One of the unexpectedly wonderful things about getting involved in the indie writing community has been getting to know authors like Harry Manners. Back in the day when traditional publishing was the only real option going, I usually only discovered great authors once they’d been established. Now, I’m finding them at the start of their careers, and that is tremendously exciting.
I think Harry’s going to be an author we’re going to see a lot more of. His Mars-based story The Happy Place was hauntingly sad (and I’m putting it on your recommended-by-SWF reading list). When I read Ruin, the first in his Ruin Saga, I immediately offered to beta read the next because it is exactly the kind of post-apocalyptic saga that I’m a complete sucker for.
I was introduced to Harry by Lucas Bale (another one to watch), and have chatted with him back and forth about his work for a while, but it’s long overdue that I shared him with all my readers too. Like so many super creative people, he has a lot of exciting projects on the go.
It reminds me of this Ursula LeGuin quote: I’m all over. My tentacles are coming out of the pigeonhole in all directions
I can never get enough of suddenly-alone-in-an-empty-world fiction, and I’m not the only one. It’s a genre with an enormous following. What do you think the attraction is?
It’s a sandbox. Science fiction is all about lifting all the usual rules and idioms and rhythms of ordinary life, and exploring mankind’s limits under unusual circumstances. With this particular subgenre, you get to take that to the extreme, pushing people to the edge of what they’re capable of in a desperate scrabble to make sense of their surroundings, and survive. I think it also has a certain degree of symbolism to it; the picture of one person standing alone in a vast and empty world.
People love that. It reminds them of themselves. I suppose we’re all angsty teens, underneath.
Both Ruin and Brink are very visual stories with some incredible descriptive passages that suck the reader into the reality of the world. I know we discussed the possibility that the series might have graphic novel versions. How’s that going?
This is a big one. The idea has been mulling in my mind for a while, but as soon as you mentioned it (and thank you, by the way), I knew it had some legs. You’re right in saying they’re visual stories, as I’m a visual writer; that’s pretty much the only thread of my writing that hasn’t changed over the years.
I’ve done some storyboarding, and it all came so smoothly, I wondered if I shouldn’t have tried to be a filmmaker, instead. It’s a lot of fun! I’ve also scouted around for the right artist, and whittled it down to a short-list—okay, maybe it’s a long-list, but it’s a list that was shorter than the long-long-list.
But I want to do it right. I can picture them in my mind, and I’d never get over it if I didn’t a half-arsed job and they didn’t turn out quite as good as I imagine they could be.
As such, this is sitting very decidedly on the backburner. Not forgotten, but in hibernation. I want to get the whole series written first, and I’ll be graduating from university in two years. Then I’ll have time to really sink my teeth into a project like this.
The Ruin Saga is a big story. It’s multi-character, set over decades and huge in scope. It’s a lot more work than writing a stand-alone novel. How much of the story do you plot in advance?
I’ve been writing in this world for a long time. A lot longer than I’ve been writing the books I’ve sent out into the world. In fact, I first started with a short story I wrote when I was seventeen. Since then, that great empty world has inhabited a special place in my head, growing, and dividing.
I wrote a novel when I was twenty that was over a thousand pages long. I tried to get it published, and got an agent, and was in talks with publishers who liked it. But they wanted it cut down, broken into three books and completely re-written.
I wasn’t going to gut my story just to get it to the shelves—don’t peg me for a whiney author, here; I’m all for heavy editing where it’s due, but the changes they asked for would have turned it into another book entirely.
So I decided to go indie. But, the idea of splitting it into three books stuck with me. And so I threw the whole book away—I have it on hard drive somewhere, still, but there was a ceremonious literal throwing away of the printed manuscript—and I started over.
The first book became Ruin. And now I’m up to book three (actually, a prequel novella, but we’ll say three for simplicity).
So, I know pretty much everything about this world, by now. A thousand things have changed and morphed and vanished and blossomed of their own volition during the second time through, but that’s how it is; I’m certain all the changes are for the better.
That said, I’m a pants writer. I had a destination, like way-points, so I know I can tie off all the mysteries in the series (I’m intent not to ‘LOST’ any readers with leaving hanging questions), but in terms of everyday writing, I’m free to meander.
Long term, the Ruin Saga is part of a much larger narrative called Pendulum that takes place in an extended universe. At least seven books will follow from the culmination of this saga, and many adventures await somewhere in the keyboard.
Oh yes, I plan. I scheme. I steeple my fingers and giggle in the night—all in the service of my readers, of course…
How about a sneak peek for Book Three? What can you tell us about what’s coming up next?
I’m not going to release anything from book three yet, because I’m mean and I’m teasing everyone.
No, not really. I haven’t nearly finished the first draft, yet. If any of my books ever blow people’s socks off, it’s going to be this one, so any sneak peeks are going to be squeaky clean.
But fear not! I have some material, instead, from the prequel novella I’m writing to the saga, due out at the end of August, called Frost. I’ve included the current draft of the second chapter.
This book is a lot of fun to write, and I can’t wait to bring it to the shelves next month.
As for book three, you can expect action, and mystery, and heaping piles of weirdery. I’m stepping up the freaky stuff to high gear. People are going to die, questions are going to be answered. War is coming.
Finally, I have to mention The Happy Place because it was my favourite out of all the No Way Home stories. Any plans for more from that particular universe?
Thanks, Sandra. It’s one of the best short stories I’ve written, I think. One of those stories that just felt right. (Yes, I think so too – SWF)
I certainly am writing in that universe again. I’m working on a hard sci-fi novel called First: A Martian Novel, which takes the setup described in The Happy Place and expands the narrative across the scope of decades, chronicling the lives of the first generation of settlers.
I’ll be focusing on the psychological connotations of isolation, and the moral implications of condemning children to a life without hope of returning to earth.
It’ll be a while before it sees daylight—I have so much to write in the meantime, it’s not even funny. But will I return to The Happy Place again? Absolutely.
Thanks for taking the time, Sandra. As always, it was an absolute pleasure. If anybody wants more information, or just wants to chat, they can reach me through Facebook, Twitter, or email. I love hearing from readers and fellow writers, so don’t be afraid to get in touch!