By Jeff Ayers
Seth Harwood spotlights a character from his other novel, Jack Wakes Up, in his latest, Young Junius. He talked to ITW about his new novel and how the Internet helped him with his career.
Why write and why teach writing?
Why write? I’d probably stop if I could. But I can’t. Fact is, I love it and I think this is the best thing I’m geared to do. Teaching is great because it gets me out and around folks, I love my students, and it pays better than probably any other part-time job I could get. It gives me the ability to structure my own time and the schedule to write.
What sparked the idea for Young Junius?
After writing and podcasting Jack Wakes Up (Three Rivers Press, 2009), a lot of my online fans were calling for more about one of the secondary characters, Junius Ponds. I’d been falling in love madly with The Wire around that time and a lot of my fiction beforeJack Wakes Up had been based in Boston and Cambridge (MA). So I got the idea to do an origin story for Junius Ponds, set in Cambridge in the late 80s, around the time I was growing up there and in a period I know well. I guess that part of my life has always interested me, as far as my fiction is concerned.
How has the Internet helped your career?
Wow. I wouldn’t be here now if I hadn’t started giving my work away as free audiobooks (podcasts) and serializing my work online. Being able to do this and create my own audience, a real fan base of “Palms Daddies and Palms Mommas” has just made me so much happier because I became able to really defend myself as a writer to myself and in my head. Once I had readers, it just made everything so much more fun for me. Now there was a real purpose to the writing and the marketing came right along with that. I was preaching to a (relative) choir. From there, the books started coming out, the online fans snapped them up, and one thing’s led to another. This year we even pre-sold a high-end special edition of Young Junius that helped to fund the book’s full print run and promotion!
You mentioned releasing Young Junius as a free audio podcast. Could you talk a bit more about that?
Basically the only way I see to get traction on the web is to consistently give people something that they want, something they’ll keep coming back for. With podcasting, it’s even better because folks can subscribe and then all the content comes right to them. I podcasted three Jack Palms Crime novels, two short story collection and then Young Junius, all before Jack Wakes Up hit shelves. It was a way for me to continue that level of contact with my fans: giving them great stories to enjoy and also talking to them on the front and back ends. It’s been a total two-way street: they get something they like from my hard work and I get the sails of my writing ship lifted and carried up by all the great responses, artwork, contributions of time, and word-spreading that the fans do.
Young Junius has been a part of establishing that. Also, since I was serializing it as I wrote it, the audio podcast really drove me through the writing process of the novel. Now, the print version is much revised and updated, but that initial draft was all driven by the week-to-week need to put out a show.
All this month (October), I’ll be podcasting a Jack Palms novella called “Triad Death Match” at my site, http://sethharwood.com and on http://crimewav.com. I’ll also be serializing the text version of Young Junius as free PDFs of the chapters on my site andScribd.com. Folks wanting to know more should find me on Facebook and Twitter.