Jane Alvey Harris - Using Fantasy to Escape the Reality of Abuse
Ms. Harris is the author of the award-winning YA psychological fantasy thriller series, the My Myth Trilogy. Jane loves to watch and study what makes us tick as human beings. She’s definitely a dreamer. Her favorite thing to do is use her wild imagination to weave together sublime settings and stories for characters to live and learn in...herself included. Jane currently has three short stories in various stages of publication, all in the psych-thriller/horror genre. She says that horror is particularly fascinating, as it provides her the perfect opportunity to delve into the human psyche and explore the myriad ways our minds can fracture. When she isn’t working on her own manuscripts, you can find Jane teaching creative and academic writing, providing proofreading and editing for fellow authors, teaching writing workshops, and narrating audiobooks. You could say she’s a bit obsessed with the written and spoken word.
Please give us a short introduction to what Riven is about.
Riven, the first book in the My Myth Trilogy, follows the journey of Emily, a 17-year-old girl who is triggered by the return of her childhood abuser. Emily's life isn't easy. Her dad is in prison for securities fraud, and her mom is addicted to pain pills. Emily has dropped out of high school to care for her two younger brothers and younger sister. When her abuser re-enters her life after a decade, she's unable to cope with her reality, and slips back inside the fantasy world she created as a little girl to escape abuse.
What inspired you to write about a 17-year-old who is forced to face her childhood abuser?
I didn't set out to write a book. My therapist encouraged me to write down the vivid scenes that populated my waking dreams. I had maybe half a dozen scenes written down, and when my therapist read them, she commented that if I rearranged the order and put them together, they told a story. So I did. I was working through my own trauma, and it took me four years and nine edits to really get to the heart of the story.
Tell us more about the cover and how it came about.
Oh, I love the story of the cover! The original cover was designed by James Artimus Owen, and I really liked it. Several months after RIVEN was published, I received an email from a teen reader, who REALLY enjoyed the book. She said she had a vision for the cover, as well as the covers for the next two books in the series, SECRET KEEPER and PRIMED. She asked if she could audition them and I said yes! I always love to see how readers envision the characters and setting of my writing. She sent back the covers and I was blown away. They captured the darkness and the beauty of Emily's fractured psyche. For the next few months I took both covers with me to cons and signings and asked readers which they preferred. The response was overwhelmingly for Nadege Richard's design.
Who is Emily? What makes her tick?
Emily is a very complex individual, like we all are. She has a very rich imagination and inner life, and her story is told from a deep first-person perspective. Her driving motivation is protecting her younger siblings from a threat she doesn't really understand, because it is based on past trauma she hasn't acknowledged or accepted. She is never really sure if the things she sees and hears are real or imagined, and she's afraid she's losing her mind. The one thing that keeps her from imploding and giving up is her relationship with Jacob, Aidan, and Claire--who in real life, are my children--and my purpose for confronting my abuser.
Besides writing, what other secret skills do you have?
I'm not very good at keep secrets these days, lol! I love sketching and painting concept art for my writing...characters and settings from my books and short stories. I also edit professionally, teach creative and academic writing, and narrate audio books professionally. I honestly can't get enough of the process of creating through words and images.
Emily uses a fantasy world to escape the reality of abuse. Why did you create her this way?
My writing will always have a fantasy element, because that's the way I approach my life and have processed my own trauma. I'm definitely a dreamer, day and night. For this series, the use of fantasy is important for a couple of reasons. First, dissociation is how victims of childhood abuse cope with trauma. Second, it creates distance between the ugliness of her experiences for her (me) and the reader. I wanted to be as real and unapologetic as I could depicting Emily's psyche and her experiences without being gratuitous, and fantasy was the way I approached it. Third, it was the way I healed from my own trauma. With my therapist, I worked through EMDR and hypnosis to process my past and current situations, creating new pathways for old triggers. Writing about the allowed me a safe space to reframe experiences as the protagonist and survivor instead of the victim.
What do you hope readers will take away from this story?
I want them to be entertained and transported! The book is full of wit and adventure and romance as well as deeper things. My platform for the series is one of Self-mercy, self-acceptance, self-love, and the knowledge that victims can do more than survive their past, they can thrive. The book is multi-layered, and while the first two books in the series have won multiple awards and it does contain some heavy subjects, it is still very readable as a psych-fantasy-thriller.
Readers say that the book is fast-paced. How did you pull this off?
Ahhh...PACING! Haha, my favorite! It's funny, because RIVEN was written as straight fantasy initially, in third person, past tense POV. With the encouragement of my therapist and editor, I switched to first person present, and it is an extremely speedy way to write. Also, I know that for me, when I'm reading, if I know too much about what's going on in a book, I get bored and won't finish. If I don't know enough, I get impatient and skip ahead, lol! So, as a writer, I try to stay about 3 to 4 sentences ahead of my reader. I try to create questions (which is easy when it's deep first person, because you're learning everything along with Emily, and she's an unreliable narrator) and them answer them a few sentences later, at least on the page level. At the plot level, I always want there to be questions and to balance the reveals. The plot level was more difficult with RIVEN, because it is such a personal story and the twists are so obvious to me, I was afraid everyone would know what was going on right away. But, I've heard from readers that it really depends on your personal experiences when you figure out what's going on. There are plenty of people who say they didn't see it coming, which is SUPER weird to me!
Is there something that compels you to write? And do you find that writing helps you achieve clarity about yourself or ideas you've been struggling with?
YES! Imbuing my dreams with life.
Do you have any interesting writing habits? What is an average writing day like for you?
I love my writing process. First, I gotta do active day dreaming. This can be in the shower, at the gym, on planes, on road trips. I wait until I can see the scene in my mind like I'm watching a movie, and then I write it down. I don't write books sequentially, I write whichever scene is the most urgent in my brain. After I have it written, I read it out loud to my critique partner. After she hears it, she reads it and makes any corrections she finds...not grammar so much as the MAGIC part. She's metaphysical, and I've learned a lot about energy and chakras from her. Then, I send it to my editor and she rips it to shreds and sends it back! And then I rewrite! I can't listen to music when I write, but I love being near running water. I love to write when I travel, and many of the countries I visit become settings in my books.
What are you working on right now?
A lot! RIVEN has been optioned as a feature film, and it's been a blast working on the screenplay with the screenwriters. I'm also finishing up Book 3 in the series, PRIMED. I have two other WIPs, both short horror pieces, and I've had another just published. They are horror in the sense of psych thriller, like the My Myth Trilogy. One is about a changeling, one is about a mom who believes her son is being stalked by her childhood nightmares, and one is about . I'm also editing couple incredible manuscripts, and narrating four audiobooks!
Where can our readers discover more of your work or interact with you?
Follow me on facebook https://www.facebook.com and https://www.facebook.com/MyMythTrilogy/ </p>
and twitter https://twitter.com/JaneAlveyHarris
My website is www.janealveyharris.com