As part of my Pickin’ An Author’s Knows interview series, I’ve wrangled Dr. Alan Harris, author, full-time veterinarian, and homeschooling father of six. He lives in South Carolina and thus far has penned three Tales of Larkin books – a series about one-inch tall people who live in the forest. And as his website says about this series, “I saw it as a way to create some family bonding and as an opportunity to teach my children some spiritual lessons…”
Aha! Although that is true, Dr. Harris leaves out some serious descriptive tid-bits:
This series is pretty popular in our household and a couple of years ago I interviewed my then 9-year-old son about the debut book. When I asked him why he liked Rush, one of his favorite characters, he said, “Um, well, it’s ‘cause one of his inventions, called a Bonger, is a long rope draping over a tree limb and rocks are attached to each end and he uses them to smash ants.” Then he added that Rush is “crazy in a good way” and “because of two of his inventions, the Whoosh-Smack and another one called a Swing-Shooter.”
The guard yelled and leaped to his feet. Rush swung the other set of claws and they sank deep into the large protruding rump of the retreating Renegade. A portion of the seat of his pants remained hanging from the demon’s claws as the guard ran away… Rush decided to keep his new costume in hopes of getting to use it again.”
~ Tales of Larkin: Hawthorne’s Discovery; book 1. Lexington: Fruitful Tree Publishing, 2002.
Dr. Harris not only writes the books, but he illustrates the covers and their innards. In addition, he records the audio versions – I’ve no idea how he keeps the voice inflections straight for each character, especially during battle scenes or multi-character conversations. Perhaps he drinks a lot of coffee. Or eats worms.
“What’d ya catch?” Muckly yelled back.
“Worm,” Buzzard returned, “an’ he’s a big un’! We can eat off him for a week!”
“Oh, yes!” Little Snide exclaimed. “Earthworm steaks!”
Tobin and Eldan watched the others as they ran to help bring in the struggling worm. With a look of utter disgust, Eldan leaned over and spoke to his brother, “They eat earthworms? Tobs, these are not our people.”
~ Tales of Larkin: The Great Gathering; book 3. Lexington: Fruitful Tree Publishing, 2014.
Thanks to the exploits of such characters, my son’s creativity and culinary skills have increased. And much to my dismay, he’s excited for spring, not because he wants to plant a garden, but because he wants to eat the earthworms. Gaahhhhg!
You all start reading the interview and I’ll go poke out my mind’s eye and scrub my tongue…
1. Please tell us a little bit about your writing history.
I began writing my first story during the summer between my junior and senior year in veterinary school. I was walking in the woods and found a creek with a small three-step waterfall. As I sat there enjoying the view, I spotted a small hole in the rock that was only about an inch tall. I thought that if I were one-inch tall, I could explore it. Then I began to think about what it would be like to be one-inch tall and have to live in the woods. Pretty soon my imagination was running wild, and an idea for a story exploded in my brain. I hurried back home and began writing. After writing about fifty pages, my budding career as an author was cut short by reality. I had to go back to school. Eventually graduation came, and I began putting in long hours as a veterinarian. Probably twelve years later, during a family story-telling night, I pulled my manuscript out and read it to my children. They loved it and begged me to write more of the story; so I did. I just finished my third book and my children are still begging for more.
2. What inspires and/or motivates you as a writer?
I write to honor and glorify God my Father and my Lord, King Jesus. Secondly, I write to encourage and bless my children, grandchildren, and whoever else the Lord wants to encourage.
3. Have you ever been, or are you currently, part of a writer’s critique group?
4. Do you write with pen & paper, typewriter, or a computer?
My first book I wrote by hand with pen and paper. The majority of the paper was scrap paper. There were almost five hundred handwritten pages in that notebook when I finished. The reason that I wrote the first one by hand was because I started it before the invention of the affordable personal computer [That ought to date me]. I now write all of my stories on my trusty laptop.
5. If you write via computer, do you use a specific author’s application or writer’s software program?
I need things to be as easy as possible for me, so I use Microsoft Word.
6. What is your favorite part of a writing project?
My favorite part is finishing an exciting section or completing a book.
7. And least favorite part?
Starting is my least favorite part. I usually spend a lot of time thinking about a story before I write it, but the actual starting of the project is still intimidating to me. Once I get a page or two into it, I relax, and the story begins to flow.
8. Does your story unfold daily or do you write from a strict outline?
As I mentioned before, I need to spend a lot of time thinking about a story before I can write it. But I usually don’t have the entire story planned out in detail. I may have several major events that I want to include in the plot that I have thought about in great detail, but then I have to figure out how to get to those events in my daily writing. There are times when I had planned to take the story in a specific direction, but when I actually got to that part of the story, it didn’t make sense, and I had to change it. I have also been so caught up in writing about a particular character that the personality of the character seemed to push the story in a different direction than I intended to go with it.
9. Do you share your in-progress work with others (i.e. friends, family, etc.), or do you wait until you’ve completed an entire book before anyone else reads it? Why?
Since I write my stories primarily for my family, it has become our custom to have “Larkin Nights.” Those are special nights when we get together, either in person or via phone or internet, and after reviewing where we had gotten in the story, I will then read with voice characterizations the new chapter or chapters. These special nights have become highly anticipated events in our family. It has been one of the things that make our family unique and bonds us closer, and we all love them.
10. Please give us a glimpse of a day in your life, especially of your writing routine.
I am not a writer by profession. I am a veterinarian, and a significant part of my day is spent working at my clinic. On most days I get up at six, get ready, and then spend some time praying and reading my Bible. I try to get to the clinic before we open at eight and spend most of the rest of the day working. If things at the clinic are particularly slow and I have no other responsibilities then I may write a little. I usually come home for lunch to spend time with the family and then go back to work. I try not to let my writing interfere with family time, so usually my writing is done either late at night when the kids have gone to bed or on my days off, when my wife is schooling our children, and I don’t have other projects on which to work.
Connect with Dr. Harris here:
Pickin An Author’s Knows series