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Local Author Writes the Hidden into Being: A Profile of Micah Harris

by Spencer Bennington
Guardian contributor

Typically when you ask a writer to relay his or her single greatest accomplishment, it has something to do with a beautifully conceived line, a prestigious award, or perhaps their first publication. But for local author Micah Harris, it was making a little girl cry.

Heaven's War. Harris and Gaydos.

Heaven’s War, Harris and Gaydos

“To be fair,” Harris explained, “there were signs on the auditorium doors that said something to the effect of ‘material not suitable for all ages,’ but I guess her father just walked right past those.” Behind those doors that particular evening lay the stage production of The Kiss of Rowena, a play adapted from Harris’s vampire novella. Harris told me how he watched the father and daughter duo come in and take their seats excited for a good show and how “by the intermission, the daughter was traumatized—and I felt great!” Harris explained how he “received so much satisfaction from seeing all the neat blood effects on stage,” but even more sense of accomplishment from witnessing the visceral effect his writing and creation could have on an audience.

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That particular story may have you believing that Micah Harris is some sort of literary sadist but, in fact, he’s quite the opposite. “It’s fun to be scared,” Harris told me, “and I feel bad for people who haven’t had that thrill or can’t enjoy it…As a writer I think of all the wonderful emotions my favorite authors have made me feel and try to evoke those in my own readers.”

One of these emotions is a whimsical sense of horror dating back all the way to Harris’s early years of reading Famous Monsters of Filmland and other magazines of that kind. For him, vampires, ghouls, and goblins are all reminiscent of a simpler time growing up in Eden, North Carolina. “For the longest time, I didn’t realize how close we were to the actual Mayberry. We grew up in a fifty foot long trailer where the hallway was my and my sibling’s bedroom.” Laughing, he told me that “we moved away from that place in 1972 and everything’s been downhill from there.”

The first move would lead Harris to Goldsboro and then to East Carolina University where he would obtain a Masters in English as well as one in Adult Education. “It wasn’t until I was in my twenties that I really sat down and tried to write stories. In the 80’s, print media was still a viable way to make a living—so I started submitting to a bunch of magazines.” It’s around this point in time when Harris wrote the original version of the aforementioned Kiss of Rowena. “It almost got picked up by Weird Tales…a lot of people look down on pulp writing as something lesser, something not literary, but I was excited because this was the magazine that had showcased writers like Ray Bradbury and Tennessee Williams early in their careers.”

In the 90’s, Harris began combining many of these pulp elements (action sequences, plot-driven material, gritty characters) into a style more true to his roots as a Southern writer. “One of the comics (Lorna: Relic Wrangler) I wrote for included a couple of stories at the end based on actual events in Washington, North Carolina. As for Lorna, she’s kind of like a white-trash Lara Croft.” Lorna and this fictionalized “little” Washington will be featured in one of Harris’s upcoming novels, Murder in the Miracle Room.

But, more importantly, it was around this time that Harris began to integrate the themes of the occult which pervade his body of work. “It’s a shame but the word ‘occult’ has a bad connotation…it’s definitely not a good icebreaker at a party.” But Harris explained that “the word literally means hidden…What interests me about the occult is when the element that is hidden becomes manifest, which is not necessarily the devil or anything.” This idea of the “hidden” and the inexplicable is in the forefront of what is, perhaps, Harris’s most successful work to date, Heaven’s War.

Heaven’s War is a graphic novel that depicts the “Inklings,” a group of literary minds like C.S. Lewis, J.R.R. Tolkien, and the novel’s protagonist, Charles Williams. These three find themselves on a metaphysical journey which transcends time itself. “Williams called it the arc of infinity…where, past, present, and future are all one. The idea dates back to Boethius’s Consolation of Philosophy…and continues on to writers like Kurt Vonnegut in Slaughterhouse Five.

When I asked Harris why it is that so many readers find themselves fascinated by these themes of the occult, he told me that “people are spiritual beings—we’re the only ones on this planet who know we’re going to die…ultimately this causes speculation that a purely scientific explanation of the world doesn’t satisfy.” Sharing stories, whether they be delightful or terrifying, is a way of connecting to people, a way of drawing nearer to other “spiritual beings.” And so writing, for Harris, is a way to try and bridge that gap for his audience between an apparent, restrictive world and a hidden, limitless one.

If you’re a fan of Harris’s work or interested at all in insightful, thought-provoking fiction, be sure to look for his new occult detective novel, Return of the Dugpa. “Dugpa,’” Harris explains, “is an Indian word for ‘sorcerer.’” Harris also told me that the new novel is chock-full of all the pulpy, conspiracy-theory, mystical action a reader could dream of. Between psychic abilities, a prominent Tarot deck, a lost Wagner opera, and The Order of the Golden Dawn, I doubt any of us will be able to unglue our eyes from the page.

Return of the Dugpa will be released by Airship 27 Publishing in the coming weeks and available for purchase on Amazon, both in print and for Kindle. Until then, be sure to check out Heaven’s War and the rest of Harris’ works.

June 14: Return of the Dugpa is now available! Get your copy here

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