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Friday, March 21, 2014

A. B. Harms Interview & Giveaway

I've been asked in interviews "What book do you wish you'd written?"  When it's been feasible, I've skipped this particular question.  While there are many, many books out there that I love, rarely do I close one at its conclusion and think, "Wow! This is a story that I wish was all mine."  No more, friends, for I now have an answer to that question!

Bewildered by A. B. Harms IS the book I wish I'd written.  This middle-grade novel is all that I love about fantasy and juvenile fiction in general!  The characters are unforgettable, the plot well developed, and the setting...well the setting is what makes Bewildered so very enchanting.  A. B. Harms has done a phenomenal job constructing the Bewilderness, a world resplendent with imagery.

Description, in my opinion, is where Harms shines brightest, and there were several times while reading Bewildered that I was reminded of Neil Gaiman and his 2013 award-winning The Ocean at the End of the Lane.  The books are different in meaningful ways--Gaiman's story is considerably darker and the author himself has stated that it wasn't intended for young readers--but they share an unmistakable richness of description in their imaginative, fantasyland settings.  Harms is Gaiman Good with imagery!

Disclaimer:  I can already tell that I am very likely to overuse exclamation points while writing this post, but I can't help it.  I am beyond excited about this book and cannot wait for its much deserved success!

I am very happy to introduce you to author A. B. Harms and her debut novel Bewildered!  Also, don't miss your chance to win a signed copy of Bewildered and other great prizes (including a signed copy of Heir to the Lamp) by registering via Rafflecoptor at the bottom of this post!

 What inspires you as a writer?
Inspiration comes from a lot of different places—the world in general. Sometimes another book, a movie, something in the news, a billboard, a song, even off-handed things people say can stir up a thought that turns into an avalanche of ideas. These things happen to all of us, everyday! It wasn’t until I decided I wanted to make writing my career that I really started paying attention to them.

What inspired your novel, Bewildered?  What makes it special?
The idea began as a loose rendition of Alice in Wonderland—my favorite story from childhood. Instead of Alice, who was a daydreamer and needed to grow up, I thought it would be fun to swap it up—to have a serious girl who needed to learn to use her imagination—to enjoy life!

Could you tell us a little about your main character, the no-nonsense Prudence Parks?
Aw, poor Prudence. Perhaps she has some abandonment issues, what with having her only parent gone all of the time, but Prudence loves predictable things—things she can control. That leaves frivolities like friends “out” and things like the scientific method “in”. So where’s the one place she’d never, ever want to go—let alone become imprisoned in—that’s right…a place like Bewilderness, where nothing ever makes sense and anything is possible. Mean, aren’t I?

As a self-described “control freak”, how much of your own personality is shared by Bewildered’s heroine Prudence?
Ha! Yes, I do love planning, and predictability. I love researching and finding the most effective way to do things, and sometimes, like Prudence, I can get a little too self-assured for my own good. So, yes, perhaps there is a bit of me in Prudence. Funny I had never really thought we were that much alike! She was certainly fun to write—she’s so much more brazen than I ever could be. Right or wrong, she speaks her mind with absolute confidence, which is admirable in its own way, and something that I, as a people-pleaser, can’t always muster the courage to do.

One of the settings of your novel is the Bewilderness.  What was your process for creating this world?
Bewildeness was not fully realized when I began writing it. It’s funny to me how it takes time to become acquainted with the people and places we writers dream up. They reveal themselves little-by-little as the writing happens. I think this may be especially true in fantasy stories where all the rules we expect are subject to change. I found out what Bewilderness is like just the same way a reader does, one scene at a time. The world has shape now, and scents, and flavors, and soft and hard spots. But yet, as the series goes on, Bewilderness will become even more tangible. I think that’s one of the most magical parts of writing this series—watching it all unfold.

Bewildered features its share of baddies, but none so villainous as the Match King.  Which do you find more fun to write:  good guys or bad guys?
Bad guys for sure. They’re harder for one thing. It’s easy to fall into a stereotypical trap, making a mustache-twirling villain that wants to rule the world, but creating a bad guy who is a hero in his own world is much more challenging, and ups the stakes for everyone. The best is when you can see why the bad guy is doing what he does—it may be wrong, but in his shoes, what he is doing makes a bit of sense. It’s scarier when that happens too! Maybe that’s why even my hero isn’t all that likable…

Your book has a fabulous cover and is peppered with captivating illustrations throughout.  Can you tell us a little about your illustrator the talented Angie Kwon? What was it like working with her?
In a word? Fantasticgooglyawesomeness! Angie was a miracle find. I wasn’t sure what to expect, being my first novel, and I don’t think Angie did either—this was her first book, if you can believe it. She was such a pro though. What I really wanted was another perspective and an artist with a unique look. Angie definitely brought that to the project. I had very little input, actually. She read an earlier draft and gave me a few sketches with various ideas. As the interior images rolled out, I couldn’t believe how her contribution make the story real. We were definitely on the same page! Oh—get it? Page! I’m so funny.

What can we expect from future installments of The Bewilderness Tales?
More! More! More! New worlds, new characters, new twists! Though we will get to see many of the people from book one again, too. There are clues hidden in Bewildered that will suddenly seem so obvious later. So, when I say that I don’t have it all figured out—that the story reveals itself to me one scene at a time—I’m only half telling the truth. There are some things that I do know and the morsels are there in the pages of Bewildered.

What would you say was the biggest lesson learned on your journey to publication?
Whew! There’s been a lot of lessons along the way, and more occur every moment. But, I think the thing that I have learned, and the thing that I advocate for is: ‘DO WHAT YOU LOVE!’ Whether the day is good or bad, I always look forward to my work. Everyone deserves that, and the world would be a much better place if we all enjoyed what we did for a living.

What advice would you give aspiring authors?
Just do it! The only difference between aspiring authors and Authors is mindset. Also, write every day, seek out honest feedback, write every day, read as much as you can, study the craft, and…oh yeah—write every day!

You’ve been an outspoken advocate for writers choosing to go the Indie Author route.  What should those out there contemplating self-publication know about the process?
This is a good question, and though I honestly believe that Indie-authordom is wonderful, I find no fault in the traditional publishing path—there are pros and cons either way. It’s a decision each author must make based upon their own unique goals, expectations, and comfort level, and there’s no one way to do any of it. An Indie-author must wear a lot of hats—it’s a one-girl-band over here, even though I have lots of great mentors and supporters, all accountability falls squarely on one set of shoulders. However, more and more responsibility is being placed on the traditional author’s shoulders as well. Luckily, this is a path that has been walked before, and there are a lot of free resources out there to help.

The bottom line: no matter what path you walk, being an author is a business, and requires determination, passion to work hard, and willingness to invest in your product. Always be thankful for feedback, especially criticism—remember, you are a professional. If you conduct yourself as such, and keep an open mind, success is out there. Huge achievements are met with small steps.

Do you have any writing rituals?  A favorite place to write?
For a while I did. I liked to go to certain coffee shops and sip on certain espresso-based delights. It was my romantic idea of what being a writer could be. But nowadays, I squeeze writing in wherever I can. I keep note cards with me in case I get one of those vaporous ideas, or time to workshop things away from home. Just recently, I  moved into a corner of our basement to keep the dining room table available for… oh, I don’t know… eating? I have a lamp and a cup for my pens. It's great. J

As a writing mom, how do you make time to write?
This is a constant battle, let me tell you. I’ve made my writing goal fairly low at 1,000 words per day. I do whatever I can to make that goal. Sometimes it’s easy and I have time left to work on other things on the business side. Other days, I’m running too thin and don’t even get to touch my manuscript! Guilt doesn’t get me anywhere though, so I let it go and move on. There's a fine line between challenging yourself with goals and creating unreasonable expectations. I love the line: it's a marathon, not a sprint. It pretty much works for every part of this process.


 Cats or dogs?
 I have to say I'm more of a dog person. Big dogs especially!

Dinner or desert?
Whichever has chocolate in it.

What is the best thing that ever happened to you?
Oh my…this is a toughie! I'd have to say that my relationship with my husband is the best thing that has ever happened to me. So many of the things that I love and live for are through our connection: our children, our adventures living overseas, and just about all the things I have accomplished are through his sacrifice and support. Best guy ever.

A Bewilderness Tale, Book One

Prudence Parks is perfect. At twelve-years old, she has the world in her pocket. No messy friends. No silly games. Everything is just right—until her father leaves her an orphan. 

When she tumbles into a bizarre realm known as Bewilderness, nothing is as it should be. Insects talk, pirate ships sail on sand, and plants are just plain evil. After she’s banished for claiming to be human, she thinks the worst is behind her. She’s wrong. The Match King, posing as an ally, promises to send her home if she can find the Paper Heart, an ancient treasure. Battling her sense of logic all the while, she meets a living ragdoll and her father’s doppelganger, who melts her icy heart and—to her regret—gives the Match King perfect collateral to ensure she follows through. 

Prudence realizes the Match King’s plan to erase Bewilderness from existence, but now she must choose: save the world she has come to love, or find her way home.

BEWILDERED is a middle grade fantasy novel geared toward children ages 9-12. It’s Alice in Wonderland meets Miracle on 34th Street. Set once upon a time in a land far, far away, this story illustrates the importance of friendship, courage, and proves believing isn't always seeing.

Purchase it online at your favorite retailer, or visit your local bookstore!

About the Author

A. B. Harms was born a writer. From a young age, she made her own picture books with crayons and a stapler. As a teenager, she won essay contests. Yet, when she began her career, being an author was the last thing she considered. Finally, after working every job imaginable from waitress to social worker and earning her degree in Psychology, she realized what she was always meant to do--write!

A. B. is from Missouri, has gone around the world and back again, and now lives in Louisville, Kentucky with her family, a pet sloth, who resembles a Great Dane, and a black cat, who moonlights as an assassin. No matter where she hangs her hat, she finds herself at home down the rabbit hole.


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