20 Questions with... Andrew Harrowell
Andrew Harrowell is a multi-genre writer, who has so far covered mythology, whodunits and horror. His first novel light heartedly asks how far one demi-god will go to save his way of life-after-death, from mortal management consultants. In the second book, a woman haunted by her failures, and resentful of her robotic implants, must grudgingly solve a murder when stranded on a Space-Lift high above a polluted Earth. In June, Andrew had his first, gothic novella published by Alien Buddha Press, and later this year his story ‘Wake Up and Smell the Coffee’ will be included as part of The Hyperion anthology. Andrew is also scribe for Dolus, God of Trickery, with free online magazine In the Pantheon, and had a poem published in the group’s book, Immortal Hymns. You can keep up-to-date with Andrew on Twitter @HarrowellAndrew.
1. Please introduce yourself. Where are you from? What was your life like growing up?
My name is Andrew, and I live in Watford, England, with my long-suffering wife, and our awesome two year old. Growing up, I was a bit of a bookworm, and although I loved the idea of writing it took a long time before I tried to do anything myself. Now, I look back and wish I had started sooner.
2. Did you always want to be a writer? If you also work, what do you do / did you do?
When I was a kid, I loved the idea of being an author. I suppose it’s no surprise that, over the years, I gravitated toward jobs in Communication teams. I’ve had a variety of roles over my career, and currently balance part time work as a Communications and Fundraising Manager for a charity, with time looking after my young son.
3. Tell us about your most recently published work in a sentence.
Seeking Sanctuary is a gothic horror novella, set in a crumbling mansion, with possessed family members, and demonic forces at play.
4. What are you working on right now?
It’s something a little bit different, featuring a one year old as she tries to understand life at nursery, without her Mummy. It’s a coming-of-a-very-young-age type tale.
5. Do you have a writing routine, and if so what is it?
I usually write in the evenings. My wife and I put our son to bed, have dinner and then I open up my laptop for a few hours (with just a break to do the washing up and make a cuppa)
6. Where do you write – always in the same space, or different places? Can you write ‘on the move’?
Before the pandemic I had quite a long train journey to work, so would always write on my mobile. Now I sit on the sofa, next to my wife (she’s either working or watching something food-related on TV)
7. What advice do you have for other authors who are starting out? What is the best advice you’ve heard?
You’ve got to love writing. It can take a lot of dedication to put together a novel, and there can be a lot of challenges along the way. As long as you can enjoy yourself, then you are successful. Whatever else happens, is a bonus.
8. Do you enjoy doing live readings or are they a necessary evil – or somewhere in between?
The only reading I’ve done so far is a recording of the first two pages of Seeking Sanctuary (available on the Alien Buddha Press YouTube channel). I’m not a fan of my own voice, so I haven’t even watched it myself, but I’m hoping others might enjoy the start of the story.
9. Are there recurring themes in your work? Where do you feel these emanate from if so?
I enjoy tales with twists, and I like to have something that keeps the reader guessing in all my work. I think that’s what attracted to me write for Dolus, God of Trickery, with the free online magazine, In the Pantheon. He felt like the perfect character to wave his left hand to get your attention, before the right slaps you around the ear. It’s the same with my other works, there’s always something to keep you puzzling as you turn the pages.
10. Should writers have a moral purpose? What is the purpose of a writer in today’s society?
When I pick up a book, I’m looking for an escape. I want to be transported from my real life, and entertained. That’s what I try to achieve with my writing – a story you can get lost in, and enjoy while forgetting about your real-life problems for a little bit.
11. Do you write between genres or not?
So far I have brought mythology into the present day, crafted a dystopian whodunit, and will soon have had two horror stories published. I feel like I should settle on one genre, but I’m also enjoying trying different perspective and types of writing. I feel that each genre teaches me something new, and helps to develop me as a writer.
12. Which living writers do you most admire?
I’m a big Jason Pargin (aka David Wong) fan. He has a lovely way of blending horror with comedy that makes me shudder a little while also laughing out loud.
13. Which dead writers do you most admire?
Douglas Adams had a wonderful creative imagination that stood out to me as a young man. When I read his books I found them so random, but much more fun than anything else I’d picked up.
14. What’s the book you wish you’d written?
My favourite book is the Hitch Hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, to the point I can quote a lot of it. I would have loved to have come up with such a nervous main character, trying to keep it together with the craziness of a towel wielding alien, two headed Galactic President, and paranoid android. It’s the perfect blend of bizarreness and confusion
15. What other external influences do you have: nature/place, music etc?
I’m an amateur gardener, and I find it something that’s very rewarding. It also gives me a good chance to think about what’s happening with my writing while I’m digging, etc.
16. Do you suffer from ‘writer’s block’ and how do you overcome it if so?
I don’t really suffer from this. I think it helps that I have a plan to start, even if I don’t quite follow it. I do have moments when I struggle to move the story forward, and get the words out. In those moments I just try to get some typing done, knowing I can always come back and edit later.
17. What’s been your favourite reaction to your writing?
My first novel, Underperforming Underworld, was compared to the original Red Dwarf books and that was a big compliment for me. I absolutely love those, and the TV show, and I was honoured to be mentioned in the same breath as a couple of very funny writers.
18. How do your family and friends feel about your writing?
My mum and dad are always my beta readers, and are responsible for a lot of grammar mistakes disappearing from my work. My wife isn’t a reader, but she’s so amazingly supportive. If it wasn’t for her pushing me, I never would have self-published my first book, or gone on the journey I have.
19. Do you have a favourite bookshop?
I honestly enjoy browsing anywhere that stocks books. There’s nothing like scanning spines and seeing if anything takes your interest.
20. How do you see the future of writing? Will we become more or less dependent on Amazon?
I think every author is dependent on Amazon now, but what is most important about it is that it gives everyone the chance to have their own writing turned into something physical. With agents and publishers more and more stretched, Amazon offers anyone who has the dedication to write a book the ability to get it into print. I think that means a lot to plenty of people. It certainly does for me.