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Writers Interview: Harrow

Tags: #Harrow  #Interview 
  • March 15, 2017

    So, it has been quite some time since I did the last Interview, but now I'm back - a little bit rusty maybe - doing another one and this time I decided to go with Harrow. Who? You'll know very soon. Anyway, great to be doing this again, Harrow, but before we get to the interesting stuff, how about you tell everyone something about yourself, hm?

    Mhm... well, Karver-jo and everyone else reading this, hello! I’m a nineteen-year-old student from Hong Kong, but I moved to North Carolina a year ago to study for university. Studying in the United States is much more relaxed than it was back home, so I have a lot of free time to indulge in my favourite pastimes of gaming and writing.

    I’m particularly fond of role-playing games and stealth games, and I’ve been devoting most of my game time lately to a game called Warframe, in which I’m an active member of the PvP community. I don’t have a lot of hobbies besides these, but I’m a nidan kendo practitioner (though I haven’t picked up a bokken at all since I moved to America) and I also play the piano and the guzheng. I’m relatively new to T.V. - I joined last July.

    Stealth games. Wouldn't guess that, hehe. Alright, so kendo and piano. How exactly does that work together?

    Already with the difficult questions!

    The timing and rhythm required to play a musical instrument can be applied in martial arts as well… I guess?

    ...I don’t know, I just found myself in classes for both of them one day!

    Basically fell into it. As good as any other option. So, enough about pianos and their bokkens, we're here for writing. Roaring Thunder, Hissing Lightning. That's what you came with to TV, but I have to wonder when exactly did you start writing. What was it about? How bad was it in your opinion? We all started somewhere, as writers, so I'm kinda curious where and when you started, especially with English apparently not being your native language and yet you're very good at it. Both English and writing. So shoot!

    I think I wrote my first story (that wasn’t part of schoolwork) when I was around… thirteen or fourteen. I was reading a lot of Jin Rong’s wuxia novels back then - wuxia novels are essentially knight-errant stories set in ancient China and revolving around kung fu practitioners - and wanted to try my hand at writing a little scene myself. I wrote a small passage about a fight between two masters (this was in Chinese, mind you) and showed it to my teacher.

    It was horrid. I’ve never been more embarrassed in my life. I could tell that my teacher was holding back his laughter.

    I wasn’t particularly good at Chinese writing, but I always did well in English classes, thanks to the British teachers and tutors I had (Hong Kong was a British colony once, and there’s still a lot of influence left over. Rue Britannia!). I translated the story into English and showed it to my teacher again, and to my great surprise he received it much better than the original Chinese version. He even allowed it to be posted on the school newspaper.

    I gradually began to write more and more as time went on, and the school newspaper continued taking my stories - the milder ones at any rate - every month. I did have to stop for a year or so when my HKDSE public exams came up, and I didn’t write much for the remainder of my time back in Hong Kong. R.T.H.L. is really my first major work since I graduated from secondary school.

    I actually started writing back in school too, long time ago in a galaxy far far away. At least that's how it feels like. But the bumpy road full of thorns always leads somewhere and this one led you to Tamriel Vault with Roaring Thunder, Hissing Lightning. I gotta say, I dig that title. What made you come up with the name? Also, if I have to be absolutely honest, I was quite reserved about your writing at first - to say that I'm not chinese and japanese cultures fan would be an understatement - but I have absolutely no regrets now. I know what the story is about and it's awesome, but how about you tell it to the readers, eh? Who are your protagonists, what is the direction of the story? Also, in this case, I have to ask in what precisely your story deviates from TES Lore?

    There are numerous Chinese four-word idioms about lightning and thunder (天雷轟頂  劈雷掩耳 電閃雷鳴, etc. etc.) and I simply wrote one myself after their style - 雷鳴電轟 - and translated it to English as best I could. And don’t worry, I can understand how some aspects of our culture would feel alien and hard to understand. I’ve inserted much of it into my depictions of Akaviri culture - the different dialects of the Akaviri language (I essentially forced Japanese into the Eastern dialect), the eating traditions, and the mannerisms.

    Moving on to R.T.H.L.! The story is an ongoing series about a young boy born to an Altmer mother and Nord father, growing up in a village of Akaviri Po’ Tun shinobi - Westerners would know them better by the term ‘ninja’ - and his experiences with the chaotic times that he is born into. Some explanation of the shinobi is in order - I dubbed them ‘Shadeclaws’ since the Po’ Tun are feline folk much like the Khajiit. They arrived in Tamriel during the First Era, along with the rest of the Akaviri invasion, and were left independent of the Akaviri forces following their defeat at Pale Pass. I should stop that there before I reach spoiler territory. For the protagonists, I went with the clichéd trio dynamic - one mild-mannered girl and two boys with polar opposite personalities, one brash and impulsive, the other cold and calculating. It’s a little predictable, but I enjoy these sorts of characters.

    I want to say that my story doesn’t deviate from lore completely, but I understand that my knowledge of TES Lore (especially the metaphysical bits, those make my head explode) is still very shallow. I do try to stick to established lore when writing. Much of the discrepancies, if any, would come from how I just make up new lore for the Akaviri if I can’t find anything on the two wikis. There’s not a lot of lore on Akavir, so I fabricated my way through most of it and explained the rest away through time and the evolution of culture. For example, the Po’ Tun present on the main continent of Akavir are now known as the Ka Po’ Tun, or Tiger-Dragon People according to Mysterious Akavir, since their leader Tosh Raka apparently became a dragon (something something Akatosh). The Po’ Tun of R.T.H.L. are neither tiger-like nor dragon-like, as they invaded Tamriel far back in the First Era.

    Well, you actually did put together a few “lore articles” explaining all that and as far as I remember they are on your ToC right? I think those are definitely everyone's go to place if they get confused or lost. Speaking of confusion. You actually start the story with Harrow's parents and I have to say that for very long time I believed that it was happening after the Dragon Crisis, but apparently it is before. So when exactly does your story start? What is its beginning?

    The story actually begins with Harrow’s mother and father, the latter of whom (spoilers for up to Chapter Five incoming) I intentionally misled the reader into thinking was the Dragonborn when he was just a very proficient Tongue. The year that Chapter One takes place in is 4E 182, or nineteen years before the Dragon Crisis and the other events of Skyrim. I did write some ‘lore’ articles to help supplement the main story, and they are indeed on the ToC. Three of them detail Shadeclaw combat techniques, and one is a comprehensive guide to the village of Tsukikage. I would encourage readers to go there if they do get lost - which I hope to avoid by writing and explaining things as clearly as possible!

    Absolutely, they are really helpful, with plenty of interesting hints and info, 

    such as martial arts. But that's where the story started, now where is it heading? Right now we have some Thalmor baddies crashing a tea party hehehe...Yeah. So, how do the Thalmor figure in all of this? Also, the Dragon Crisis. How's that going to play out? If you can reveal anything without spoilers of course. The reason I'm asking is that on TV we have seen a lot of Dragonborns, a lot of takes on Skyrim and such, but your story so far is basically creating its own fresh storyline, something that is new to any reader and that is awesome in my opinion. There can be only so many takes on the same quests from the games, right?

    The Thalmor will continue to have a role in the story, as the shinobi are deeply tied to the political machinations of Tamriel - which are in full flow in the years following the Great War. Open conflict between the two factions (three if you include the Empire) is brewing once again slowly, though all-out war isn’t going to erupt any time soon. Think of it as a period of cold war, where assassins and spies such as the Shadeclaws thrive.

    I will begin writing more about Skyrim and the other provinces when I reach the Dragon Crisis. You give me too much credit when you say that it’s a fresh storyline, Karver-jo. This was only the setup work, and Tsukikage itself is set quite close to Skyrim, in the Jerall Mountains bordering it and Cyrodiil. I will eventually start featuring the same quests from the games with my own protagonists as well. Sorry to disappoint, heh heh.

    So we'll go to Skyrim eventually. Huh. With Twinstinger and his little canary up his coal mine I hope. Hmm. I had a question prepared but suddenly I can't remember it… What I remember is that you participated in NaNo and that you have reached the 50k words goal in a month and that you were writing Roaring Thunder, Hissing Lightning. How the tusk did you do that?!

    Which also raises another question, such as: what about writer's block? How do you deal with that inglorious heresy?

    Ah, sweet Larethor the Twinstinger. He wasn’t even a character in the initial drafts for Chapters 26 and onwards, but after reading through my plotline I realised that I needed a solid antagonist to fill in the void. Cue the bloodthirsty pedophilic serial rapist! I was seriously intending to work in a rape scene in the story somewhere, but I’m glad my seniors talked me out of it. That idea completely lacks any kind of context. I will still be writing in some… very steamy moments between him and the main character, though.

    Chapter 26 was actually the last chapter I drafted in NaNo, so it’s funny that you should bring it up, Karver-jo. I wouldn’t even say that I ‘wrote’ 50K words in one month, it was more of a form of regurgitation. I just went and typed out whatever was on my mind as I followed the framework I’d set for the chapters beforehand. It was complete gibberish like this ebcause my thoughts wentdirectly form ther brainti the finger sand i dintfileter theb lody thingsat all and imju sthammering away at the keyboard like a compe lkte madman going eightyninty words perminutenot even stopingfr proper spacingnd spellinhg mistaks tosay nothing of the plotholsd anin consittency.

    The end result was a hopeless mess that needed to be edited for months before they were fit to be published as blogs. To be honest, I prefer to think things through and don’t really enjoy writing like this, but I had a quota to meet. And now I might be doing the same thing in April with an 80K word goal. I’ll have to burn the midnight oil for that. Copious amounts of tea and huamei (extremely sour dried plums) usually get me through all-nighters.

    As for writer’s block, I’ve found that taking a short break from writing and simply doing something else - taking a walk, listening to some music, booting up old games on the Famicom, all three at once (well, maybe not the last one) - usually lets me generate new ideas. Or at the very least more gibberish.

    Oh yeah, Twinstinger. I already said it, I dig that name. Call me a very disturbed individual but I kinda like him. He’s like a raping version of Hannibal Lecter. It would be interesting seeing him in the times before Roaring Thunder. Which kinda raises another question. Have you considered writing a short story for Roaring Thunder? Something outside Shadeclaws stuff? It always makes the universe bigger, so it would definitely be interesting.

    I actually did have a couple of short stories planned lined up… about the Shadeclaws. These short stories detail their exploits over three Eras of Tamrielic history, such as the rise of First Grandmaster Furiya, the shinobi’s scouring of the Morag Tong island sanctuary of Vounoura, how the village of Tsukikage weathered the Oblivion Crisis, and so on.

    If you couldn’t tell already, I’m quite obsessed about the Shadeclaws. However, I do also intend to eventually write a few pieces about the adventures of Arngrimur as a child, his apprenticeship with Raeg Nar’ook the Greybeard exile, and his experience as a Legionnaire during the Great War.

    I like to think that I keep an open mind about my writing, so if a sudden idea strikes me, I might write about it in a short story.

    I’ll probably keep the more… unorthodox ideas to myself, though. Everyone in the main story switches genders! Ha ha ha ha ha! Diia wakes up with a- a- A-ahem…

    Um. Let’s move on.

    Ah, yes. Harrow’s parents. What an interesting couple. Story about those two would be really awesome. Well, and I’m afraid we’re nearing the end of this interview, I pretty much ran out of questions, haha. So last one.

    We’re slowly but steadily nearing the point in your story where the Dragon Crisis is imminent. We’ve touched on this before: how thoroughly do you plan to follow the events of Skyrim?

    Now that is a good question. The short answer is, I don’t know fully yet. I haven’t planned that far ahead. I will tell readers, though, that the Dragon Crisis takes place much more slowly (at least initially) than it was portrayed in the game. The various provinces are also going to be of a much larger scale - I’ll be using this bit of calculation as my basis for Tamriel’s size, in which Skyrim covers an area of well over nine hundred thousand square miles. The dragons will restrict themselves to attacking isolated areas and setting up territory in mountains first, gaining strength and establishing a firm strategic position. Dovah are shrewd beings, after all. Only then will they gradually step up the intensity of their assault. Plenty of time for the main character to get acquainted with a couple of major factions first. Which ones, you ask? Well, I’m not about to reveal everything this quickly (partly because I haven’t made up my mind yet), but I do know that a certain lizard’s going to be watching me very closely when we reach that point.

    Is that a growl I hear?

    *palms shuriken and continues nervously*

    As to the events themselves, I will not be following the plot as depicted in the questlines very strictly. Characters that made it through in the original version might find themselves offed halfway. I will be building more decisions and twists - hopefully not too predictable ones - into the storylines as well. I’m also not very fond of the ‘do everything for me’ mentality that NPCs in the game seem to possess, so rest assured, the main character is not going to run about performing chores for every single person until 100% progression is reached.

    Ha, don't mind the lizard, he's as harmless as a puppy, hehe. I thank you for your time and I really hope that this will prompt more people to give your story a shot. So yeah, back to work right now, eh? Everyone, thank you for your attention. This was Harrow!

    Oh sweet heavens you’re including a link to my profile page. My horribly bland, practically untouched profile page. Now I’ll have to add sprucing it up to my to-do list.

    On a serious note, many thanks for taking the time, Karver-jo, it was an honour! Now if you’ll excuse me...

    *disappears in a cloud of smoke*

    I am the wi- cough cough cough cough...

  • Member
    March 15, 2017

    This is a wonderful interview and it is nice to get to know Harrow better :) 

  • Member
    March 15, 2017

    Great interview! I really have to make more time to sit down and read. Not just here on the Vault, but in general. Also...


    "I’ll probably keep the more… unorthodox ideas to myself, though. Everyone in the main story switches genders! Ha ha ha ha ha! Diia wakes up with a- a- A-ahem…"


    That would be funny, if you ask me... Heheh... *runs off remembering AotQ*

  • March 15, 2017

    Great interview, Karver. Nice to see these back again. :D

  • Member
    March 16, 2017

    A very well deserved interview! Also Grumpy Ninja Cat :D

    I admit, even I was confused at the premise of the story. And here I thought I was reading an AU. I'm glad you found a way around the heretical Writer's Block. Personally, I prefer to write and edit my chapters at the same time while saving any notes on a different document.... Hence, why it took so long to even finish a 3-parter short story. XD

    Hmm, Wuxia novels. Gotta find time and read one of those books. Most of the times its only the films I watch (the choreography's really good). Fun fact: Here every friday the local channel broadcasts Wuxia films. 

    Oh, and don't worry about that certain lizard. As long as you don't touch a certain redhead you're fine... well hopefully.

  • March 16, 2017
    I don't understand this fear of this lizard you all talk about. Surely I can touch anyone I want in my story, no? Oh, and touch I would... xD
  • Member
    March 16, 2017

    It is always nice to read how other people writes, and where they get the ideas. Very insightful interview! :)

  • Member
    March 18, 2017

    I can only repeat what has been said. It's great to have the opportunity to see the writer behind the stories. Well deserved Harrow...

    Side note..... Oh yes....  I'm watching you....

    *Note to self.... Harmless as a puppy? Keep an wolfish eye on Karver.... Orc? I'll make him squawk.  

  • Member
    March 18, 2017

    This is a great interview! I haven't seen these for some time.

  • Member
    May 4, 2017

    Grumpy ninja kitty is on the sidebar.