Armed with an MFA from the Iowa Writers’ Workshop and a fertile imagination jam-packed with kick-ass stories, Seth entered the game running. In 2006, he was the first crime author to serialize his work as a podcast-only novel. That novel, JACK WAKES UP, and Seth’s engaging podcasting style made for a dynamic duo that was hard to resist. I discovered Seth through these podcasts and grabbed every bit of his writing I could get my hands on.
Now we’re in for a treat! Seth stopped by the blog for a fascinating Q&A about the creative life. A teacher and constant champion of new writers, Seth has given me some great advice and inspiration over the years. The world is changing, kids, and Seth Harwood is a writer leading the way.
Hey, Seth, thanks for being here. Can you tell us when you knew you wanted to be a writer? And when did you know you were one?
Looking back now, I can see I’ve always wanted to be a writer. Even before I could scrawl, I would dictate stories to my mother or the babysitter who would write them down in these little construction-paper books that I would illustrate. Later, I wrote in journals, tried to tell serialized stories to my classes, and crafted detailed narratives in my head for hours while I played with action figures of one form or another (He-Man and G.I. Joe were favorites.)
In my early twenties I was living in New York City. I started to write in earnest. Something told me it was important to do this, that I should do my best to pursue a writing life. That was a pretty crazy period for me, characterized by too much weed and a few other substances. (Read my short stories if you want to know more.) - ROBB'S NOTE: Check out Seth's story collection, A LONG WAY FROM DISNEY - Through the haze, I stayed committed to writing. The practice has had a lot of ups and downs and still does, but I often allow myself to believe that I’m a writer now.
Believe it or not, it wasn’t getting my MFA from Iowa or publishing my first book that made me feel I was a writer. It was reaching my first audience of strangers through my podcasts. Knowing those people were out there, that they wanted me to write more for them to hear, that’s what made it real.
Who or what inspired you as a child? … as a teenager?
As a child, James Bond, Alfred Hitchcock, Conan Doyle. A teenager, comic books: X-Men, G.I. Joe, Daredevil.
What creative work most recently inspired you?
DRIVE, both the movie and the book. What a short epic. Also, “Choctaw Bingo” by James McMurtry.
In moments of self doubt, how do you push through?
Take a walk. Or seriously, these days I just say “f--- it” and go do something else. I’ll get back to the story sooner or later.
Have you ever abandoned a creative project?
Yes. To date I have a few novel or novella projects that are on the shelf. They need to be. Not every idea is going to pan out all the way to the end. Though that’s not to say I won’t hijack a part here or there and recycle it. I’ve done that already, actually.
My favorite character in fiction is …
The last concert I saw was …
Some classical music out at Tanglewood this summer with my family. We nerded out for a while.
The next book on my reading pile is …
THE TOWN / PRINCE OF THIEVES by Chuck Hogan, though it’ll probably get kicked aside by THE NEW FATHER, or HEALTHY SLEEP HABITS, HAPPY CHILD. I’m serious.
The book I can’t wait to read again is …
HOMICIDE by David Simon
Does The Great American Novel exist (yet)? If so, what is it?
It does. Several of them. There will be more, but I’d say the main one I think of is THE GREAT GATSBY, traditionally. Cliché or not. For crime, it’s THE LONG GOODBYE. No question!
More recently, America has changed a great deal, as we know. I’d say the new “Great American Novel” would be something by Richard Price, either CLOCKERS or LUSH LIFE, though those would be less popular picks.
I was reading recently that the Great American Novel is a song by James McMurtry called “Choctaw Bingo.” Also, in a sense the long-form TV series today operate like our novels, so I’d be comfortable picking "The Wire" or "Breaking Bad."
What creative work might we be surprised to find on your bookshelf or TiVo?
LETTERS TO A YOUNG POET by Rainer Maria Rilke? It’s a must read for any young creative, I’d say.
Facebook and Twitter: friend or foe to a creative?
Yes, definitely! Both, alternatively. What a double-edged sword!
In addition to writing, how do you express your creativity?
Hitting a heavy bag. Used to be basketball, but my back has gone to crap.
The most difficult thing about the life of a creative is …
Keeping any money in the bank.
The all-time starting lineup for the Boston Celtics is …
Bird, Russell, McHale, Reggie Lewis (RIP), Cousy. I’d put KG at the top of the reserves, and Paul Pierce has made a great case for himself to be the two, but I’ll stick with Reggie because people should remember him. I want to say Sherman Douglas should be a reserve point guard, but of course that’s just crazy. This is highly biased to those players I’ve seen, those in my time.
How about that? Good stuff, right? If you haven’t already, go grab some Seth Harwood books today. You can listen to all of Seth's novels as FREE podcasts on sethharwood.com and iTunes. (That's where I first got hooked.) His new novel, IN BROAD DAYLIGHT, is one of my favorite reads of the year. And be sure to check out CrimeWAV.com, a podcast series of free crime stories hosted by Seth himself. A Boston boy now making his home in San Francisco, Seth is a great guy -- and I'm totally with him on PRINCE OF THIEVES, Chandler, Richard Price, and HOMICIDE. OK, that's it, gotta go listen to some James McMurty right now ...
If you enjoyed this blog post, please check back for more about the creative life. And join my email list to stay up to date on my debut novel, PHOENIXVILLE RISING, coming in October 2013.