Please welcome Katherine Harbour to The Qwillery as part of the 2014 Debut Author Challenge Interviews. Thorn Jack will be published on June 24th by Harper Voyager.
TQ: Welcome to The Qwillery. When and why did you start writing fiction?
Katherine: Thank you. I began writing when I was seventeen, after a gym/English teacher explained how the writing process was like a game, that writers create characters and worlds. My first novel was a Narnia rip-off featuring a unicorn named Nrocinu—that’s unicorn spelled backwards.
TQ: Are you a plotter or a pantser?
Katherine: I’m definitely a plotter now. I begin with a journal of ideas, sketches, and character biographies. I organize the plot points on a chapter by chapter basis, with arcs for the main characters, and incorporate ideas as I go.
TQ: What is the most challenging thing for you about writing? Do you think being a painter influences how you write fiction?
Katherine: I think the most challenging thing is getting what’s playing through my head onto the page. The first draft is spontaneous, and also difficult, and I try to write straight through without any major backtracking. The second draft is where I feel confident and actually know what I’m doing. As a painter, I see the stories, but I need to immerse the reader into that world with words and sentences, which are like the paint.
TQ: Who are some of your literary influences? Favorite authors?
Katherine: Some of my literary influences are Gothic writers such as the Brontes, Mary Shelley, and Arthur Machen. Fairy tales and mythology are definitely strong inspirations. My favorite contemporary authors are Tanith Lee, Barbara Hambly, Elizabeth Hand, Charles de Lint, John Crowley, and Caitlin Kiernan.
TQ: Describe Thorn Jack in 140 words or less.
Katherine: Eighteen-year-old Finn Sullivan moves with her father to the town of Fair Hollow, New York, to put the tragedy of her older sister’s suicide behind her. There, she meets Jack Fata, a charismatic and striking young man who reveals to her a hidden world of nomadic spirits, abandoned places, and dark magic. Their attraction to one another has consequences, however, and Finn must eventually confront Jack’s dangerous and mysterious family to save him, herself, and unravel the mystery of her sister’s death.
TQ: Tell us something about Thorn Jack that is not in the book description.
Katherine: I wanted Thorn Jack to have the elements of a ghost story and Finn’s and Jack’s romance to also be a mentor/apprentice relationship. Jack is Finn’s guide, her supernatural aid, in her hero’s journey.
TQ: Thorn Jack is described as a "...retelling of the ancient Scottish ballad, Tam Lin..." What attracted you to Tam Lin? Why did you set the novel in Upstate New York?
Katherine: What attracted me to the ballad of ‘Tam Lin’ was the idea of a girl rescuing a mortal man from eerie, beautiful creatures who had made a pact with Hell/Death. The mortal man always seemed a little sketchy—did he really love the girl, or was she just a way to escape his being sacrificed? And did the fairy queen love the man? I set Thorn Jack in upstate New York because I wanted an antiquated and seasonal atmosphere and the abandoned mansions like Wyndcliffe, along the Hudson, added that element of ruined glamour. Also, I was born in upstate New York.
TQ: What sorts of research did you do for Thorn Jack?
Katherine: Most of my research was on Irish fairy lore and Celtic mythology, as well as romantic poetry. I also fiddled with Celtic and Gaelic words to create the language of the Irish Fatas in Fair Hollow.
TQ: Who was the easiest character to write and why? The hardest and why?
Katherine: I think the easiest character to write was Finn. Even though, in the beginning of the story, Finn is in an almost Sleeping Beauty state of grief, she needed to have a sense of humor and become fiery when she learns the Fatas are going to sacrifice an innocent young man to her true enemy, death. The most difficult character was Reiko Fata, because I didn’t want her to be a stock villain—she had to be a malicious queen of ancient creatures, yet still act like any heartbroken young woman.
TQ: Give us one or two of your favorite non-spoilery lines from Thorn Jack.
Katherine: They call us things with teeth, which is what Lily Rose tells her young sister, Finn, the night Lily ends her own life. My second favorite line comes near the end, when Finn says to Reiko, “I’m eighteen—I already have the world.”
TQ: What's next?
Katherine: My next book will be Briar Queen, the sequel to Thorn Jack. Finn, Jack, Christie, and Sylvie journey into the perilous, border realm called the Ghostlands to learn what happened to Finn’s sister. There, they must avoid the Big Bad Wolf—the elegant and evil Seth Lot, the Fata who was once Reiko Fata’s lover.
TQ: Thank you for joining us at The Qwillery.
Katherine: Thank you!
Thorn Jack: A Night and Nothing Novel
Thorn Jack Trilogy 1
Harper Voyager, June 24, 2014
Hardcover and eBook, 352 pages
A spectacular, modern retelling of the ancient Scottish ballad of Tam Lin—a beguiling fusion of love, fantasy, and myth vividly imagined and steeped in gothic atmosphere.
Their creed is "Mischief, Malevolence, and Mayhem."
Serafina Sullivan, named for angels and a brave Irish prince, is haunted by dreams of her older sister, Lily Rose, a sprite, ethereal beauty who unexpectedly took her own life. A year has passed since Lily's death, and now eighteen-year-old Finn and her college-professor father have moved back to Fair Hollow, her father's pretty little hometown alongside the Hudson River. Populated with socialites, hippies, and famous dramatic artists, every corner of this quaint, bohemian community holds bright possibilities—and dark enigmas, including the alluring Jack Fata, scion of the town's most powerful family.
Jack's smoldering looks and air of secrecy draw Finn into a dangerous romance . . . and plunge her into an eerie world of shadow and light ruled by the beautiful and fearsome Reiko Fata. Exciting and monstrous, the Fata family and its circle of strange, aristocratic denizens wield irresistible charm and glamorous power— a tempting and terrifying blend of good and evil, magic and mystery, that holds perilous consequences for a curious girl like Finn.
As she becomes more deeply entwined with Jack, Finn discovers that their lives and those of the ones she loves, including her best friends Christie Hart and Sylvie Whitethorn, are in peril. But an unexpected ally may help her protect them: her beloved sister, Lily Rose. Within the pages of the journal that Lily left behind are clues Finn must decipher to unlock the secret of the Fatas.
Yet the wrathful and deadly Reiko has diabolical plans of her own for Finn, as well as powerful allies. To save herself and to free her beloved Jack from the Fatas, Finn must stand up against the head of the family and her clever minions, including the vicious, frightening Caliban—a battle that will reveal shocking secrets about Lily Rose's death and about Finn herself . . .
Evocative and spellbinding, rich with legend, myth, and folklore, filled with heroes and villains, ghosts and selkies, changelings and fairies, witches and demons, Thorn Jack is a modern fairy tale and a story of true love, set in a familiar world, where nothing is as it seems.
Katherine Harbour was born in Albany, NY, where she attended the Junior College of Albany and wrote while holding down jobs as a pizza maker, video store clerk, and hotel maid. She went, briefly, to art college in Minneapolis, and sold her oil paintings of otherworldly figures in small galleries and at outdoor shows. She now lives in Sarasota, FL, where she works as a bookseller and dreams of autumn and winter in her stories.