That Book Place:Greetings, T!
T Lee Harris is both writer and illustrator. A graduate of Indiana University with a Bachelor of Fine Arts, Harris has put her degree to good use when illustrating, designing and publishing the Indian Creek Anthology series for the Southern Indiana Writers’ Group and the Not From Around Here anthology for the Cincinnati Writers’ Project. Using said diploma to fan bacon smoke away from the smoke alarm was merely an unexpected plus.
Harris has had work in print and online including untreedreads.com, mystericale.com, the Indian Creek Anthology series and Wildside Press’ Cat Tales 2. Her novella, “Winter Wonderland”, featuring retired FBI agent, Dallas Powell, is available in both electronic and hardcopy. “Hanukkah Gelt”, a short story featuring military intelligence officer turned archaeological photographer, Josh Katzen, is available through untreedreads.com. Her historical horror story, “Twenty-Seven Cents of Luck”, was recently chosen for the premier issue of the e-magazine Wordmonger.
“Hanukkah Gelt” is published in the Untreed Reads Fingerprint line of short stories for e-readers. The story features Josh Katzen, a former military intelligence officer turned photographer and artist. Josh tries his best to put his past behind him, but trouble seems to seek him out. In Hanukkah Gelt, Katzen and his sometimes girlfriend, Roz Eliahu, had plans for a quiet, cozy holiday by the fireplace. Instead, they find themselves embroiled in a fake antiquities scheme gone murderously wrong.
Now to proceed with our Usual Questions:
TBP: How did you become involved with That Book Place?
T. Lee Harris: I’m a member of the Southern Indiana Writer’s Group, a critique group that publishes a themed anthology each year. A while back, Marian Allen (Yep! She Who Interviews.) and I were representing SIW at the ConText convention in Cloumbus, OH, and Frank Hall approached us about doing a signing at That Book Place. Several SIW members trekked over to Madison and had one of the most fun and successful signings we’d ever had in spite of the cold and snowy weather. He hasn’t been able to get rid of us since. LOL
TBP: Can you say how your main character first occurred to you and how he or she evolved from that first spark to a full character?
T. Lee Harris: Like many of my protagonists (and villains), Josh evolved from a character that I developed many MANY moons ago for a comic book series, Major Daniel Durand, USAF. Later, Danny went from comics to a character in various pen and paper tabletop role playing games. He was always one of my favorites. Years later, when I had the glimmer of an action-thriller story set in the world of archaeology and antiquities flickering in the back of my head, there he was, sitting in the wings ready for a new part. I dusted him off, retired him from his career as a government agent specializing in retrieving sensitive items for Uncle Sam — sort of an It Takes a Thief kind of deal — and gave him a new name and identity. WitSec for former spies, if you will. Major Durand became Joshua Katzen, archaeological artist and photographer, took up residence in Chicago and tried to walk away from his past. Yeah. Right. <snort>
TBP: Did you choose your subject, or did your subject choose you?
T. Lee Harris: A little of both, actually. One of my favorite subjects has always been art history. I’m fascinated by the artifacts that have come down to us through time and what they can tell us about the people who made them as well as those who used them. I’d love to be involved in recording and studying antiquities, so it came naturally that I’d put Katzen in the business of photographing and illustrating archaeological finds. The fact that there has recently been an upsurge in the illegal antiquities trade made it even more attractive as a springboard for stories.
TBP: How do you work?
T. Lee Harris: For Josh Katzen’s stories, I read the archaeological news. I subscribe to several magazines that deal with discoveries and findings in the field and one of my daily rituals is to visit the online news page at archeology.org while I have my first cup of coffee. I have a couple files that contain printouts and clippings dealing with archaeology and antiquities. When I find an article or event that’s particularly interesting, I play with it in my head to see how well Katzen could be inserted or how it could weave into a story that would pull him into it.
Next stage is a stream of consciousness style of writing where I talk to myself. Will this work? What if I do this? What if this happens? Why would a bad guy do that? When (and if) things start to gel, the stream gets saved as a notes file and a new document is opened with a working title. If that sounds organized, trust me it isn’t. My working titles are frequently things like “Josh Overboard” which later became “Deep Blue Secrets” that appeared in the Southern Indiana Writers’ anthology “Most Wanted” or “Huti Goes Camping” which became my ancient Egyptian story “Wanting the Fish” for SIW’s anthology “Beastly Tales”. Sometimes I luck out and the title comes first and sparks a story. This happened with the Josh Katzen novel that’s in the works, “The Case of the Moche Rolex”.
After the document file is made, it then becomes a matter of getting the words down — alternating with removing cats in front of my monitor and shoving them off the keyboard. I write messily. Cleanup comes later.
TBP: Are you involved with email lists and/or social media? Why or why not?
T. Lee Harris: I’m somewhat involved with both email lists and social media, but not to the extent that many other writers are. Probably not as much as I actually should be. I’m not a tremendously social animal, truth to tell. Reading and writing have long been solitary pursuits and I suppose this is precisely why I found them attractive. The nature of both is changing, though, with the advent and insane growth of electronic media. I’m having to retrain myself to be more social. It’s not an easy road and I manage it by fits and starts. It’s easier to share on the social sites when I’m not actively writing a piece. When I’m working on something, my attention gets drawn down to a narrower point that focuses on the story I’m crafting and the social media and lists get to be more of an annoyance than a help to me. See? Anti-social behavior in text book form. LOL
TBP: If you could have an evening with one fictional character, your own or someone else’s, who would it be and why?
T. Lee Harris: Hmmm. That’s a hard one. My tastes move around with my moods and with whatever is going on in my life. Maybe I’d choose Josh Katzen. It would be nice to kick back, share a good single malt scotch, listen to jazz and talk about nothing in particular — but then again, it never stays quiet for long when Joshua Katzen is involved.
TBP: Thanks, T! See you at the Second Annual Authors Fair in March!