When One Door Closes, Look for Another: Sharina Harris
Why are you doing this?
A question authors are always asked.
But the answer is never easy. Why are you doing this? The frustration, rejection, maybes, and disappointments often outnumber the good stuff.
So what's the why?
A chance to tell your story, a chance to be heard, a chance to give all readers what they've been asking for.
Author Sharina Harris found her chance, and she flourished. Keep reading on to learn about her writing journey.
1. Welp, the first question for these sort of things usually is the ‘how did you get your agent’ question, but you have quite a bit of published works to your name--numerous romance novels, two women’s contemporary novels (one of which was an Amazon's editor pick!), and an upcoming YA paranormal, Buffy-inspired trilogy with a Black female MC front and center! So, please tell us all about your publication journey--from the bud of an idea until now.
It started in failure! I was laid off from a job that I truly hated. I remember stomping into my apartment, depressed and defeated. And then I heard a voice that said: “you can sit here and cry about it, or you can write.”
So I got up and wrote. Now to back up, I’d known for a few months that I wanted to write a vampire slayer series. Six months later, I wrote the book. It was terrible! But, I was so proud of myself because I took the next steps and I shifted from a hobby that I hid from others to being proud to call myself a writer. That was in 2012. Full circle, I sold that book in 2021. So after I wrote my terrible book back in 2012, I realized that I needed to up my craft. I wrote a few contemporary romance novels, sold it to a small publisher, which has since folded, and then from there, I had the idea to write my Women’s fiction novel, Imperfectly Happy, which was inspired by an Oprah Winfrey Soul Session about Black actresses in Hollywood and how there are too few roles for them. Oprah asked what can we do to combat this and Alfre Woodard said: “We need more writers.” It was a call to arms for me and I had a spark of an idea soon after that interview.
2. Vampires, vampires, and more vampires! Can you tell us more about your upcoming novel: Soul of the Slayer. What is it like to write Black characters in a genre that has been--and still is if we're being honest--very...vanilla? Do you think the supernatural and paranormal will see a resurgence in the book world?
Ohh, I can talk about vampires (and werewolves) all day long. Soul of a Slayer (SoS) is Buffy the Vampire Slayer meets Full Metal Alchemist. In my world, it's rooted in a modern day/contemporary setting but my Slayer Society’s power is based on alchemy. They’re like super powerful slayer/witches and they can transmute materials and form powerful, supernatural weapons to fight vampires. My vampires have powers too, well the Royals do. But the premise is, a young woman gains her slayer powers and gets sucked into the underworld of vampires.Vamps are attempting to steal an important artifact that is the source of the slayer's powers. Also, vampires are attempting to resurrect the “Father of vampires” who nearly destroyed humanity. Along the way, she’s discovering her true powers, love and all that jazz.
Now regarding the vanilla genre (LOL), I have to give it up to indie Black authors, because they have been holding it down. But there is opportunity for traditional publishing to acquire, invest and promote Black authors with Black characters. I am hopeful for a resurgence for paranormal in general, because I’m noticing in the film industry there has been acquisitions of vampire TV shows and movies - Marvel with Blade, The Brides of Dracula on ABC with Gina Torres, a True Blood reboot, Vampire Academy which was made into a movie but they are doing a reboot TV show on peacock. Oh, and Tracy Wolff’s Crave series was picked up by Universal and I’m super excited about that because I enjoyed the series. So yes, I think in about 1-2 years we’ll get a huge resurgence again because there’s a synergy between films and books. I think if someone acquires a show with Black leads, with a great story line... THAT will be super impactful. Think about how popular Lovecraft and Watchmen is on HBO. People of all races are thirsty for paranormal, sci-fi, and fantasy content with Black people and there are plenty of books and talented screenwriters who can fill this gaping hole in the market. I can’t wait to see what the impact of Children of Blood and Bone, A Blade So Black and The Gilded Ones will be on fantasy movies and television shows.
3. Age groups in books have distinct tones that separate them from each other. In your opinion, what are the biggest differences between writing YA and adult? How do the characters' POV, voice, plot, etc. differ?
Writing for YA was a pivot for me but it feels right and I absolutely love it! For me, the major difference is the POV and voice, and also reflecting the times and motivation of the age group. You can have the exact same plot but if you drop in a teenager the outcomes and dialogue will be different. I love YA and sometimes I’ll read frustrating book reviews like “I don’t understand why this character made this decision. It was so dumb.” Well...they’re sixteen. Wisdom comes with age and experience. But that’s the magic of YA, to me. Coming of age, developing wisdom, growing, learning, heartbreak and resilience. The world hasn’t imposed its jaded will on them just yet. So even in a paranormal setting, there is a lens of hope that I write in my younger characters, a fresh approach to solving problems, and a fearlessness, and I think it’s reflective of Gen Z. For YA it's a metamorphosis. For adults, it's an awakening—moving away from what is, shaking off what doesn’t work, and a journey of being true to yourself. To sum it up the difference is the journey, the voice, the motivations which impacts the decision-making.
4. In regards to genre labels, do you think they can be limiting for authors? Are agents more open to representing authors who write in different genres?
I think most people want you to go deep in one genre, make a name for yourself and then go wide. I did not do this. I’ve always known I wanted to write in different genres so when I started querying I looked for an agent that represents the genres I wanted to get into. I’ve seen a lot of agents represent authors of different genres so it’s totally do-able but you’ll need to have a vision for your career.
5. Your romance books are published under a pen name. What drove your decision for this? What do you think authors should consider when deciding to publish under a pen name and publishing other works under their real name?
Initially I didn’t want to associate my real name because I work in corporate, and I didn’t want them to know my business. Cats out of the bag now! I don’t plan on doing more than two pen names because it's too much work. But just know that it's a conversation that you will have with your agent and sometimes with publishers too! I will say it's hard to centralize marketing efforts with two different names, so think long and hard about it.
6. A big theme of your blog and website centers on finding your purpose. Do you believe writing is your purpose or more a way for you to develop your purpose? What advice would you give to writers who may wonder if a writing career is one they should continue to pursue?
I think at this juncture in my life, I am meant to be a writer. I think purpose can evolve and I am open to that evolution. Regarding my advice to authors on continuing their career, I won’t lie, it’s a tough industry. Especially for Black writers. But it’s not an impossible feat and you can do it! And, I would argue if you have ideas for writing, someone or something (whatever entity you believe in) gave you that talent and drove you to write the book. So keep at it. It’s a muscle and the more you work it, the better you will be. Also, as a writer, one of the many things you’ll need to do is keep the faith in yourself. That editor or publisher cannot determine your worth. If doors keep closing, figure out another way to unlock the door. The Slayer book took me nine years to write, revise and eventually sell. I wanted to give up on that book so many times but something in me wouldn’t quit. So don’t quit--we need your voice!
7. Do you know when you’re at risk of burnout? What’s your form of self-care?
Yes, and I experienced burnout for the first time during the pandemic. Now, if I feel the onset of burnout, I just take a few days to a week off, and read really good books or watch movies to relax. It also serves as an inspiration to go back and write my story. Another form of self-care is going for a walk every day and listening to inspirational or funny podcasts or interviews from my favorite actors, writers, etc. I love to hear about others' journeys. My latest obsession is the IMDB shorts, which is a quick 2-3 minute video about the actors journey from their first role to now and I love the Hollywood Reporter’s Actors Roundtable discussions. Oh, forgot to add I’ve been watching a lot of K-Dramas and I am obsessed. Talk about amazing storytelling!
Ok, now it’s time for the ‘fun’ questions!
8. You’re throwing a special dinner party. The table is set for one guest. Who do you choose:
Lestat de Lioncourt
I want to say Blade but I feel like he’s just going to grunt, get up and leave without talking or eating. Lestat would be an interesting conversation but he might bite me. I guess if it’s a guarantee I won’t die, I’ll go with Lestat. If not, Blade.
9. Unpopular book or writing opinion?
I would like to see more publishers acquire romcoms with two Black main characters. I would love something that gives me Deliver Us from Eva, About Last Night vibes. It’s definitely a missed opportunity for traditional publishing but as always, we have plenty of content from indie authors. :-)
10. The secret to a great author website photo is:
I don’t know this secret just yet, LOL.
Sharina Harris, who also writes under the name Rina Gray, is the author of women's fiction, contemporary romance, and young adult paranormal romance. After earning her degree from Georgia State University, she first pursued a career in digital marketing and public relations before turning to writing. She is a Romance Slam Jam Debut Novelist of the Year nominee and her romances under the name Rina Gray were named Book Riot Must Read Romantic Comedies. When Sharina’s not writing, she can be found with her head stuck in a book, rooting for her favorite NBA teams, and binging on K-Dramas and anime. She resides in Atlanta with her husband and son. You can learn more about Sharina by visiting her website,www.sharinaharris.com.
Goodreads link: www.goodreads.com/SharinaWrites