Happy Thursday Bookworms!
Today I am bringing you a special spotlight and Q & A on author J.P. Harker. J.P. currently has two self-published books in his Caledon Saga (Wildcat and Leaping Wolf), and is finishing up book 3 (Lion Cub) at the moment. As a bookworm himself, he also delights in reading and reviewing on his website. I had the pleasure of asking J.P some fun interview questions, so below you will find my questions in a sky blue color, and his answers in italics.
Author Q & A:
Tell me a little about yourself:
I’m an archaeology grad who learned midway through the course how few jobs there are in that field and so wound up as an NHS clerk in Cardiff. I’ve always loved ancient and medieval history and ever since university I’ve also been a martial arts fanatic (I’ve been lucky enough to train in Japan and a few years ago became an instructor in traditional jujutsu). To embrace my geekier side I also paint wargames miniatures, but of course when I do it, it’s cool! Since I both live in the valleys and went to a Welsh language school I naturally had patriotism drilled into me from an early age (Cymru am Byth!), though I’m willing to embrace my Saxon heritage now and then!
Is there anything about yourself you consider quirky or unique?
I tend to think I’m quite a bookish, geeky sort, though I suppose my habitual reciting of Shakespeare when I’m walking about the hospital might count as something ‘quirky’ to do. It gets some odd looks sometimes at least.
What first inspired you to begin writing?
Thinking about it, it was probably a friend of mine who worked in Hypervalue with me back when we were students. He was an artist and wanted to make a comic book and I wound up writing up some stories for him to use. The comic never really happened (life got in the way) but it led to me enjoying creative writing. I tried on and off through uni and afterwards, and wrote some truly dire stuff (mercifully, ‘The Knights of Blood’ will never see the light of day!). Then about four years ago I decided to make a real go of it and wrote my first novel, drawing on my old love of medieval history. That was apparently too long for a first-timer so it had to go on the back burner, but watch this space!
How did you begin to create the world of the Caledon Saga?
As I said, my medieval-fantasy book was considered too long and so I decided to do several shorter books rather than one massive one. The world I’d created for it had been planned to within an inch of its life so I took an earlier period from that world’s history and indulged my love of Rome and the Iron Age by setting a book in that time.
While most people probably think ‘Caledon’ as in ‘Caledonia’ (the Latin name for Scotland), it’s actually a co-incidence. The Welsh word ‘Caled’ means hard or strong and I’d already written the first book and named the saga before someone pointed out the connection! I love Wales and Welsh history so had great fun taking the bits and pieces of our history and legend (FTR, ‘Lurian’ comes from ‘Silurian’, the tribe that inhabited my home county of Glamorgan!), and I liked the idea of the warrior culture getting its first sight of a classical culture. Rhia and Marius were a great way to personify that. Rhia was especially important as she has to live in and somehow reconcile both worlds.
Is there a particular character you relate to, or see a little of yourself in?
I’d love to say Gawan or Marius or someone equally heroic and cool, but I’m probably more like Bael –I’m more of a planner (some might almost say schemer…) than a romantic hero. There’s a fair bit of me in Lucan as well, but since Lion Cub still isn’t out, I won’t go into details!
What were some of your favourite books and movies growing up?
I grew up on films like ‘The Vikings’ and ‘Ivanhoe’ which makes me sound a lot older than I really am, and my heroes were Errol Flynn and Tyrone Power. I’m a huge Indiana Jones and Star Wars fan, but arguably my favourite film is Labyrinth – David Bowie being both scary and epic, and Jennifer Connelly as my first childhood crush!
Book-wise, I read the Narnia books obsessively as a kid, gradually working up to heavier tomes like Lord of the Rings. Thanks to the TV series I also began reading the Sharpe books, which of course led on to Bernard Cornwell’s other historical work. Naturally, I read my share of GW’s Black Library as well, loving ‘Gaunt’s Ghosts’ and ‘Ciaphas Caine’.
What is the longest book you have read?
Are we counting Omnibuses? If so probably LOTR or the Gaunt books. If not then it might be Dracula (it certainly felt long!)
Do you have any celebrity casting ideas for your characters?
My problem is that most of my ideal casting ideas would mean making the film anything between 10 and 30 years ago! The most recent candidates would probably be Kate Beckinsale for Rhia and Ray Stevenson for Gawan. (Richard Burton and Tyrone Power are unavailable these days, and even Jennifer Connelly couldn’t play a 20-year-old now!).
Can you tell me anything about how you brought your characters to life through your writing process?
Some people aren’t keen on it but I’m fond of having a fair bit of inner monologue to show just what a character is feeling/struggling with in any given situation. Sad though it is, it’s generally our struggles and failures that define us so I tend to put my characters through a hellish time in order to make them really think about themselves and rise above adversity. I try to give them something that they feel passionate about (often family and country/tribe) and use that as an anchor for them. The idea is that this literally builds character.
Any thoughts in your mind beyond The Caledon Saga at this moment?
Oh yes! I have two of my medieval books written and my current plan is to get the first of them published next year – that will be the first of a six book series (at least) so will keep me pretty busy. I also have an urban fantasy series on the go, again the first book is done and should be out before too long and again, potentially a very long series. Dreadfully, I promised myself I’d devote more time to those projects once Lion Cub was finished, but even now I find myself idly planning Book Four of the Caledon Saga, AND the book of short stories, intermittently slapping myself for being distracted!
What do you enjoy doing when you are not working or writing?
As a rule if I’m not writing (or thinking about writing!), I’m playing board games with my geeky friends, painting over-priced plastic soldiers, reading one of the MANY books on my TBR shelf, ballroom dancing with my wife, or getting myself beaten up on a jujutsu mat! When I’m feeling classy I’ll track down a Shakespeare play, when I’m feeling less classy, I’ll go to a musical!
J.P. Harker is the pen-name of James Thomas, a fantasy author from Glamorgan, South Wales.
By day I work as a mild-mannered hospital administrator, by night I split my time between various extremely cool activities, writing books being foremost among them.
Book Title: Wildcat
Book Author: J.P. Harker
Page Count: 552
Genre: Historical Fiction/Fantasy
Publishing Date: September 4th, 2016
Date Read: November 26th, 2017
Synopsis: Rhianwyn of the Caderyn is conflicted about giving up a warrior’s life to become a wife and mother, but her love for her new husband is enough to at least make her consider it. However, with the conquering Gaians moving ever closer to her homeland a peaceful life may no longer be an option, for Rhia or for any of her people. With rival tribes, old suitors, and the dangerous General Lepidus to contend with, Rhia soon finds her new family in unprecedented danger, and her choices now must be about more than just herself…
Book Title: Leaping Wolf
Book Author: J.P. Harker
Page Count: 604
Genre: Historical Fiction/Fantasy
Publishing Date: June 9th, 2017
Date Read: February 14th, 2018
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