“Inspirations and Influences” is a new series of articles in which we invite authors to write guest posts talking about their…well, Inspirations and Influences. The cool thing is that the writers are given free reign so they can go wild and write about anything they want. It can be about their new book, series or about their career as a whole.
Today’s guest is Molly Harper, author of the awesomely hilarious, compulsively readable Jane Jameson (“Nice Girls Don’t…”) series. Part chick lit, part urban fantasy, part paranormal romance, with a healthy dose of snark and comedy throughout, Molly Harper’s got the writing thing down pat. When we were offered a chance to read and review her books, we were ecstatic – and we loved them. Then, when we were given the opportunity to have Molly over here to chat about her sources of inspiration and various influences, and to participate in an interactive Q&A with YOU, dear readers, we were even more stoked.
Ladies and gents, please give it up for the lovely Molly Harper!
I know there’s a post-Millennium backlash against holding your parents responsible for how you turn out, but really, my parents have no one to blame but themselves.
My parents are voracious readers. They can sit down with a good book and finish it in an afternoon. So it wasn’t a huge surprise to my mom when four-year-old me started sounding out words on the Lucky Charms box. My parents indulged my love of reading with trips to the library and a membership in the Especially for Girls book club. Sunday afternoons were usually marked with a sojourn to Waldenbooks and a new Babysitters Club paperback.
There were early warning signs. People asked what I wanted to be when I grew up- I said, “Mad Scientist.” I checked out those non-fiction “Mysteries of the Paranormal” books from the school library so many times that the librarian sent a concerned note home. I was repeatedly caught reading Stephen King tucked inside my seventh-grade English textbook while everybody else was working on diagramming sentences.
(I ended up marrying that seventh-grade English teacher’s nephew, David. If I had known that the Stephen King incidents would be brought up at every major family event for the rest of my life, I probably would have just done the assignments. Learn from my example, kids.)
My family is “blessed” with a dry, sarcastic wit. If you want to survive Thanksgiving, you learn to quip. Writing was a chance to get all the words in my head out on paper, because no voice could keep up with my runaway brain. I liked the puzzle that writing presented, fitting the different words together in a way that sounded pleasing, but still got my point across. And it turned out that while my humor was probably inappropriate in say, a Sunday School setting, it was pretty darn funny on paper. The self-deprecating thoughts I didn’t dare express to friends, the comebacks I couldn’t come up with on the fly, they all came out on paper. And eventually, I could voice those thoughts and sling the comebacks… and survive Thanksgiving.
Still, I never considered a career in writing until a teacher compared my voice to a young Erma Bombeck. After I looked it up and realized that was a good thing, I developed an interest in journalism and humor columns. My parents were baffled. I said I wanted to be a newspaper reporter and my mom asked, “What happened to Mad Scientist?” We’d never had a writer in the family before. We were a staunch clan of nurses, teachers, construction foremen. And it wasn’t exactly the sort of talent you could “show” people. Their friends’ kids were musicians and dancers and athletes. What was my dad going to do, pull one of my essays out of his back-pocket and show his buddies my thoughts on being flat-chested?
Still, they supported me. I said I wanted to study at a college we knew nothing about. They took me on a campus tour. I spent my summers doing newspaper internships that paid very little. They helped me survive the rest of the year. I got a job writing for our hometown paper. They didn’t gripe when I wrote columns poking fun at them.
For six years, I covered education for The Paducah Sun, writing about school board meetings, quilt shows, a man “losing” the fully grown bear he kept as a pet in his basement, and a guy who faked his death by shark attack in Florida and ended up tossing pies at a local pizzeria. There was also an incident involving potentially explosive feminine products. But I think a statute of limitations has to run out before I’m allowed to discuss it publicly.
When people wonder where I developed my sense for the odd and quirky, I tell them I was steeped in it like overbrewed sun tea. Weird things happen in Paducah. My hometown has been featured on Unsolved Mysteries twice, which is twice more than any town deserves. Combine that with the bizarre tales David brought home from his police shifts and you have a recipe for dark, hyberbolic comedy.
I loved my job at the paper. I loved meeting new people every day and never knowing where I would end up. But somehow, the ever-shifting schedules of a police officer and a reporter did not equal “family friendly.” One of us needed to take a normal job for the sake of our young daughter. I took a secretarial position at a local church office, which left me with dependably free evenings for the first time in my adult life. We were living in “The Apartment of Lost Souls” while building our new home. This was the place where appliances and small electronics went to die. Every night I would tuck our snoozing child into bed and wait for the washing machine to start smoking or the dishwasher to vomit soap on the floor. It was either write a book or go nuts. I think I made the right choice.
I wanted to write something I would enjoy reading; something funny, outlandish, Southern. I wondered what would be the most humiliating way possible to be turned into a vampire- a story that a vampire would be embarrassed to share with their vampire buddies over a nice glass of Type O. Well, first, this poor woman just got canned so her boss could replace her with someone who occasionally starts workplace fires. She drowns her sorrows at the local faux nostalgia-themed sports bar and during the commute home she is mistaken for a deer and then shot by a drunk hunter. And then she wakes up as a vampire. And thus, Jane Jameson and the wacky denizens of Half-Moon Hollow were born.
It took me almost a year to complete and edit a draft of the book. My mom, a lifelong romance reader, was a great barometer for what worked in the story and what didn’t. David figured this was a weird way to spend my time, but if it kept me out of a padded room, he was happy. Dad promised to never, ever read a love scene I’d written. Ever.
I spent three months using agentquery.com to ruthlessly stalk potential literary agents. I was gently rejected by at least half of them. I corresponded with some very nice, very patient people, but ultimately signed with the fabulous Stephany Evans of Fine Print Literary Management. The book sold quickly, which was great. Then came the hard part, telling family members, my employers at the church, heck our own church family, that I was about to be launched as a vampire romance author. Some were shocked, confused. One sweet little old lady, pursed her lips and said, “But you’re such a nice girl.”
For my parents’ part, and David’s, they just shrug and tell me they figured this was how I would turn out. Decidedly odd, but theirs all the same.
Molly Harper is a former newspaper reporter and humor columnist. She studied print journalism at Western Kentucky Unversity. She lives in western Kentucky with her husband and children.
A huge THANK YOU again to Molly!
And now, for the Giveaway:
As with our Adrian Phoenix interactive Q&A last month, Molly will be here to answer your questions. And it gets even better – courtesy of Simon & Schuster and Molly, we’ve got TWO sets of the Jane Jameson (“Nice Girls Don’t…”) books up for grabs. Entry is easy and simple – just leave a comment here asking Molly a question (about her I&I post, her books, her writing process, her favorite authors or films, etc). The contest is open to residents of the US only, and will run until January 30th at 11:59PM (PST). Good luck, and let the questions begin!