U.L. Harper is a speculative fiction/horror author, influenced by magical realism. A former journalist from Long Beach, California, he now resides in the evergreen state of Washington with his wife. He is a soon-to-be father, and an avid Dodgers fan.
His latest book is the speculative fiction/horror/magical realism novel, THE SECRET DEATHS OF ARTHUR LOWE.
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Title: THE SECRET DEATHS OF ARTHUR LOWE
Author: U.L. Harper
Genre: Speculative Fiction/Horror/Magical Realism
Author: U.L. Harper
Genre: Speculative Fiction/Horror/Magical Realism
While in the process of bringing his wife, Sandra, back to the living, Arthur journals about moments from his past that changed him.
During the journal writing, he rediscovers how, as an orphan, his ability to animate objects and people to life may have ultimately destroyed the lives of the few who grew close to him. The old stuffed teddy bear that helped him assemble puzzles when he was a child might have been too much of a secret for his adoptive mother to keep. His friend Quincy, who had abilities similar to his, might have been scared away by Arthur’s abilities. And his grade school teacher is still harboring a secret about his biological father that she can only hope to be true.
Once Sandra is alive again, things become more complicated. She claims Arthur is not who or what he thinks he is. Her ire shines a spotlight on the insidious but most likely true, unspoken nature of their relationship.
In the meantime, a mysterious smell envelopes the community—a stench so heinous it can be fatal. As the number of deaths from the stench mounts, Arthur must decide who to animate back to life and who remains dead.
The Secret Deaths of Arthur Lowe is available at AMAZON.
Do you plot or write by the seat of your pants?
I plot and write by the seat of my pants. Here is what I mean. I’ve had one writing class in my life. In that class, the teacher said something about my writing that changed everything for me. She said that not only was the reader and characters surprised, but it seemed as if the author was surprised as well. I loved it, even if she didn’t mean it as a compliment. And I knew exactly how to achieve that effect. By the way, I love the idea that people don’t know what’s going to happen. I’ve never had someone read my work and say, oh, yeah, it’s a this type of story or a that type of novel. Doesn’t happen. They usually read it and say what the ___k. It make sense but oh my god. I’m telling you, I get it all the time. So I outline the beginning, know what happens in the middle, and then I know basically the last moment of the story, if not the last line. Everything else is on the fly. For my latest novel, The Secret Deaths of Arthur Lowe, I had two endings in mind. I wasn’t sure until I wrote it. Half way through I wasn’t sure if I was doing a tragedy or not. I had all kinds of ideas that could happen or not but I’d find out when I got there.
For instance, there is scene with babies that is just bonkers to think about. No, there’s no violence to babies. No, there are no bloody babies. And, no, there’s no sexual content with babies. These babies help everything, actually. It’s just something you don’t see coming, even if you see it coming.
How did you get the idea for the book?
The Secret Deaths of Arthur Lowe started off as a comic book story about a dude who could do anything, but he could only do each thing once. He could fly but only that one time. He could defy gravity but only the one time. He could make any woman fall in love with him but only use the power once. Lift a thousand pounds once. The comic book story never worked out. I couldn’t figure out his weaknesses and characters in his life never materialized. It never made sense. So I focused on a character who would make a great impact on his life—the main character’s wife. So it was a love story where he learned to use his powers as a process to learning the one true power he had which was giving life. The real problem with that was that women give life every day, so I killed his wife and made him make a decision—bring his wife back to life or himself when it was time for him to die. Sounds dark and crazy but I thought it could be fun. Anyway, that story didn’t work either. It was a great situation but not a great story to tell.
But The Secret Deaths of Arthur Lowe puts it all together. Don’t worry, no spoilers. In it, Arthur Lowe truly loves his wife, but there is an issue with their relationship that doesn’t seem to have an answer. So she’s left to solve it on her own. The deeper part of the story is about Arthur figuring out what the problem is.
So it’s a relationship story.
We go back in time and see when they met, when things started going wrong for them, and then we kind of see Arthur’s origin story. Here’s the thing: it’s not told like it’s a fantasy or comic book story or horror or love story or any of that stuff. It has the tone of a literary novel. It comes off as foreboding. Not even a spoiler, I think in the second paragraph his wife kills herself. The reason I did that was because, it’s not about the tragedy of her death. That’s just what gets the story going.
Honestly, I’ve never told a story like it or read anything like it. Half way through, I was like, this is flat-out nuts. How is this going to end?
Of all your characters, which one is your favorite? Why?
I don’t know about favorite characters, but I have favorite moments from characters. The moment when Arthur is risking it all by showing his soon-to-be girlfriend that he’s special, it’s gorgeous, as far as an idea for a scene, for a moment. I reread it and think, if I were her, I’d run and keep running, but she stayed because she knew and already accepted how special he was. I thought that was pretty cool.
What was the most challenging aspect of writing your book?
Here’s some writer talk for you. By far the most challenging was creating the mechanism for flashback. At first, to tell backstory, we are privy to a journal Arthur is writing, in real time, to his deceased wife. He’s doing for therapy. The problem is he is writing it after she died, so there aren’t dates to move time forward. Then there are other characters who tell huge chunks of flashback but I needed it to have the same visual as the journal writing, but with different cadence because it would be a different character, obviously. Absolutely brutal. So, the whole story basically takes place in real time, and the journal or journal-like entries fill it out. I want you all to imagine how hard the timing is for that sort of thing. Just that in itself was nuts to figure out. My writers group hated me, I’m sure. They were like, so is it past tense or present or who are these people, and when is all this happening?
By the way, the paper version is only about 200 pages. This is no epic. Just a hard story to tell.
Which authors have inspired your writing?
Clive Barker, Chuck Palahniuk, Kurt Vonnegut. How did they inspire me? Well, Imajica, The Great and Secret Show, Fight Club, Choke, Slaughterhouse-Five, Cat’s Cradle.
What advice would you offer to new or aspiring authors?
Always be you. You might not become Hemingway. That’s perfect because not everybody likes Hemingway. Personally, I can’t finish Old Man and the Sea. Eventually someone is going to say your style is too____ or too____, but they’re comparing you to someone else. The goal is for them to compare someone else to you. That will never happen if you’re busy trying to be someone else.
Don’t be the dude/woman who is beside themselves wondering who is next to them. Be the best you, not the best impression of somebody else.
U.L. Harper is giving away a free e-copy of his book!
Terms & Conditions:
- By entering the giveaway, you are confirming you are at least 18 years old.
- One winner will be chosen via Rafflecopter to receive one free e-copy of THE SECRET DEATHS OF ARTHUR LOWE.
- This giveaway ends midnight June 30.
- Winner will be contacted via email on June 31.
- Winner has 48 hours to reply.
Good luck everyone!