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SEP/OCT 2002

Issue #12

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MEET THE
AUTHOR

Dr. O. J. HARP


Shades Of Romance Magazine:  Please give the readers a brief bio on you the person and the writer.

Dr. O. J. Harp, III:
  I've worked for over two decades as a Clinical Psychologist specializing in the academic  concerns, learning problems, achievement needs, and behavioral difficulties of at risk students within the D. C. Public Schools. As a result of my work with low achieving children and adolescents, I've discovered that their primary problem is not an academic weakness, nor is it primarily an intellectual deficiency.  Rather their primary academic problem is a pervasive motivational deficit. 
For African American students, this motivational deficit stems from a long history of debasement extending back to the days of African slavery.  However, the history of African Americans did not start with African slavery in the Americas.  Our true legacy goes further back in time to a culturally rich period on the African continent.  Unfortunately, this great period of kings and queens, for most of us, has been wiped from our collective social memories. For instance, the average Black youth has no recollection of the early African historical greatness of his or her ancestors.  The attempt to recapture the essence of this lost period of great Black kingdoms and proud Black people, while using this knowledge to raise the self-esteem and self-worth of school-aged students, was the major motivation behind the creation of my novel:  Across Time: Love Eternal.

SORM:  Tell us about your current book.

HARP:  Across Time: Love Eternal is my first novel. The novel is a Historical Science Fiction adventure of epic proportions. The book is based, for the most part, on fact.  It is largely a historical drama with a mixture of  historical and fictional characters. Hence, the book can be used for entertainment as a novel and also as a vehicle for historical study. 

It begins in sub-Saharan Africa 110 million B. C., with a prehistoric crocodile of enormous proportions: Flesh Crocodile Emperor. This ten ton crocodilian beast was as large as a yellow school bus. It attacked huge dinosaurs, with its four foot long jaws and with over a hundred bone-crushing teeth. The novel quickly moves on to 1100 B. C., a time when the Great Sphinx was carved by a mysterious Black race of people, the Anu, who eventually became the founders of ancient Egypt (Kemet).  Through the use of an ancient miraculous device, which summons a vicious time storm, the Anu become Time Trotters.  They travel to the present time and intermingle with present day people and school-aged kids. Also, two lovers from the dawn of civilization become Time Trotters. As a result of traveling in the vastness of time they lose not only the memory of each other, but also the memory of their past, their culture, and their own identities. Nevertheless, their love is so strong it manages to last across the vastness of time. As I see it, the novel is largely a metaphor for self-discovery. It is a mesmerizing tale for anyone in search of their own identity and, in essence, who they really are!

SORM:  Which scene in the book is your favorite?

HARP: 
I have several favorite scenes, some of them occur in Chapter 10 entitled:  The Place of No Time.  The theme of this chapter is based on the definition of the Freudian id, one of the three parts of human consciousness described by the founder of Psychoanalysis, Sigmund Freud (1856-1939).  According to psychoanalytic theory, the id is the psychic representative of our instincts (drives), which are the original contents of the mind. It is our inner psychic reality that has no knowledge of our objective reality. The id is expressed in our dreams, a place where time does not exist.  In a dream a person can be in one place and then another place. Or they can be in both places at the same time. Night and day can suddenly change places. In our dreams, magic and the unexplained rule over reason.  In the novel, The Place of No Time functions much like a dream.  In this magical realm a person does not age, extinct creatures find new life, mysterious beings dominate, mechanical 'bots' terrify and amuse, the seasons change capriciously, and extreme changes in the temperature defy common sense. This place, in essence, is the place of our dreams, a place of fantasy where our greatest fears or our most intense desires are expressed.

In this chapter the Mmoatia, magical African dwarfs with whimsical personalities, are introduced.  In reality, among some of the Asanta people in Ghana Africa, the belief in the Mmoatia is part of their cultural heritage and traditional religious rites. In the story, the leaders of the Mmoatia are described and given fictional African names: Baba the Wise,  Mongo the Magnificent, Ochi the Jolly, and Gamba the Strong. They are the magical adversaries of the cloned ancient pharaoh Ramesses the Great.

SORM:  Why did you choose this time period for your book?

HARP:  For years I attempted to find ways to motivate students to read about and discover the importance of their cultural heritage.  I've written several unpublished works that utilize educational exercises, which encourage cultural awareness and stimulate academic motivation. The present novel is an outgrowth of those books.

SORM:  What would you like your readers to take away from your book?

HARP:  For most of us the self-discovery of our true potential, as well as the true meaning of our lives become a life long task.  We struggle in the attempt to understand ourselves. The day to day difficulties of growing up, making a living, taking on responsibility for ourselves and others, searching for the love of someone special gain precedence over our internal strivings for finding meaning in our existence. Yet, the search for this meaning must continue, if we are to ever make sense of why we struggle to survive. 

Novels, plays, movies, and other forms of dramatic art have long been used as a vehicle for self-discovery and cultural transmission. My novel continues this tradition by presenting a fictional drama where the reader can identify with multiethnic characters who solve perplexing problems, ponder wise teachings, fight terrifying battles, and engage in the search for their own identity. 

SORM:  What satisfies you about writing?

HARP: 
I get so excited when I see my characters come to life on paper.  It's as if they are real people with a life of their own.  Often I can't predict what they might do. Often I find myself gaining more joy from what my characters are doing than experiencing the drama I might see in a Hollywood movie!

SORM:  Tell us about your journey to publication.

HARP:
  Being a first time novelist, I knew the attempt to have my novel published by a traditional publisher would be slim to none.  I've heard tales about the manuscripts of others laying around in basements, strewn atop dishwashers and washing machines, and stuck behind the clutter that gathers with the normal progression of day to day lives, covered with layers of dust and spider webs. Yet, I was not dissuaded from the dream of being published. I first sent queries to several subsidy publishers.  Not surprisingly they all said they would publish my novel for a rather hefty fee. Then I tried self-publishing. Several books recommended this approach. Like subsidy publishing, self-publishing required a large fee for publishing my book. However, unlike subsidy publishing self-publishing would allow me to retain complete ownership and receive all of the proceeds from my book.  While in negotiation with a self-publishing company, I sent my manuscript to a few traditional publishers. To my surprise I got favorable responses.

SORM:  What advice would you give someone whose book is about to be published? 

You must be aggressive in marketing your work.  Even if you're lucky enough to get a traditional publisher to publish and promote your book, you still must be an active marketer.  You must seek out book clubs, bookstores, magazines, organized groups, and signing opportunities.

SORM:  What is the greatest thing that has happened to you since becoming published? 

HARP:
  My greatest joy has been seeing the smiles and excitement in the faces of my neighbors, coworkers, family, and friends.  For me those smiles are worth more than money and fame.

SORM:  How should a writer work with a bookstore?

HARP: 
I'm not sure. This is my first novel. I'm feeling my way along without an agent.  My novel was just published in September 2002. However, I have dropped by a few bookstores.  At each store I was warmly received.  They all said they would stock my book. 
They all promised to setup book signing opportunities.

SORM:  Any advice for the aspiring writer?


HARP:  You must "stay motivated".  You must remember that, "a writer writes." You must remember that, "you first write from the heart and then from the head." You must remember that, "writing is rewriting."  Rewriting is particularly important. I've heard of writers taking six months to a year to write a book and then taking several years to rewrite that book. 
Lastly, you must know your subject matter.  The old maxim, "write what you know" should be obeyed.  This often means conducting research for your novel "by any means necessary."

SORM:  What is the latest page-turner you read?


HARP:  Most of my reading involves technical books.  For example, I'm presently reading Psychophysiology:  The Biologic Basis for Disease in Adults & Children by Kathryn L. McCance and Sue E. Huether.  However, a few months ago I did finish the last published book in the Harry Potter series. Historically, I've always been a great fan of old classics.  Books by such authors as H. G. Wells, Charles Dickens, and Robert Lewis Stevenson have greatly influenced both my child and adulthood. Much of their style and thinking is a part of the present novel.  Also, I've read every book I could find on the culture of African people throughout the diaspora. 

SORM:  What is something readers would be surprised you do?

HARP: 
I consider myself a world traveler.  I've had the great fortune of traveling throughout the U.S. and to many countries in the world with my wife, who I consider to be a great treasure and who is one of my greatest motivators. 

SORM:  How can readers get in touch with you?

HARP: 
Readers should go to the web site www.seaburn.com of my publisher, Seaburn Publishing Group. At that web site they should click on the cover of my book and write a review of the book.  They should also checkout the trivia questions, resources and links on that web page. The trivia questions are based on historical data concerning Kemet (ancient Egypt). Resources will lead them to a comprehensive study of much of the historical data covered in the book. They can also click on my name and scroll down to an e-mail address where they can directly contact me.

SORM:  Can you give us a peek at what we can expect from your next book?

HARP: 
I plan on writing a series of Across Time novels involving many of the characters found in Across Time: Love Eternal.


SHADES OF ROMANCE MAGAZINE WOULD LIKE TO THANK DR. HARP FOR THIS INTERVIEW.  WE WISH YOU MUCH SUCCESS WITH YOUR BOOK.