Interview With The Author: Harry Farthing
John Dwaine McKenna
Harry Farthing is English by birth, American by choice, an adventurer, world traveller, mountain climber, journalist and outstanding thriller writer whose dazzling debut, Ghost Moths is discussed in Mysterious Book Report No. 440. He’s a man on the go who slowed down long enough to do an in-depth and comprehensive interview with us that details some of his secrets—along with hard work, perseverance and talent—for success. With many thanks Mr. Farthing, here’s our first question:
Who inspired you to write? How many books do you read in an average year?
Reading has always fuelled my interest in travel, history, and adventure. Raised in the West of England I attended some fairly remote boarding schools where the library quickly became a place of sanctuary and a wall of old National Geographic magazines inspired an escapist interest in equally remote places around the world. Every journey or mountain climb I subsequently made was thoroughly re-searched as I was as interested as much by the history of a place, its early exploration and the tribes and religions encountered, as in the physical geography itself. This has translated into reading upwards of fifty books a year for nearly as many years and seen me travel to the Sahara, the Amazon, the Arctic and the Greater Ranges as well as living in Portugal, Italy and the USA as well as the UK over the years.
How did your first book get published? How long did it take?
My first novel, SUMMIT, was written when I moved to the USA and had the time and space to try something that I had always wanted to do. It was a very spontaneous process and, facing the inevitable raft of rejections for what I naively thought was a finished product, I self-published the weighty manuscript in a rather bull-headed way. The book did however gain some traction and through the assistance of a former Editor-in-Chief of Time Inc. who considered it a story with potential if properly edited and nationally published, I gained representation by Will Roberts at the Gernert Literary Agency, an excellent editor in Madeline Hopkins, and a three book publishing deal with Blackstone starting with THE GHOST MOTHS.
Where do you get most, some, or any your story ideas from? Do you use long, detailed and in-depth descriptions of your characters and their environs?
I think Kirkus nailed it in their review of THE GHOST MOTHS by saying that I was ‘equally interested in adventure, mystery, spiritualism, and history and the symbiotic relationships among them.‘ These are indeed my interests with the odd old motorcycle thrown in for good measure. For the story ideas I then target these interests with what I call my five Ms – mountains, mystery, magic, mayhem, and murder – to build a hopefully thrilling and intriguing adventure story. I tend in my writing to give more detailed descriptions of places and conditions, particularly in the climbing scenes, to try and transport the reader to the scenes of the action. For the characters I focus less on physical description but build them instead through their back-stories, dialogue and behaviour, particularly under pressure.
Do you plot-outline or wing it? What method do you use to keep track of plot details?
At the outset I have a fairly clear idea of where the story going even if like the best-laid travel plans I will then get off track, take wrong turns, and sometimes breakdown. As in actual adventure travel, such events often lead to the unexpected and sometimes produce better ideas and opportunities for the story. I do however keep close attention to the overall results as my plots are quite multi-faceted and all the elements included need to interlink. I edit heavily myself as I work and, in doing so, will follow each of the main themes separately through the manuscript in long hand notes to try and pick up any non-sequiturs or plot holes, a process that looks like this:
Are any of your characters autobiographical? What makes a character compelling? What makes a character despicable?
I have been asked this many times and the answer is yes and no. Some of my characters are definitely influenced by my own experiences, particularly in visiting the places and climbing the mountains that I write about. The characters themselves are however actually amalgams of people and personalities I have either read about in the history of the places I mention, might have met in my travels or perhaps would like to have met, and pure invention. I test my characters a lot in my stories and how they respond is what I think makes them compelling. My bad guys are very bad but perhaps not as inflated or far-fetched as some of my reviewers would like to believe. The Himalaya have seen a fair amount of despicable behaviour over the years. . .
What’s your next project?
I am currently exploring some ideas around the last days of Lawrence of Arabia and the lead up to World War 2 in England.
Do you write under another name? If so: Why?
No. I was once told that if I couldn’t sell books with a name like Harry Farthing then I simply wasn’t trying hard enough!
Wow! Is all we can think of to say. All best wishes for continued success, and please, keep ‘em coming!
For more information:
Harry Farthing is an Englishman born in 1964 in Lynton, North Devon, and raised in the West Country. He was educated at St. Michael’s Preparatory School, near Barnstaple, Allhallows Public School, near Lyme Regis, and at the University of the West of England in Bristol. From 1987 he enjoyed a successful career with one of the world’s largest commercial real estate consultancies. During this period, he lived and worked in the City of London, Lisbon, Portugal and Milan, Italy, becoming Managing Director of the company’s Italian operations and European Board Director with responsibility for activities in Abu Dhabi, Dubai, Bahrain and Qatar. In 2010 he took early retirement to move with his American wife to Charleston, South Carolina, and pursue a career in writing.
Harry Farthing has had a lifelong interest in exploration, archaeology and world history, both published and alternate. He is a Fellow of the Royal Geographical Society and has travelled widely to extreme environments such as the Sahara Desert, the Himalaya, the Amazon and the Arctic North. An experienced mountaineer, he has climbed extensively, including Mt Blanc and the Matterhorn in the Alps, Mt McKinley in Alaska, Shishapangma, the highest mountain in Tibet, and Mount Everest itself. In 2010 he successfully led all thirteen members of a charity climb to the summit of Kilimanjaro in Africa. In 2011 he made a solo 7,500 mile journey across North America by BMW Motorcycle that linked the Atlantic, Arctic and Pacific Oceans and travelled 2,000 miles of unpaved roads above the 60th Parallel. That trip was the latest in a series of extreme motorcycle journeys that started with a ride from the UK to the Moroccan Sahara when he was just nineteen.