Monique Muro

Interview with U.L. Harper

Interview with U.L. Harper

Visceral slam poet U.L. Harper was born in Los Angeles and raised in Long Beach. After a stint at Long Beach Poly, he pursued Journalism at the University of Cypress Lincoln Avenue, and became Editor in Chief at the Cypress Chronicle. Shortly thereafter, what began as a short story entitled The Resurrection of Greenwell, came full circle into what is now his debut novel, The Flesh Statue.

Where did you come up with the idea for The Flesh Statue? The Flesh Statue is a conglomerate of ideas but what tied it all together was the story of the main character’s grandfather, I think. His grandfather has Alzheimer’s and suffered a stroke, so he’s in a wheelchair with Alzheimer’s and he can’t really speak. Langley’s grandfather is the real reason he left home in the first place. Ironically, he has to come back home to move on with his life.

How long did it take you to write? It took about nine months to get done with the first three drafts and then after that it was another two years. Then it takes some avid reader two to three days to finish and then they rate it and I’m like thanks. Life is a just endeavor.

Are any of the characters based on real people? I don’t want to say characters are based on real people because it’s not really like that. But I do take specific characteristics from real life people. It helps with describing body language or with someone’s cadence as far as language goes. Get this, even the grandfather’s character isn’t based on my own grandfather who suffered a stroke of his own. He’s really based on my great grandmother who had a bad case of the Alzheimer’s.

How much of the novel did you have to research, and how much of it did you already have digested? I had a lot of it digested. When it came to the Alzheimer’s stuff I had to do research. I didn’t use most of the research. I just had to make it seem like the characters new what they were talking about. I had to research graffiti. That was fun.

You wrote a short story called The Resurrection of Greenwell. How exactly does that tie in with The Flesh Statue? How does the Resurrection of Greenwell tie in? The concept of an emotional and physical revolution started in “Greenwell”. Even the theme with the Alzheimer’s story stems from having an emotional revolution which is a concept from “Greenwell”. It’s funny because “Greenwell” was, unfortunately, a badly written short story. It was a great situation as one might put it but there weren’t really any characters. Once I began developing characters…well, the book is listed at 364 pages.

If this book were to be made into a film, who would you want to star as Langley? Remember that show Growing Pains? That character on there Richard Stabone. Whoever that actor is would be great.

Did you always want to be a writer? Since junior high I knew I liked writing. By my freshman year in high school I saw it as a craft. My first novel I had completed in high school. After that I did my second novel. None of which are The Flesh Statue so I didn’t always want to be a writer but always loved to write.

When did slam poetry first start becoming interesting to you? How did that come about? In reality, in retrospect, I did poetry as part of the process in developing narrative style and voice. All my pieces were an experiment. How I got to doing them live was a friend and I decided that we wanted to perform and that others would like to as well as long as they were getting published. So we published The Body Politic chapbooks once a month. We took submissions and invited everyone to the readings. Sometimes we had over forty people there. That was about ten years ago. We did about eleven or twelve issues.

What are you currently reading? Under The Dome by Stephen King. I’m not a King fan but outside of The Body I’ve never finished a story by him. I like to read authors I haven’t read. I’m also reading The Screwtape Letters, and The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes.

What is your writing style like? Do you do better writing in bits and pieces or for hours at a time? I like to write for hours at a time in bits and pieces. I used to go by word count but now I just make sure I get my chapter started enough so that by the next time I come back I can finish the chapter. Then I might take a day off to ingest whatever I just did. No, my chapters aren’t any longer than four pages on the word program. But don’t let anybody tell you different–writing isn’t just typing it out or writing. It’s thinking it out too, even when you’re not at the screen or paper. Writing is the process. Work-shopping a chapter, although you’re not writing, is part of the process, so… I can go on an on. That’s my style.

Are you working on anything currently? Any story ideas on the back burner? I’m working on this interesting new novel with the working title being Once Human, Now Food. I’m not going to get into it but I’ll tell you this: if you ever see a 15 foot tall man with a pale face and wide pointy shoulders with a bald head who eats people, don’t stick around to see if U.L. sent him. Run like tomorrow probably won’t happen. But it’s not a horror or vampire novel or anything like that. Should be fun.

I’ve read other interviews with you where you’ve mentioned you don’t have a favorite book. Why is that? I’ll be honest. The last book I really liked is always my favorite. I do have a cluster of my favorite ten but they’re not in any particular order: Sacrament, Imajica, The Road, Watchmen, Cat’s Cradle, Slaughter-house Five and The Foundation Series. I know it’s not ten but there it is anyway. I consider a series of books one big book. Sorry.

Any advice for aspiring novelists out there? Yeah, when beginning, don’t sell your book. Sell yourself. The single reason people keep buying books from the same author over and over again is because they think they have a connection with the author, somehow. Don’t try to distance yourself. Step in and rock the spot. Here, I’ll tell you what. If anyone is in Long Beach look for The U.L. Harper Book Parade. It’s a bunch of artists performing to more or less bring exposure to The Flesh Statue. That’s where you’ll meet me. I actually do that in lieu of book signings. It’s a lot more fun.

Thank you so much for taking time to be a part of this interview!

Thanks for having me.


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