Harpley’s debut novel The Mill deals with many questions we struggle with daily – identity, friendship and trust in a world of bizarre creatures. It follows Jen, a lonely and depressed girl, who gets transported to a parallel universe during an attempt to take her own life. This new world is full of strange people and foreign rules, and Jen has to adapt fairly quickly in order to survive the new dangers she faces.
“I really wanted Jen to feel alone, cut off, and desperate. That was where she discovered that she could be strong on her own, and that she had a fire inside herself to survive. I didn’t want the moral of The Mill to go untold, or unnoticed, because it was covered by romance or another distracting aspect, so I was really driving that,” said Harpley.
Focusing on character building and a streamlined story over things that Harpley saw as distractions was a challenge.
“It’s always my goal make to create as many relatable characters in my stories, to help the reader engage on multiple levels. I often will consider character profiles I do not even like, as if they were a real human I would avoid being associated with them, because I know someone out there will know someone like that, and that character will help them to become more immersed in the story. Sometimes I will create a character to fulfill a specific role in the overall plot, but a lot of the time I start with some basics and as the story goes on, I learn more and more about them. Jen’s character was more set in stone from the start, but Hopper and Aeden began exposing themselves to me through the writing, and I followed where they led.”
But it helps that the lead came from a place close to Harpley’s heart. At a young age, Harpley “ended up” on antidepressants and an antispychotic to deal with suicidal thoughts and actions. But while medication works for some, Mill needed a different cure.
“It made me a different person, a person I didn’t like, and so I took myself off the drugs and sought to fix the real problem, which was buried deep in me. Her transformation of depressed, lonely, and needy, to strong, independent, and hopeful was a direct correlation to the transformation I’ve been undergoing for the past ten years.”
The world of The Mill can be nightmarish one for those caught unaware and unprepared, with people being taken from the streets and being experimented on, and turned into shape-shifters.
Harpley is excited to see her work published – as she rightly should. “Not the date of publication, but the following Friday, we’ll be having a launch party in my neck of the woods.”
And with the first book all but out there, she’s already planning more.
“I’m working on a new novella at the moment, which is a bit more sci-fi/military oriented, which also comes complete with a moral! I’m working on the sequel to The Mill. Hopper will return!”
The Mill is available today. For more on Jess Harpley, you can follow her on Twitter.