Interview: with Hari Navarro
Hari Navarro comes to you from the breast-shaped bit that pokes out of the West Coast of New Zealand’s majestically monikered North Island. Far from an avid reader, inspiration is drawn instead from the lacerating love letters of Cobain and Frangipane and all things short and squat. He's had work published at 365Tomorrows, Breach #05 and shortly Breach #06 and Issue #239 of AntipodeanSF. Find out more on Tumblr and Instagram.
Hari, please tell us a bit about yourself. What got you into this crazy world of fiction writing?
I was raised in rural Taranaki, New Zealand where I didn’t so much read books as eat them, literally. I had a weird habit of chewing paper, I wouldn’t recommend it though, it turns your tongue black and is probably various nasty shades of carcinogenic. Thankfully, I now live in Northern Italy where books have been replaced with strange pocket-sized digital reading devices that are far less easy to munch on.
I can’t remember a time when I wasn’t fascinated by the strange, things that subversively poke and prod at the accepted and the monotonous. Things that no matter how fantastical still reflect our base instincts. At its most effective speculative fiction is for me pure social commentary - like the walls of public toilets and Kim Kardashian’s Instagram feed.
I never had the technical nor academic ability to turn my passion for science fiction into anything of practical worth. So, it is very frustrating for me to see people with those types of skills shaving years off their lives at office desks. When I’m like, go out and change the future for god's sake - that bloody time machines not going to build its friken self!
I think that's why I started writing this type of fiction. In part to satisfy the clueless scientist inside of me and also because this is a genre that crawls under and is dragged along beneath life's shadowy underbelly. I like that seedy damp place, I believe its where the truth is.
To what degree do you feel everything has already been written, in some form or another? Have you ever started writing a story, only to discover someone has already written it?
Personally, I totally reject the notion that everything has been written. No two pieces of work are exactly alike and each respective author generally has a layer to add to even the most battle weary of tropes. That layer may ultimately be reductive but, regardless, every new word adds to the fabric of choice.
Due to an ongoing problem with my vision, I really don’t read. This is a curse but it also carries with it the advantage of not allowing me to unintentionally emulate the ideas and style of other writers. In saying that I often think I’ve come up with an amazing turn of phrase only to have the Google gods inform me it has already been written.
Are there any horror/fantasy/sci-fi tropes or sub genres which you feel are played out? And vice versa, what tropes would you like to see more of?
Trope abuse is a divisive topic for sure. I recently attended a Comicon here in Italy and the passion that everyone displayed, authors, illustrators, gamers and cosplayers alike, for their given genre was awesome. Try telling them that vampires have sucked their last drop and that zombies are well past their expiry date and deserve to be bludgeoned to a permanent pulp. These genres may not always have mainstream appeal, but it's in the pulp where the gems are to be found and that's just how their loyal aficionados like it.
The tropes I warm toward are generally those listed as no-go zones by editors. Give me a time-travelling zombie who travels back to Nazi Germany on a unicorn to kill Hitler but then wakes to find out its all a dream and I’m happy dancing.
What books are beside your bed right now?
As I mentioned I don’t read extensively so the side of my bed is an unintentional eco-friendly paperless zone. Having said that I don’t go far without having a copy of Cormac McCarthy’s The Road far from hand. I love the flow of his work through his thrifty use of punctuation and the narratives relentless cheery disposition. Bleak is the new black.
Do you have any particular writing rituals you are comfortable sharing?
I invariably start with the title of the piece. It can evolve and change by the time I’ve finished the last revision, but it is what the entirety of the story is based upon. This can be a word or a phrase that oft times I’ve gleaned from song lyrics. I love Kurt Cobain and lately, Halsey has been a major influence.
So, I’ll take the title and in freehand write the first draft. I’ve been focusing a lot on flash fiction so the readers and my attention span are well served. For such a limited word count it is relatively simple then to punch out a beginning and end.
Sometimes I’ll write the first paragraph and then skip to the end and layout the final one too. The body of the piece then comes in a series of single words or ideas and even partial sentences. A loose string of thought that connects beginning to end.
Subsequent drafts are typed up and then its a case of revision after revision until I think I’ve fleshed out and honed the piece just right. I leave it a few days to settle before going back, only to then have the frothy brim knocked clean off my confidence.
Revisions for me can be never-ending, but there comes a time when you just have to put it out there. Then your writing work is done and you give it away to the world and hope that just one person gets what it was you were trying to say.
“There are better writers than me out there, there are smarter writers, there are people who can plot better - there are all those kinds of things, but there’s nobody who can write a Neil Gaiman story like I can.” - Neil Gaiman