Arts & Culture / Mosaic / April 6, 2016

Alum awaits second novel’s release

Like many Knox alumni, Becky Harwell ’15 has been pursuing a higher degree since graduation. At Indiana University, she studies metadata and information representation for her Masters in Library Science. But unlike most of her Knox peers, Harwell is also awaiting the release of her second book, with a third in the works.

At eight years old, Harwell wrote her first novel about unicorns fighting dragons in a world accessed via a portal in the full moon. “There was a girl with a sword who was destined to save everyone,” she said. “So you know, the classic fantasy tropes.”

The early fascination with storytelling took hold. Harwell came to Knox from Minnesota having drafted her first publication, “The Thunderbird Project,” during her jun Like many Knox alumni, Becky Harwell ’15 has been pursuing a higher degree since graduation. At Indiana University, she studies metadata and information representation for her Masters in Library Science. But unlike most of her Knox peers, Harwell is also awaiting the release of her second book, with a third in the works.

At eight years old, Harwell wrote her first novel about unicorns fighting dragons in a world accessed via a portal in the full moon. “There was a girl with a sword who was destined to save everyone,” she said. “So you know, the classic fantasy tropes.”

The early fascination with storytelling took hold. Harwell came to Knox from Minnesota having drafted her first publication, “The Thunderbird Project,” during her junior year of high school.

“I revised it over and over and over again my senior year, and I had sent it out a bunch of places the summer before I came to Knox. It just got a string of rejections,” she said. “And then over winter break that first year, I found kind of a niche publisher, Necro Publications, who did dark science fiction and fantasy. I sent it to them and then three months later I heard back with a yes and a contract.”

During her time at Knox, Harwell studied creative writing, with a minor in Japanese. She approached her second book as a challenge to herself, writing the entire first draft during spring break her sophomore year while she was stuck on campus. She averaged about 8,000 words a day.

“That was the first draft of ‘The Iron Phoenix.’ And it was so bad. It was utterly horrible,” she said. “I re-wrote it like four times.”

Harwell graduated from Knox after only three years, and thus it was during her senior year that she sent out “The Iron Phoenix” to Bold Strokes Books, a publisher she calls “the top independent LGBT fiction press.” During the process of publishing “The Thunderbird Project,” Harwell began working with an editor, and this collaboration continued the second time around.

“With the second book, [my editor’s] been more involved from the ground floor in plotting the story arc and working through character development,” she said. “That’s just been really helpful to have.”

“The Iron Phoenix” comes out in May, and its sequel, “Phoenix Rising,” is expected early in 2017.

“It’s a young adult fantasy set in an island city that’s besieged by storms, and it’s about a 17-year-old girl with unusual powers that she has to hide from her family and the girl that she loves, and she has to find a murderer and stop a civil war from destroying her world,” Harwell said.

Harwell hopes to be a metadata specialist in a government library. However, writing will, of course, always be part of her life. For Knox students pursuing writing, and especially for aspiring novelists, she believes that passion is the most important thing.

“Get involved in the writing community. There’s just so many resources [at Knox] that it’s really great to take advantage of them while you’re there because they don’t necessarily exist in the outside world,” she said. “To novelists, I would just say to write what you love and not what you think you should write. Because I couldn’t imagine writing an entire book, over a hundred thousand words, of something I wasn’t completely in love with. I think that’s, you know, that’s what makes a good story, is that passion.”

 

Carly Taylor, Staff Writer

Tags:  Creative writing fantasy publishing Rebecca Harwell science fiction writing

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