INTRO: Twitter is one of those places where I go to stalk my divas and interact with people from different walks of life. Amazingly, I have only had positive interactions and made quite a few friends, who I refer to as twends. One such twend I have made is author, blogger, and vlogger John L. Harmon. His first two fictional books are quirky and steeped in dark humor while his newest book, Vision Bent, is autobiographical and darkly honest. In my gay opinion, Vision Bent is very Sandra Bernhard-esque in it’s style of flipping between poetry and soul-baring story-telling.
I decided I would try something new and instead of spewing my own rantings, I would do an interview. Since Madonna isn’t returning my calls, texts, tweets, DMs, emails, faxes, certified letters, telegraphs or smoke signals; John has graciously agreed to fill in and be interviewed (John, the check is in the mail) and here’s what he had to say.
My Gay Opinion: We’ve been twends for a while now but what do you want my three loyal follows to know about you? Who is John L. Harmon? I ask in my best Barbara Walters impersonation…I’m wearing the pearl necklace to prove it.
John L. Harmon: Who is John L. Harmon. Well, Barbara, you’ve just asked the question that has puzzled scientists and scholars since the dawn of time, or at least the 1970’s. As my Twitter profile reveals, I am many things. Half-blind. Indie author. Blogger. Freak. Queer. These are the labels I hold most dear. You’re three loyal followers may also want to know that I reside in a quiet town in the state of Nebraska. I’m a single geek who can often be found with a cat on his lap.
MGO: How did you get into writing?
JLH: A long time ago in a 2nd grade classroom not so far away…we were given an assignment to write a short story. Being a geek, I was excited by the idea and decided to write about dinosaurs. I recall the plot was about a sailor being sucked into a whirlpool and waking up on an island of prehistoric beasts. I’m sure it was more Land of the Lost than The Lost World, but either way it would be unbearably embarrassing to read now. Thankfully, as far as I know, my first story is as lost as that sailor.
MGO: In the beginning, did you try to get a publisher or did you plan on being an indie author the entire time?
JLH: For years and years and years I wrote strictly for myself, specific family members and friends. I never believed anyone outside my tight inner circle would want to read my words. Then, in 2008, I finished writing DARK EXCURSIONS and decided it was time to expand my circle. I did what the Internet said any would-be author should do. I purchased a (used) copy of the Writer’s Market Guide and started searching for a literary agent and/or a small publisher. The form letters of rejection quickly made me realize traditional publishing didn’t suit my style, but it took me several more years before I started my career as an indie author.
MGO: How did you go about learning the ins and outs of indie publishing?
JLH: I learned through Internet research, but mainly by just doing it. I really didn’t know what I was doing when I published my first e-book in 2013, and I still don’t know all the ins and outs. At the moment, I’m just thankful I can still self-publish a book without asking for help.
MGO: Your first two books, the four part set Dark Excursions and Darkening Sturgeons, and your blog Tales From The Freakboy Zone were written before you lost part of your sight. Then you impressively switched your artistic medium to vlogging on The FreakOptic Files. What made you decide to go back to writing for Vision Bent and did your writing process change?
JLH: Yeah, I ended my blog as I watched my vision failing me in December of 2016. Then, during the following months, I realized that shooting and editing videos was easier for my damaged eyes than typing blogposts. I focused all of my creative energy into The FreakOptic Files until one day in the summer of 2017, while sitting on a public toilet, I decided I wanted, maybe even needed, to blog again. So that’s what I did. The Freakboy Zone was once again filling with new, half-blind, Tales with the help of my Mad Scientist Glasses and my tablet, which altered my writing process. My first two books were initially handwritten and some early blogposts were scribed on a computer. Now every word is typed on my tablet and edited by its ability to read my words. It was not easy, but I kept pushing myself forward. I suppose this drive is what eventually brought forth Vision Bent.
MGO: Vision Bent is very personal and introspective. Your poetry and intermissions touch on your loss of vision, your sexuality and thoughts of suicide. Was there any moment you thought you may have overshared but decided to keep it in the book anyways?
JLH: Oh, there was one massive moment. I didn’t really think about the personal insight while I was writing. The floodgates were open and my words were compelled to splatter against the digital screen. Absolute fear swept over me while I was collecting the poems and intermissions into a manuscript. This fear stemmed partly from touching upon my sexuality. I’ve always felt being queer was one of the least interesting aspects of myself, so I would rarely speak openly to just anybody about it. I’ve never lied about my sexuality. It’s just generally been on a need-to-know basis. The brunt of the fear came from writing about my thoughts of suicide during the early months of my vision loss. I never spoke of those darker emotions to anyone as my world turned upside down or even after. I didn’t know what my family and friends would think and I didn’t want to scare them or have anyone treat me like glass. My fear was so overwhelming that I seriously considered abandoning Vision Bent. Thankfully, I asked a good online friend to read my words and he liked what he read. More importantly, he informed me that it would be selfish to keep my half-blind poems to myself.
MGO: I personally think that Vision Bent is an inspiring piece of work that can give hope to people who have been stricken with a disability or anyone hoping to share their own voice. What do you hope Vision Bent can be for your readers?
JLH: First, thank you. Second, I hope readers who personally know me will have a better understanding of my visual impairment. As a whole, I hope readers will see Vision Bent as an example of how something that appears to be an ending doesn’t have to be one. It’s all about perspective, which sounds utterly pukey but it’s true. Yet, it’s easier said than done. Even to this day, I sometimes have to force myself to stay focused on what I am able to do, not what was lost to my diminished sight.
MGO: Vision Bent has been out for a little while now. What has been the best part of it’s release for you personally? I mean besides having me feature you on my blog obviously.
JLH: Obviously, Dave…I mean, Barbara…this interview will be the pinnacle of Vision Bent, but a couple of other high points have occurred. For at least 24 hours in January, the Kindle e-book edition of Vision Bent was the #1 New Release in LGBT Poetry on Amazon. Nothing like that ever happened with my other titles, so I was one proud indie author. Then in March, the paperback edition was added to the shelves of my local library. That was a satisfying experience because it was physical proof that my perceived disability wasn’t going to stop me.
OUTRO: Vision Bent isn’t going to be as huge as War And Peace or The Bible, but I don’t think John wrote it with world domination in mind. Vision Bent is a glimpse into his freakboy zone where John Waters writes episodes of Dynasty and a queer, visually impaired, indie, author can put out (at only the finest of truck stops) a book to enlighten and entertain. John, thanks for sharing your gift with the world and for elevating the quality of this blog…but let’s be honest, that wasn’t all that hard.
To explore more of John and his work, visit his website at https://thejlhcollective.blogspot.com/2018/03/home.html