Let me introduce you to one of my favorite Broads, sister member of Broad Universe that is–Kelly A. Harmon. Before I start the interview, here’s a little background for those of you who haven’t yet met Kelly.
Kelly A. Harmon used to be a newspaper reporter.
She found reporting to be by turns exciting (covering murder trials) and excruciatingly boring (covering itty-bitty town council meetings). Most other stories managed to fall in between those extremes on a sliding scale of interesting.
Eventually, she moved away from full-time reporting and editing owing to boredom of the routine. Stories were still interesting, but the rote mechanics of the job became anathema.
Nonetheless, she still writes non-fiction…because she can’t seem to leave it alone.
When not crazed with the need to freelance, she writes fantasy and dark fantasy with the occasional science fiction piece. Her story, “Lies,” short-listed for the Aeon Award. Her award-winning novella, “Blood Soup,” is recently re-issued by Pole to Pole Publishing and available electronically.
Her other short fiction can be found in several anthologies, including: Hellbore and Rue, Black Dragon, White Dragon, Triangulation: Dark Glass and Bad @ss Fairies 3: In all Their Glory.
Facebook Friend: https://www.facebook.com/kelly.a.harmon1
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I met Kelly at Balticon in 2013 while we both were volunteering at the Broad Universe information table. I liked her lethal humor from the start. This year, I had the chance to chat a bit with her while she was volunteering at the same table in the dealer’s room at Balticon. Later, we sat in on a live podcast, and what I learned about her is that she’s incredibly bright and maybe a little shy. So, when she agreed to do this interview, I wasn’t sure what to expect. Much to my delight, she dove right in with both feet and held back nothing. In fact, I learned something from this interview, and I hope you will, too.
Thanks for taking the time to answer my questions and letting me share you and your work with my readers, Kelly!
Morgen: I’ll start with a bit about the path your writing career has taken, Kelly. You started out in journalism and still keep a one hand on your keyboard in non-fiction as a freelance writer. Aside from your journalism and non-fiction writing, you’ve published a number of short stories and a novella. Stoned in Charm City, however, is a debut for you as a novelist. And congratulations, by the way! First, what prompted you to move from shorter pieces to a full-length novel?
Kelly: It seems like this novel is an afterthought, but it’s not. I’ve always written novels. I just haven’t always published novels. In the past it was just so difficult to get one noticed. But the publishing industry is going through such upheaval. There are more options for authors with the ability to go indie or to publish with a small press.
I recently had an offer on a traditional fantasy trilogy that I’ve written, but the contract terms were so egregious, I turned it down. In the past, I might have signed the contract anyway—just to see my book in print. Now, writers have choices.
I plan to get that trilogy in the hands of readers as soon as I’m able.
Morgen: What did you find most challenging about writing a novel versus a short story or novella, and what did you find easier (if anything)?
Kelly: I find it more difficult to write a short story. It’s hard for me to keep out the myriad of sub-plots my brain wants to include.
I like being able to expand on my ideas in different kinds of long form. The fantasy trilogy I mentioned is three distinct books tied together with interwoven plots. Although there’s a satisfying resolution at the end of the each book, there are a few things left unfinished in the first which pick up in the next two books. But everything is resolved by the end of the third book.
The Charm City Darkness series is different in that each book is standalone. You can read them out of order if you want, but Assumpta is still the main character, and everything takes place in and around Baltimore. It takes a different mind-set to write in a series versus a trilogy. I really enjoy the challenge.
Morgen: In your non-journalistic writing career, you’ve published mostly dark fantasy and fantasy stories. Stoned in Charm City is a bit of a deviation for you, in that it adds an element of the paranormal to what might otherwise be contemporary/urban fantasy. Clearly, it was an intentional choice on your part as the writer. What do paranormal elements add to what you hope readers get out of Stoned?
Kelly: I hate to admit it, but there was nothing intentional about Stoned in Charm City. I hadn’t sat down to write urban fantasy or include anything paranormal at all. (This is where you find out I’m a pantser…)
Kelly: Stoned started out with an overheard conversation. My brain started filling in the gaps of the missed bits of dialogue. Pretty soon, I had this character, Assumpta, who was arguing with a demon, and I needed to tell her story. The book practically wrote itself after that (as did the second one, A Favor for a Fiend, slated for publication this fall).
What do the paranormal elements add? On the surface there’s a lust-interest, Jak…who used to be human. Beneath that, there’s a question about relationships and loyalties and questioning beliefs. I didn’t intentionally set out to make a point, so I don’t want to comment on what it means. People can draw their own conclusions.
And coming back to your point about me writing fantasy and dark fantasy, I’ve written some horror, too. If you enjoy really dark stuff or ghost stories, check out the anthology Deep Cuts: Mayhem, Menace & Misery.
Morgen: References to things one might associate with Catholicism are a major part of Stoned in Charm City. Character names, Assumpta Mary-Margaret and LaSpina (Italian for thorn), are one example. What was it about Catholicism that drew you to use it as the frame for your story?
Kelly: Since the story revolves around a demon problem, I needed a plausible framework for conversing with demons. Although they’re not the only Christian faith to “combat evil” (if you will), the Catholics have been training their priests and exorcising demons for centuries. It seemed a logical choice.
I made Assumpta an Irish Catholic girl, born on the day of the Assumption – a celebrated Catholic holiday. But she’s got several gifts: she can find things that people have lost using a pendulum, and she does spot-on numerology, and she sees auras. All of this is in direct conflict with Catholic precepts. So, there’s a lot of questioning her faith and her belief in god.
I asked my editor to make sure that the book doesn’t come across as “preachy.” The religion is there, but it’s the backdrop—mostly.
I liken the Charm City Darkness series to “The Exorcist meets Buffy.”
Morgen: Where can readers find Stoned in Charm City and other works by you?
Kelly: You can find my works at most major retailers on line. Here are direct links to buy Stoned:
Morgen: What will we see next from you? Book 2 in the Charm City Darkness series? Something altogether unrelated?
Kelly: The second book in the series, A Favor for a Fiend, is slated for Fall publication. Also: look for a few more short stories either stand alone or in anthologies by the end of the year. You can follow my website for announcements (http://kellyaharmon.com) or join my mailing list (see the blog, top right) for news on books and short stories as well as giveaways.
Morgen, thank you for hosting me! It’s been a pleasure!
Morgen: The pleasure has been all mine, and I know it will be my readers’ pleasure, too! I look forward to digging into A Favor for a Fiend!
QUESTION FOR READERS: Kelly and I have a little disagreement ongoing. I say the young woman on the cover looks like a version of Kelly. What say you?