Harley J. Sims

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Who are you, and who does your hair?

Why did you self-publish? 

It wasn't my first choice, I admit. But it allowed me to publish the Unsung. as I wanted it to be  - and, most importantly, to publish it at all.  Like the majority of aspiring writers, I spent years on and off submitting queries and manuscripts to agents and publishers - people I didn't know from Adam or Eve, but whom I needed to validate my work.  They are exactly like talent agents for amateur athletes, and other aspirants needing to be 'discovered' to make it. They are dreambrokers. 

Even as the Unsung. grew and improved, however, the publishing industry was changing. Books play different roles, and have different values,  at different times in history. In the hectic and information-rich electronic age, fewer people are reading print - and the fiction they do read is becoming more casual. Everyone seems to be scrambling to write, publish or (when they have time) read the next unputdownable phenomenon, with less and less time for what is different. 

Even as a Fantasy novel, the Unsung. was always going to be different.  This seemed the best way to go.

Is the Unsung. standalone, or is it part of a series?

It's the first part of a story, for sure, but it's nothing so formal as a series. There's no trilogy or tetralogy, or anything like that. SmaĆ° is an alternate reality, and a confluence of worlds at that. It can hold as many stories as a bottomless sack.

The stepping stones laid down by the Unsung. are indeed following a path.  But because Fantasy creates worlds even as it tells stories, the landscape through which the path leads will disorient, and lead pathfinders astray.  I have big plans for it - bigger, perhaps, than time and fortune will allow.  

Isn't the Unsung. just a fancy piece of Game Lit?

Yes, but mostly no. 

The influences  and inspirations of gaming (both video games and tabletop RPGs) are clear in the novel, as I would expect of any book written by a lifelong Fantasy fan and student.  Gaming is  fun, sure, but it's also homework when it comes to this genre. This might not always have been the case, but it is now - just like when sommeliers used to be able to ignore New World and Australian wines. The material has proliferated, and found new territory. If you don't know gaming, you don't know Fantasy.  Just listen to how Andrzej Sapkowski sounds when he bashes Witcher 3, or video games in general. He's an incredible Fantasy writer, but you can hear his rocking chair creaking in the background.


But Game Lit is self-conscious, and the gaming influences in the Unsung. are elemental rather than systematic. Elements (and cameos) aside, the Unsung. is a literary novel, with the themes, echoes, and vocabulary of a serious work of fiction.  

This is not to imply that games, as well as Game Lit, can never be literary. Game Lit, at least as a genre, didn't exist when I started the Unsung., though there were already plenty of books inspired by gaming.

What other writing would you compare it to?

I would hope the Unsung. is unique enough to resemble nothing too closely, but I know what I love to read, and we tend to emulate what we most admire. I do read a lot, however - or, I have, on and off - and the influence of certain readings during certain parts of the Unsung. is clear, at least to me.

I am a Tolkien scholar, but I prefer the formidable majesty of The Silmarillion to the Hobbit-mediated grandeur of The Lord of the Rings. I'm drawn to the archaic prose of William Morris and E.R. Eddison,  but also any writer who takes stylizing language beyond gimmickry into craftsmanship (William Gibson, Salman Rushdie, Susanna Clarke). Jorge Luis Borges is a big favourite; I keep Labyrinths at my bedside. H.P. Lovecraft, Robert E. Howard and Raymond Chandler are also hugely inspiring. 

As for the living, I'm a big Andrzej Sapkowski fan (The Witcher), and I've really enjoyed certain books by Neil Gaiman, Patrick Rothfuss, and John Crowley. Clive Barker is a more recent discovery.

I'm a huge Harry Potter fan. Is this book for me?

I got this repeatedly at the Vancouver Fan Expo (often from people in Hogwarts robes).  It's a great question.

My answer is yes --- if you've matured as a reader and are now tackling more challenging literature.  J.K. Rowling's Harry Potter series got millions of young people reading again, and brought Fantasy into vogue in a way that has never been seen before.  Its popularity has bolstered other franchises; George R.R. Martin's Song of Ice and Fire novels (A Game of Thrones, A Clash of Kings, etc.) were being published at the same time as the Harry Potter books, but did not catch fire until after the Harry Potter films had ended.  

The Harry Potter books are primarily for younger readers, however - this despite the darker themes and  material  their  popularity encouraged its author to emphasize.  the Unsung., while still a Fantasy about monster-slayers and magic-users, is for those who love language, as well as the deep power of fiction to enchant, immerse, and disorient. As much as they narrate too, the words are an incantation.