Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Interview with Harry Markov

I first talked to Harry Markov--a 19-year-old college student from Varna, Bulgaria--about a year ago on a web forum dedicated to fantasy writing and writers. I’ve never met him face-to-face, but every email makes it feel like he’s in the room with me. Bright, opinionated, and almost impossibly energetic, he has the sort of personality no mere internet can hope to contain.

Harry has a total inability to sit on the sidelines. After reading his first urban fantasy novel a couple years ago, he started writing his own. Instead of reading book reviews, he started his own website, The Temple Library, to do his own reviews and author interviews. And when he couldn’t find a local community that shared his love of literature, myth, and fantasy, he got to work helping build one on-line.

Every time I hear from him, Harry’s always elbow-deep in some new project. Earlier this month, I talked to him to see what he’s up to now.

Kristopher Reisz: So did you grow up in Varna or recently move there for college? And what’s your major?

Harry Markov: I was born and bred in Varna. Bulgaria’s a small country and I have had the fortune of being raised in its most beautiful and clean city. The architecture is amazing and there are so many spots in the summer that can give you ideas to write or the angles to take the perfect photo.

As of this year I will be a college man in the University of Economics in Varna, the weirdest choice, because all year long I was planning to study in either Denmark or Holland. In the end due to financial issues in my family I settled in for studying in the same city. Not exactly exciting, but at least good enough for me to write and try for the next level in the publishing business. My bachelor is in international relationships of economics and it offers a lot of diversity in master degrees and career choice.

Kristopher: International economics is a very practical choice for somebody with such artistic leanings. Are you taking any literature courses or ever consider a liberal arts major?

Harry: The first answer would be no. Writing can never be taught. You can teach elements like proper grammar and stylistic rules like omission of repetition, refining sentence structure and learn new words and terms in literature. The best thing would be to analyze other works from the genre you would try to write. But if you don’t have the storyteller spark inside, it’s pretty much pointless and it’s time consuming, costs money and the results are vague. I have motivation issues, when it comes to writing and if writing is transported into a classroom atmosphere or the likes with a schedule and assignments, I’d pretty much leave it for several years. This I realized recently though.

When I was 17 I wanted to move to the US into an arts college somewhere in the middle states and learn how to be a writer and when I graduate a nice publishing house would take me on we would be best friends forever. Reading several author blogs the next year told me that a solid day job is a must and that publishing is a slow process. So I scratched that thought and economics it was. People deal with disappointment all their lives and if by 18 you haven’t realized that life usually laughs out loud on the floor at your plans, you are screwed. I caught on that to make something out of my dreams I needed a solid back up plan, before I get burned.

Kristopher: Let's talk about Temple Library. How did it come about? You also have a personal blog and write posts for Urban Fantasy Land. Do you want to say anything about those projects?

Harry: Temple Library Reviews developed more like a whim, which stuck around, on the basis: I see, I like, I think I can do this. I was already comfortable with blogging with [my personal blog] Writing Chaos that is Me. There is nothing more to tell about it. If you ever want to read about how many topics a person can whine or squeak, then hop on board. Finding the crowd interested in literature and writing, offered new sites and links to click, so in time I discovered a new community. One doing reviews and seeing how they got free books in exchange for reviews,

Before Temple Library Reviews I have done only three reviews in my life and they were for Fantasy and Sci-fi Lovin’ Book Reviews. I still contribute there, although sometimes I forget I have to cross post reviews we don’t match. But I do read it frequently, just forget to cross post. Bad memory. Theresa is an amazing person and hooked me up with the first titles to review, even though it wasn’t the perfect match. It is important to have some titles before hand starting a review blog, if you are doing it solo. For me there is another challenge. There are not many publishers willing to send books overseas.

Urban Fantasy Land is the most recent addition to my blog madness. I am definitely happy that the amazing Lindsey and Lisa welcomed me with open arms and now put up with my silence due to brain exhaustion. When my day job is resolved with I hope to have more time to scavenge the internet for the tidbits, those gals usually post on their blog. Sounds interesting, but it’s a great time investment and with writing and other responsibilities, it’s all about priorities.

Kristopher: What's your favorite types of books to read and/or review?

Harry: When it comes to novels I have no definite taste. Every genre is as good as another. Recently literary fiction and the classics have been pulling me. I have some books by Paulo Coehlo and Murakami I wish to read. What attracts me is an eccentric story line; characters, who are far from normal and insight into the human nature.

Kristopher: You've also mentioned a novel you're working on. How’s that going?

Harry: You really don’t want me to start explaining about my project. I can go on and on and on about it. The genre is urban fantasy and the title is Forged in Blood. It’s a part of a trilogy actually; The Crimson Chronicles. I couldn’t do a proper hero for this story, so I changed it to a heroine, who is a demon human hybrid, has addictions to various pills and suffers from schizophrenia. Her main power is her affinity to using Blood Magic; both rare and not well looked upon discipline. The novel itself is 95% finished and by the 31st will be wrapped up in a first draft. I will have one hell of a time editing, since in the US, where I most likely will try to get publish views explicit behavior by 18 year olds as illegal. September I will outline the second novel and a new more devious and daring project Car Crash Dummy. My writing schedule is ludicrous.

Kristopher: What's the first urban fantasy you read, and what attracts you to the genre? Can you name some of you favorites and why you like them?

Harry: Urban fantasy has been a special treat ever since I was a child and they aired cartoons about magic in the big city and the likes. X-Men, although super heroes, are for me one aspect of the UF genre. When it comes to novels, I read my first early 2008. It was Stray by Rachel Vincent and since then I was introduced to the whole scene in literature. Needless to say I was amazed that I could miss something as big.

Favorites? Mhm. I haven’t read as much as I would have liked to, so let’s see. Rachel Vincent for her originally portrayed Pride interactions modified for human shapeshifters. Karen Chance for the excess in mythology used in her books and the action conjured with it. Finally Vicki Pettersson for her mind staggering world building skills in creating a story, characters and powers so new it’s frightening. In UF titles I seek titles that can offer originality, creativity, world building and magic.

Kristopher: Beyond urban fantasy, anything else you think people should read?

Harry: I don’t think anyone should read anything just because somebody else says it’s good and that you necessarily have to. This is the system of literature in school and I haven’t been left with very pleasant notions or memories from the books I should have read.

However if we are to talk what from my point of view what would improve someone’s grasp over literature and widen their horizons, that’s quite different. My emphasis for anyone would be to go back to the classics, world classics, their own countries’ classics. My favorites so far have turned out to be the British novels from the Victorian era and some Italian works. But I am always willing to read Russian, French, German, Japanese works. Back in the day, when cultures functioned in their own border lands and there was no easy access to one another, the classics recorded their respectful national identity. Back then there were no “save the world from ____ (insert your choice)” and definitely no hand to hand combat or anything, what we see in thrillers, horror, action books, fantasy. Characters and their worlds were the driving force. From writer perspective this is a great start to learn about characterization and human relationships.

Modern literary fiction, which in my little head is the offspring of the classics, shows the human psyche in the modern era, where human interaction exists in so many forms and still manages to be fractured. Humans have never been easier to shatter than they were in history, because everything was simple. Now with psychology so many psychological disturbances have been discovered. Everyone has one or another problem with himself on a personal level and to explore these dimensions through someone else’s world is breathtaking. You can reflect on oneself and get some writing tips as well.

So to stop rambling I would have to say that diversity is everything. You should never let yourself get stuck in a rut. Read everything, be it thrillers, romance, erotica, textbooks, nonfiction, essays, poetry, mystery… etc etc etc.

Kristopher: What's the Bulgarian fantasy/ sci-fi community like? Is there a book, comic, or anything that's big in Bulgaria that we might have missed over here?

Harry: Demographically speaking we have a 7 million nation. 35% from those 7 million are in their late teens and early twenties. From these people I haven’t met many that share the same interests as me. The fantasy community here is small and undeveloped, since most are scattered across the country. I never found the necessity to find a community in Bulgaria, so I am a bit in the dark.

You couldn’t have missed anything, since we don’t have a native market. Everything is translated from West and East and sold here as well. The only novels you could have missed are some Russian novels, but I don’t follow that scene much.

Kristopher: So do you have anything else in the works that I don’t know about?

Harry: Writing wise I’m at the beginning of a poetry book. People say I am good at it on a certain website for poetry and those are talented people. So I decided to do a lengthy collection of poems viewing myths and tropes through a more abstract aesthetic point of view.

I am also saving money for a professional camera. The prices have dropped recently for a functional semi-professional and professional cameras and the photographer in me definitely wants one. And finally with an artist friend of mine I am working on a short webcomic based on a novella I still have to write and publish 2008 with my electronic publisher Mystic Moon Press. But right now the whole project is on hiatus.

Kristopher: With all of that and school and a day job, how do you ever get any sleep?

Harry: Who says I do everything at one time? My day job was only for the summer. September is my vacation month. October is school and I tend to put some projects on hiatus, while I work on something else and then move back to the previous ones. It has to do with me easily getting bored. I need a lot of pit stops along the way. That is why my novel wasn’t completed by May. I am a lazy bum. If I never get my 8 hours I am incapable of anything.

(Cross-posted at Kristopher's blog.)

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