All the stuff that isn’t the writing. The writing is work, but it’s fun work. You get lost in that flow and at the end, there’s something to be worried about yet proud of, something you can instantly share, but the publishing, the cover art, the marketing—it’s stuff I didn’t pursue for a reason. It comes with the writing anyway.
Like the cover art for Eidolons. Love how it turned out thanks to the team of artists at Create Space but I made the original design using coffee spilled on crumpled paper baked in an oven then I taped it up myself and that was a lot of fun, but that process was creating something. I’m not a digital artist so I handed the idea to Create Space and then it was months of emails and phone calls before it looked presentable. I sighed a lot at roughs. Then they sent the proof copy a month before my deadline and because I’m in Korea and shipping costs and speeds, I had it sent to my parents to look at (that was when they found out I was publishing a book). It looked good digitally. It looked good in photos. Then I got the proof after it was published, after I had 50 copies sent to me for signing as giveaways and for people to buy off my website, and it looked great till the light hit it. Till I picked it up. I realized I should’ve gone with a matte cover. It would’ve added a tactile immersion to the used book theme. Something I didn’t think about till it was too late because that’s not my expertise. But no one’s criticizing the book for that; they don’t even think about it because it’s such a little thing.
Can you give us a short synopsis of Eidolons?
When TK dies in a car accident, the Grim Reaper offers him a second chance at life but he says he’d rather be dead. As he haunts his small Iowa town, his sleek shell of sarcasm cracks to a terrified lonely inner self. Find out why he’d rather be dead—which is straight from the back of the book, but it’s also an exploration of a college kid who was getting close enough to graduation that everyone’s bugging him about the future and he doesn’t know. He was drifting through life before he died and as a ghost, he finds some purpose to his drifting.
What inspired you to write this book?
I was studying abroad in Wales with 30 other Americans and I had started boxing with the university’s club and every weekend we traveled to a new city or landmark and it was amazing. One night, after boxing practice where this Londoner with a few fights marked in his crooked nose asked me to spar with him and I was too scared to hit him with any real force till he yelled at me to hit him, sticking his chin out, letting me get some jabs going, didn’t even have his hands up or anything, then he eventually hit back and I teared up—after that weirdly happy night, I realized I’d been unhappy for the first three years of college.
I went to a college five hours from where I grew up, didn’t know anyone at my school except my freshman roommate who dropped out our second year and a few professors who failed me for the first time in my academic career because when you’re book smart, high school is just something you show up for to get good grades. I existed online and in the books I read or wrote, but I didn’t really have a life. Two or three friends back home, five around the world (who I still talk to), and the girl working at the cafe who was too short to reach the cookies they stored on the fridge. I ordered them every time she was working as a way of teasing her, like it was our friendly routine, but maybe I was just another customer to her.
TK came out of that. This kid who learned to entertain himself as a form of coping with his own shit, a lot his own fault but not everything. Through patience and old friends and introspection that he really doesn’t want to have, much the same as me, he starts looking at the future as more than just something to get through till it’s all over.
How many hours per day do you spend writing?
Every time a five-minute event worth writing happens, I put in five hours to chisel it into the page. Otherwise two or so hours, never less than one if just for exercise.
Name your top five favorite books.
Some of these are just the most recently on my mind. I’ve been reading The Princess Bride on Twitch as a bedtime story for online friends back in the States. You know, after a certain level of quality, every good book becomes a favorite.
Something Happened by Joseph Heller
Grief Is the Thing with Feathers
Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro
Train Dreams by Denis Johnson
The Catcher in the Rye, big inspiration to Eidolons with Holden dealing with anxiety that turns him into a jerk. Even the cover art is inspired by my old copy.
What are you working on now?
I have three projects I’m deep into at the moment, but two are escapist fun—Sci-fi Dystopian Western on floating islands with giant robots that can do magic and there’s political intrigue and any other craziness I can throw in, then the other is reworking a choose-your-own adventure story about super heroes that has a playable version deep in the annals of my twitter. But those are the ones that can be out-there guilty pleasure. The real one is a Romeo & Juliet for the digital age. Back cover (WIP):
Thank you for letting me share this story with you. It’s something I want to tell you, but only in the private between covers. It’s the story of how I got engaged to an Arab girl I still haven’t met. It’s why I’m up every morning at 7 when I work 3. It’s why I sometimes leave when my phone chirps in that weird way and why I’m not a good kisser and haven’t been on a date in 4 years. It’s why I’m always sad. This is the story that broke me.
As cheery as that sounds, the book mixes in levity pretty well. Again coping through humor. The first chapter(orangepeals.com/short-stories/typos) and a few more (orangepeals.com/untitled) work standalone but most chapters won’t be up on my website. I have to leave some feels for the published form. Every chapter is an exercise in writing as therapy.
Author: Harrison Fountain
Genre: Literary Fantasy
When TK dies in a car accident, the Grim Reaper gives him a second chance at life, but he says it’s more fun being a ghost. As he haunts his small Iowa town, his sleek shell of sarcasm cracks to a terrified lonely inner self. Find out why he’d rather be dead.
These author bios are generally in third person, right? That’s a little weird for me so--
Harrison Fountain said, “In Kindergarten, Mrs. Augustson sent me to Special Ed because of my speech impediment, the result of a 4-year-long ear infection that garbled the input and so a few letters needed the pronunciation corrected. I had to work on my Ss, Cs, Ks, Ws, Rs, Bs, Ps, Ts, Qs, Ds, Xs, Ls, and Ns.
Every year in elementary school, Scholastic gave students a hardback book with empty cream pages for us to scribble in as part of a school-wide contest. I never won. The kid in my grade who did plagiarized If You Give A Mouse a Cookie and those biased, paid-off judges didn’t even mention my amalgamation of the Silver Surfer and the Human Torch.
Still, I kept writing, finishing my first novel in my 7th grade Physical Science spiral notebook where the narrator’s best friend was an orange alien with green hair named Carrot. My next novel about a boxer, I started in high school before I’d ever even watched boxing, and fighters called out their moves (“The Double Rocket Upper—no, wait! It’s a TRIPLE ROCKET UPPERCUT!!!”) like they were Pokemon.
No one taught me to write until my second year at college when Mr. Johnson called me to his office as he did with all his creative writing students and then he bloodied my first draft of a character sketch claiming his marks were “just ink.” I almost cried. A few visits later, I’d written a character sketch about my sister’s divorce and the family dog. He crossed out a lot like usual. Told me why. Then he scrawled an A at the top. It’d be my first published short story (http://www.orangepeals.com/short-stories/loving-a-mutt/).
The pride felt earned for once.
While studying in Wales without satellite TV or an Xbox, I started a blog called Nothing Fazes a Ghost, where I posted weekly chapters. Those 10,000 views with ad revenue earned enough for a pizza. After a few years and a few drafts, it became Eidolons.
I also teach English to adorable Korean kids who, in turn, teach me cutie poses.”
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