Above Ground

Anna Harte was one of the first people I ever met in the virtual writing world. She is one of the lynchpins at 1889 laboratories, *the* home of serial webfcition and pioneering site in much that is exciting and innovative in web fiction. She is a tireless champion of the fascinating and the cutting edge, and now she has her very own book out and it is a true pleasure to be part of the tour for Above Ground and to ask her about the book and web fiction in general.

Before the interview starts, please go here for the chance to win some superbluous prizes. And do follow everything she’s up to this month here.

Above Ground is on Kindle US and UK.  Here is the blurb:

The first glimpse of sun may be her last.

When Lilith Gray goes above ground for the first time, she hardly expects to stay there — much less be trapped on the surface with no way home.

Hunted by trackers and threatened by the infected, Lilith is on the run, desperate to return underground. Her only hope for survival lies with a taciturn werewolf with a dark agenda of his own.

Lilith’s old carefree life has been reduced to one choice:

Adapt. Or die trying.

1. “Above Ground” – a very suggestive title – just how many metaphors have you packed into it?

Sadly, I’m not one of those clever author types who inject symbolic meaning into their every word from day one. The original thinking behind the title ran along the lines of: “What should I call this story about a human girl who gets trapped above ground? Hmmm… why, ‘Above Ground’!”

Happily, over the 3+ years of writing this novel, the meaning behind the title has deepened for me – or maybe the novel has simply grown into its name, much like how babies go from shapeless blobs into real people.

As for what the title actually stands for… I like to think it might mean different things to different people. There’s no right answer, so I’m open to your ideas.


2. Whilst on the subject of metaphor, a lot of work that deals with this subject matter uses non-human/human interaction and interaction between non-humans to make social and political points. Do you find that freeing, enabling you to do the same, or do you worry that this history (H G Wells kept coming to mind) means you will have meanings grafted onto your work that just aren’t there?

I loathe the idea that a text is meant to only convey the meanings the author intended. I battled with my literature teacher over this very point: how do we really know what long-dead authors and poets meant, anyway?

As such, I never worry about having meanings grafted onto my work. While I do hope to convey some small part of my thoughts and opinions, I also realise that my readers may find their own meanings in my work which resonate more with them than anything I could say.

If so, fair deuce. That my work was able to guide them to find some sort of meaning at all is satisfying enough for me.

However, I’ll take a moment to convey what I think about “Above Ground”.

So: yes, I would agree that generally works with multiple races are used to make social and political points. Without a doubt, “Above Ground” relies heavily on the power struggles between races and the difficulties different communities have when living side-by-side.

Lilith, as a newcomer to the mixed community above ground, first views all of the non-humans as the same – barely more than animals, worthy only of contempt. Throughout her journey, she discovers not only the distinctions between various non-human races, but begins to realise that ultimately – no matter their appearance or beliefs – they are all people, just like her.

So I suppose if I was forcedto ascribe a meaning to “Above Ground”, it is that we may all have our differences, but ultimately we are all equal.

Phew, that was a long answer!


3. I have to ask a couple of questions about serial web fiction whilst I have your attention. First, and for readers’ benefit, what are the most exciting things you’re seeing in serial web fiction?

What I’m most excited about is that there is a growing awareness in the wider reading community about the existence of web fiction. While some web fiction authors might be irritated by Amazon’s attitude that they’ve invented online serials, I think the Kindle serials are a positive addition to the community.

Community sites like Wattpad are also raising web fiction’s profile because they have the money to properly market their successes. Even amusing connections like how 50 Shades of Grey was originally fanfiction help to spread awareness.

Of course, it’s not just serial fiction that is getting a boost in publicity — Twitter has announced their first ever twitter fiction festival, which will run for five days at the end of this month.

The indie web fiction author (the category I belong to!) will always have a place, but I’m very excited to see big names endorsing online fiction.


4. Second, do you see serial web fiction as driving literature forward, creating something new, or driving it back to its periodical, even oral roots, returning to it something it missed with the novel form?

A bit of both.

Web fiction gathers readers as the story progresses, building communities and encouraging interaction in much the way oral storytelling must have done. There does seem to be either a shorter reader attention span or an increased appetite for shorter reads, so in some respects we are reverting to serialised stories in order to accommodate for the current demand.

But this appetite comes from the changes in technology, and the changes in the way we consume information, so while we are reverting to an older format, we’re using it in a new context.

In ye olde days, you couldn’t have mixed media serial fiction. You couldn’t click on a character’s name and open up a wiki page about them. Stunts like livewriting, or the use of polls to influence a story’s progression — all the interactive elements have been multiplied tenfold.

As a result, we are creating something new… even if it’s from something old.


5. I promise I will have a question that’s not about metaphor, but given our history at eight cuts (our first ever live event was called Lilith Burning, and featured a whole host of takes on the Lilith myth courtesy of Katelan Foisy, one of the collaborators on the book Lilith, Queen of the Desert), I have to ask…Lilith? Do tell.

You know, I honestly have no recollection of why I picked the name Lilith.

Unfortunately, I’d already settled on the name before realising that it does have some negative connotations. My muse is stubborn, though: once a name is picked, it feels utterly wrong to change it.

I do remember researching Lilith after having already decided it was the protagonist’s name, and reading about demons… and stumbling across the Middle Ages legend that Lilith was Adam’s first wife, and left Eden after refusing to be subservient to him given that they were both made from the same dust and hence equal (which, supposedly, would explain why Eve was then made out of a rib).

My character also leaves her home and ends up consorting with demons of sorts. She is also feisty, hard-headed, and determined not to be subservient to anyone. Furthermore, given that the novel is about everyone being equal, I do like the feminist take on the Lilith legend. God knows that I wouldn’t have put up with Adam’s nonsense either!

But, yes — all of these thoughts may have come after I’d already settled upon the name.


6. A straight forward question to finish. What draws you, as a writer and as a reader, to dark content?

My deeply hidden violent urges.

Just kidding.

I suppose the reason I’m drawn to dark content is that I find it more emotionally involving. I can’t seem to take happy stories seriously — throw in a bit of darkness and you’ve got me hook, line and sinker.

Dark stories are simply more fascinating. They show people at extremes, force characters to reveal their true nature. I don’t feel like I have anything in common with a vapid chick flick protagonist whose only concern is finding shoes to match a dress; dark stories offer a catharsis.

It’s not just any dark content I like, though. I avoid gore and any kind of physical violence, and I also tend to avoid horror given my predisposition to nightmares. Stories about loneliness and grief, about fighting to survive, and about the dark sides of love, are the ones that pull me in the most.

What that says about me, I’m not quite sure. I’ll leave it to your imagination.

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8 Responses to Above Ground

  1. Letitia says:

    “I loathe the idea that a text is meant to only convey the meanings the author intended. I battled with my literature teacher over this very point: how do we really know what long-dead authors and poets meant, anyway?”

    We had a similar conversation at 1889 Labs facebook. [referencing the link you put up on your blog t’other day – http://artoffiction.blogspot.co.uk/2012/11/most-modern.html%5D I cannot believe that all art and expression can be decoded, for want of a better word, by applying the list of criteria that define one movement or another. If a painter paints or a poet writes, they are surely drawing from *all* the influences in their life. Symbols can have very different conotations. A dog is man’s best friend unless your child was attacked by a dog.

    Metaphors are open ended, I think, unless the author him/herself provides the interpretation.

    As usual – an outspoken expert on my own opinion. Sorry.

  2. Pingback: Above Ground Blog Tour: Week 3 | A.M. Harte

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  5. WA_side says:

    I think the idea that there can only be the meaning prescribed by the author is a view set forth by those who believe themselves to be above the knowledge or understanding of others, a form of snobbery, if you will.

    Even in our current age, the world and its people are amazingly diverse, so when you add in previous history or the future to come there is no way that we can all understand an author or work enough to see it through the same eyes. That said, it takes nothing away that we all view it differently, in fact it probably points towards the strength of the author in many cases (but definitely not in all!).

    • A.M. Harte says:

      That’s why I hated studying Italian literature at school – the traditional Italian literature analysis is all about just regurgitating what the experts have agreed ye olde authors (eg Dante!) meant. No new interpretations allowed 😛

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