NAW Interview with Katherine Harbour  

Katherine Harbour

Katherine Harbour was born in Albany, NY and now lives in Sarasota, FL. She is the bestselling author of the Thorn Jack Trilogy. She briefly attended college in Minneapolis, Minnesota, before attempting life as a painter (the artsy kind). She has been writing since she was seventeen.

NAW- Please give me your bio in brief elaborating on how and why you decided to write?

I began writing in high school, after a gym coach substituting as an English teacher said writing was like a game. As he described how writers created characters, worlds, and journeys, I began to think it sounded like fun.

NAW- Tell us about your book, ‘Thorn Jack.’ How did you get the idea for the book series? Can you tell us how the series will unravel (without giving away spoilers of course)?

The idea for ‘Thorn Jack’ came after a dream I had (when I was seventeen), about two teenage sisters talking in a sunny room that goes dark as the kid sister realizes her wild, beautiful sister killed herself. Then I read the ballad ‘Tam Lin.’ I’d also been reading a lot of books about fairies and elves (The Bordertown series by Terri Windling and Ellen Datlow, ‘War for the Oaks’ by Emma Bull, and anything by Charles de Lint). When I rewrote ‘Thorn Jack’ three years ago, the main inspiration was a book called ‘Visions and Beliefs in the West of Ireland.’

The ‘Thorn Jack’ trilogy is essentially about the hero Jack’s redemption and the heroine Finn’s accepting the loss of a loved one.

NAW- Your book is very interesting in the sense that you have sprinkled references to mythology and even the quotation part was very nice. How did you get this idea?

At the beginning of each chapter, the quotations—all from poetry and scholarly works about fairies and mythology—were to be guides for the reader and to give more of a real-world atmosphere to the references from Finn’s sister’s journal of stories. I got the idea when I began reading interesting pieces in ‘Visions and Beliefs.’

NAW- How did you develop the character of Finn? Are names of characters important for you? How do you decide names, at random or through a careful process?

I thought Finn would be a difficult character to write, until her personality began to assert itself. I think she was inspired by Alice from ‘Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland,’ Nancy Drew, and Scout from ‘To Kill a Mockingbird.’ She had to be the girl in the fairy tale who wakes up and forges fearlessly into the dark.

The names of characters are important (I actually changed the names of the professors in ‘Thorn Jack’ at the last minute). Most of the time, names just come naturally and I only realize their subconscious meaning afterwards.

ThornJack book cover

NAW- How easy/ difficult is it writing for the young?

It’s the same as writing for any audience. Young adults want the same things. They don’t want to be talked down to. They want intriguing characters, a great story, and writing that transports them out of the world for a while.

NAW- Tell us about yourself. What do you do when you are not writing?

I haunt used bookstores looking for unusual books. I paint figures from the fairy tales in my head. I’ve begun making jewelry. I like to garden.

NAW- Name your five favorite books.

‘The Time of the Dark’ by Barbara Hambly. ‘The Perilous Gard’ by Elizabeth Marie Pope. ‘Swordspoint’ by Ellen Kushner. ‘Heroes and Villains’ by Angela Carter. ‘The Silver Metal Lover’ by Tanith Lee.

NAW- What do you prefer when you are reading, an ebook or traditional paperback?

I prefer the traditional way, only because I have two stacks of books to get through and every time I look at them I feel like Sisyphus pushing the boulder up the hill.

NAW- How difficult (or easy) was it getting published? What is it that you don’t like about the writing process?

Getting published took years. Despite the number of short stories and books I wrote, I never stuck with anything for more than ten rejections. With ‘Thorn Jack,’ I just believed in it. After nearly forty rejections and some close calls, I submitted ‘Thorn Jack’ to Harper Voyager’s open submissions call for ebooks and Diana Gill, the executive editor, contacted me and, soon, I’d gotten an agent and a three-book deal.

There’s really nothing I don’t like about the publishing process—accept maybe deadlines. But then I’d be forever revising things, so it’s good to have limitations.

NAW- What is the one thing that people don’t know about you?

I think one thing people might not know is that I went to college for art and sold my paintings at art shows and some small galleries.

NAW- Do you have any queer writing habit like writing in your pyjamas or eating while writing?

I prefer to write creatively at night. I spend a lot of money on music, which helps me create atmospheres.

NAW- What are your upcoming projects?

I’m revising ‘Briar Queen,’ the sequel to ‘Thorn Jack,’ and writing the third book. After these, I’m hoping to work on a steampunk trilogy and a novel about a haunted house.


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