AUTHOR INTERVIEW 126 – SL Harby


Sean Harby (Author Name: SL Harby)

New Jersey, USA

48 years old

A child of the 80’s, SL Harby grew up playing Dungeons & Dragons and classic video games. An only child, he was bitten early by the reading bug, cutting his teeth on the masters of modern fantasy. His days were spent inside the worlds created by Howard and Lieber, Moorcock and Tolkien.

A perpetual Jersey boy, SL Harby lives in northwestern New Jersey with his wife and muse, Jessica and their bad ass rescue dog, Tellulah.

Visit http://www.ReadSLHarby.com for fiction, reviews, creator interviews and more!
Stephen’s existence has become a wash of malaise, from the job he despises to the life that somehow has spun out of his control. He has grown apart from his wife, her respect for him having faded many years ago. As an escape, once a week, he and his friends get together to play The Game, exploring the magical world of Taerh through role play. Stephen soon learns there is more to Taerh than he ever imagined. The Game, which he thought to be a construct of imagination, was actually based on visions of a world beyond his perceptions. In his dreams, Stephen sees the world of Taerh through the eyes of his ‘reflection’, Hollis, who lives a life which Stephen could only imagine. When tragedy strikes, Stephen must work with his reflection to unravel a mystery that spans both Taerh and Earth. New comrades in both worlds offer to aid them; although some are true allies, others are motivated by their own selfish desires. As Stephen draws closer to Hollis, he must track down the murderers of his closest friends before he joins them in death.

Romelia:   WHAT IS A SIGNIFICANT WAY YOUR BOOK HAS CHANGED SINCE THE FIRST DRAFT?

SL Harby:   Shadows of a Dream was a four-year labor of love. Over that time, it has evolved from a simple adventure story into an examination of a life lived with regret. The character of the Songspear, Aristoi, expanded beyond my wildest expectations and she has become a favorite with both myself and my readers.

Romelia:   WHAT PERSPECTIVES OR BELIEFS HAVE YOU CHALLENGED WITH THIS WORK?

SL Harby:   I have always worked under the assumption that your life is defined by the decisions you have made. To a certain extent that is true, but it is possible to change the course of your life for the better, no matter how mired you are in the quicksand of the everyday.

Romelia:   WHAT INSPIRED THE IDEA FOR YOUR BOOK?

SL Harby:   I have been playing tabletop roleplaying games for more than forty years, since the summer of 1980. I have weathered the demonic panic of the 80’s as well as the bullying and mockery that came with being different. At its root, Shadows of a Dream is about accepting yourself and living your best life, even if it means putting it at risk.

Romelia:   HOW WOULD YOU DESCRIBE YOUR BOOK’S IDEAL READER?

SL Harby:   Obviously, I think that gamers will enjoy the story within Shadows of a Dream. At their root, however, everyone can identify with being different and wanting to be able to accept yourself for it. It is definitely a tale of fantasy, so my ideal reader will want to be taken on an adventure beyond their perceptions but as close as their dreams.

Romelia:   HOW MUCH RESEARCH DID YOU NEED TO DO FOR YOUR BOOK?

SL Harby:   I constantly do research as I write. I shudder to think what someone would think if they were to look too closely at my search history. I taught myself how to pick locks, joined a historical Martial Arts group in order to learn how to fight with a sword, hospital procedure, medicinal herbs and much more in an effort to write an accurate, relatable story.

Romelia:   HOW IMPORTANT WAS PROFESSIONAL EDITING TO YOUR BOOK’S DEVELOPMENT?

SL Harby:   Shadows of a Dream would not be the novel it is without my editor. I think that as an author, we are too close to the children of our imagination. We need a third party that is distanced from the creation in order to help us truly bring it to life. My editor helped me with some scenes that did not read the way I intended them and suggested some additions to a few that made the book flow the way it does.

Romelia:   WHAT WAS YOUR HARDEST SCENE TO WRITE, AND WHY?

SL Harby:   I think the hardest scene to write was one that involves Stephen and his wife in which he reaches out to mend their relationship and is received with venom and spite. I have seen that play out too many times from too many angles to not be affected by it, even as its author.

Romelia:   WHAT CHARACTERS IN YOUR BOOK ARE MOST SIMILAR TO YOU OR TO PEOPLE YOU KNOW?

SL Harby:   Stephen is very similar to a version of me at a particular time in my life. As most of us do, I have made mistakes and the character of Stephen is a natural progression of those choices. Thankfully, I am in a much better place and have the luxury of being to look back on those days and find inspiration within them.

Romelia:   HOW LONG DID IT TAKE YOU TO WRITE THIS BOOK?

SL Harby:   Shadows of a Dream took me four years to write, but there were large stretches where I put it aside due to everyday concerns. I am now writing the sequel, Shadows of the Heart and hope to have it done by early 2022.

Romelia:   HOW DID YOU COME UP WITH THE TITLE FOR YOUR BOOK?

SL Harby:   Dreaming is an integral part of the story as is the concept of a shadow or reflection. The title naturally flows from that.

Romelia:   WOULD YOU AND YOUR MAIN CHARACTER GET ALONG?

SL Harby:   I would hope so. As I said, Stephen is very much like me and tends to be a pretty easy going guy. Even after discovering his connection to his reflection, Hollis the Slender, he maintains a moral center that I find very admirable.

Romelia:   IF YOU COULD MEET YOUR CHARACTERS, WHAT WOULD YOU SAY TO THEM?

SL Harby:   I would tell Stephen how much inspiration I draw from his journey and how proud I am of him. Oh … and who the real villain is and how to defeat them!

Romelia:   WHAT IS YOUR WRITING PROCESS LIKE? ARE YOU MORE OF A PLOTTER OR A PANTSER?

SL Harby:   I am squarely in the pantser camp. I really enjoy seeing how a story evolves on its own within my mind. I think this comes from my decades of roleplaying. That being said, I have been dipping my toes into the plotter water with Shadows of the Heart in an attempt to keep it concise and on track.

Romelia:   WHAT DO YOU NEED IN YOUR WRITING SPACE TO HELP YOU STAY FOCUSED?

SL Harby:   I rely on music to keep me ‘in the zone’ when writing. I have a playlist for each story, often for each plot to keep me focused on it.  I also find that playing that particular set of songs can also get me back in the mindset easier after a day away.

Romelia:   IF YOU WERE TO WRITE A SPIN-OFF ABOUT A SIDE CHARACTER, WHICH WOULD YOU PICK?

SL Harby:   Without a doubt, Aristoi. She was the breakout character of the book and took on a life of her own as I wrote her. I have written two short stories (Found on my website) about her adventures prior to Shadows of a Dream and find myself more and more excited about her journey. She is a strong, capable woman modeled on those that I am fortunate enough to have in my own life.

Romelia:   IF YOU COULD SPEND A DAY WITH ANOTHER POPULAR AUTHOR, WHOM WOULD YOU CHOOSE?

SL Harby:   I would choose Ernest Cline. He obviously shared my obsession with the 1980’s and seems to be a down to earth guy that reminds me of a lot of the friends from my youth. I picture our interaction as easy and comfortable, very much like the feeling I get reading his books.

Romelia:   WHAT IS YOUR SCHEDULE LIKE WHEN YOU’RE WRITING A BOOK?

SL Harby:   I write when I can, mostly a few hours at night and more on the weekends. Often, I try to take advantage of as much time as I can find. My 9-5 keeps me busy during the week. I also split my time between trying to stir up interest in my debut novel and writing the next one or content for my site.

Romelia:   HAVE YOU EVER TRAVELED AS RESEARCH FOR YOUR BOOK?

SL Harby:   I have not specifically done so, but I draw inspiration from everywhere I go. It could be a turn of a phrase or how the sun hits a tree or stone.

Romelia: WHAT’S YOUR FAVORITE WRITING SNACK OR DRINK?

SL Harby:   I recently lost 65 lbs, so I try to avoid my prior unhealthy relationship with food. I do enjoy Quaker Caramel rice crisps and dark chocolate humus as I write … or read … or watch TV. Pretty much, I love the stuff!

Romelia:   HOW DO YOU CELEBRATE WHEN YOU FINISH YOUR BOOK?

SL Harby:   My wife and I bought Chinese food and ate with great abandon. My childhood was wonderful but a lot of events, both positive and negative were celebrated with food.

Romelia:   WHAT RISKS HAVE YOU TAKEN WITH YOUR WRITING THAT HAVE PAID OFF?

SL Harby:   I wrote Aristoi as a woman. It intimidated me a bit, I lived a bit of a sheltered life and was afraid that I would not do the character justice or would write her in a way that in some way made her appear less than the awesome character she is. She turned out to be the break out character within the novel and I am so happy with how she turned out.

Romelia:   WHEN WAS THE LAST TIME YOU GOOGLED YOURSELF AND WHAT DID YOU FIND?

SL Harby:   I googled myself the weekend after Shadows of a Dream released and was amazed that all of the results on the first page were me. It was a very nice surprise.

Romelia:   WHAT IS YOUR KRYPTONITE AS A WRITER?

SL Harby:   I have some issue with letting go of my creation. This makes editing an uncomfortable process for me. I realize that my beta readers and editors are there to help me make the work better, but I feel very protective of my work. Is there some sort of group therapy for that? I feel like there should be.

Romelia:   TELL US SOMETHING FUNNY FROM YOUR ADULT LIFE.

SL Harby:   I once rode in an elevator with Billy Joel … at least I thought it was him at the time. I told him how much of an honor it was to meet him and asked to shake his hand. He got off at his floor and I continued to mine. Later I learned that Billy Joel was not in the building that day. I have no idea who I spoke to but I hope I made his day.

Romelia:   DESCRIBE YOURSELF IN A FEW SENTENCES. TELL US SOMETHING WE DO NOT KNOW ABOUT YOU AND SOMETHING YOU HATE ABOUT THE WORLD.

SL Harby:   I am completely a product of the 80’s and some (not so) small part of me will always dwell in the ‘golden decade’. I was an avid reader as a child and continue to be such to this day. Although, I rarely admit it, I know all the lyrics to the musical Cats. The thing I hate about the world is how easy it seems to be to ignore the plethora of things we have in common while focusing on the few differences that remain between us.

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