An Interview with Harlow West

Harlow West is a New York based author, illustrator, and professional hot mess with resting grumpy cat face. From her humble beginnings of writing short stories about boys that lived in pumpkins and the painfully awful poetry written for her high school poetry club to writing about nerds and their naughty bits, Harlow has written everything from horror to fantasy to nerdy, nerdy romance. Because hey, nerds need love too!

When not covered up to her elbows in one kind of ink or another, Harlow spends more time than is probably socially acceptable with her nose buried between the pages of one book or another. Like, seriously guys, it a problem.

Harlow currently lives in a compartment in the city with “the hubs” and her two geriatric, codependent kitties, Princess Bitch-face and Squishy.

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1.) How long have you been writing?

I have been writing  for most of my life on and off. It was always my favorite part of middle school. I had a pretty hard-core emo poetry phase in high school too, but other than that I would write the occasional short story. Then life got in the way. I kept making notes of random story ideas in one notebook or another and forgot about them. Then I picked it all back up about three years ago when a few of the ideas refused to vacate my brain space.

2.) Tell me about the piece you contributed to this collection. What inspired it?

I wrote a story called Send In The Clowns for the collection. The story is about an ethereal carnival and was inspired by, well, the circus obviously. One day while working on something completely random I came across that old saying about running away with the circus. It made me think about language and how one person can interpret a phrase completely different than another person. So I thought of all the weird ways that the saying could be interpreted. My story is just one of them.

3.) Did you “pants” your way through your story, or did you have an outline/plan in mind?

I think I might be more of a pantser. I had a loose idea of where I wanted this story to go at the beginning so I had this structure there, but at the same time I just wanted to see how it would grow organically. So I sort of threw caution to the wind and pantsed the crap out of it. Luckily, with beta readers and a kick ass editor, I was able to mold it into something I with which I was happy.

4.) Where do you come up with ideas for your stories? What inspired the story you wrote for this collection?

Most of my ideas come from random things I see or thoughts that pop into my head while I’m reading something or doing something else. Most of the time I don’t actively try to seek out inspiration. And now I have to keep a notebook or the note app on my phone close by so that I can scribble the idea down before I forget it.

5.) Do you have any rituals or quirks when you’re writing?

I probably keep more drinks around my writing space than any sane person should. A habit I picked up from a loved one who thought I never drank enough water so he would keep bringing me bottles. I think its Pavlovian by now because I seem to always have at least three drinks close by.

6.) What was the first thing you ever wrote?

For the longest time I thought it was this short story I wrote for my seventh grade language class about a boy that lived in a pumpkin. But thinking back on it I remember writing a story about a pair of roller skates in 5th grade. We wrote stories to tell each other on a field trip to a logging camp (I grew up deep in the Adirondacks) so we could experience how they passed the time before television and radio by telling each other stories. I remember getting in trouble for losing my copy of the story on the hike through the woods to the camp and finding it later after I got home. It was somewhere ridiculous like the lining of my jacket or fell out of my pocket and into the collar of my boot. I can’t remember, I just remember it being silly that I couldn’t find it when it was in plain sight.

7.) What are you working on right now that has you excited?

Okay, so I don’t only write horror. I also write fantasy and what I like to call nerd romance. And right now I’m working on a series that is currently filed in my notes as Project Codename: Getting Nerdy. It’s awkward, and steamy, and what happens at comicon stays at comicon, amirite?

8.) What is your favorite book, author, or genre?

That’s like asking a mother to choose her favorite child. Everyone knows she has one but she could never say it out loud in front of the others.

9.) What song would you play as the soundtrack to the piece you wrote for this collection, and why?

To be honest, when I first started writing and working on the illustration for this piece I didn’t really have a song in mind and it bothered me for a while. I looked at songs like Send In The Clowns, which shares the title with my story, and the tone of the music was wistful and sad and perfect, but the lyrics just didn’t fit with the type of story that I was writing. Then one day I stumbled past Welcome To The Black Parade by My Chemical Romance and I knew in my heart that that song fit remarkably well. My inner teenage emo-girl would never forgive me if I didn’t give it a shout out.

10.) What advice would you give to new writers?

Read as much as you can in the everything, especially the genre you want to write in. Keep your grammar tight. Write as much as you can as often as you can.

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1.) How long have you been creating artistic pieces?

I have been creating artistic pieces since I was a kid, but I started getting really into it when I was in junior high school.

2.) Tell me about the piece you’ve contributed to this collection. I love to hear about the process.

The pieces I contributed had a lot to do with the story I wrote for the collection titled Send In The Clowns. I wanted to capture the innate creepiness of clowns with a throw back to those old school funhouses that you don’t really see anymore.

3.) What’s the most challenging thing you’ve worked on, and what made it so?

This was a pretty challenging project for me. Mainly because it was difficult to narrow down what imagery I wanted to use for the story.

4.) What is the first piece of art you created?

That is a great question, but I have the memory of a 1970’s stoner. So aside from the random drawing that every mother puts on their refrigerator, my first piece probably would have been a mobile I designed for a report in my language arts class in seventh grade. It was about dinosaurs and I drew a pretty bad-ass tyrannosaurus rex as the focal point. It was either that or a caricature of Alice cooper. I was equally proud of both pieces.

5.) What’s your favorite medium and why?

I don’t really have a favorite medium. I tend to work in cycles. I will pick a medium and experiment with it and make a bunch of pieces until I get sick of it then I will move on to the next. Currently I’m working with inks, using them to do everything from drawing mandalas to illustrating dragons.

6.) Do you have any rituals or quirks when you’re creating?

Not really. I just have to have a clear workspace, something to listen to in the background whether it be music or an audiobook, and a drink in a closed container. Because I am a spazz and I will knock things over, its inevitable.

7.) What other projects do you have coming up?

I am almost finished designing an adult coloring book filled with mandalas. Its beautiful and I can’t wait for it to be out in the world.

8.) What song would you play as the piece you created for this collection, and why?

To be honest, when I first started writing and working on the illustration for this piece I didn’t really have a song in mind and it bothered me for a while. I looked at songs like Send In The Clowns, which shares the title with my story, and the tone of the music was wistful and sad and perfect, but the lyrics just didn’t fit with the type of story that I was writing. Then one day I stumbled past Welcome To The Black Parade by My Chemical Romance and I knew in my heart that that song was the one. My inner teenage emo-girl would never forgive me if I didn’t give it a shout out.

9.) Who is your favorite artist, or the artist who has most influenced you?

I love everything about art. It’s hard to pick a single favorite artist. I devour art like I used to devour flaming hot cheetos. I have a whole wall in my apartment covered with pictures of artwork that I took out of some of my old college art history text books. I have a weak spot for Van Gogh, but who doesn’t. As for the artist that has influenced me the most… I can’t say that I have a single inspiration. I love looking through drawings by tattoo artists and illustrators on sites like Pinterest and Instagram and seeing where their ideas take me. Inspiration is everywhere if you just look around.

10.) What advice would you give to new artists?

I would tell new artists to never give up. Keep drawing. Keep designing. Keep practicing. Practice doesn’t make perfect, but it does make better. You’ve got this!

 

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