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Copyright 2000 Tara K. Harper.  All rights reserved.

Living the Adventure

 Greyheart thumbnail: link to blurb, cover

Copyright 1996 by Tara K. Harper

Tara Harper, author of Grayheart (August, 1996), Wolfwalker, the critically acclaimed
novel, Cat Scratch Fever, and other SF novels, shares with us a sense of her adventures,
her philosophy of living, and how the events in her life help focus her writing.

As with many authors, much of my work is a reflection of my life.   It's not as if I go out each morning and say, "I think I'll run into a sea lion with a broken tush," or, "I feel like finding a wildfire," or, "Seems like a good day to get shot at."  It's just that life _is_ an adventure.

I have been caught more than once in undertows and rapids.  Once, when I was a child, my brother and I became stuck in a bog and thought we would die before we got each other out.  Just a few years ago, I woke at a chill dawn on a mountain to find a buck and two dies bedded down at my feet.  I tell you, that was a bit startling!  There have been times when, if I had not known how to disappear into the forest, I would have been mutilated or killed.  And once, a college professor and I were so engrossed in a differential equation theory, that neither of us noticed the fire alarms, sirens, or loudspeakers to evacuate the building.   It was one of the oldest buildings on campus, and it had been renovated from a gracious, three-story brick building into a five-story, short-ceilinged, warrenlike maze of dank offices embedded within windowed classrooms.  As it happened, we were in the center of the building where the wooden walls were thick and a fire-alarm sounded like a muffled alarm clock or an obnoxious phone.  I was just beginning to understand the theory (not just the assignment), and we were talking quite loudly in excitement when we heard a faint sound. It was so faint, we decided that one of the other professors had left an alarm on in his office. And, the sound stopped after a while.  Turned out there was a bomb threat for the building, and when we walked out two hours later--still discussing the problem--it took some fast talking and sheafs of notes--to convince the police that we were not the bombers; we had just not really noticed all the excitement. (The university installed louder alarms after that.)

For me, writing is just another expression of my fascination with life.  Through it, I can explore new ideas; discover people, images and worlds; and still work with the physics, physiology, and other sciences I've studied and enjoyed so much.  The challenges that make life and writing about life interesting are not just physical or intellectual challenges.  Some of the work I've done has been with brutalized political refugees, gang kids, teen moms, battered women, abused children, alternative-school students, disturbed youth, and more.  All I can say about that is that there are some realities which leave you with a sense of horror so deeply ingrained that your view of others is irrevocably changed.  And yet, such work can provide an active framework in which, each day, you have the chance to become more of the person you want to be.  

My own experiences help focus the point of what I write.  In Cat Scratch Fever, it was the enslavement and brutalization we allow within our own societally sanctioned structures.  In Cataract, it was the tearing out and letting go of a part of yourself--history, memories, or family--in order to survive.  In Grayheart, it is that what you do helps define what you believe in. Rezsia (Dion's granddaughter in Grayheart) was perfect for this.  Raised in the shadow of a master healer and wolfwalker, Rezsia has confidence in herself and her ethics, but she has never stepped out of her comfortable life to explore what it means to act on her beliefs.  I wanted Rezsia to have to make decisions--not only to make a difference in her world, but to take responsibility for the way her lifestyle affected those around her.

In the end, I don't think it is more important if what you experience is a joy or triumph, the final touch of a dying friend, or an act of destruction which cannot be stopped.  Using your strengths to improve your world without crushing others--that is the challenge.  With that, simply finding oneself alive can itself be epiphany.

[ This article originally appeared, in edited form, in
Volume 1, Nol. 4, May-Aug, 1996, of the
Del Rey Newsletter ]

Copyright 2000 by Tara K. Harper

All rights reserved.  It is illegal to reproduce or transmit in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or by any information storage and retrieval system, any part of this copyrighted file without permission in writing from Tara K. Harper.  Permission to download this file for personal use only is hereby granted by Tara K. Harper.

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