You can thank Alaska and Stieg Larsson for Seth Harwood’s latest novel, IN BROAD DAYLIGHT.
“I visited Alaska in 2011 and was just so taken with the landscape there, I knew I had to set a story in it. Also, I’d been really impressed with Stieg Larsson’s Millennium Trilogy and loved the Lisbeth Salander character. I wanted to try writing from the point of view of a female detective and Jess Harding was born,” Seth said.
Jess is Seth’s first female lead and he wanted “to focus directly on Jess as a character, perhaps because it was more of a stretch to get into her POV.” He used first person (for the first time) to get even closer to Jess.
Having determined he was going with a female lead, Seth notes the easiest decision he made in creating IN BROAD DAYLIGHT was setting it in Alaska. As he puts it: “Once I got up there, I was just blown away.”
Since Seth is an author who likes to get the story down first (I’m very much NOT an outliner.”). “In general I’m finding my own way through a book as I complete a first draft. I’d compare myself to a reader in the sense of discovering a story as I go. It’s much more fun for me that way. And when I get surprised, I know I’m on the right track.”
Getting and keeping on the right track for Seth requires writing every day and includes keeping track of word counts. He said, “It’s hard, but is also winds up being the most rewarding. Writing can be such a contradiction that way for me!”
What Seth loves about writing can be illustrated by IN BROAD DAYLIGHT: Jess Harding, an FBI agent travels to Anchorage, Alaska, to hunt down a serial killer who eluded her five years earlier. In the course of her investigation, she is attacked by a thug. In writing the scene, Seth was “surprised when Jess had her hand cut. He [the thug] basically attacked her with a knife, and I hadn’t seen it coming.
“Then a great part of the story wound up coming from that. In some ways, it wound up tying to a central theme. It shows a lot of what I really love about writing.”
After he gets the story down, Seth takes a breather from his work. Then he goes back to write short outlines or ‘scenarios’ to get the structure clear. These outlines (done after the draft is finished), notes for the novel, and 3 x 5” cards with important reminders/sayings are posted on the wall of his office. Then he says, “I can make changes, trump up the important parts, connect the interior logic, and so forth.”
Seth adds much of his revision process comes from Stephen Koch’s book, The Modern Library Writer’s Workshop.
In an article found on his website, Seth believes much of his productivity comes from having an audience for his work. “My writing output and drive have soared to levels I couldn’t have imagined back in my MFA days,” he said.
“The truth is, I learned a hell of a lot about how to craft good fiction in grad school, and I’d had enough of just showing my work to my peers for critique. I was ready to get my words out there to a real audience of readers. And since I have, they’ve given me all the motivation to achieve things I never even thought I could do.”
Another element that keeps Seth on his writing toes is teaching. “I find myself learning from my students or from the conversations we have. In odd ways the struggles I’m dealing with come out in the class. They’re frequently the same ones the students have too. So we talk through things and I often realize what I should be doing.
“On thing I always learn from them is to just keep writing. In a given class, they sometimes write more than I do. It can shame me into doing more work! I also really appreciate their drive, the desire to just write.”
Seth thinks it was his senior year in college when he decided to become a writer. He spent a semester abroad and saw many different ways people could live. He realized he didn’t want to be part of the “American Commercial Machine” — he wanted to create. “Once I figured out I wasn’t good at drawing or sculpture, I settled into writing. Now, looking back I can see I’ve been writing stories since I was very young. It was basically there the whole time.”
Besides writing and teaching, Seth has a new love commanding his attention in his three-month old daughter Willa (“I’ve just gone totally crazy over [her]. She’s the love of my life.”) Which explains the books on fatherhood and sleep-training joining Laukkanen’s CRIMINAL ENTERPRISE and Fainaru’s BIG BOY RULES on his To-Be-Read pile.
So what’s next for Seth? He’s excited Jess Harding, the heroine of IN BROAD DAYLIGHT, is embroiled in a new adventure that he is currently writing. And for fans of his previous work (JACK WAKES UP and THIS IS LIFE), Jack Palms will also return.
“I think IN BROAD DAYLIGHT will be a lot of fun for BIG THRILL readers. It’s definitely got a thrilling ending. And then, one of the biggest things I focus on in all my work is keeping the story very visual for readers. JACK WAKES UP was described as ‘an action movie between two covers’ and this is something I hope I brought to IN BROAD DAYLIGHT as well.”
Seth Harwood is the author of the acclaimed novels YOUNG JUNIUS and JACK WAKES UP. He holds an MFA in fiction from the Iowa Writers’ Workshop and has taught creative writing at Iowa, the University of Massachusetts, City College of San Francisco and Stanford.
To learn more about Seth and his writing, including IN BROAD DAYLIGHT visit his website where you can also find audio podcasts of his work as free downloads.