Episode 18

Settings Come Alive in the Horror Tales of Robert Harrison

Today we're chatting with Robert Harrison, who writes horror and supernatural thrillers under the pen name R.W. Harrison. He's a marketing professional currently living in Florida, but preparing for a move to the Cleveland, Ohio area, where he's from originally. He published his first book, The Onyx Seed, in 2014 and it was inspired by a series of poltergeist experiences he had around 1990. Shortly after his son was born, strange things started happening in the house, such as rocking chairs rocking by themselves, electronic devices turning on and off by themselves, light switches flipping up and down, hearing voices, etc. He had been recounting these occurrences for years and decided to write a book based on the 18-month-long experience. Robert also conducted extensive research on Filipino folklore and introduced some elements from it to elevate the story above the run-of-the-mill ghost story.

A sense of place is important to his writing, whether it's upstate New York for the setting of the Onyx Trilogy (The Onyx Seed, Onyx Rising, Onyx Nightmare), or the Ocala National Forest in Florida for Raven's Temple, or the New England coastline for The Ghost of Witch's Point, Robert uses his deep connections to the areas in such a way that they almost become characters in the stories. He felt this the most in the Onyx Trilogy, set in and around Letchworth State Park, about fifty miles east of Buffalo. Both his mother and father were born and raised not far from the 17-mile-long gorge that is the centerpiece of the park, featuring three major waterfalls on the Genesee River, and a railroad trestle over the Upper Falls. Letchworth is a magical place, with 500-foot cliffs and stunning overlooks, and Robert tried to -- surprisingly -- incorporate as much beauty as he could into a series of horror novels.

You can learn more about Robert and his books at his website, www.rwharrisonbooks.com, and can download his free novella, The Ghost of Witch's Point, exclusively on his site. All his books are available on Amazon. You can also follow him on Instagram at www.instagram.com/robertharrison_author.

Transcript

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[00:00:12] Shawna: Robert Harrison is the author of Five Works of Horror or Horror Light, as he calls it. His books are just scary enough to keep the lights on, but shouldn't give you too many nightmares. The Onyx Trilogy, his first books take place in upstate New York just after World War II, where a returning serviceman inadvertently brings back a relic from the Philippines, which terrorizes a family and the rest of his community.

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[00:01:08] Shawna: So I'm excited to learn more about Robert Harrison and his selection of writing. Thank you so much for being here today, Robert.

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[00:01:17] Shawna: I am excited to get to know more about your writing. You are our first horror author, which is kind of fun to have that diversity. So tell me a little bit about the most interesting thing about where you are from, whether that's where you are now, or wherever you consider yourself being from.

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[00:01:58] Shawna: Now that you're moving back, you can start working that into your repretoire right?

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[00:02:11] Shawna: That is so intriguing. A river that catches on fire.

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[00:02:21] Shawna: Yeah. Well that's a good name for a book right there. River of Flame. So ,

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[00:02:25] Shawna: we've named your book. You just need to write it now. See how easy he made that for you, Robert?

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[00:02:49] Shawna: And it is underneath the lake?

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[00:03:01] Shawna: Oh wow. That is fascinating. I love this. I learn all sorts of cool things by asking that question. To get to know you a little bit better, why don't you tell us if you could have dinner, Any four people living or dead, who would they be? What would you chat about and is there a specific dessert you would like to have?

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[00:04:03] Shawna: Ooh.

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[00:04:21] Robert: And then we probably have to, to work in a, you know, a literary figure cuz I am an author. So, I would say, I, this sounds kind of a cliche, but like Ernest Hemingway, um, hi. Yeah. His, his book especially the Old Man in the Sea was just, I, I read it at a young age and it just, uh, utterly, I was just totally taken with it, the imagery and just the desperation of the old man and the heartbreak when the sharks tore his fish apart. It just, you know, it's a simple book. It's a simple parable, but, uh, it, it, it really, struck me and I would love to talk to him some more.

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[00:05:12] Robert: And, I've been to his house in Key West here in Florida. So where he had, a whole herd of, I think they're called poly dactyl cats. They have six toes and They're still, uh, they're, they're still around the house. I think I owe you one more person to have dinner with.

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[00:05:35] Shawna: Ooh, fun. So somebody from a whole different era too. That's

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[00:05:41] Shawna: Gotta shake it up a little bit. Very cool. So looking at your books and your writing, so with the Onyx series. Is it actually based on an experience that you had or partially based on?

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[00:06:23] Robert: Solar flare, who knows? But, then when it was more physical things, they were harder to explain away, like, a rocking chair rocking by itself and not just like moving a little bit. It was really moving, like somebody was rocking at it and it wasn't slowing down.

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[00:06:43] Shawna: I'd be scared to go near it. It would just keep rocking. I would leave the room

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[00:06:55] Robert: cash register and it had these little plastic coins. And, uh, my, my son was playing with that in his bed. And my wife was gonna to, take him upstairs to put him, put him down in his bed, and she asked if I would gather up those coins and, uh, you know, take him out of his bed.

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[00:07:34] Robert: I'm like, no. I put them on the, on the dresser. She goes, there wasn't anything on the dresser. They were scattered all over the, the bed.

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[00:07:44] Robert: Lots of stuff happened. We filled up like two pages worth of stuff that just unexplained things, hearing voices, um, light switches, physically flipping up and down, uh, you know, on the wall.

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[00:08:23] Robert: And when an infant or toddler is introduced into the, the house, their energy brings out that spirit in the form of a poltergeist. So, I'm kind of skeptical, but it sounds like a good

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[00:08:41] Shawna: Well, on timing wise, yeah, it kind of fits

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[00:09:02] Robert: So I. And I kind of realized, you know, ghost stories they've been told a million times. I need something a little, a little different. So the book was set in upstate New York just after World War II and I thought, let's introduce something totally out of the ordinary. So I studied up, you know, a lot of the war took place in the Philippines and I did a lot of research on some of their origin mythologies.

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[00:09:40] Robert: and I took one of them. It's called the Aswang, and it's this demonn, uh, that can separate itself from its waste and fly around and suck the life out of people. And it not a, not a nice, pleasant creature at all. So,

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[00:10:00] Robert: So I, I introduced that into the story and a lot of what I wrote about, especially considering this, uh, concerning this creature, none of it really came outta my head.

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[00:10:22] Shawna: There you go. Bring it all. Bring it all together. Bring it all

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[00:10:30] Robert: I still have it.

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[00:10:35] Robert: Things now, after, after about 18 months, things just kind of quieted down and nothing ever happened again. I will say the dresser. A picture of the dresser actually appears on the cover of my first book, the Onyx Seed. And I took the dresser to a friend of mine who was a professional photographer and I had him shoot the dresser, uh, in his home studio.

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[00:11:15] Shawna: Bob needs to keep that, that needs to not be here.

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[00:11:18] Shawna: There you go. There you go. Well, that's, that's part of the story then. So what has surprised you most about your writing career and coming into writing and being an author?

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[00:11:53] Robert: And she ended up getting hooked. She read all five and she said to me, you know, I hadn't read in probably 20 years. reading your books now. I love reading again so that when she's off and running, reading all sorts of things and, and so, so that's, that's very gratifying.

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[00:12:22] Robert: Probably the best, uh, is just go to my website, which is RWHarrisonbooks.com

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[00:12:37] Robert: Probably Ray Bradbury's Dandelion wine. It was a, it's a science fiction, kind of a science fictiony story coming of age , the protagonist is like 12 years old, and I happen to read it when I was 12 or 13. And it just, it has a lot of nostalgia for me,

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[00:13:00] Robert: I, you know, I, and I remember exactly where I was when I read it. It just evokes a lot of, of nostalgia for me. And I have literally not read the book.

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[00:13:13] Shawna: Yes. No, that's amazing. I love that. That's a good one. That's great. Now I'm gonna be curious about it. I'm gonna to go read it. Thank Robert. I appreciate you being here.

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[00:13:22] Robert: Thank you, Sean. I really appreciate it. This was fun.

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About the Podcast

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Shawna Rodrigues

Shawna Rodrigues, Founder and Director of Impact at Authentic Connections Podcast Network, Host of The Grit Show (https://podcast.thegritshow.com) and Author Express (https://bit.ly/AuthorExpressPod) and coming in 2024- Authenticity Amplified. Shawna is a Podcast Mentor, Internationally Best-Selling Author (www.shawnarodrigues.com) and consultant.
Find her on Instagram @ShawnaPodcasts.