Monday’s Friend: Mary-Jean Harris

Today I’m pleased to welcome fellow MuseItUp author Mary-Jean Harris to my blog.

SJT: When did you first know you were destined to be a writer?

MJH: I can’t think of any specific time, but I have loved to write ever since I was in elementary school. In high school, I started to write novels, and I realized that I wanted to continue to write even if it wasn’t my full-time job. I wouldn’t want to be a full-time writer (currently I am a student in theoretical physics and philosophy, and hope to pursue a career in that area), but I always want to write on the side, and in this way, what I do as a career can give inspiration for my writing.

 SJT: Who would you cite as your influences?

MJH: Mary Stewart, David Farland, and Tolkien are all some of my favourite authors, and have influenced a lot of my work. All of them write beautifully, and the plots and characters of their novels are crafted really well. I also include a lot of things from philosophy I’ve read, especially ancient philosophy and esoteric traditions.

 SJT: What advice would you pass on to beginner writers that you wish someone had told you when you were first starting out?

MJH: Be inspired. Most writers say you just have to sit and force yourself to write, which is definitely true, but I find that you can’t get real inspiration by just forcing yourself through it. You have to dream about your story, look up in the clouds (literally!) and let your imagination take you on an adventure. I think if you love to write and you have fun with it, then anyone can write good stories, because if you love to do it, you’ll find the time and make it work, just as we find the time to do things like eating and sleeping because if we didn’t, we’d be miserable (or dead!).

 SJT: Have you ever been inspired to put people you know in real life in your books?

MJH: Yes, I do that a lot actually. I don’t put people in that I know really well, because I want to create a new character for them, and it’s harder to do when you already know how they “should” behave. So what I do is “snatch” people I don’t know really well or just see on a walk or something, and make them into a character in my book. I basically just use how they look and a few general observations to make a character out of them. I find it difficult to imagine a character’s face unless I have something to base it off of, so using someone in real life is helpful for this.

 SJT: When it comes to your writing projects, would you describe yourself as a meticulous planner, or a ‘seat-of-the-pantser’?

MJH: I’m a mix of both. When I wrote Aizai the Forgotten, I started it out without any knowledge of where it was going to go. In fact, I thought it would just be a short story, something fun to do after I had finished writing a long novel (that wasn’t published). But it grew and grew, and I eventually realized that this was going to be a novel, so then I went and planned some of it. Though even with some planning, I modify things a lot as I write. I make up new plans and don’t fit in some of my original ones because the events and the characters lead me elsewhere. For short stories though, I try to plan them more so that I can keep them to a reasonable length. Though it’s fun to sometimes just start writing and see where it goes without any planning whatsoever!

 azaitheforgotten333x500SJT: Tell us about your latest release.

MJH: I’ve recently released Aizai the Forgotten, which is my first published novel. It’s the first novel in The Soul Wanderers series. Aizai is a young adult historical fantasy novel that takes place in the seventeenth-century, following the adventures of a boy named Wolfdon who tries to discover magic and the lost realm of Aizai, and in doing so, plays an important role in the land of Aizai that he couldn’t imagine was possible.

 SJT: Any other writing projects in the works?

MJH: I’m writing the sequel to Aizai, which takes up where the first book left off. This is slightly different to the first book in that there is an extra point of view character, as well as different time periods (the seventeenth century in Spain and the twelfth century in Scotland). This involves much more research, but since it is fantasy, most of my books are only loosely historical, so I make up a lot of things myself.

 SJT: You are inspired by images. Do you already have an idea of an image in your head when you search for images to fit the character, or do you create characters around images that inspire you?

MJH: I usually base characters on pictures of people, or people I know only partially. Though when it comes to images of things within my novels, such as the scenes or special magical devices, I usually make them up as I go along, adding little neat elements to them as I’m writing along. It’s as much a discovery for me as for the characters going through the story!

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

 MJH: School! At least during the year. It’s quite busy because I am now doing physics and philosophy at Carleton University. I really enjoy it, and am hoping to do something in particle physics and cosmology when I’m finished. I also enjoy travelling, especially to places with ancient buildings like castles and with places I can go hiking and exploring. Someday I hope to live in the country or (ideally!) on an island in Scotland. I’ve been to the Isle of Skye last summer and it was beautiful there and very remote. The perfect place for a writer, actually.

SJT: Thank you for being my guest today, Mary-Jean!

Learn more about Mary-Jean and her writing at her blog The Soul Wanderers.

Her book AIZAI THE FORGOTTEN is available to buy from the MuseItup book store.



2 comments so far

  1. Matthew Peters on

    Thank you Sara Jayne and Mary-Jean for an interesting interview. Mary-Jean that is quite a fascinating combination of scholarly pursuits: theoretical physics and philosophy. What philosophers have been your largest influences, on your thinking and writing, and also do you find strong links between your two fields?

    • Mary-Jean Harris on

      Hi Matthew, I usually include things like ancient philosophy in my books, so Ancient Greek or Renaissance. And yes, I do find a lot of links between physics and philosophy, especially in more abstract areas like cosmology and particle physics, which I’m interested in the most.

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