your own unique imagination. Have a long-term plan and be prepared to write more than one best book before you hit lucky!

And then, be patient and be dogged!

-This is T.B. with Another Book Back on the Shelf...
Until Next Time, Keep Reading!


  1. Wow! This is pretty cool! Great interview!

  2. Tessa,

    This is an awesome interview! Great questions and formatting as well. Can't wait for the next post.. keep up the great work!

  3. O.O did you actually interview him? 0.0

  4. Yes I did actually. After emailing Richard Harland for some time, I asked for an interview. He was so kind enought to accept, and thus Interview with Authors was born. Thank you so much Richard Harland!

    Oh and he commented on my review of his book, Worldshaker, also.


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