Today I’m incredibly excited to be interviewing ER Harding author of Manumission.
Welcome ER Harding please tell us a little about yourself and your book.
Hi Kate, it’s great to be here, and thanks for talking to me. I’ve had a lot of jobs over the years, mostly administrative apart from a short spell as a motorcycle instructor. I didn’t start writing until the company I worked for was reorganised three years ago, and I was made redundant. I started writing and got a second dog to add to my collection of rejects, and it worked really well.
What inspired you to create Manumission?
Well, I never meant to write science fiction. I only wanted to write something entertaining, but there’s just something about speculating on scientific discoveries and then taking that speculation as far as possible. It was the only possible thing I could write at that time. Besides, Meilinn has been bothering me for years, and I felt I ought to tell her story. She’s not really the main character, but it’s her story.
What is your writing routine? Are you a pantster or planner?
I always mean to be a planner, but it never works. I always draft a synopsis and plan the progress. I even flesh out the characters, usually in far too much detail, and then I lay that notebook aside, start typing, and never refer to my notes again. So I guess I’m a pantser!
Did you have a favourite place you like to write, while you were creating your novel?
There are only two places that I actually can write; at the kitchen table, which is severely prone to interruption, or in my tiny office next to the kitchen. I’ve thought about taking a notebook into the garden and writing long-hand, but I’m too easily distracted and every tootling bird would derail my trail of thought. Even at my desk, I find I’m breaking off to let the dogs out, or sort laundry. Or vacuum. Or something!
Describe what your Muse looks like to you in three words.
I really struggle with the concept of a muse. Creative, intelligent, kind. That about covers it.
What part of writing your novel did you most enjoy? E.g. First draft, research, editing…
The first draft is always wonderful. It’s like a kind of typed doodle, with occasionally useful or clever bits. It’s just pure imagination and I never worry too much about how it’s going to work. The first draft is usually easy, specially the first half of a new book. After that, it’s a solid three or four months of hard work while I wrestle with it, and try to turn it into something that‘ll hopefully be readable.
If you could be one of your characters, which one would you be and why?
I’d be Meilinn. There’s no contest there, because the freedom and power she has would be wonderful, and she’s so independent, which how I’d like to be. In a perfect world, I’d never actually need anyone, but I might choose to be with them.
Which character did you like writing about the most? Why?
Philip Moss. He was hilarious because he’s real. I can’t say his real name in case he recognises himself, but it was enormous fun describing him. I laughed a lot while I wrote his bits. It’s definitely libellous, but that’s why it was such fun.
What’s your favourite subject to write about? Why?
I’m sorry to say that I really enjoy killing people on paper. I’m a committed and total pacifist and animal lover in real life, so I don’t know where that streak of nastiness comes from. There’s nothing quite like inventing a character and then deciding he or she has got to go. I actually talk to my dog, sometimes, while I’m creating the most shocking and unpleasant scenarios. Bless her, my little dog doesn’t understand a thing, but she always looks interested because she has very good manners!
If you could describe your main character in three words what would they be?
Dumb, handsome, and lucky.
What is the darkest thing any of your characters have ever done?
Well, that’ll be a spoiler, but Errik has a plan to take over control of the Metaform by effectively double-crossing, and potentially killing Gabriel. He actually loves Gabe in his own weird way, so it’s difficult for him, but he does it anyway, out of sheer, very ugly ambition.
What does the Metaform Corporation hope to achieve by bar-coding people in your book?
The Metaform doesn’t actually bar-code them; the government does that, so they can track everyone and keep the peace. You can’t avoid the law or do anything criminal if the government can keep an eye on you all the time. It’s a good idea for peacekeeping, and keeping tabs on one’s children, but a terrible one for personal freedom. Bar-codes can be removed, but it’s extremely illegal and quite dangerous. Only organised criminals can do it, or, of course one can do it if one happens to be very wealthy. Everything’s easier if you’re rich!
Do any of your characters have any strong beliefs or fears, if so what are they?
A theme that runs through the narrative is hatred of the Metaform, which had in many ways come to take the place of a religion. Opposition to the mighty computer is seen as a kind of godly crusade, and Tobias, who isn’t in the book for very long, is a kind of evangelist and demi god, because he genuinely believes that he’s helping to save humanity. His son, Gabriel, starts with a similar outlook at first, but that certainty begins to fade away, as he leaves his father’s influence behind. Pretty soon he’s as confused as most of us.
Who are your favourite Authors?
I love the sci-fi classics: Isaac Asimov, Ray Bradbury and Robert Heinlein, of course, but of the modern writers, CB Droege is one to watch out for. His stuff is well-written and intelligent and it was great relief to come across his books after reading rather a lot that weren’t all that great.
What was the best advice you’ve ever had while writing your novels?
I haven’t really listened to much advice, as most of it seems to be: read a lot, and write as much as possible. I always read, every day, any genre and any writer, and I always have, so that’s ok. And I don’t think I necessarily agree with writing a lot. From experience, I’ve found that it’s very hard to delete one’s own work, specially when it represents blood, sweat and tears, but it absolutely must be done. No-one will ever want to read every single word you write, so I think it’s better to write good stuff sparingly, and not bang out masses of fluff just so that you can post online that you wrote ten thousand words in one afternoon!.
What projects are you working on next?
I’m writing the sequel to Manumission now. It had better be the final volume, because I’ll be drawing it out too much otherwise, and I don’t want it to get boring. I’m also writing a historical novel and a crime thriller, but those are on the back burner until this sequel’s finished.
Do you have any advice for fellow writers who may be undertaking creating their first novel at this very moment?
I’d say just start writing and keep going ‘til it’s written. It does work, and you’ll end up surprisingly quickly with an actual novel. But I wouldn’t forget that it’s going to need editing and editing until you’re sick of the sight of it. No matter how literate one believes oneself to be, one is always too close to see what needs correcting or cutting out, so make the last edit a professional one.
Any final words you would like to add?
I’d be more grateful than I can say for any review of Manumission. Reviews, even bad ones, are almost more important than sales. They’re a wonderful thing on Amazon or Goodreads so it’s a great way to show some love. But, and this is important: if you hate sci-fi, please don’t give it one star and say you hate it because it’s a terrible genre. That’s just unkind, and writers have very sensitive feelings!
Thank you ER Harding for taking time to do this blog interview, it has been a real pleasure to hear about your novel, I wish you well with your novel and all other writing projects you may undertake in the future.
Thank you so much, Kate. It’s been fun.