Interview with U.L. Harper
Author of The Flesh Statue
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A Bit About The Book;
Why this book? Why this story?
I told myself I was going to go all out for this one. This is the story I was willing to go all out for. It has so much of me in it that all the risk involved would definitely be worth it.
How long did it take you to write The Flesh Statue?
I outlined characters for a few weeks on napkins and on random sheets of paper while working at a movie theater. It took another few weeks to make the story arc make any kind of sense and then there was nine months for the first three drafts. Believe it or not, after those first few drafts, it took two years to finish. Four years later the current edition was released. Still, nothing is perfect. Still, I love these characters.
Who is your favourite character and why?
My favorite character changes from year to year. But for a while now it’s been Marie. She tries so hard to succeed at the simple things in life and the man of her dreams is not prince charming. She is so patient with him, even if she’s loud about it sometimes. All of her energy is into her future with Bert and she kind of tries to drag him along as he’s doing his own thing. I don’t know, I find it beautiful. Excuse me if I’m a little verbose about her. People have read this story and thought, man, U.L., you write her like she’s some horrible person. And I’m like, no, she sings and has a history of inspiring and has simply become someone to reckon with. Bert is lucky to have her and he knows it. The thing is that I don’t tell a lot of the story from her perspective. But if “Flesh” were through her eyes she’d understand everything about it whereas any of the other characters would be trapped in their little bubble.
Which character is most like you?
Langley goes through most of what I went through or am going through. His grandfather died after a stroke and my grandfather died after a stroke. My great grandmother had Alzheimer’s and his grandfather had Alzheimer’s. He had an old friend named Latrail and my first kiss was by a girl named Latrail. He performed poetry live as did I. He originally dropped out of school as did I, and on and on. We have a lot in common. The one thing that’s not too much like mine is his personality. He’s got way more ambition than I ever had.
Are any of the characters based on living people?
Oh yeah. The physical person of Bert is based on a good friend of mine, Charles Minnis. We were in a band together for about four years. In the first few drafts, actually, Langley was in a band. But Bert looks and talks plenty like Charles, and the anecdote of why Bert isn’t allowed to drink, from what I know, it’s a true story. I might have changed it…a little.
There are some very confronting issues in The Flesh Statue, are these things that you have had to deal with yourself?
Dealing with confronting issues is personal growth so I’m always dealing with some confronting issue, it seems. Though the issue in The Flesh Statue that kind of sticks out to me is the one about Langley’s grandmother actively letting his grandfather die. She really stopped feeding him. She locked him in the room. That is very emotional for me even now writing about it. It’s hard, really hard. Because you have to think this person you love, their blood is still pumping but they’re dead. Dead meaning that in your heart you’re sure they’re better off not alive. I can only imagine what my mother and father had to go through emotionally for my great grandmother. To tell you, honestly, I still don’t know what to think. The fact is the story was really about the immense process of Langley coming to terms with his grandfather’s dying and finally his grandfather’s death. Sorry. Verbose again.
Do you agree with the actions and attitudes of your characters?
You can’t agree with all the actions of these characters. I like to think most of it is pure satire mixed in with authentic literature. A lot of times when you’re writing you’re thinking, well, what if this and this and this were to happen, then what. However, no, I would never condone walking the streets to protect your neighborhood. If you want to be safe, stay inside, lock your doors at night, know your neighbors and invest in your community. And no, whatever you do don’t damage people’s property for your own monetary gain. Not to sound facetious but it’s just rude, if nothing else. On the other hand, yes, I do think people should get together weekly and discuss their local government affairs. Yes, I do think police play the wrong role in the community, for the most part. And, yes, something needs to be done about it. Taking over a city probably doesn’t need to happen, at the same time it sure was fun to write about.
This is your first book, did you find the writing and publishing process at all daunting or intimidating?
Intimidating is a great word to use when thinking about publishing. As a person you deal with all of your insecurities right from the start. To add to it you know deep down that it doesn’t matter how good your book is if you don’t get it the exposure it needs and that’s the case, most likely, even if you get it published traditionally. Intimidating. Then even with good exposure you had better get it exposed to the right audience…a lot. This thought process doesn’t happen until you deal with the numerous companies trying to get money from you for some expert service you need because they know there are things you need done on your manuscript before you can submit it to a publisher or agent. Intimidating. There are writing groups out there that can be detrimental to your process if you let them. Then if you get passed all that then the question is what about my cover? What about my font? Then, the big question, where do I find time to promote? I barely found time to write it. It took years. Intimidating. Daunting. Laborious. Lonely. Time consuming. Emotional. Verbose.
The writing part was fun, though. Editing was interesting. Chapter one was originally chapter four. To cut pages—and I cut at least a 150 pages—I cut elements of characters and stripped down dialogue and shrank the font size and as a matter of fact, at one point I deleted several entire chapters outright. Then I got to rewriting, and so on and so on.
A Bit About The Author;
When your not writing where would we find you?
I’m a supervisor at an after-school program. That’s my 35-40 hour a week job. You can find me getting a pick up game on a basketball court somewhere, watching a film at the theater.
Who do you take your inspiration from? Do you have a role model?
I don’t know if I have a role model but Roger Waters of Pink Floyd said that one day he realized he had spent a lot of time preparing for life and hadn’t taken into consideration that life was actually happening. I do keep that thought in my head. You have to get started doing what you want to do, whatever that may be. The longer you wait the more obstacles are going to get in your way.
Who is your favourite author?
I don’t think I have a favorite author but there are some I’d like to pull from. I’m just not experienced enough to get away with certain things. For instance, I wish I could get away with no quotation marks like Cormac Mccarthy. I admire the delicate yet visceral styles of Joyce Carol Oates. I’d love to be humorous like Vonnegut. I definitely respect the likes of Clive Barker and Stephen King for the epics. But I’m none of that. Nobody’s perfect. Some of us are farther from it than others.
What are you currently reading?
The Gargoyle by Andrew Davidson. The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes and I just finished Timequake by Kurt Vonnegut.
If you could be any character from any story, who would you be and why?
I’ll tell you what, Gentil from Imajica finds out he’s the son of God and makes a map to Heaven so everyone can get there without dying first. I think that might be kind of cool. Is it too late for a spoiler alert.
Will we be seeing more from the pen of U.L. Harper?
I’m the furthest thing from done as far as authoring goes. My new work, which I won’t talk about right now too much, might be my best work. I love to experiment and this is both grounded and by far the most experimental piece to date. I try to stay inside genres but this is going to take some figuring out. It’ll be done soon or in not too long but we’ll see about getting it published. Everybody cross your fingers toes and eyes. It’s a normal literature story, as far as characters and tone…except for several twelve-foot tall men.
Anything you would like to add?
Feel free to keep in touch with me. I’d love to get some emails to respond to. If nothing else I consider anyone contacting me as part of the neighborhood that I might want to invest in. Just give me the chance to make the effort.
I would just like to thank Mr Harper for taking the time to do this interview, it is greatly appreciated and has made for some excellent reading.