One of the authors that I have found to write the most delicately woven and delightfully character-rich books is Inna Hardison. She has recently self-published the first book of her finished series. This is my interview with her. If you have not read her book, Escape, you should grab a copy. You won’t regret it.
Sarah: Your characters in Escape are very deep and fully formed. Would you say that your work is character driven? Do you have a special connection to those characters?
Inna: I’ve always been more interested in people than say the politics or power struggles that tend to accompany most works in the genre. Not that my series doesn’t have its own set of societal woes, being dystopian and all, but the whole setup is incidental – a catalyst for the characters to be faced with their own moral dilemmas at a rate that is not usual in a normal lifetime. So the short answer – I guess this bit of my work is character driven. As for a special connection to any of the people I created – I think it’s unavoidable. I’m sure certain quirks and traits of mine are woven into each of the characters, the good and the bad and certainly plenty of the ugly.
Sarah: Escape has just been featured on wattpad, as well as becoming available as an e-book or paperback. Can you tell me a bit about the journey you’ve taken to get so far?
Inna: Well, the feature was rather unexpected. I joined Wattpad with all five books in the series already written, so I never looked at this space a writing platform for me. I came to get some feedback and hopefully meet a few people who didn’t suck at the writing and the human thing. I’ve gotten lucky on that front. I got to meet you, and Alec Hutson and a few other truly remarkable people. As for publishing or “getting this far” as you put it, I am not sure how to answer this in a way that won’t make me come across as an ungrateful schmuck… But the truth is, I’m 42. I’ve been writing in one way or another my whole life, albeit for half of it in an entirely different language. With the Alliance series, I always planned on publishing them. I wasn’t sure how or where exactly at the beginning, but getting these books out there was always part of the plan. I’m not sure it was a good plan yet, the way I did it, but time will tell.
Sarah: What would you say is your strongest point as an author?
Inna: Not convinced I have one. I’m always told by people who’ve been reading my various things for a while that I have a voice, whatever that means. I write because frankly, I suck at everything else. It’s the only thing I know how to do. I’d always had words, stories, or a first line of a poem stuck in my head, and writing was the only way I could get it all out of my head and return to the land of normal, functional humans.
Sarah: Do you have a craft secret you can share with us today?
Inna: I do. Stop reading how to write books. I know it’s counter-intuitive, but… I believe a good writer is two things: someone who has a story to tell and an inherent talent to do it well. A trained by how-to-books and creative writing 101 classes writer sacrifices both, the story, and the talent at the altar of popularity or commercial viability. I think in the end if we are to write well, we must do it for ourselves. The advice, too – be wary of it, especially in places like Wattpad and WriteOn et al. I’ve yet to read a ‘real’ book where the narrator doesn’t use passive voice, for example, or where the characters describe themselves to themselves. It’s weird, and too many people are falling for these bits of wisdom from the popular writers. So in short – write the way you write. The story should lead you on its own journey. Your characters should create their own dialects and maybe words and silences between those words. Your scenes should draw themselves in a way that makes sense with your narrative. And that means not all water is aquamarine, and not all leaves and green eyes shine like emeralds and not everybody thinks in their ‘active voice’. In short, originality and authenticity will always make for a better experience for your readers than imitation.
Sarah: I find that authors put a piece of their souls into their work. Can you see that in your fiction? Can you describe which part of this book came from deep inside you?
Inna: In some ways, I guess all of it, although there were long stretches when I was writing these books where it really seemed that they were writing themselves, down to character and place names sort of just typing themselves. It was a tad strange, but it’s always been this way for me when I write. I start telling a story, but then it becomes its own entity, and I am almost an observer, a connected critic, watching them, the whole time knowing deep down that I can’t really change how their lives will unfold.
Sarah: What’s next for you in writing?
Inna: I’d really like to get back to writing my vignettes/prose poetry pieces (Shards of Porcelain). It’s not anything that’ll ever sell, and I know that, but I feel like in some ways I’d been writing those my whole life. It’s an albatross of sorts.
Sarah: When you pick up a book to read, what is it that keeps you reading? Who is your favorite author?
Inna: That’s a terrible question for me. I grew up with an enormous library at home. Our shelves were lined floor to ceiling with books, and I’m pretty sure we had everything. I never had to borrow a book for anything till we moved to the States. Needless to say, my tastes were eclectic at best. I read everything my dad gave me (snobbish stuff, mostly, at least for a youngster, Kafka, Proust et al) because I had to. Mom passed on all her romantic and adventure books – Flaubert, Dumas, D.H.Lawrence, which for the most part, I loved. And obviously, I read a bunch of rather dark and sentimental Russians because I am one. I’ve always read too much and too eclectically to have a favorite author that lasted for more than a week. The very last book I truly fell in love with was A Little Life. It’s heartbreaking and brilliant and so very human. So for now, that would make Hanya Yanagihara my favorite author, though I hadn’t read anything else by her. Two months ago I would have said Donna Tartt, before that Brandon Sanderson (who I think Alec Hutson will be most compared to in a good way when he gets published), and before that, I read and reread everything by Pat Conroy (Beach Music, Prince of Tides, South of Broad) whom I adore.
Sarah: If you could magically imbue your writing with something it doesn’t have yet, what would you choose?
Inna: The wisdom to not ever be self-indulgent in my writing. I catch myself on occasion liking a phrase too much for how pretty it is and I am too much of a coward to take an axe to it.
Sarah: What will success as a writer look like for you? At what point will you feel like you’ve “made it”?
Inna: If I’m completely honest, success as a writer to me would simply amount to having an unimpeded ability to keep writing. The year and change it took me to write the series was time I’d stolen; time I truly didn’t have. It had been a tough year for everyone around me because of it. I won’t, can’t let myself do that again. So success – a studio room in a small container built house somewhere with Internet and good coffee and interesting people and me just writing. Enough to pay my bills to just do that.
Sarah: If you could share one piece of advice with us, what would it be?
Inna: Don’t give up, as cliched as it sounds. Don’t ever give up. The odds, whatever they are, will always be against you, the writer, as they always have been. But anyone with talent owes it to the world to keep pouring words out into the ether. I’ve always believed that (not by any means implying that I have talent, btw.) But I do believe that there are people out there who are meant to write, in the same way there are those who were born to make music or art… It is something of a sin, of a sacrilege, if you will, when they give up. So don’t.
Sarah: Thank you for talking to us, Inna Hardison, and best of luck on self-publishing your series!
Inna: Thanks for the interview, Sarah, and forgive my ramblings…
My Note: Sarah Wilkinson is a phenomenal writer and an all around great human being currently trying to get her very intriguing Matsumoto Trilogy published. Read some of it on her website at: www.sarahklwilson.com