Harry Harvey is the debut author of The Summer My Grandmother's Yard Tried to Kill Me, a humorous and action-packed summer adventure about a boy and his newfound friends who must save an island from a botanical experiment gone very wrong. We loved its quirky characters and witty writing.
Rapunzel Reads: What was your favorite part of writing The Summer My Grandmother's Yard Tried to Kill Me?
Harry Harvey: I think my favorite part of writing the book was the original rough draft. Every day I would fill pages of a notebook and the story was unfolding as I was writing it. I wasn’t really sure what was going to happen, so most days were fun and exciting and surprising. My second favorite part was the help I received from everyone when I was revising and applying different suggestions.
RR: One of our favorite things about The Summer My Grandmother's Yard Tried to Kill Me is the irresistibly quirky characters. What's your process for creating them? Who is your favorite, and why?
HH: I think I create most characters out of my imagination. Others are slightly based on people I meet. My favorite characters probably are the twins. They came out of a short reference of Peter talking about Godzilla versus Mothra. In that classic monster movie there were two magical twins on a magical island where Mothra lived. I thought why not
Author photo: Harry Harvey
RR: The Summer My Grandmother's Yard Tried to Kill Me has a delightfully unique premise--what was your inspiration for it?
HH: I hate weeding. I always did and always will. And I thought what would happen if the weeds hated the humans that yanked them out of the ground. Not to mention I had a terrible bamboo problem occurring in my yard from a neighbor who let their bamboo get out of control. As I was fighting the bamboo and researching how to get rid of it, I truly came to respect the plant. That and an article in National Geographic about the mile-a-minute vine growing out of control on some South Pacific islands inspired the plot.
RR: What is your favorite thing about being an author?
HH: Getting published so other people can read the book and being able to talk about the story with someone else. It’s amazing to think that this experience that happened in my imagination is now shared with someone else. It’s truly exciting, when the reader appreciates and understands what the point or theme of the book is, too.
RR: What books inspired you when you were growing up?
HH: One of the big pleasures in the summer during my childhood was going to the Riverside public library, especially on hot days. They had great AC. I would explore the stacks and grab whatever book I wanted. The library would often have activities and I will never forget when they performed a puppet show that re-told the story of the Jersey Devil. I was fascinated and terrified at the same time. I remember checking out books that discussed monster movies. I remember checking out a book called The Great Comic Book Heroes that told the origins of Superman, Batman, the Human Torch, Wonder Woman and other heroes from the 1930s and 1940s with original comic book art inside of them. I checked that book out all the time. Lots of other kids did, too, because it was incredibly beat up. My loving wife, Robin, eventually found it and bought me a pristine copy which I cherish and occasionally reread today. I read The Hobbit, Star Wars novels, Piers Anthony’s fantasy Xanth series, books about the NFL that told tales of famous football players and games. Maybe the books that inspired me the most growing up were comic books. There was a store called the News Agency that I could ride my bike to, and once a month I would go get the new issue of The Avengers or Conan or Spider-Man. All of the kids in my neighborhood would trade these comic books or let people borrow them to read the
stories. Those adventures really attracted me, and those characters I always felt were really dynamic and interesting. And of course, I loved the art.
RR: What was the hardest part of writing The Summer My Grandmother's Yard Tried to Kill Me?
HH: A few things were hard: finding a publisher, getting my parents to read it, which they haven’t. Marketing the book is tough—I hope this amazing blog will help. Oh, signing 80 books on the book launch with tennis elbow!
RR: Do you have any tips for an aspiring writer?
HH: I think the most important thing for an inspiring writer is to finish the book! Get to the end, see what you have. Join a writers group or have great readers make suggestions. Then, get back to work revising that book! It is not a simple one-step process, and when you are in this process of writing, make sure you enjoy it and you have fun. And don’t quit your day job! It is really important to like the process of writing and not just think about publishing.
RR: What are you working on currently? Can you share anything about your next book?
HH: I have a book I’m revising called Ping-Pong Johnny that is about father and son relationships and how people sometimes put too much emphasis on making their kids play sports. I also have a science fiction book tentatively called Seneca-7 and The Lone Wolf Cafe that takes place in a future without food and shows the effects of prejudice and neglecting the environment.