U.L. Harper is the author of The Flesh Statue, a debut novel that will leave you with many discussion points bound to come up in conversation around the dinner table or what have you. Thanks must go out to U.L. for participating in this interview and providing answers that expand on some issues in The Flesh Statue, coupled with some personal questions to give us an insight into U.L. the author and U.L. the person.
I give you, ladies and gentlemen, U.L. Harper:
THE FLESH STATUE QUESTIONS
The title The Flesh Statue intrigues me. I understand it represents Langley’s grandfather and also to me flesh means alive, statue is a non-moving object, thus I think it also represents people standing still, not doing anything about their lives and/or not making a stand against authority/society. How I am going, on track? Can you explain the title a bit more for us?
Well, the flesh statue is simply what Langley thinks his grandfather looks like when he finds him dead. His grandfather is sitting there like a statue made of flesh. The flesh statue.
Which side of Langley do you like best, the aspiring poet, the 19/20-year-old trying to find his niche in the world, the grandson, the want-to-be-upriser or a side I haven’t mentioned?
When I think of Langley Jackson I think of the aspiring poet. It’s through his poetry that he grows as a person. He says one poem in the entire story and it’s really him reflecting on what he’s been through in his short time in Long Beach. At the same time, in that same poem, he talks about his dying grandfather and his grandmother. He talks about his empathy with the smaller people in the world. Langley as the aspiring poet relates to the world around him more than any other side of him.
Grandma defines freedom as “Having nothing to grasp on to, having no basis for anything, having no point and no reason”. Do you agree with Grandma’s opinion on freedom?
That’s an interesting question. Freedom to many people is simply the opposite of what binds you. Then when you aren’t bound to those things you say you have your freedom. Other people gauge freedom by the number of options they have. The more options the more freedom. With that being said, Grandma is in a situation where everything in her life has ended and she needs to start again to make living make sense. In this transition I’d say, yes, I agree with the quote, for better or for worse. One day we all may be staring at the bathroom mirror, looking freedom in the face, wondering what to do next.
Grandpa has Alzheimer’s and Grandma is left to take care of him, not wanting to ship him off to a home and in a sense ending a part of her life. Would you treat Grandpa the same way as Grandma did in the book, and if not what would you do different?
My great grandmother lived with my family when I was very young. She suffered through Alzheimer’s, as my mother and father watched helplessly. A very frustrating time. I can tell you that a number of instances that took place in the story actually happened, in regards to grandpa and his Alzheimer’s. In fact, after researching Alzheimer’s for this I realized that many things my family did to care for my great grandmother was just wrong. Simple as that. No, I would not treat grandpa as grandma did. He should just be in a home, as respect for his humanity. It’s one of the reasons Langley left his home to begin with–he couldn’t take watching his grandmother let his grandfather break down and slowly wither to death.
There are quite a few issues in The Flesh Statue; abortion, abuse, death, graffiti, neighbourhood watch groups, police, uprising of the people, just to name a few. These issues that you wrote about, did you have to do much research for or have you experienced or seen these issues in your own life? Big loaded question I know, answer as you please.
That is definitely a loaded question. So let me get this load off my back. In my social circles these issues are common place. I have a friend that makes graffiti documentaries and my old roommate and many of his friends were all about graffiti so I had that all in my head. Because of their political beliefs a lot of times they had political angle to what they did, even if indirectly. I’ve had my moments with police. I’ve been shot with rubber bullets, I’ve been herded by police horses as they swung billy-clubs at me. So, yeah, experience. And we’ve all dealt with death or have known someone who has. I did do research to help Bert know how to fix cars.
The women in the book seem to be trying to “lose” a part of their past or present, they seem like strong ladies fighting their own power struggles. Which woman do you think has the biggest issue to conquer, which do you like best, which are you more likely to be friends with and which is based more strongly on a person in real life?
Cinci has the biggest issue to overcome. The abortion is huge for her to begin with but this man is hunting her down looking for his child she aborted. It’s just too much for her. I’m not going to spoil how she finally handles it but when she handles it she really does handle it once and for all. I like that she did what she did because to tell you honestly, I didn’t know she was going to do it until she did it. It blew my mind. With that said, Marie is who I like best and it is because she is the one I would find myself hanging out with. She doesn’t have a lot of baggage, really. She’s very simple and can see everything around her clearly. She’s educated. She’s an artist and she can sing in a way that will just make your day better. Though Latrail is the one most based on real life. It was this girl named Latrail that I shared my first kiss with way back when. Way, way, way back! The character looks like my memory of her.
Will we be seeing any characters from The Flesh Statue in any future novels?
I’m writing something right now where there is this protest some close time after 911. Bert and Langley might make a guest appearance there. They’re due to get beat up and arrested. “To the revolution Now!”
Was it a scary process to get your first book published?
I’m a rather confident person so it was mostly exciting. I didn’t think about failure until after the process. Of course, now I’m not so confident. Now I’m positive and hopeful, full of vigor.
How do you go about promoting your book? Which way do you think is more effective?
To promote I make ads. I use social networks. I pay attention to book blogs, because I love people wanting to read my work. I do giveaways. This is all on the internet. I do live events at open mics. I actively strive to get at least twenty new people in the audience every time I read. I simply do poetry out of the book, sprinkled in with some other work. I’ve even read from my book at local band shows. Right now I’m staying away from book stores. I’m finding that unless they’re promoting my book in some way I have no chance to sell there. People want their books in major stores but then you’re competing with thousands. At coffee shops and band shows it’s just your book. I send out press releases. My first press release landed me a feature story. I simply timed it properly. I used it to advertise for my upcoming event. I could go on and on. It seems like almost everything has its pluses. With that said I’m not a bestselling author by any means. Then again I’m just getting started.
Are there any future books currently in the making?
I’m always working on something. I’m always experimenting as well. For instance, in The Flesh Statue I have one chapter that’s written differently from any other chapter, in these weird short sentences. In this new work I have this recurring character that the audience hears about through the main characters but the reader doesn’t see this person until around the end. It’s this twelve foot guy who eats people.
I understand you are involved in an after-school program – do you find this fulfilling? Can you explain a little bit about the program?
I love the after-school program. I supervise a staff of eight. Each of them cares for up to twenty students in the day. We help them with their homework and offer classes to them: dance, acting, art, electronics, sports, etc etc etc. I like to think I’m in charge of expanding imagination. My program works with first graders through eighth graders.
What are you reading now and how are you liking it?
I’m reading The Day The Ravens Died by Timothy Pilgrim. I just received it today. I’ve read the first two pages. So far so good. It’s in a genre I don’t usually read so I’m reading it to learn as well as for entertainment.
Who would you most like to meet (dead or alive) and why?
I would like to meet the person who first dropped the bomb on Nagasaki. What was he thinking, really? “Damn, this is going to be bonkers.” Or, “Am I going to really take orders to kill everybody? Yes. I am. I’m killing everybody.” If not that person I would love to meet Adam from that famous Adam and Eve story. I think our conversation might go something like this: “Hey, Adam. Do you love her?” He’d respond, “Are you kidding? She’s the only one here. What do you want from me?” Her feelings might be hurt. I’m not sure.
Who/what is your favourite:
Author? Cormac Mccarthy, Clive Barker, Joyce Carol Oates, Isaac Asimov
Character in a book? Gentil (Imajica)
Genre to read? fiction/literature
Quote? It’s like what the fire said to the forest. Let it burn. It’s all useless now. Let it crumble.
Movie? I’m not choosing just one
Film star? Philip Seymour Hoffman/Daniel-Day Lewis
TV show? Dexter
Holiday destination? Washington State
Band? Napalm Death/Miles Davis
Song? Wish You Were Here (Pink Floyd)
Meal to cook? I can’t boil hot water
And last but not least, what one question would you ask yourself in an interview and what would the answer be?
Q.) What was the inspiration for John Walter Doe?
A.) A buddy of mine moved out of town and met a man who had it all. Beautiful wife. Kids. Great job. Nice house. Great neighborhood. All that stuff. My friend introduced him to smoking marijuana and then the man got randomly drug tested, failed the test, lost his job, his house and his wife to the man up the street. The man who had it all wound up killing himself in front of his kids. The family never recovered properly. I never knew the guys name, hence John Doe, but thought it was one of the saddest stories in the history of sad stories. There. John Walter Doe. Though John Doe doesn’t kill himself or smoke marijuana in The Flesh Statue. And he’s not quite married. But, still, the inspiration.
Thank you again, U.L., for this great opportunity.
It was good talking to you Mandy. If it’s possible I would love to speak with you soon. Please, don’t be a stranger.
Click here to go to U.L.’s profile on my website where you will find links to the blurb of The Flesh Statue, my review of The Flesh Statue, his website, his Goodreads profile and a link to purchase The Flesh Statue.