Today my guest is someone who will make your hair stand on end. I’m excited to introduce to you R.W. Harrison, the author of the occult horror books, the Onyx Trilogy and Raven’s Temple.
Robert, welcome to my blog. “The Onyx Seed”, book one of the Onyx Trilogy definitely sent chills down my spine.
Eve: My first question to you is what is the first book that made you want to write your own horror stories? Or maybe it wasn’t a book but a movie or an event?
Robert: Even though I only released “The Onyx Seed” about ten years ago, I read a lot of Ray Bradbury’s books when I was a teenager, and many of them stuck with me. That sense of creeping dread and unease. That’s what I wanted to capture. And after witnessing several poltergeist experiences a number of years ago, I knew then that I had some stories to tell.
Eve: I’ve read only the first book in the Onyx Trilogy so far but I plan to read the next books. “The Onyx Seed” introduces the sinister legend from the Philippines about a creature you wouldn’t want to meet even only in your nightmares. A shiver runs down my spine when I think about what will happen to those who’ll be unfortunate enough to encounter it in book two. In the meantime, please share with us where did you get the inspiration to write about the monster from the Philippines?
Robert: As I mentioned, having my own poltergeist encounters inspired the initial plot of “The Onyx Seed”, which started out as a traditional ghost story. But I realized that ghost stories have been done a million times, so I needed something to punch it up a bit. I had already set some of the action in the Philippines during World War II, and realized that the islands must have some sort of indigenous religion, established well before the Spanish brought Catholicism with them in the 1500s. I spent a lot of time reading up on the ancient folklore of the Filipino people, their myths and legends, and discovered there was an entire pantheon of creatures and demons that inhabited the islands. There were dozens of mythical beings I could have featured, but I chose one that was particularly evil, the aswang. Its physical characteristics and behavior were nothing I made up; I described the creature exactly as it existed in the mythology. In Book Two, “Onyx Rising”, I take much of the action underground in a salt mine, where the creatures are multiplying. In the final book, “Onyx Nightmare”, the creatures are on the verge of taking over the planet and – without giving too much away – humanity’s very existence is at stake.
Eve: Sounds intriguing. I’m looking forward to reading “Onyx Rising” and “Onyx Nightmare”. But I think I’d better leave the lights in the kitchen on if I get thirsty and need a glass of water. Who knows whom I might encounter in the dark hallway!
What was your hardest scene to write?
Robert: In “The Onyx Seed”, probably the most challenging scene to write was the climactic battle scene on top of the railroad bridge over the waterfall. I tried to convey action, drama, suspense, and horror, all at the same time. The most difficult scene to write emotionally came in the second book, “Onyx Rising”. But I don’t want to say anything more – no spoilers!
Eve: How did publishing your first book change your process of writing? Do you agree that after the first book, the process gets easier?
Robert: The process definitely gets easier, but not the actual writing. When I first began “The Onyx Seed”, I wrote by the seat of my pants, not using an outline at all. That fit my vision of the Romantic author, sitting down at their typewriter (or computer, in my case) and writing their novel. However, about halfway through the book, I had written myself into several corners and had to backtrack, wasting a lot of time and effort. Sometimes characters have a life of their own and take the book in a different direction. So I started using a loose outline, only a few sentences to describe the action in each chapter. This way I could stay on track, but it was loose enough that I could be flexible when needed. I always do a lot of research for my books, whether it’s Filipino folklore, or cults and the quest for immortality (“Raven’s Temple”), or reincarnation, witchcraft, and how lighthouses work (“The Ghost of Witch’s Point”), and I’ve learned to do as much research upfront as possible, and then write. It’s too easy to get distracted from writing by doing some research, so I try to get as much of the research out of the way as possible.
Eve: After publishing five books, in your opinion, what are the main challenges of an indie author?
Robert: The marketing and promotion is still the biggest challenge. I spend more time marketing my books than writing new ones. It’s sometimes so hard to get traction with my books. I have a small, but loyal readership, for whom I’m extremely grateful, but it’s attracting new readers which can be tough. With five books, I now have a small backlist of books, which is important when new readers read your latest book, they then (hopefully) discover your back catalogue. To that end, my goal is to release two books in 2023.
Eve: That’s a great plan! I wish you not only luck but also patience. It is probably the most important for an indie author. Not to give up when we don’t see immediate results.
Are you an avid reader? What are your favourite genres to read?
Robert: I’ve been an avid reader since childhood. I always seem to have my nose in a book. Probably half the books I read are non-fiction, history mostly. Among the fiction I read, I read a lot of thrillers, science fiction, and horror, although not as much as you might think. I want my books to be original and I don’t want to unduly influenced by horror books I might be reading at the time.
Eve: Nowadays it’s impossible to imagine our life without social media. For an indie author, social media platforms are the most important promotion channels. Are you active on social media? Which platform are you most active in and where readers can interact with you?
Robert: I love connecting with readers! It’s very gratifying to hear how much someone enjoyed one of my books. I’m active on Facebook: www.facebook.com/RWHarrisonAuthor and Instagram: www.instagram.com/robertharrison_author or readers can email me at email@example.com
Eve: You have an excellent website, very professional-looking and easy to navigate. What, in your opinion, are the benefits of an author’s website? Isn’t it enough to maintain a social media presence?
Robert: As important as an active social media presence is, I believe that a professional-looking author website is equally as important. It serves as the main “hub” for everything an author does, and the author has complete control over the brand on their own site. In my case, I’ve also begun a monthly newsletter where I talk about my books, the stories behind them, and my novels in progress, and recommend other writers’ books. It’s at my website, http://www.rwharrisonbooks.com, that readers sign up for my newsletter, receiving a free novella e-book in the process. Building a mailing list is critical because the algorithms of the various social media platforms change frequently. You could be reaching a lot of followers one day on Facebook or Instagram and they could implement a change where now you’re only reaching half of them, or less. Consider what happened to Twitter recently. Many authors watched helplessly as Twitter users fled the platform. But you own your website, and your mailing list. That’s the most direct way to engage with your fans, and when the winds of the social media algorithms blow in a different direction, you always have the connection to your fans.
Eve: Thank you so much for joining me, Robert. I hope we will chat again soon and you will tell me and your readers about your new books.
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