Author Interview: Robert Harrison

Do you hear from your readers much? What kinds of things do they say?

I do! The setting is an important part of my books, almost becoming another character. Much of my Onyx Trilogy was set in a state park in New York, and I had many readers from the area tell me how much they loved reading about where they lived or grew up. Recently, I had a reader tell me that she had stopped reading for a long time, but that reading my books has sparked her interest in it again. She’s now reading like crazy. That was very gratifying.

Have you ever killed off a character your readers loved?

I killed off a character that my readers loved, that I loved, and it was based on my best friend. When he read the book, he called me quite upset. “You killed me off?!” We actually had a good laugh over it, but I think he was a little hurt. I wrestled with whether to do it, but the story was better because of it. It was a tough scene for me to write, though.

How many books have you written? Which is your favorite?

I’ve written and published four supernatural thrillers, with a fifth and sixth (a straightforward thriller) on the way. My favorite is my first, The Onyx Seed. It was loosely inspired by a series of hauntings and poltergeist experiences I had many years ago. I had been telling “ghost stories” for years, and I finally decided to write a book about it. Although there is a lot of “me” in all my books, there was so much of my personality and experiences in it that it can’t help but be my favorite.

How much research did you need to do for your book?

All of my novels have some historical references, especially the first one, The Onyx Seed. It mostly takes place in 1948 in upstate New York, as well as the Philippines during World War II. I did a lot of research to ensure accuracy, especially in the opening scene which involved a raid on a Japanese POW camp. I know as a reader that if something isn’t factual, it pulls me out of the story. I did my research, and employed a fact-checking editor to double-check my work.

What advice would you give to a writer working on their first book?

Read, read, read. Read lots of books in your genre, so you understand the expectations of your readers. And when you’re writing that first draft, don’t worry about how good or bad it is. Just get it down on paper (or onto the computer screen). Making it better is what editing is for. Just write!

What are your favorite blogs or websites for writers?

There are so many excellent resources for writers, including,,,,, and so many more. Although it takes some effort to differentiate the signal from the noise, there are some terrific Facebook groups for writers, including Writers Helping Writers, Supporting Beginning Writers, Self Publishing Support Group, SPF Community, and 20BooksTo50K.

What books did you grow up reading?

My dad was a big science fiction fan, and he not only imparted a general love of reading in me, but a deep appreciation of SF. He fed me a steady diet of what are now classics, such as Clarke, Asimov, Heinlein, Bradbury, and others. I haven’t attempted a SF book yet. I’m not sure why…I don’t know that I could ever “measure up” to my memories of those wondrous books.

What do you like to do when you’re not writing?

I think practically my whole life is around reading or writing or books in some manner. My full time job is as the marketing manager for our local library system. A lot of my spare time is devoted to writing or editing my work-in-progress. And I offer services to other independent authors such as cover design and interior formatting. When the weather is nice, I’ll head to the woods for a wilderness hike, my favorite outdoor activity.

What inspired the idea for your book?

As I mentioned, my Onyx Trilogy was inspired by my own experiences with a poltergeist. My most recent book, Raven’s Temple, was something I’ve had percolating in my head for years. A friend and I were hiking in the woods in Northeast Ohio and came across, far off the trail, the ruins of an old house. There were a few layers of stone left as the foundation, and a tall chimney. The rest of the house, presumably made of wood, was long gone. There were no roads for miles and the house was barely visible from the path. For years, that vision of the house intrigued me. I knew I wanted to somehow write a story that revolved around the remains of the small structure. It took a while, but an idea finally formed…I moved the setting to Florida, but Raven’s Temple is about a serial killer who belongs to a cult which promises immortality. The ruins of the house is where the cult leader lived when he fled persecution in the 1800s. I feature a stylized photo of the house in the frontispiece of the book.

What, to you, are the most important elements of good writing?

Of course, the foundations have to be in place, such as good grammar, spelling, punctuation, etc. But the story is king. And the story is made compelling by conflict. If there’s no conflict, there’s no story. I’m a big fan of in media res, dropping the reader right into the middle of the action. Feed the reader the information they need as the story progresses. Giving the reader characters they care about is key as well. If the reader isn’t invested in the characters, they won’t care about how the conflict is resolved.

Leave a Reply